Are Tarot Apps For You?

Are Tarot Apps for You?
By Lalia Wilson

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If you have a smart phone, tablet or Kindle, you can obtain various apps for different Tarot decks and applications. Oracle decks are also available. You may wonder about their usefulness, so here is one opinion.

Let’s start out with what you might use a tarot app for. Yes, it is possible to do a reading for others with your tarot app… but most of us would not do so. Why? Many reasons: among them it is difficult to keep switching cards and handing your phone to the other person to point out symbols or other details of a specific card, when, if you have a physical deck, they can easily see the card and its accompanying cards at a glance. Also, if you subscribe to the Gypsy Fortune Teller Persona of Tarot Readers (long hair, long skirts, long earrings), then wearing street clothes and pulling out your smartphone kills the image.

What can you use apps for? For yourself. You can use apps to pick your card for the day. To do various spreads for yourself—or for phone readings. Importantly, you can use these apps to learn more about tarot by comparing decks regularly. For example, you can pick a card of the day in one deck and then go through different decks among your apps to see how different deck creators have displayed and discussed that card. I do this as a daily discipline, checking in with myself as well as learning more about tarot through living it. Also, the price of apps is about 10% of the price of the decks, when they are available. The Prairie Tarot app is $2.99. The deck is $24.95. Further, if an app is available for a deck you are interested in, you can try out a deck at much less cost than buying the physical deck. 

Let us look at some of the available tarot apps. Please note that not all apps are available in all platforms, and that every user of the tarot will have different opinions about which deck(s) and which formats work best.

On my iPhone I have four apps I use daily (these decks also appear to be available on all iOS  and Android devices, excluding Kindle). 

  1. The Legacy of the Divine app, with the artwork by Ciro Marchetti. I already had the physical deck with its beautiful images and consistent RWS theme. The app has all that and some animation and music for each card. The animation and music was great when I first got this, but since I usually use the app early in the morning when the household is asleep, I rarely view the animation and music. However, the deck is one of the most beautiful ones available, though closely rivaled by other Marchetti decks.
  2. The Urban Tarot deck by Robin Scott. This is also a visually impactful deck. It comes from the Thoth tradition. Unlike buying the deck itself, with the app you essentially get both the deck and the separate book. Each card can be separately studied, with about a page or two of material setting its image in the context of its place in the Thoth tradition, its artistic inspiration, and its pertinence to New York City, the setting for the deck. (In some ways touring the deck is like touring the city with an insider, though you get to see as much of the grittier side of New York City as the touristy side.)
  3. Robert Place’s Alchemical Tarot revised. Like Marchetti, Place has created several decks, all very visually appealing. The Alchemical Tarot goes into the alchemical tradition to explain various aspects of the cards, giving more explicit meanings that were only hinted at in the standard RWS decks. Although there is only a sentence or two about each card, they are very helpful. Depending upon your clientele, this app or this deck might be the most useful, as the associations with various vices and virtues are emphasized.
  4. The Prairie Tarot by Robin Ator, is based upon the legendary rural time of settling the upper mid-west. It shows old wooden buildings and people in pioneer clothes. Some of these images are a valuable additional interpretation of cards that are so familiar that we don’t notice their importance anymore. Having a different perspective, one couched in Americana, can be clarifying.

My method is the draw a card for the day in the Legacy of the Divine app and then compare it to the same card in the Urban Tarot, in the Alchemical Tarot, and in the Prairie Tarot. It’s a fun exercise and sometimes a valuable heads up on a situation that will come my way later in the day.

For my Kindle Fire HDX there are far fewer available tarot apps. The Kindles are Android devices that have been fixed (or crippled, depending on your viewpoint) to limit the apps available and to point to Amazon as the preferential supplier of all merchandise. I have the Galaxy Tarot, which is available for iOS, Androids and Kindle. The Galaxy Tarot has a number of tarot spreads and a fantastic number of symbols and associations with each card. Each card has an indicator of card type, suit, element, number, astrological planets and signs, the associated I-Ching hexagrams, colors, symbolic elements like mountains… The Major Arcana also have Runes as well as associated gems and minerals. Thus, with the Galaxy Tarot you can delve deeply into each card. My only problem with the app is the artwork. It is an old version of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck that when enlarged shows flaws that were otherwise less noticeable. For me, the aesthetics are less than ideal. However for learning the tarot and being reminded of the symbols of each card and the associations between cards, this is the best app around.

With the Kindle I also got oracle decks that are fun. One is Ashley Snow’s Intuitive Mandala, available from Indie Goes Software (which has a number of oracle decks for all formats). I enjoy the mandalas and the positive advice. The other app is called the Madam Lenormand HD. Unfortunately it does not say who provides it. However, again, drawing a daily card is a helpful way to learn Lenormand. Those of you who use Lenormand decks are aware that some cards are differently named between decks and some images vary widely. This app has a number of spreads up to the Petite Lenormand, should you wish to use that many cards on your small screen. I have a new oracle called The Sea Whispers which has cards indicating various sea and seaside creatures, each with a message; it has beautiful artwork, and interesting messages. Given that Runes and the I-Ching were featured in the Galaxy Tarot app, I got apps for each of these. Galaxy Runes by Galaxy Tone Software features all of the Old Norse Futhark Runes, each having an interpretation, some quotations in old Northern European languages which are also translated into modern English, and associated symbols and connections. The Visionary I Ching Oracle Cards by Indie Goes are beautiful cards (as seen on the small screen) with the most understandable modern English interpretations of the I-Ching I’ve seen. It is a complex system and not for everyone. The Visionary I Ching is available free, but to get full access you need to upgrade for about $7. Not free, but not as much as a deck of cards or a book would cost.

There are many apps for tarot and oracle decks available at low prices. Perhaps one or two might find their way to your device…

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