Why I am not Afraid of Tarot…

…and You Shouldn’t be Either.

Fear of Tarot (1)I recognize that suggesting what you should or should not be afraid of might sound arrogant–please hear me out.

I receive a range of reactions when I mention that I am a professional tarot card reader. Generally, people are interested and curious but I do meet folks who immediately put their hands up and shake their head saying that they “don’t want to know what is coming.” In some belief systems, the tarot is even thought of as a tool of the devil. Yikes!

The unfortunate part is that there are readers out there who will aim to create a dramatic and sometimes fearful response from their clients. Some people have experienced this first-hand, and others have heard their horror stories. Recently, I have had people share similar experiences of a tarot reader turning over a card,  gasping and refusing to continue the reading! I call bullshit on that noise! Perpetuating fear is a disgrace to the practice and the reason that many people do not wish to explore the tarot. This is unfortunate, as they miss the opportunity to discover what a powerful self-development tool it can be!

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While there are as many different reading styles as there are tarot readers, I align myself with those who use the cards for personal exploration such as discovering blind spots we may have and recognizing aspects of ourselves that need healing. Tarot is a great tool for getting out of a rut and setting intentions. It is a beautiful self-care process: I have had clients tell me that after a reading with me they felt like they had left a therapy session. The magic is what they do with the meaning I share with them! While I always offer the narrative I see in the cards, often the reading will unlock something vital within my clients. It is deeply rewarding to see this happen. The cards do have the power to lay out a path for us but we can choose whether or not it is a good fit for us at this time.

The magic that happens in a tarot reading is beyond my full comprehension. Somehow, even with a one-card reading, the message gets to each person at the right time.

Here is a very brief description of what a standard tarot deck consists of:

There are 78 cards in total: 56 of these are known as the Minor Arcana which are numbered much like playing cards.  These are the cards that describe the mundane but influential scenarios we encounter regularly. They include the Aces to Tens in each of the four suits, as well as the court cards which are made up of four personalities: often Pages, Knights, Queens, and Kings. The suits consist of Wands, Swords, Cups, and Pentacles. There are a number of variations to this depending on the theme of the deck. There are also 22 cards that represent the larger events in our lives, such as weddings, new homes, separation, and existential challenges. These are referred to as the Major Arcana

All 78 tarot cards represent stages of our journey, both inner and outer, throughout our time on earth. All of these archetypes and events are woven together into a story that can help us mediate challenges and manage obstacles. When laying out a spread, where each card shows up is as important as the card itself. This is why there are endless possibilities with tarot and no two readings are ever the same. 

The artwork on some decks can be dramatic and without explanation by a learned professional, could be quite startling. I will give a few examples of how you can look at the more challenging cards:

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Death:

This might be the most feared card of all and yet it is one of the most necessary aspects of life. Letting things go that no longer serve us allows for fresh growth and new beginnings. Imagine the forest floor in Autumn; all of the fallen leaves begin to decay and provide rich, fertile nutrients for those buds we all eagerly anticipate. Death needn’t be associated with fear but celebrated for the new life it provides for.

 

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The Tower:

While the Tower indicates sudden and unexpected change, it only breaks down structures in our life that were not built soundly to begin with. It will remove illusions we may have and leave us with a strong foundation to rebuild our next chapter. I often use the example of how your companions deal with you when you are in crisis. There are those who become ghosts and those who make you tea and hold space for you. This is the energy of The Tower. Again, how you cope with change is the larger component to address, rather than the change itself.

 

The Devil:large

The Devil represents lower-vibrational behaviors and unhealthy attachments. Often this card calls us out on behaviors that we indulge in when our “cups are empty” or we have not been taking care of ourselves. It can indicate addiction, toxic relationships, gossip or any other behaviors that do not serve our higher good. We all fall into negative patterns, so having The Devil pop up to call us out on this is a good thing!

 

fanIf you are someone who enjoys visual cues that bring a narrative to life, tarot might be a wonderful tool for you to explore! It can be used for journaling and writing prompts, problem-solving, personal development, meditation practice, and so much more! If you are willing to approach this dynamic system with an open mind, you will likely fall in love as I did over 20 years ago. Then, the real problem comes in: how to limit spending on new decks!

Until our paths cross again…

 

 

15 – The Devil

15 - The Devil

Please note that this series of interpretations is intended to assist specifically in personal healing and shadow work. There are many incredible websites that offer traditional meanings and correspondences. 

Culturally, The Devil is known by several names. In many traditional tarot decks, he appears as Baphomet, the Horned Goat of Mendes. The Devil is a multi-faceted card representing the lower-vibrational habits and detrimental behaviors that we can fall into. Depending on your religious upbringing, the image of The Devil may create fear and unease within yourself. In truth, Baphomet represents our baser instincts and acting on impulses, rather than being a symbol of inherent evil.

In many depictions, Baphomet perches over a man and woman who have chains around their necks. They appear to be enslaved and attached to the Devil’s perch, but the chains around their neck are loose–they have the power to remove the chain whenever they wish. This reminds us that we are capable of falling into voluntary enslavement. This is evident when we feel victimized in a situation where we have more power than we are exerting. Power imbalances are often suggested with this card.

The Devil warns us about taking hedonism to an unhealthy level. While some people can indulge in alcohol or chemical substances occasionally, these can quickly become a recurring, unhealthy habit. While these addictions are often the first that come to mind, The Devil encompasses all habits that do not serve our highest good. This could be gossip, self-defeat, dishonesty or any of the behaviors that cause us to feel shame in knowing that we can do better.

The Devil is a snapshot of the bondage we may have to the crudest, most visceral aspect of our human nature. On the positive side, the Devil acknowledges the animalistic nature we all have within and can be a wonderful shot of adrenaline to our sex life, but as with all things The Devil brings to the party, we must watch for things going too far.

The Devil drops us face-to-face with our shadow self. There is no finessing our truth here. If you have not seen the unforgettable Ted Talk Brene Brown does on shame, I highly recommend it. From a very young age, we are constantly informed of which behaviors are acceptable and because our very survival depends on these adults around us, we bury parts of ourselves that are not deemed appropriate. These rejected aspects of ourselves sneak out in our adult life to bite us, and those around us,  in unexpected and sometimes shocking ways. We are unaware of their existence and it is only through gently healing and integrating those rejected shadow aspects that we can fully evolve. Until then we continue to project and fault those with the qualities we dislike about ourselves without realizing it. Our shadows can also hold the repressed ideas, instincts, impulses, desires, perversions, and embarrassing fears that we do not show the world. 

It should be stated that shadow work should only be attempted when we are in a healthy mental state. It can be incredibly triggering. It can and will bring us back to traumas that shaped the person we have become. Ideally, this process would be facilitated by a professional., however, if you are attempting this work on your own, please check in with yourself consistently and make sure you are safe and well. Remember The Wheel of Fortune: if your mood dips and you need to take a break from this work it is okay. There will be brighter, stronger days that will allow you to resume your healing path.

Shadow work is an incredibly trying process and it is a life-long commitment, but if we want to fully realize our potential, it is vital. We all deserve to bring our entire selves–our broken, messy, wonderful selves–to the table.  We all have amazing and exceptional gifts that could be exactly what someone else needs. When we stifle these, we are doing a disservice to ourselves and to those whose lives we have the potential to change. So often we discount the value that comes with our own unique perspective.

The easiest and least invasive way to begin shadow work is by paying attention to negative responses and limiting beliefs. For example, if you meet someone who rubs you the wrong way because they seem loud, arrogant, and rude. The hardest thing to accept is that the qualities that bother us most in others are often reflections of unhealed parts of ourselves. Take some time at the end of the day to reflect, and possibly journal, reactions you had that were unpleasant. See if you start to notice a trend. These rejected parts of our inner world will continue to rear their heads until we learn the necessary lessons.

Because of the delicacy of shadow work and the intense vulnerability it requires, I invite you to explore activities and journal prompts that speak to you. The work I have done is specific to my needs and may not be helpful. I will provide some links below which may or may not resonate with you. 

This is a beautiful article on our shadow selves.

Here is a comprehensive guide to shadow work.

“Every pain, addiction, anguish, longing, depression, anger or fear
is an orphaned part of us
seeking joy,
some disowned shadow
wanting to return
to the light
and home
of ourselves.”
― Jacob Nordby

“People who cease to believe in God or goodness altogether still believe in the devil… Evil is always possible. And goodness is eternally difficult.”
― Anne Rice

Until our paths cross again…