Learning The Tarot
Add art and ritual to your self-care practice
Have you ever wanted to learn tarot?
It’s a wonderful way to focus on the different aspects of your life from a perspective you otherwise might not have considered. I like to think of it as a form of guided meditation. It’s a truly lovely self-care practice that allows you to put yourself first in a mindful and positive way with the goal being one of creating a more fulfilling life for ourselves. The cards present you with ideas and ask you to see how these ideas may fit into your life. They ask us to look at the areas of our lives—areas that we see everyday—from angles that we might not get to by ourselves.
Another beauty of the tarot is the literal beauty of the tarot. The art itself. There is a tarot deck out there for everybody, even if they never use it and simply put it on display or thumb through it every so often. If you have a favorite art medium or style, there will be a dozen decks showcasing it. If you have a hobby or fascination, chances are there’s a deck or two out there that does it justice. The world of tarot is large and thorough and I’d challenge anyone to settle on just one deck they’d want to take home.
When reading tarot, there are dozens and dozens of spreads that will allow you to focus your meditation on specific segments of your life. The best part about these spreads are all of the wonderful ideas they give us. The spreads beg us to spend time on ourselves. Instead of picking apart our brains like we normally do, it offers up the notion of casual speculation from a respectful distance.
What do I mean?
The cards are about helping ourselves. There are no “bad” cards. Are there some cards that are fucking awesome? Yes. Yes, there are. Does that mean that there are some cards that are not as awesome? Well, logic dictates. So, yes. But each card is merely an opportunity for us to find fulfillment and true happiness. Sometimes we need help with that. Most of the time, actually. That’s just how life works.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
My mom’s family is a tarot family. I mean, I grew up Catholic. My mom’s family is a pretty typical Catholic family but there was also always a tarot deck or two lying around. It sounds funny writing it out—hearing the words in my head—I realize this isn’t necessarily how everyone grew up. I don’t know that anyone was ever really serious about it, whatever that means, but they weren’t a toy and we understood what helpful tools they were.
Both my mom and my aunt were active fans of the tarot. My aunt was particularly gifted at using them. It was my great-grandmother, however, that was the real family tarot reader, using the skill to provide for her family. So, for me, the tarot has an additional personal connection that I find comforting—something about tapping into the strength of my female ancestors. But using the cards as a tool for meditation has been the key to my own relationship with the tarot.
I sit down to do a simple reading—three cards, nothing fancy—and I’m guaranteed fifteen minutes of calm introspection. The cards have no agenda other than posing ideas that may help me in my life. If something strikes a chord, I’ve discovered something. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. There’s no pressure. And isn’t that the point of meditation? To take the pressure off?
It gives me a chance to really reflect on the areas of my life without my own neurosis getting in the way. It allows me to examine my behavior and motivations from a third person perspective and with that small amount of distance sometimes I see things that I hadn’t seen before.
CHOOSING YOUR CARDS
If you’re interested in getting your own deck of tarot cards, the most important thing to keep in mind is connection. There’s no right deck to choose; no one better than another. It’s all about finding the deck you connect with the most.
Do you fall in love with the artwork displayed? Does the deck showcase an idea or value that’s important to you? Maybe it’s the perspective of the cards or the theme that gets you.
Does something about it just speak to you?
Whatever’s behind it, that connection is what will link you to your cards. It’s what will compel you to open them consistently. It will help you see all the details and signs of the card’s meaning inside its artwork and more deeply understand the symbolism behind the choices the creator made.
It will also, very simply, help you enjoy the cards more.
And don’t forget to enjoy the search! Go out and visit the shops nearby you that sell tarot. There are bound to be several small independent businesses surrounding you—just do a little map search. Don’t forget about your friendly neighborhood book stores, as well. They often stock tarot decks and you’d be surprised at the unexpected finds. In non-fiction, check the metaphysical areas, the religion section and (ugh) the games area—cause of cards. When all else fails (or maybe it’s actually your preferred method), hit the internet. Look up tarot cards in general or if you have something more specific in mind, throw that into your search terms and see what comes up.
JUST A FEW BASICS
The most important thing to remember in learning the tarot is to respect your cards. Treat them well. Don’t use them with greasy fingers or dirty hands. Keep them in a box or a little bag, something purposely for them. Don’t just toss them in a drawer with pens and pencils, left to gather dust. Treat them like something you’re fond of…soon, you will be.
It’s not a bad idea to cleanse your cards before using them. You could use candles (5 of them in the shape of a pentagram, with the stack of cards in the center) or a good cleansing crystal. Each point of the pentagram represents a suit of the Minor Arcana with the highest point representing the Major Arcana. Just didn’t want your imagination running wild with horror movie symbolism.
Now, this might be a little too woo-woo for you. A little too cosmic and trippy. I get it. And personally, I think that’s fine. My beginnings with the tarot never involved cleansing a deck. I’d say that it mostly depends on your opinions about energy and vibes. Are you someone that thinks certain people give you the heebie-jeebies or maybe you have a friend that just feels good to be around?
If you’re one of those people, I say, cleanse your cards. You’re not the first person those suckers have been around. Give ‘em a little pass with the crystal or light those candles. Why not? If I found out that anything in my possession had been handled by some super creeper, I’d have wished I would’ve had the chance to cleanse that shit at the beginning. You know, just in case. And since the point of these cards is for self-care, let’s keep that crap away from us, right?
When using your cards, it’s best to keep to a calm and peaceful atmosphere. You’ll want somewhere quiet with few distractions. Think about things like lighting, music or a scent that puts you in a positive or peaceful frame of mind. Put your phone on do not disturb mode so that texts and notifications don’t start frustrating you, because they will. Basically, give yourself the best setting to create a little self-care introspection. Whatever that means for you. If you have a quirk that puts you in the right mindset—a cup of tea, a little bourbon, a joint, whatever—use it.
You are the most important part of this equation. After all, you’re the self in self-care. This shit’s named after you. Be the star, baby! Put yourself first. Take that hot shower first, if that’s your thing!
Now that you’ve got the outside the way you need it, it’s time to get the inside to match. Huh? Keep an open mind.
You’ve given yourself a soothing and safe environment, a place perfect for possibility. And for that we need an open mind. We need to be willing and able to look inside ourselves when the time comes. Take comfort in the ideas the cards present. It’s supposed to be about helping ourselves and that means staying open.
The world around us is made up of nothing but change. Change is really our biggest consistency. The sooner we get comfortable with that idea, maybe even a little excited by it, the better. Changing our attitude in this way can really change our entire life…for the better. Things become easier when change isn’t the enemy.
Perhaps the best thing about using the tarot as a form of self-care is that there’s hope behind every message. Tarot should never leave you feeling discouraged or disheartened. If it does, you’re doing it wrong. Every card is a chance to grow. Even cards that may be proposing a better way to handle situations are simply suggestions for greater happiness. And they never suggest an alternate path without showing you what that would be and why it’s a more positive avenue.
Tarot never leaves you hanging.
So, with all of that said, I’d like you to come and join me on an exploration of the cards themselves. We’ll look at the suits and their meanings, the major and minor arcanas, spreads and anything else we come across.
Where do we start? Well, at the beginning of course. The Fool.
See ya then!
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