[First published on Autostraddle]
And so to tarot apps.
About which I am very conflicted.
Considering a deck of tarot cards isn’t a whole lot bigger than your phone, I’m not 100% sold on the need for ‘fortune telling on the go’ or ‘tarot in your pocket’. Tarot is portable and already fits quite comfortably in my pocket (well okay it’s kicking around somewhere in the bottom of my bag.) When I need a tarot-y kinda message, I can just reach in and grab a card, or find a quiet spot for a reading. Why would I also need an app?
And there are all those feelings about the realness of cards – touch, smell, the physicality of shuffling, dropping cards, turning them over, moving them around…are tarot apps to tarot cards what e-readers are to books?
Well, before I meander into full-blown snobbery, guess what, there are *lots* of reasons why a tarot app or three on your phone can be a really fun supplement your tarot practice.
You left your cards at home and you need an answer pronto.
You’re tired of reading for yourself and want a robot to read for you.
You want to double-check your ideas about a card against a ‘standard’ interpretation.
You want to secretly learn tarot on the bus and don’t want everyone to see your book/cards/journal.
You’re really not sure about this whole tarot thing and just want to play with it on your phone because, y’know, an app could never really mean anything, could it?
You’re trying to distract yourself from sending drunken texts to your ex and tarot is the only way you know how.
And so on.
Tarot apps also allow you to explore different decks. I don’t have the Druidcraft Tarot for example, but using the app allows me to explore these cards without shelling out for the deck. Which is neat!
And of course, tarot apps can help you learn, especially if you’re at that stage of just trying to form ideas about cards and get something to stick. I’m really, really not into ‘memorising meanings from a book’, but it’s still handy to have a tarot guide in your pocket while you’re finding your feet. Whilst most have a ‘get a reading’ feature, many also function as learning aids, offering the ability to look up individual cards or explore the symbolism of suits, elements and archetypes within the deck used in the app. And simply playing with a tarot app means you’re playing with tarot which means you’re learning, growing more familiar with your cards, and incorporating them more often into your daily life – even if in a digital sense.
Here are reviews of eight+ tarot-related apps you might want to try out!
All of the apps below are free or cost less than five dollars.
Fool’s Dog tarot deck apps – Android + iOS
Fool’s Dog are a dedicated tarot app company whose apps all work in roughly the same way, each with a different deck, using the look and feel of that deck to create a really nice experience. They’ve made apps for a real variety of decks, too – from well-known, popular decks to more niche picks.
You can get a full reading – you even type in the question – which you can save to your journal, you can look up any of the cards and read quick interpretations or get the full text from the book, which is really nice. There’s a card a day, single card draws and you can share your readings online.
Decks like Shadowscapes, the Steampunk Tarot, the Wildwood and the Anna K come with detailed, well-written guidebooks in real life, and these apps are a nice companion. I think they would encourage you to get out your phone and get to know another card on in-between moments, and provide starting points for journalling.
These are ad-free too – a deal-breaker for me. One thing is this weird default setting where a man’s voice comes on to instruct/narrate. I started with the Shadowscapes app and this was just so jarring I nearly dismissed the whole thing. Thankfully you can turn the voice off in the settings.
Moon Calendar – iOS + Windows
I love this app so much. This is an example of an app that actually adds something to your life – I use it pretty much every day. It does everything it says on the tin – opening the app I’ve got the current moon phase plus this month’s new and full dates and times for moon and sunrise and set. I can then be clever and tell you the moon’s azimuth and elevation, and I can set a reminder for me to check out the moon on any given day! Awesome.
Galaxy Tarot – Android only
Galaxytone are the guys who made The Wild Unknown Tarot app, and this is their signature app – it has a cult following and the people who have it really love it. Like others, it offers the standard functions of getting a reading, exploring your cards, a card for the day, plus social media sharing. The ‘lite’ version is free and has the basics, the paid-for app brings in way more spreads and a journalling feature. There’s also a really great feature where you can explore different symbols, which I’ve not seen on any other app! It’s ad-free, customisable, and really smooth to use. I regularly talk online with creator Shonna and she’s awesome, truly part of the tarot community – I think that makes a real difference here.
Galaxy tone apps, like the Fool’s Dog apps, are made by people who are passionate about tarot and it shows – with Galaxy Tarot and their other apps, care has been taken to create something genuinely useful and pleasurable to use.
This brings us to…
The Wild Unknown Tarot – Android only (iOS due this summer) – $6.99
Which has only just been released and which I haven’t yet tried… so I’m gonna hand this right over to you. If you’ve tried out this app, let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Learn Tarot – iOS only
This is a great little app. It’s basic and unpolished but it’s a super-handy way to quickly reference a card’s basic meaning. There are no fancy features – you can explore cards and look up meanings, get a daily card, or check out one of four simple spreads.
What’s nice is that although the meanings are simple, four different approaches to the card are given. A general meaning, the card as a prediction, understanding a situation via this card, and the card as advice. it’s nifty, simple, ad-free and I really like it!
Tarot Lovers + The Tarot Quiz – iOS only
These two apps work together. Tarot Lovers is a simple app with card meanings which you learn, and then with The Tarot Quiz you can test your memory. It’a all a bit crass but I enjoyed playing with this app, despite myself. I really really really don’t like this idea of being tested on my knowledge, of multiple-choice right and wrong answers for tarot card meanings – it flies in the face of everything I believe about tarot. But…. it’s kinda fun. I would skip the Tarot Lovers app and just get the quiz, so you can play with it in those in-between moments. I also enjoyed getting totally enraged by some of the app’s card meanings – so different from my own.
Yes or No Tarot – iOS + Android
Ack, this is one of those things that’s fun for about five minutes. It’s a free app, and it’s filled with ads (I mean filled), but I did spend an enjoyable ten minutes asking it four of my most pressing questions. There are four categories: General, Love, Career or Money.
Tarot app, will my love be waiting for me with open arms when I return from two months away?
Answer: The Fool. NO. You will quickly come to realise he or she is empty-headed, immature and a waste of your time.
Cat Horoscope – iOS
I had to include this even though it makes me sad because I’m 2000 miles away from my cats right now so I haven’t even tested it for you. Basically you take a photo of your cat, record your cat’s meow and it creates an astrological profile for your furry boo. CUTE. Shame about all those damn ads.
I feel like people who don’t like e-readers won’t like tarot apps. Because, like reading a book, tarot can be such a tactile thing. Shuffling the cards, working your energy into the deck, scuffing the edges, noticing how they feel in your hands, moving them around as you read them, putting that special card under your pillow or between pages of your diary. You can’t do any of that with a tarot app. I don’t think they are for me, but I do think you can add a lot of extra learning and fun to your regular tarot practice if apps are your thing!
My advice would be to look for something that uses cards that you enjoy looking at, and pay a few dollars so that you can avoid all of those hideous ads. Check out Fool’s Dog and Galaxy Tarot for apps created by people who really know their tarot and have put proper care and thought into creating something thorough and useful.
Over to you then! How do you feel about the whole metaphysical app thing? Have you tried The Wild Unknown App? What are your favourites?