Are Computer-Generated Tarot Readings the Real Deal?

by Brigit on November 23, 2011 in Real Life Tarot

computer-generated-tarot-readings

I have never been a fan of those free Tarot websites that offer computer-generated Tarot readings.

Sure, I have tried them out (what have you got to lose if they’re free?!) but I have never really taken them that seriously. I mean, why would you? Why would you let an algorithm stored within a computer tell you your life direction?

Well, that was until I met George.

George runs phuture.me which is a free Tarot reading website (among other things).  He’s a Tarot reader himself, but also has a penchant for all things ‘techy’ and has been able to create the software that generates online Tarot readings.

George has been trying to get me to come around to his way of thinking – that a computer-generated reading is as accurate and as connected as any human-generated reading.

At the beginning, I was highly sceptical. Doesn’t an accurate Tarot reading require a (human) Tarot reader who is intuitive and psychically connected with the querent? And doesn’t a good Tarot reading need someone who can draw together the connections between the cards and build the story?  Surely a computer can’t do that, especially when it is working with pre-programmed algorithms and Tarot card definitions, and has no personal connection to the querent.

But George persisted.

Shuffling and Selecting the Tarot Cards

Some free Tarot reading websites will have the computer shuffle and select the cards for you, while others allow the user to virtually shuffle and select the cards from the complete Tarot deck.

George keeps telling me how, if you virtually shuffle and select the cards, there is really no difference between that and having a ‘real person’ doing it. It is the same energy that is being channelled into the cards, and therefore the same outcome of the ‘right’ cards being selected for the reading.

In fact, most of the time George use the computer version of his Tarot cards, rather than the printed version, for his Tarot readings. He says it’s convenient and mobile, he can save his spreads and come back to them later or share them with others, and the cards never wear out.

Interpreting the Tarot Cards

Most free Tarot reading websites will provide descriptions for each individual Tarot card in your reading. On some websites, it is just a few short sentences, while on others, it is a series of more detailed paragraphs.

In some ways, it is like an Oracle reading.  You are given a short, sharp description to ponder upon. Sometimes it makes sense in relation to what you have asked. But other times, it doesn’t and it is left up to the querent to interpret the cards and to fill in the gaps. It therefore relies on the querent to have some knowledge of the Tarot cards in order to gain deeper insight into their reading, which is not often the case.

What is also lacking in a computer-generated Tarot reading is the integration between the Tarot cards drawn.

To me, an insightful, accurate and focused Tarot reading is the result of not only interpreting each Tarot card individually but interpreting cards as a collective. This relies upon an intuitive and experienced Tarot reader who doesn’t just relay basic descriptions of each card, but who calls upon their intuition to give specific guidance and insight to the querent.

I can’t see how a computer can provide such a reading. It’s just not possible to make those same connections that a professional Tarot reader would make.

Of course, George is one step ahead.

He has come up with the idea of having basic descriptions of the Tarot cards, but also the option to have a Tarot reader interpret your spread for you. His solution is therefore more of a hybrid model. Use the computer to shuffle and select the cards, then get a ‘real person’ to interpret the reading. Quite snazzy, really.

I suppose the only trouble I have with this approach is that the Tarot reading is interpreted well after the cards were selected. I am a strong believer that the Tarot cards capture the energy of a point in time, and the messages are relevant to that point in time. So, if you were to shuffle and select the cards today, and then have someone else interpret the reading tomorrow, it may not be as accurate.

(Note: I know we do Tarot Circle that way, but that is more intended as a learning exercise than an accurate reading technique.)

So, Are Computer-Generated Readings Accurate?

George put me in touch with two of the Tarot readers on his website, Seann and Rosemarie, so I could find out more. I wanted to know how accurate their readings really were given this set-up.

Seann gave me this example:

“I am clairaudient, clairvoyant and clairsentient. This means, I see, hear and feel information. Recently I did an online computer-generated reading and received wonderful feedback. By being clairaudient, I heard a song. I told her she was to get up and dance. Sure enough she dances every day and that was clarification for her that she was on the right track. The song I got a clip of was by Devo called ‘Whip It’. I heard “Crack that whip, get up and dance”. It was a message with a double meaning. Put your foot down in your life, expect better and get up and dance.”

Not bad!

But what about the Tarot readings that are strictly computer-generated, and don’t have any input from a ‘real person’ for the interpretation of them?

Well, I went to phuture.me to try a completely computer-generated reading.

I entered the question, “What do I need to know right now about my family relationships?” and selected three cards from the digital deck. This is my reading:

Card 1 – Eight of Wands. The 8 of Wands/Rods swift action, travel & expansion. The element here is Fire which relates to home, community, work & creativity. The aspects of the number 8 in numerology are power, control, material freedom, organisation, practicality, self-reliance and success. The imagery most commonly associated with this card is one of 8 Rods flying through the air. This maybe only a metaphorical relationship to the events unfolding meaning that things will change swiftly and for the better. It can though indicate travel by air in the future.

Card 2 – Ace of Wands. The Ace of Wands, Rods or Batons is traditionally represented as a single stick, or branch, standing, or being held, upright. Its symbology is simple, it has the element of fire and a numerological value of 1. As a 1 it represents a new beginning and, with fire as the element, this beginning has to do with the home, community or work. Surrounding cards should help in narrowing down which aspect of the home or work this beginning will occur. For example it could be a new job (responsibility, chore, project) or new home, sometimes it can mean a new addition to a home, a new family member. The element of fire and this suite of the minor arcana has an creative aspect. In this case the card could point to a new venture or enterprise or even simply the planting of a garden at home.

Card 3 – Three of Pentacles. The 3 of Pentacles/Coins is a card of team work, apprenticeship or hiring of skilled labour. The element here is Earth which relates to wealth and material possessions. The aspects of the number 3 in numerology are the joy of living, sociability, friendship, self expression and creativity. The creative aspect of the 3 combined with the element of earth and its representation of wealth points to reward through application of skill and creativity. As 3 is also a social number it alludes to working with others to create wealth.

Hmmm. So, it does give me some insight that things are moving along quickly, a new opportunity is coming our way (or the fact we have a four month old – still new!), and that we are focused on wealth and work. But, I’m still not really convinced that this is more insightful than what I could gain from a ‘real person’ doing the reading. I would be inclined to click the button to get a Tarot reader to interpret the reading for me.

George suggests that this type of reading where you get a computer-generated interpretation of the individual cards is useful if you are learning the Tarot cards or just want a simple reading. I tend to agree. Free Tarot reading website can be helpful as a Tarot ‘tutor’, with the view that you would research the cards in more depth following your reading. That is why he includes links to other websites with detailed Tarot card meanings (including my website – thanks George!).

Am I Convinced?

I can see how virtual shuffling and selection of the Tarot cards could work if the querent is doing the shuffling and selection themselves. But I can’t really see how the interpretation of the Tarot cards selected is better than a reading with a real life person.

The computer generating the reading is nothing like a Tarot reader who draws on their intuition to interpret the messages from the cards and apply it to the situation. The computer can’t pick up on your energy, see clairvoyantly, or connect empathically. It can’t interact with you or answer questions, listen, or really ‘read’ you. And it seems so far away from the depth of spiritual understanding that is needed to create accurate and insightful readings.

That said, I do like George’s idea of the querent selecting the cards themselves and then having a real Tarot reader interpret the spread. It seems like a happy medium to me.

Try For Yourself

You can try a computer-generated reading at phuture.me or facade.com. Or get a free Tarot reading with a real person on Biddy Tarot. Find what works best for you!

What do you think? Do you believe in and use free computer-generated Tarot readings? Or do you steer clear of them? Leave your comments below.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Marianne November 23, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Dear Biddy,

I remembered that I told you once that I am inclined to keep an online tarot journal for the daily tarot cards I have been receiving. I have obliged myself to keep a journal because I have subscribed to receive Daily Tarot Cards from Astrology.com. In other words, I left my daily tarot cards chosen for me by a website, much less a computer-generated reader. I have been doing this for two months and still doing it and noticed that some of my daily tarot cards were connected as to how I have had my day.

For example, I received an e-mail this morning (I received them every morning) from Astrology.com that my card for today would be the Four of Cups. I have had a stressful day at school and have rejected eating lunch and dinner just so I can finish my assignments. The 4 of Cups is all about apathy, solitude, quiet thinking, and seclusion. I related this card in a way by connecting it as to how I have spent my day with my daily routine: going to school, doing or finishing assignments, ignoring meals if I have to just to finish homeworks, etc. For one thing, I can link the activities easily to the card; in addition, this is one way for me to learn one tarot card per day. At the end of every month, I tallied the cards that frequently appeared and analyzed them individually and collectively. In this way, I can analyzed the cards and look for a sign/card symbol if anything is related to the activities I have had for the previous month. I have been doing this for only two months and I was pretty convinced by the frequency of the cards that Astrology.com was sending me.

As another example, for the month of September, there are three cards that appeared frequently itself to me that I would consider important and relevant to me for the said month; they are the 9 of Cups, the 7 of Cups, and the 10 of Swords. September was the month in which I began my classes; the nine of cups indicates indulgence, while the seven of cups tells me that I still see my castles in the sky, unmanifested by the events that are currently happening. Lastly, there’s the ten of swords telling me that I’m overdoing myself in regards of school and work. I reflected on these cards and am not sure whether that is what Astrology.com has been trying to tell me. Though I interpreted them as best as I could, I needed more accuracy and detail. Because I only subscribed to their free newsletter/Daily Tarot Card e-mail, I get only upright cards.
Although, there are times in which I can presume that the card I received daily should be reversed instead of in its upright position. Often, the 3 of cups would be given by the automated daily tarot card reader. There were times that the said card opposed to how I feel on certain days; I assumed that they were supposed to be lonely times instead of spending my time happily in the company of others. Despite the Tarot Cards I have recently purchased, I was not inclined to use them because I prefer using them for more than one-card readings or special occassions. Before, I was tempted to draw Daily Tarot Cards using my own deck yet I do not want to ruin them, wear-and-tear them, and accidentally bend them just because I am in a hurry every morning to prepare for school. I have no time to do Daily Tarot Card Readings if I am always in a hurry for school and my only method for shuffling the deck is spreading them in a table and later picking them up altogether for a One-card Reading. (The advantage, though, I will get from my automated daily Tarot cards is that my cards will still remain in its good condition) There is another setback that I wanted to point out whenever I use automated Tarot Card Readings like the ones on Tarot.com: like you said, I don’t “connect with the cards” physically nor emotionally. The reading that I received sometimes would cost me and it’s still up to me to look for their meanings online. One guiding statements are received but I also have to pay for them despite their 5-sentenced generalized Guiding Statements.

To sum up, I would prefer Automated Tarot Readings only if they would provide me of a bird’s eye view of my week ahead, my day ahead, or even what I expect in two months given my circumstances (that I am always in a hurry and I have limited time . . .); however, if I would do a yearly tarot reading, I would require myself and be obliged to use my deck, take time on the reading, and study them in detail, so I can connect and transfer my energy to the cards to gain the accurate answers I have been seeking.

Thank you for blogs that you have been posting again; not only do they helped me to build my Tarot skills, they also help me to develop my English skills

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Biddy_Tarot November 28, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Hi Marianne,
Great personal stories – thanks for sharing! I tend to agree with you… as ‘birds’ eye views’, automated readings can be helpful. They provide a point of focus and give you something to meditate on. For more complex Tarot readings, then nothing beats a reading with a real person!
Brigit
P.S. Your English is amazing – good on you!!

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Daniel November 29, 2011 at 8:50 am

Hi Biddy,
I am so glad you told me about phuture.me cos its one of my fave sites now after yours! I love that you can choose your cards yourself!

I have been trying mobile tarot apps. I was really sceptical about them but they are big business. On all mobile platforms astrology and tarot apps are very popular, some are free, some you pay for. On iPhone and Android the most popular tarot apps have amazingly positive reviews. But I was still sceptical. Been trying out one on Android for over 6 months and find it amazingly accurate. I didn’t think I would and actually that app has got me firmly back into tarot learning again, after learning how to read when I was a teenager. So it has made me seek further knowledge and these days there is amazing resources online :)

The tarot app I do has two modes for choosing cards and lots of different spreads. You can let it randomly select or you choose the cards with your finger from a “pile” (much like phuture). You shake the phone to shuffle. You can then see meanings of each cards and it has 3 tabs of different definition sources. I can totally see your point about combining cards. Still it’s not good at that and also it doesn’t understand the card in the exact position. you have to interpret that yourself. However it very cleverly has a tab of the spread which tells you amazing info statistics like “this spread contains mostly cups, emotions and relationships are significant”. or your spread has a number of crosses or armour or feathers. its quite sweet. my fave is if you get the Queen of Wands the stats of the spread screen says “you got the only black cat in tarot”. It also has elements, colours, astrology stats. It’s not exactly the card combining that you have to manually do but it gives a wonderful overview of the spread.

The really interesting and accurate thing I have found is the “card of the day”. it randomly picks a card for you at 12am each day. There is a sister rune app which picks a rune of the day. I have found this amazingly accurate to my life. I emailed the app creator and asked about the card of the day and he replied and said in terms of the app and programming, its totally randomised. Each user of the app will get a random different card a day, but for me its very accurate! I would say its at least 80% telling of my day! plus its useful for learning meanings, to study that card a day.

So I use the mobile apps as well as real cards in my life. Its easy to have them on your phone. I was sceptical but do believe that if you are picking the cards they will still have your energy even if they are “virtual”. I mean my phone is always with me all the time, it must have my energy somehow :) I would never do a formal reading for a friend with the app though, that would be with cards in a formal quiet situation. But its another way of using tarot and one of my fave apps now :) all very interesting xx

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Marianne November 29, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Dear Biddy,

I was fascinated by your perspective on automated readings that I can’t help it but tell the world also of my point of view. Thank you for praising my fluency on English, by the way.

Best Regards,

Marianne

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samantha April 27, 2012 at 6:40 am

Heya! :) I believe in the spiritual law of attraction, so I believe that the right card is attracted to you however you get a reading. I feel that if you do it this way, you should also listen to your own intuition. :) xx

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Brigit April 27, 2012 at 6:41 am

Hi Samantha, great insight! Thanks for sharing.

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Aasheesh February 4, 2013 at 10:54 am

Very interesting topic and relevant too in current times. I think once you generate the cards the intrepretation needs to be done by a certified professional Tarot reader.The reading would be biased and incorrect if you do not have the ability to read Tarot.Of course for weekly spreads etc., you may get a broad idea of what lies ahead.

I think there is no difference in selecting cards by hands and selecting from online digital deck.Technology has revolutionsed the way we live our lives. Even in most intimate interactions emails/texting is being used as a convenient mode.Handwritten messages are passe !

But at the same time it calls for more discipline to be exercised while going for digital
readings .One should avoid tendency for diversified and multiple readings at the same time.The focus should be on a single situation.Also it would be best to save the reading for future.

Well so where do we go from here . I feel that digital readings is ok in certain scenario,but it can never be a substitute for a direct personal reading with a Tarot reader.The energy,ambience and personal advice which a perosnal Tarot reading provides cannot be replicated by an online digital reading.

Aasheesh

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Brigit February 7, 2013 at 2:05 pm

I think once you generate the cards the intrepretation needs to be done by a certified professional Tarot reader.

I tend to agree, Aasheesh. Thanks for sharing.

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Alladin October 15, 2013 at 5:07 am

This statement is the absolute truth (a skilled interpreting can benefit from a computer generated reading). I use FACADE daily along with my own personal readings. More often than not, many of the same cards appear in all of my spreads (showing a progression of my home reading). I am skilled in interpreting the Tarot and the patterns that develop when reading them. I have found the free readings on FACADE.com to be very reliable and accurate. Sprits can, will and do use all sorts of mediums to relay info. Manipulating a computer generated algorithm is not out of the realm of influence for high spirits (Angels etc).

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Maribel February 4, 2013 at 1:23 pm

I’ve been doing them for years and they tend to be accurate. They predicted a lot of things. Like Pregnancies (with me & family members), free courses (scholarships), deceptions and business ventures amongst many other things. I’m a believer & can testify!

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Marion February 7, 2013 at 3:29 am

Hi Biddy,
I’ve been reading tarot for many years and love the feel and handling of the cards, however, now a muscle wasting disease had rendered my arms useless I am unable to hold and work with a deck. So for the last 5 years or so, I’ve used a computer generated tarot deck. Sceptically at first, but now with total confidence. I still miss the feel of a deck and there’s no substitute for that, but my sanity has been saved as I can continue with at least one of my passions. So although I’d still choose a person such as yourself, first, a good cg read by someone is a close second. x

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Brigit February 7, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Wonderful – thanks so much for sharing. What a great idea – and something that will allow for you to continue reading Tarot.

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Crystal March 14, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Ok- sorry I can’t give more concrete details, but I read in the book 3 Magic Words that humans have an impact even on computers. It was a scientific study- you know having people in a group think collectively about a card and the person in the middle drawing that on the majority. So it also worked on a computer. I like Llewellyn tarot, it’s been amazingly spot on for me, but I didn’t ask my question as a skeptic, that might make a difference in clarity.

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Kyo May 6, 2013 at 6:03 am

When I’m reading for just myself or my friends and I don’t have my cards with me, I usually use http://magicoftarot.com/ and their Celtic Cross spread, though I read it generally instead of how one normally reads the spread.
I used to use the free Osho-Zen tarot, but it was difficult for me to interpret and I didn’t feel as if my readings were very accurate. I like how Magic of Tarot uses the Rider-Waite deck as well, since sometimes online decks have different styles which I can’t interpret as easily or accurately, and I get to pick the cards myself instead of having them chosen for me.

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Russ October 12, 2013 at 2:07 am

Hi Brigit, I’ve just read this fascinating article.

Yes, I have been using computer generated spreads for some time now. When I work with myself, drawing cards to study and tell me something about my day and current issues I always like the connection to my own trusty physical pack. But, I like to do lots of practise readings for feedback on Aecletic Tarot and my method of choice is to use computer generated. I usually use tarotlore.com as I like the ability to create my own spreads, and the random generation of upright and reversed cards.

When doing a lot of readings I prefer computer generated and there is a big reason to this. When I reshuffle my physical pack then all the cards that were upright are still in the same orientation to each other and all the reversed are similarly. If I were to gather the pack, cut it in half, turn one half round and the shuffle, then only half of the cards shuffled would be in different orientation to how they used to be…..and so on. If card orientation is a big part of your reading, then ideally you would want a completely random set of orientations from one shuffle to the next, but that just isn’t going to happen when shuffling a physical deck. A computer generated spread, however, has the potential to completely randomise the shuffle, ensuring that a reading that follows the last one will never have the same subsets of cards at the same orientation relative to each other.

I interpret the spread….I’ve just used the computer to randomise the shuffle for me.

I’m not entirely sure of the method used by these websites, but I used to know that random number generation followed an algorhythm that depended on miliseconds. So, a difference in pressing the button by fractions of a second would result in a different generation of “random” numbers used for the shuffling process. So, it is entirely down to the human interaction. If I ask my guides to tell me the precise moment to press the button, than I don’t see that as much different to asking my guides to help me with the shuffle. The computer’s process has been directed by my subconsciously. As with many things it is about intent. My intent is that I will receive the right cards for the question, that they will be of the correct orientation, and that I will know how to interpret the reversed cards. It’s so simple, easy and I have had fantastic feedback from so many of my sitters, so I certainly believe it to be a valid way of producing the cards for a spread…..well it works for me :-)

Best regards
Russ

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Brigit October 14, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Thanks for sharing, Russ. Good point about the shuffling of the deck, particularly with respect to card orientation. I think there’s a lot of potential in having the computer ‘shuffle’ and select the cards, while the reader interprets the cards. It still feels authentic, if you know what I mean.

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Jessica Lang November 25, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Hi.

Online readings can work, in as much as the virtual cards “talk” the way real cards talk, however you need to know how to interprete them yourselves.

Don’t count on the little interpretations offered on the side. They are too general and can be completely beside the point especially if you were asking a very specific question.

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Erin April 26, 2014 at 3:20 am

I wasn’t too sure about automated readings, but I have to say the past few days have been interesting. When doing a reading with my real deck there has been a card that has either jumped out of the deck or got my attention in a reading. Just for fun I sometimes like to go to freetarot.com, where you choose your cards. And when I’ve done their one card love/relationships reading, lo and behold what gets chosen? The card that grabbed my attention earlier. Think this has happened 3 times now. Starting to get a bit strange but I guess my intuition is really working with me here… :)

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Marianne July 30, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Hello Biddy,

Wow! Reading the first comment on this post shocked me. At first, I couldn’t believe that I was the one who wrote this last November 2011. And to think that was almost two-and-a-half years ago! When I was reading it, I was reading the comment of a self-indulged (despite ignoring one’s lunchtime), confused, and even egotistical person.

Now that I’ve read it and have posted it in this blog, I can truly testify that my personalities and attitudes underwent a huge and magnificent transformation after two-and-a-half years. Yes, I’m still a student in my early 20′s (though I’m at college now). Yet the internal transformation impacted me a lot since I started and finished Tarot Foundations Level 1. As you said in this post, “spiritual understanding [...] is needed to create accurate and insightful readings.” Computer-generated tarot readings are pre-programmed and tarot technicians have already created generic descriptions or meanings for the clients. On the other hand, Tarot readings performed by creative and inspiring readers like us make a difference in clients’ lives. This is one technique we will use as an advantage against computer-generated readings.

This topic even reminds me of the importance of a Human Resources Management course in my college program, “Machines are no substitutes for humans since we are unique, irreplaceable, and provide love.” What blessed beings and creations are we!

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Brigit July 31, 2014 at 10:48 am

Isn’t it fascinating to revisit comments from a few years ago, especially to see how our views have changed or evolved :-)

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