Here, I share with you how I choose to use and read tarot cards.
It’s taken time, and careful contemplation, to build a framework in which I weave tarot tapestries in a way that aligns with my values. The opinions I express are subjective and informed by my experiences, personality, understanding, and preferences.
The following scene is not the kind of info one receives from a tarot reading – it simply illustrates what I will, and will not, do with my cards.
The elevator ride
You have an appointment on the 14th floor of a tall building. You take the elevator. There are a lot of people in the lift. It’s crammed.
Someone farts, and breathing feels fatal. If you weren’t stuck at the back, you’d consider getting out on the 4th floor and waiting for the next elevator going up.
You went to a tarot reader a few weeks ago. The cards showed her you’d be taking a lift to the top floor of a tall building to keep an appointment with your dentist. The cards also revealed that this trip to the dentist would bring you romance. What the Universe chose not to divulge is the stench inflicted on you, and many others, by someone else. Why?
The Universe knows you will likely respond to the tip-off by standing back and declining to enter the elevator with that person, thus altering the course of your life in a way you would not appreciate. How?
Well, if you were told a teenage boy wearing an aquamarine hoodie, bright red sneakers, and holding a white smartphone in his left hand, is going to create a stink in the lift, you’d wait for the next elevator…
If you wait for the next elevator, you’ll miss the joke a man in a tweed jacket cracks, you’ll miss laughing so hard your eyes water, and you’ll miss meeting the man you’re going to have a long-term relationship with…
Tweed Man has to be in this elevator at this time because, not only will he meet you, he’ll meet another person who’ll change the course of his life – his future boss will enter the elevator on the 6th floor…
The teenage boy has to be in this elevator, despite his unpleasant digestive system, because he is Tweed Man’s son and must serve as a catalyst (he eats enough dodgy food to do his job admirably).
If you press the tarot for more and more details (depicted here as the teenage boy), asking questions that ignore people’s right to privacy, wires get crossed and cosmic plans go up in smoke.
Not taking the noxious elevator ride would mean that, after your visit to the dentist, you’ll be furious and puzzled by the absence, for the next ten years, of a decent man in your life; it’ll take that long for the Universe to get another Tweed Man, or the same Tweed Man, within arm’s reach again.
You were told your visit to the dentist would bring you the man of your dreams. You’ll keep asking yourself why, why, why he hasn’t come along. You might blame yourself, think you did something wrong, failed somewhere along the way. You may struggle to make choices, distrust your intuition, or become a bystander in your own life, waiting for predicted outcomes.
The tarot didn’t lie. You will find romance after your visit to the dentist, only now it’ll be ten years after the appointment because you (or your reader) unwittingly stuck a nose where it didn’t belong, disrupting the course of events.
This also illustrates that the unfolding of life does not revolve around one individual’s demands and desires. We’re faced with the undeniable fact that we’re all in this together. We are not the center of the universe.
Defying the common sense truth that the only person we can control and change is ourselves is foolish. That’s why trying to know too much about other people is often a fruitless and frustrating exercise. We’re wasting our energy and resources. Bring it back home, to you. What can I do to help myself, change this, ensure the best outcome for all involved?
If the tarot wants you to know more than that (and surprisingly, when we demonstrate principled restraint, it often does) you’ll get it without having to pry into other people’s lives, or…
surrender control of your life to outside forces. Which is where we’re going now…
The big baby in the outsize pram
When we ask questions that suggest we’re reluctant to take responsibility for our own life, and steer our own ship, we’ll get answers, but mischief may follow.
The tarot isn’t comfortable being used as bubble wrap, cushioning us from every blow, immobilizing us, removing opportunities to learn and grow.
It enjoys serving as a wise elder – guiding, advising, empowering us, pointing us in the right direction. We must do the work to get to our destination.
If the tarot says Go north and that’s it, well, that’s it. You get yourself a compass, a mode of transport, and you go north and see what happens.
If the tarot decides to add that it would be best to Eat only cooked vegetables while travelling, don’t trust the woman in red offering you an apple, and sleep every night under the stars, it’s giving you this information because it knows it’s for the highest good of all that you do this while you’re on the road.
You’ve got to figure out how you’re going to get cooked vegetables to eat every day, how to politely refuse the apple and subsequent offer of accommodation, where the safest, best places to sleep outside are, and where you can purchase the warmest sleeping bag. You don’t ask the tarot Shall I buy my sleeping bag at Game or Checkers Hyper?
The tarot will answer, but it won’t tell you it makes no difference because your sleeping bag is going to be stolen before you’ve even slept in it.
If we start going down that road to nowhere we need to pause, and examine why we’re asking the tarot to push us around in a pram and spoon-feed us mashed banana when we’re no longer a baby needing parents to do everything for us and make decisions on our behalf.
We find an adult of sound mind and abilities constantly asking us to choose and decide for them (because they’re afraid of consequences, life, and all the messy stuff and work being human entails) exhausting and frustrating. How does the tarot feel when dealing with the same? It would rather not have its arm twisted until it spits out more and more cards.
We cannot hide from our destiny, no matter how many cards we pull.
The first card in the tarot illustrates this. The Fool is depicted as embarking on a journey. He cannot turn back. He’s got to keep going through all the Major Arcana cards. He can’t avoid them, and some have a nail-biting intensity. It’s part of the experience, of being a human on earth.
We can ask the tarot to help us navigate the road ahead. It will gladly assist us in understanding ourselves, and our circumstances, better. It will help us understand other people too, if it knows it’s imperative that we do so. We’ll get to our destination with fewer mishaps and delays, or at the very least, manage mishaps and delays with grace and hope. It’s not about getting our own way, it’s about opening the way to our own evolution.
It’s all in the asking, how we phrase our questions.
How to ask
If I go for a job interview and get the job, and want the tarot to help me decide whether to accept the position, I’d avoid asking questions that beg for a yes or no answer.
What do I need to know about accepting this position? or How will accepting this job affect my life? are both healthier questions than Must I take this job?
Here’s a question I’m sure many tarot decks have been asked. Should I break up with my boyfriend?
A better question would be What do I need to know about my relationship with Ted? This question covers a lot of bases, and allows the tarot to generously help by giving you all the information you need to make an informed decision, without sacrificing your autonomy.
Another question. Is my wife cheating on me?
Again, What do I need to know about my relationship with my wife? is good. If the tarot understands it would be in everyone’s best interests to expose an affair, it will do so. If not, it will empower you to make changes. Those changes will lead you to making choices that free you of an unfaithful partner, with or without knowledge of their affairs.
The difference is subtle: Does Susan love me? (and before you ask this of the tarot you should ask yourself why you’re not asking Susan directly) is best rephrased as Please show me what I may know about Susan’s feelings for me at this time? Yes, it’s longer, but it’s an open-ended question that shows respect and reverence for all, including the tarot.
I aim to keep my conscience and karma clean. As tempting as it is to use a tarot deck as one’s pocket-sized private investigator, or teeny-weeny spy cam, I don’t, and I won’t. When the tarot independently decides to divulge details only a fly on the wall sees, it’s doing so for good, upstanding reasons. It knows you’ll engage with the information responsibly and wisely.
A magic carpet ride?
Abiding by these principles makes the tarot my greatest ally and my greatest teacher. There is no mischief or miscommunication. It wants to help, wants to see me mature, heed the guidance, do the work.
The tarot is not a shortcut or a quick fix. Some experiences, as unpleasant as they are, must be lived. Perhaps we’ll never know why we were prevented from taking the safer back roads, but that’s what the word mystery is for.
Drawing tarot cards enriches and eases our journey, but it is not a magic carpet ride. We’ve got to take the elevator, bus, train, drive the car, walk on our own two feet, like everybody else.
What it does do is get us neatly dressed and to the station on time, aware that farther up the line the view is going to change, we’ll meet new people, and we must put our best foot forward.
I know, as I learn and evolve, I’ll make adjustments, changes, to what I’ve written here. Stagnancy and comfort zones aside, life keeps us on our toes, that’s for sure.
Lots of love to you, and thank you for reading.