***Disclaimer: I am a tarot novice. There are way more educated and well spoken tarot hobbyists, readers, consultations, etc. Please go read something by them as well.***
From one perspective, you could say that I moved to New Orleans in 2017, was gifted my first tarot deck and now I have an altar set up in my bedroom in 2020.
In August of 2017 I was offered a tarot reading while visiting a friend in Florida, and after dozens of questions about tarot, decided to get my own deck. Then over the years I’ve realized the value in structured meditation and reflection.
Before I get to my point, let’s do a quick introduction to the cards themselves and their meanings. This is in no way an exhaustive understanding of Tarot. Just the things I think are relevant. A tarot deck includes numbered suits and the Major Arcana.
A tarot deck has 4 suits – traditionally called Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles.
- Wands deal with the creative, willpower and actions.
- Cups are associated with your feelings and the relationships you have with people.
- Swords refer to the intellectual, thoughts or ideas.
- Pentacles cover the material wold – financial, possessions and the physical self.
As with a playing card deck, each suit has a linear set of cards, from Ace to 10, then includes figures such as Knights, Queens and Kings, each with their own associations. For example, the 4s are often dealing with manifestation of an idea; 7s indicate a period of solitude or introspection; when a knight is present a long-term condition may be changing.
The Major Arcana are 22 cards which tell a story of a journey. Starting with the Fool, a person who knows nothing and has all the best intentions, and ending with The World, which is the sum of all things, people and knowledge. The group includes many figures who have associations to power, femininity, courage, and other big positive concepts.
In doing tarot readings, whether for yourself or someone else, there are basic steps:
1. Think of a question or issue or facet of your life
2. Shuffle the cards while thinking and focusing on it
3. Using a diagram of a “tarot spread” as your guide or just choosing a single card, pull from the deck.
4. Interpret the meanings of the cards and how they relate or exist in the context of what you were thinking of in step one. If using a tarot spread, also consider the meaning of the placement. You can either look up the suit and number meanings, find an interpretation book, or just google to find the meaning of the card.
My approach to tarot practice comes from a self-help and mental health perspective. This is in large part because of others, such as Jessica Dore, who have made it part of their practice to include behavioral psychology and meditative elements. They showed me that tarot is a structured way to feel my anxieties or worries, rather than just avoiding those feelings altogether. In this way, tarot has been very therapeutic for me. If I worried about something, I would do a tarot pull about the issue, then journal for a half-page or so about what I was thinking and feeling. Then I put the cards away and moved onto something else.
For me, tarot isn’t fortune telling or calling on the spirits of the universe to guide me through my troubles (let it be known that I am not saying the opposite may not be true, it just isn’t how it functions for me). It’s a way for me to cope, to self-soothe, and to manage my mental illness.
As for the ritual of lighting a candle, pouring a glass of wine and rinsing my crystals in moon water… I’ll explain that another day.