By reading tarot you can gain the agency needed to follow the path in life you want or need through self-reflection. This self-reflection in turn suggests the course of action most likely to help you. In this post, I will demonstrate how to use the tarot as a practical tool for self-reflection and initiating action when you need guidance.
As with all things I write in this blog take what works for you and leave the rest.
Although many people use tarot as a spiritual tool, it also serves as a very practical tool for self-reflection that really resonates. This means you can reflect deeply on all the aspects of a situation; the insight you gain points the way to what you need to do next.
For much more information on reading tarot for yourself effectively, see the posts ‘Reading Tarot For Yourself – 7 Things to Avoid‘ – which you can read here – and ‘How To Read Tarot Cards – 10 Steps For Great Readings‘ which is here.
Two Parts to Self-Reflection Using Tarot
The first part to using tarot as a form of regular everyday guidance is reading for yourself and spending the time to reflect on the message the cards are giving you. This seems pretty self-explanatory. However, the second part is to think about how you are going to move forwards by taking action.
Action is crucial because nothing will change if you do not act. You have free will to change what is likely to happen if you do nothing, the future is not set in stone.
Let’s take an example situation which can be stressful and lead to feelings of loss of agency and see how a tarot reading can help us think about how to respond to it.
An Example Tarot Reading
I have chosen a realistic example situation which is very current. During the Coronavirus Pandemic, many people are losing, or have lost, their jobs and even their entire careers. This is certainly true here in the UK. It is a difficult time to find new work as job opportunities are greatly reduced.
Being out of work has many disadvantages. As well as loss of income there are some serious health implications, particularly for mental health. Continual job application rejections can leave a person feeling demoralised and helpless.
So, I did the following reading with this issue in mind. The question I asked is ‘What can the cards tell me about how to deal with being out of work and not finding work?’
The above reading uses the ‘Awake Dream’ method I described in the post ‘How to do an Intuitive Tarot Reading‘ which you can read here.
In short, this is a 3 card spread, the positions being Situation; What I Need To Know; Advice working from the bottom up.
Instead of using just 1 card in each position, I used 3 to create a picture – or painting – which tells a story. I then describe what each picture is saying. With this reading I did not use intuition alone, I also used card meanings to add depth to the reading.
The bottom row is Situation. Here the Knight of Cups is leaving the Ace of Pentacles behind – this Ace symbolises new opportunities for work and earning money – in search of this opportunity. Being in the desert with his empty cup he is seeking work and a sense of well being that comes from being able to work and earn. However, his path has been blocked by the Page of Swords who looks like he is actively ready to chop the Knight’s head off.
The Page in the Situation position represents potential employers rejecting you. The Page of Swords represents a new path in terms of ideas and mental clarity. It seems to suggest that you, as the Knight of Cups, need to think again about how you are approaching this – to think rather than to act on your need/strong feeling to find work.
It is worth bearing in mind that the tarot court cards can either literally represent people or, figuratively speaking, behaviours and attitudes to adopt. Here, the Knight of Cups represents the actual querent and the Page of Swords represents both the employer(s) and the attitude the querent needs to adopt moving forward.
What I Need To Know
In the middle row, the King of Cups is the largest figure and appears very isolated. The figures in both the 8 of Cups and the 7 of Swords are moving away from him. The King appears to represent the querent and their need to remain calm amidst the chaos surrounding him.
The retreating figure in the 8 of Cups can represent the feeling of isolation and abandonment that can come from continual application rejections. Note, the King appears to be looking directly at the Moon in the 8 of Cups. This can represent the feeling of anxiety that comes from an uncertain path ahead.
The figure in the 7 of Swords is also sneaking away from the King. He is slightly larger than the figure in the 8 of Cups so may be more important. The 7 of Swords figure could represent the diminishing of potential courses of action or the lack of ideas of how to proceed.
In essence, what you need to know is that you need to remain calm and watch your mental health in the face of receding options and feelings of isolation.
So, we have an understanding of the situation facing the querent and what they need to understand about their situation. What course of action does the cards suggest?
We have the 9 of Swords which shows the effects of extreme stress and anxiety keeping the figure in the bed awake at night. However, notice that the figure is facing away from the Hierophant and the Ace of Cups. These cards represent what the querent should be considering; ignoring them will result in the anxiety and fear shown.
The Hierophant suggests the need to seek help and guidance as to how to proceed and the Ace of Cups, with the water flowing out of the cup and filling up the lake, suggests the need to find a source of emotional well being.
If the querent was religious the obvious message here is to seek guidance through your faith and the church. More practically, perhaps the church could actually help you in some manner directly or point you in the direction of someone or somewhere that can provide you practical help. Seeking guidance through your faith can bring a feeling of well being; the Ace of Cups clearly symbolising the Holy Grail.
What if the querent is not religious? The Hierophant still clearly suggests a need for guidance and information on how to proceed.
The Hierophant card traditionally represents religious institution but it could represent an organisation that could help you or provide you with information on how to proceed. Here in the UK, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau can provide guidance and information. However, if your mental health is suffering, perhaps the Hierophant could suggest speaking to your doctor or seeking help from mental health services.
The Ace of Cups can still represent the need for emotional well being. If your mental health is suffering, it is important that you do something about it. This could mean focusing your attention on something that improves your self esteem, such as a hobby. Or remaining in contact with friends. Anything in fact that makes you feel a sense of self worth and makes you happy.
The overall advice is to seek help and look after your mental health to avoid unbearable stress and worry.
Gaining Control through tarot Self-Reflection
The above example reading demonstrates how, when faced with a situation, you can use the tarot for self-reflection on what is going on and figure out a course of action to help you gain some control over what is happening.
The example is based on a serious situation but this use of tarot can be applied to most situations you can think of.
Having done the reading, you then need to put the advice into action. I strongly recommend keeping a tarot journal so you can record your readings. Write an entry in the journal about your reflection and what you are going to do. Keep referring back to this entry to remind you to act.
Then act. In the above example, perhaps start a search online for local organisations or services that could help you in this situation. Here in the UK, your first port of call when it comes to mental health would be your GP (doctor) but there are charities you could also contact such as MIND, or the Samaritans if your mental health is in a serious state.
Tarot self-reflection can put you in the driving seat. You don’t have to be buffeted about by the currents of life. You can use tarot to help you steer the path you want or need.
So, the next time you are facing a situation and you feel the need for guidance, take your tarot deck, do some reflecting and take the wheel!