Using the Tarot for Self Exploration

In previous articles, I spoke about some of the ways to incorporate spirituality into the day-to-day. One of my methods is using the Tarot to hone in on insights. Social isolation has given me the opportunity to develop a deeper relationship with this tool. Every morning, I journal and consult the Tarot for information about a specific question, from clarification about my dreams to elucidation about happenings in my life. There are different types of exercises with the Tarot that I do that help to ground me and learn to trust my inner guidance.

Reading Narrativizations of the Major Arcana

One of the most potent ways that I have worked with the Tarot is through learning about the story of the major arcana. The major arcana is comprised of 22 cards (including the Fool) that correspond with archetypes of human life. This sequence starts with the Fool (0) and ends with the World (21). Each card shows a part of the human growth journey, through the initial naïveté of youth and ignorance all the way through the integration of the self. Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom and Motherpeace are great resources for this type of study. They go through the imagery that appears on the cards, as well as histories and philosophies of the card meanings. Since Tarot decks have different imagery, it’s important to grasp the fundamental insight of the major arcana from a variety of sources. I regularly work with more than four decks. They each have different imagery for each cards. So I am able to apply my knowledge of the archetype mixed with the visuals distinct to the deck that I’m working with.

Learning to Trust My Own Interpretation

I was initially drawn to the Tarot because I saw it as a tool that provided external guidance. That, of course, I could not wholly rely on. I had the same belief of the Tarot that a lot of people have – that it’s a fortune telling game. However, the more I work with it and get to know my deck collection, the more I have come to terms with the Tarot being a tool of reflection.  That is, I see in it what my subconscious mind cannot quite openly express. As I learn to trust my own intuition again, I have been working steadily to rely less on the description booklets that come with decks. Instead, I sit quietly with the imagery for several minutes until I see a story arise. Once I see a story, I speak it out loud and I also write in my journal about the reading.

Moving Out of the Fear Mindset

When I first began working with the Tarot, I was misinformed about cards like the Tower and the Devil. I assigned them the meanings that they seemed to be associated with, or I relied on the booklet meanings. These were often morose and unhelpful. I sought out books and online resources that could explain the cards in a way that weren’t so straightforward. The Tarot is not always so literal. So it was not helpful to see a card depicting great bodily tragedy and tie that into my life. Of course there is always the chance that the card can have a literal meaning. But that is highly unlikely. I learned to work with the Tower as a card representing emotional or spiritual upheaval, which makes more sense in the context of my life experience. And I learned to read the Devil as a card about sexuality and repression.

Spreads for Self Exploration

With learning to trust my intuition more, I have challenged myself to create my own spreads. The traditional Celtic cross and past-present-future spreads were not resonating with me.

Multi-Deck Three Card Spread with Clarifiers

The most common spread I use is choosing two to three different decks and over-hand shuffling until I have three fallout cards from each deck. In the following, I used the After Tarot and the Fountain Tarot.

I glean three different messages that create a story from one deck, then use additional decks as clarifiers. So in the example above, my base deck (the deck I choose the base the reading around) is the After Tarot (on top), and the Fountain Tarot (on bottom) clarifies each of the cards that it sits below. This method has given me some very clear and precise readings.

Single Deck Three Card Spread

Normally, a three card spread would involve positioning past, present, and future cards (in that order). I find that I don’t work well when time is described too rigidly by the cards. I rarely ask questions that have to do with timelines, due dates, and cutoffs. I often ask for clarification about things that are happening, or dreams.

In the above spread, I used the Ember and Aura Tarot (indie deck) and asked for some guidance about reframing a belief that I’ve been carrying that is not serving me. I read all three cards to build a story about how to form a new belief that benefits me and helps me move peacefully in the world and in my relationships. I can use this as a journal prompt or simply sit with the cards.

Every time I do a spread, I write down the cards and my interpretation in my journal. I also take a photo of each spread in case I want to revisit it later.