Witches, Wiccans and New Age therapists are welcome at this weekend's tarot festival Arcana, but it's non-believers who should really take a look.

Organiser Fern Mercier encourages people from all walks of life to visit the event and experience the art of tarot for themselves.

"People who don't know anything about tarot, or only know a little bit, seem to have a fear of it," said Mercier, a professional tarot reader and astrologer.

Unlike other New Age expos, Arcana is an arts event and will highlight visual and performance arts, centred on tarot imagery.

The event is a world first, says Mercier, who plans to travel to Italy next year for a similar exhibition.

More than 60 contributors are represented at Arcana, which will also feature seminars, workshops and a trade fair selling "tarot paraphernalia".

More than two years of planning has gone into the event, organised by Mercier, Lyn Olds and Dyan Harland.

Though Arcana is aimed at celebrating art, there will be tarot readers available for public readings.

Vicki Hyde, "chair entity" of Skeptics New Zealand, said the premise of Arcana was interesting but people should be wary of using tarot as a method of divination.

"When people say they can tell your future by using a tarot deck, that's testable. People should look at those sorts of claims with a very critical eye.

"If people are going to take money off you, they should produce something that works. In this case, explanations of your future that are accurate."

Though Mercier said she believed in the use of tarot to foretell the future, she said the cards had other purposes that people often did not realise.

She compared tarot to a mirror, saying it was an excellent tool to help people see themselves and achieve self-realisation. Today, however, many people associated tarot with magic and occultism.

Mercier said the cards originated from Italian playing cards, known as tarocchi, in the 15th century.

It was not until the 1700s that tarot cards became used for divination.

Representing 600 years of history, Arcana will show historic and contemporary interpretations of tarot art, including fashion, photography, tattoo art and poetry.

Mystic Expo

* Arcana, at the Jubilee Building on Parnell Rd, today and tomorrow, from 9am to 5pm.

* Entry $5, Children free.