Tarot cards evoke a range of different emotions in people. Some people think they are a powerful tool of their religion, while other people think they are tools of the devil. If you’re a nonbeliever like me, you might be slightly annoyed at tarot cards because the charlatans they so often represent. But I’d like to take a chance to paint tarot cards in a different light: a powerful tool for self-reflection and journaling.
If you don’t believe in spirits and mysticism, then tarot cards are basically playing cards. They have four suits with numbers and a court (king, queen, etc). Then, there are 22 more cards that tell a story and represent different points on the journey of life.
In a tarot card reading, the cards are laid out in different positions. Each point in the layout represents something different. For example, a simple card layout could be three cards in a row, the first card representing what happened in the past, the second what’s happening right now, and the third what could happen in the future.
The cards have meaning that follows a pattern. The suit of cups, for example, represents emotional, romantic, or relationship themes. Cups are associated with the element of water. The numbers have different meanings, the picture drawn on the cards have meaning, and if the card is drawn upside down the entire meaning changes. The most important cards, the 22 Major Arcana cards, stand out when they are drawn in a spread.
The person reading the tarot takes all of this: the meaning of the cards, the pictures, where they sit in the spread, what questions or ideas they were thinking about when they drew the cards– and they formulate a complete thought about what “the card” is trying to say. This has been mysticised and people have made fortunes claiming to be able to tell the future from the cards. The truth is that the cards seem really specific, but have huge ambiguity in a way that makes it easy to apply them to just about any situation, with a little practice.
BUT instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater and dismissing them completely, it’s worth taking a second look at why these cards have become so important to so many different cultures.
Let’s imagine you are at a tarot card reading with me. I will ask you to think of a question or a topic that you want to reflect on. You think I will I have extra money next month to go on vacation with my new boyfriend? We draw a card: it’s the VI of Pentacles, but it’s upside down. I tell you this card, in this position, represents being selfish with your money or only making financial decisions that benefit yourself. This makes you take another look at your bank account and realize that there’s plenty of money there to go on vacation if you really want to. You reflect on whether you really want to take a vacation with your new boyfriend, or whether you should spend the money on yourself. Maybe the card is telling you to be more selfish and not to spend money on your boyfriend. Maybe the card is reminding you that you don’t pay for very many things in your relationship and a vacation is a great idea.
You can twist that card around to mean whatever you want it to mean at the end of the day. But it sets up workstation where you can examine the idea on your mind. You were worried about money and spending time with your boyfriend. The card asks, have you considered thinking about it this way?
My favorite way to use tarot is as a daily journal prompt for self-reflection. I ask, what should today’s focus be? I draw a card, sketch the art in my bullet journal, and write down the themes and meaning of the card from the app I use to learn tarot. Then I spend a little time writing whatever comes into my head.
Give it a try! I like the Golden Tarot app in the Google Play store.