Tarot: New age i bild och berättelse

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


In the course of my dissertation work, I have sought knowledge about what New Age is, contains, and conveys by looking at practice and rhetoric, how the participants act and reason regarding their commitment, as well as how the contents of the field is discussed. I have put an emphasis on the small details: the objects, the rituals, and the narrating. Using the tarot cards as a starting point, the purpose is to analyse and disclose practices and structures within New Age with the help of theories about cultural reserves, text, and discourse. The dissertation starts from one sole New Age practice: tarot. Tarot cards are used and interpreted according to a particular ritual and manual. The cards can be bought in New Age shops and in ordinary bookshops. They are used privately, in groups, and professionally. In the right situation the cards form the basis of discussions, give rise to reflections, and are also seen as a link to an occult reality. The reading of the tarot cards inspires to reflect upon everyday issues as health, money, and relations. The tarot readers interpret symbols and pictures as well as mediate imaginary worlds. Tarot is one example of practice within New Age. Tarot is said to be an ancient practice dating back to Old Egypt and the Middle or Far East. There exist a great many sources and references aiming at legitimising the authenticity of the cards. Today, the practice of reading cards can be found in New Age. A hundred years ago the reading was performed by poor or outcast women. Rider Waite Tarot and Thoth Tarot are examples of how tarot cards have been designed differently. The tarot card Death illustrates a central theme within New Age: changes in man and society. A meeting between a professional tarot reader and her/his client will end up in a dialogue regarding life, death, love, money, and work. The conversation primarily turns on the present and the past. The reader talks about earlier lives that are said to have influenced the client’s present situation. The Tarot reading demands a special setting, e.g. incense, rituals, or evocative music. The set-up of the tarot reading differs depending on who is participating, their actions, and the actual narrating. The tarot readers vary their linguistic behaviour to achieve certain purposes. What is central to the practisers is the individual experience. It is based on the latter that beliefs are put together. They refer to energies, holism, conscious outsiderness, reincarnation, and extraterrestial beings/deities/forces. These themes are in one way or another common to most people who act within the New Age field. Despite its disparate composition, New Age contains some dogmatic themes. Within society there is an order of discourse that is governed by and influence the way we act, talk, and think. Discussions about and within New Age is thusly governed and influenced by this order of discourse. New Age receives, or at least has received, a good deal of attention in media, which may be due to the marginal but challenging role of the field. This has, among other things, lead to practisers feeling obliged to clarify and legitimise their actions. New Age illustrates the conflict in our time between the rational and the irrational, between science and faith.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Art History


  • science/faith, rational/irrational, rituals, motion, movements, discourse, cultural reserves, illustrations, narration, intertextuality, text, divination, new age, tarot, individual experience, religious beliefs, Theology, Teologi
Translated title of the contributionTarot: Illustration and narrating in New Age
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date2001 Oct 12
  • Carlsson Bokförlag
Print ISBNs91-7203-415-7
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2001-10-12 Time: 10:15 Place: Carolinasalen External reviewer(s) Name: Drakos, Georg Title: PhD Affiliation: Stockholm University ---