The real answer is that it is many things. If a picture tells a thousand words, then a tarot card tells…. well infinite words. The first decks were developed before most people could read, so the symbolism was very important. In order to convey a message, the pictures had to tell a story. Each card has it’s own story – a little vignette, that helps the reader to ascertain what the card may be trying to teach us. The cards themselves are but a conduit to the spirits – both of the the querent and of the universe. They assist in conveying a message through the reader. That is why it is so important to me to keep my reading area clear and open to positive energy. I spend time in contemplation and meditation for each reading – to insure clarity and also to double check myself, that I am not “projecting” my feelings or hopes into the reading. There is a great deal of synchronicity involved in the tarot. It is best to let the universe flow naturally through the reading and through the reader, without trying to force an answer we wish for. For that reason, it is very important to begin a reading with an open mind. I believe that works both for the querent and the reader. So, before you task yourself with wording your question, be sure you are clear of mind, and calm of heart.