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The cards are vague and mysterious
But oh I love them so ❤️
A few years ago, back when I was still putting energy into dating apps, I was chatting with a guy who seemed great. We hadn’t met in person but a date was on the cards and our chats were becoming increasingly promising. I’d been on enough first dates to know you can’t assume anything until you’re sitting face to face, but still, I was hopeful enough to give him my site’s URL when he offered his. He was an artist and seemed to be into science-y things, so maybe I should have anticipated what happened next — he cancelled the date.
Now, he didn’t say it explicitly but what I understood from his message was he’d been put off my the mention of tarot on my site. I’m not a tarot reader, I don’t have much witchy woo on my site and it hadn’t come up in conversation, but tarot and oracle cards are a cherished tool I have in my creative toolbox. I have a whole bunch of other things too, but I’m guessing Mr No Thanks didn’t see that — the mention of my tarot course was the clue I was not his person.
And that’s cool. If even a hint of me being adjacent to the woo camp was enough to put him off, he made the right decision for both of us. But this post isn’t about him.
I’m still surprised when people have a strong reaction to tarot. I’ve been messing around with the cards since I was teen. It’s so normal and pedestrian to me. Maybe people are put off for religious reasons or science-y atheistic reasons like Mr No Thanks, and obviously I get it, but in 2023 tarot feels more like the yoga of the woo world. It’s become mainstream by now, hasn’t it? Maybe. But when The Wild Unknown got picked up by one of the Big Five publishers it was clear tarot’s inching out of the purple velvet shadows.
I was very fortunate to grow up in a non-religious home. Aside from singing hymns in school assembly I had the freedom to figure out my beliefs in my own time. I never felt called to anything organised but I did wonder if there was possibly something out there — cue my teenage self exploring all the stereotypical new age stuff. Crystals and tarot cards were right up my alley as a girl destined for art school. It felt deliciously mystical and in keeping with my “alternative” approach to life.
My first tarot deck was the Aquarian Tarot, published in the 1970s. The little white book had a few basic descriptions that weren’t much help when asking “is he thinking about me? Is he the one? Will he phone me? How does he feel about meeeee???!”
Luckily I never took it too seriously.
In the intervening years I’ve bought all kinds of oracles and tarots — goddess-themed decks, animal and nature decks, cute decks, queer-friendly decks, collaged decks, photography decks. The creative joy I get from the cards has never gone away, and the deeper I go with them — studying the images, learning about the symbolism, developing my own interpretations — the more I know them as surprisingly sophisticated tools for self inquiry, support and healing.
I don't believe the cards can predict the future. The future is not some set storyline where we’re simply playing out our roles. The future is a mass of possibilities and probabilities that change from millisecond to millisecond — bits of cardboard cannot possibly tell me what will happen next week let alone in five years’ time!
I don’t use the cards to make a decision, I use them to help me uncover how I FEEL about a decision. It’s less “what’s going to happen?” and more “what am I really feeling about this? What am I ignoring? What do I need?” The cards act like mirrors reflecting us back to ourselves, an inspiring collection of clues and prompts that help us connect to our innate knowing inside.
Just like the Rorschach test, I look at the image on the card to see what catches my attention first, then ponder what I know about the card itself (if it’s tarot; for oracles I head to the guidebook). Layer by layer I gain insight into how I feel and what I need — there's often quite a bit of comforting and validation too.
So this is why I view the cards as personal development tools. They have a rich and fascinating history and I love how modern day artists create their own interpretations of these archetypes, weaving in more diversity and reflections of the world as it is today. What started as a game for the aristocracy is now something so rich in meaning and possibility.
And while I’ve had a few interesting readings from pro tarot readers over the years, the most insightful, useful and meaningful readings are the ones I do myself. How many times have I flippantly drawn a few cards from an old favourite only to spend the next 30 mins journaling my heart out? They might be cards I’ve seen hundreds of times before, but that morning, in that moment, they reflected a truth about myself that needed remembering.
That’s the sort of practical magic I’m into.
So why tarot but not astrology, Susannah?
Simply put, I’ve tried and I just can’t get into it. It’s not me. I know my sun sign but that’s about it. I’ve had dear friends do charts for me over the years but it just never sticks in my head. It isn’t a part of my jigsaw and that’s okay! I feel the same about Human Design — it’s not a fit. I can never remember my HD type (I would have to literally look it up in the email from the least time I did the test thing. Reader, I’ve done it three times and I still can’t remember) — so yeah, it doesn’t stick in my head for some reason.
My brain loves pieces of cardboard with cool art that make me think of things, connect inside and figure shit out. In fact, writing that just made me realise it’s obviously the VISUAL element of tarot that fits me so well.
The cards1 are vague and mysterious ;-)
If you’d like to learn how to read the cards and bring them into your own creative toolbox, I’m currently running a special two-for-one on my tarot course, 78 Mirrors. Class starts on Monday October 30th and when you sign up you’ll also get immediate access Daily Guidance, my fun and accessible intro to all things tarot and oracle. Come join us!