There’s This Thing Called Tarot

I was taught to be afraid of it. But, like all things I was taught to be afraid of, when I did my own “investigation of the thing,” I found out that it was much different than what I was led to believe. I’ve, instead, found tarot to be a tool for introspection. It connects me to answers deep inside myself that I’m not aware of.

Tarot is also thought of as a divination tool—something that connects you to the divine. To me, it is not inconceivable that the answers inside of me are whispers from Spirit, so I can see that. Tarot is also used for fortune-telling. Perhaps there are people who can see the future and use the cards that way. But that’s not me. In any case, tarot began as a card game, so the cards are a tool. There is nothing inherently scary or evil in them, as I was taught. Evil people can make anything evil, I suppose. But tarot by itself is actually rather magical, if you ask me.

Most of all, I think of tarot as my own personal psychiatrist. I’ve done some really deep introspection since I started using it. Before tarot, journaling my thoughts was a way to get answers. Now, I combine tarot with journaling—asking a question, pulling some cards, and reflecting on them while in my journal. I like adding the visual element of tarot to my introspective time. I like finding patterns and connections in the cards. When I used to journal by simply writing, I would start out with questions and the answers would magically appear, just through writing. Of course, my mind was working, too, as I wrote. Tarot is the same. Lots of times I lay out a card (or more) and think, I’m not sure what this is telling me, then all of a sudden I have an “aha” moment. It actually is uncanny at times. I have a friend who said she had gotten into tarot but gave it up because it spooked her how accurate the cards were. I think that’s because tarot [insert some other tool/technique here] opens up a door to the subconscious, which is a fascinating place.

Dreams of Gaia Tarot, 8 of Air, the Ego

I’ve come to find that setting aside introspective time each day (or as close to that as I can) is good for my mental health. It’s a playful way to dive deeper into my soul. And some of the cards are “heavy” and challenge me. Imagine getting a card that symbolizes the ego with this in the guidebook: “We are creatures driven by our ego….We can be so afraid of the truth that our ego will work hand in hand with our primal instincts and do what it can to protect us.” (Dreams of Gaia Tarot, eight of air card.) I mean, it’s not just kittens and rainbows. It’s deep inner work. But it is liberating inner work.

This journey into tarot all began with an Herbal Healing deck I bought. I would pull a card and read the guidebook and go off journaling. I like that deck because the guidebook speaks of the medicinal properties of a plant as well as the meaning of the plant (for want of a better term, the “magical” properties, also called correspondences). The most well-known example of this is that roses symbolize love. It was the perfect deck for a nature-loving herbalist. I was happy with oracle decks. I wound up getting another herbal one because, although I loved the guidebook in The Healing Herbal Deck, I wasn’t all that enamored of the artwork. I never had any intention of getting into tarot until I heard a podcast (The Plant Witch) about it. It talked about the major arcana (these are the trumps in the original card game) being the Hero’s Journey (also called the Fool’s Journey in tarot) that writer Joseph Campbell introduced as an archetypal story pattern, where the hero goes on a journey, meets some challenges, conquers them, and comes home transformed. The major arcana has cards like The Hermit, Temperance, Death/Rebirth, Justice, The Wheel of Fortune, The Sun, The Moon, The Star, The World. There are 22 in all. “Wow,” I thought. “That’s a whole other level of introspection!” And so I dove in.

Light Seer’s Tarot, Queen of Pentacles (Earth)

I found out tarot is made up of this major arcana, which is a more high-level or spiritual introspection, and the minor arcana, which contains 4 suits, ace through 10, and 4 court cards including kings and queens. Sound familiar? Very much like our modern playing cards. The minor arcana deal with more everyday, human life things, with each suit representing a different aspect of the self. The earth suit (usually called pentacles) deals with physical things like health, finances, family. The air suit (usually called swords) deals with the mind/intellect. The fire suit (usually called wands) deals with action, creativity, passion. The water suit (usually called cups) deals with the emotions. The court cards in the suit can represent actual people in your life, or the energy that type of person brings. For instance, the Queen of Earth is a wise, mothering energy. Put all of this system together, and you can imagine some very intricate messages from the cards. There are 78 cards in all in the most common tarot system. I have another deck (Dreams of Gaia) that varies a bit from this system that has 80 cards. But it happens to be the deck I use the most. Instead of the major arcana being the hero’s journey, it has cards for the stages of life, reasons for being, and influences. It’s my favorite “psychiatrist.” The artwork is incredible and there is lots of symbolism to help you get meaning from the cards. Even though tarot has a system and each card has a set of meanings, you aren’t limited to that. You can assign your own meanings. This is helpful for a newbie. I could never memorize the meaning of 78 cards. So I am doing that slowly, along with using my intuition to derive meaning from the imagery of the cards.

So, there you have it. Tarot 101 from me.

Woodland Wardens Oracle Deck

As I’ve already said, I find tarot magical. As far as it being a Green Witch Way, a lot of witches use tarot. And a lot of the decks are earthy. Here are the names of some of my earthy tarot decks and oracle cards: Dreams of Gaia, Forest of Enchantment, Herbal Healing Deck, Woodland Wardens (each card has an animal and plant with related meaning), Bestiary (animals), Herbiary, Mystical Shaman Oracle. All are related to nature (the Mystical Shaman adds in indigenous wisdom). I have a couple more decks, too, because I am not just a nature girl and I was drawn in by their art. My Light Seer’s Tarot is a very popular deck and wonderful for introspective work. Here’s an example of a card from that deck, where you can read the deck creator’s interpretation of the card. I am drawn to the modern decks, but I did get one classical deck because I thought it would help me learn. It’s okay (an artistic redo of the Rider Waite Smith deck of cards in the header photo), but I definitely love the direction tarot seems to have gone in in the past few decades, with more modern imagery.

So, if you’ve ever wondered about tarot, know from me that you can use it in any way you’d like. You could use it in the ways I’ve described, create games (I’ve played a version of solitaire with a couple of the decks), or pull some cards as writing/story prompts. I think tarot, like witchcraft, is only evil if you choose to see it that way. I’m glad I got over that view of it or I would have missed out on a wonderful addition to my life.

Rider Waite Smith Tarot header image by Daniel Albany from Pixabay

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