Most of us engage with some way of making meaning of ourselves and the world around us. Ways of meaning-making include religion, culture, work, our families, ideas of justice, politics, media we consume, etc.
One way I’ve enjoyed being playful with making meaning of my life is to engage with my tarot deck.
First, I’d like to mention that people engage with tarot in many different ways. A popular media depiction is that tarot is used to predict the future or to deliver insight in an uncanny, mystical way. There is no right or wrong way to use tarot. I think of it as a medium like many other creative expressions, in that one’s use of the material is personal, subjective and multifaceted. Consider it like painting, or journaling, or any other way we reflect and express ourselves.
I enjoy using tarot cards to connect with myself, or with others. I find that their use for me is not so much about predicting as it is noticing and building insight. But most importantly, what tarot allows for me is the intentional time and space to sit down and consider what meaning I am making of a set of random images, and what that says about my current mental state, my needs and hopes, and what is difficult for me at this moment in time.
If you are curious, I’d like to encourage you to try out this quick practice and see what comes up for you.
Take out your tarot deck. If you don’t have one, this makes no difference. You can use a regular deck of playing cards, or use a generator online. Some folks also get a daily or occasional reading from tarot apps.
Consider if you’d like to draw a card without any intention, or if you have a specific question or area of your life that you’d like to intentionally reflect on. A friend of mine recently did a quick spread for me with the theme of emotional intimacy. Any question or intention you have can be as specific or broad as you’d like.
Shuffle, spread out, or otherwise randomize your cards as you please. Some folks enjoy making a ritual of this and may use the time they are shuffling to focus on the part of their life they’d like to reflect on with the reading.
Pick one (or a few - try three if you’d like) card and turn it over. Before you look up any particular meanings about this card or reflect on what you might already know, just spend some time with the image. You might reflect on the following questions:
What is your initial reaction to the card? If you notice any excitement or resistance, consider why. What might this card be validating in your life? What might you be afraid of that this card reminds you of?
What looks familiar about this card? What is unfamiliar? Does anything surprise you?
What colors, if any, do you notice? What’s in the background? Does this card remind you of anything? Do any memories come up? Is the number on the card significant to you?
What would be different if the emotions, spirit, imagery, or assumed meanings of this card was applied to your day today? To your mood, right now?
If you’d like, you can explore some more traditional meanings of the card you drew. Books like Tarot for Change by Jessica Dore can give helpful interpretations of different cards. While imagery and meanings can change across tarot decks, most will have major themes in common (for example, 10s tend to represent, . . . etc.)
Some folks like to journal or create a piece of art, or listen to certain music that reminds them of the card they drew. Remain curious as to how this card, and its meanings, may show up in your day.
Sam Barklow, LCSW, MSW, is a psychotherapist with a Master of Social Work (MSW) who provides individual and couples counseling. She is a warm and empathetic counselor who believes that all of her clients have the knowledge and abilities to feel more at peace and balanced in their daily lives. She views counseling as an opportunity for both her and clients to explore different perspectives, talk through emotions and practice new skills.