Tarot as a Mirror
It is often said that tarot is a mirror. There are different ways of thinking about this. Some say tarot reflects back what you think, feel, or believe. Some say that it reflects back what you want to see. Some say that it shows you nothing more or less than your own potential. All of these are possible, and depending on what you believe about how tarot works, one or more of these may be at play when you work with the cards in any way.
Whatever you believe, you can blend these ideas into one process that helps you identify your ideals and your practices so that you can be aware of the distance between those two points. Then you can develop an action plan to close the gap between your ideals and how you live your life. This process reminds me of the Hierophant, because it focuses on minimizing the difference between what you believe and what you do. That is what the Hierophant teaches us: to walk our talk.
We often turn to tarot for specific advice about specific situations. But tarot is also a wonderful place to explore your spiritual beliefs, practices, and experiences. I use the word "place" on purpose. The tarot is many things, the most obvious being a deck of cards following a specific structure. It is also, to some, a collection of human truths and even an array of archetypal energy at play in our lives. To some, it is a place, a fantastic, magical place where we can explore almost anything. The past few decades of tarot use focused on the psychological applications and how tarot is helpful in "real life" situations, which are both true and helpful. But sometimes when we focus on one aspect of something, we either ignore, at best, or denigrate, at worst, other aspects. Humans are so fascinating…one of our easiest default techniques is to cast someone or something else down in order to elevate something else. Maybe we tarot readers can take a lesson from tarot itself and find a nice middle path.
Tarot as a place gives us space to wander around and explore. We can learn about the teachings of the cards as general precepts or ideals that may guide us in our daily lives. Sometimes it seems like people come for readings and advice because they don't know the right thing to do. Or they know what is "right" (vis a vis their own beliefs and ethics) but they know it won't be easy and so are perhaps hoping either to be told that everything will turn out all right and not be so hard after all or that they "should" do something else, something easier. Using this technique on a regular basis can help clarify your beliefs, understand your actions, and narrow the divide between the two. If you are guided by your beliefs, you may find that you don't need to use tarot for advice in situations as often, because you will be guided by your own internal North Star. The more you do this technique, the more you learn about your values and how to live them in the world.
Following a path of spiritual impeccability does not guarantee an "easy" life. Sometimes the Universe conspires to make things easy and sometimes that just doesn't happen. Maybe life isn't about doing what is easiest or leads to the most money. Maybe life is about living the way your soul came to this earth to live, which might have less to do with any kind of lifestyle and more to do with kindness, generosity, and love or other values.
Okay, so if you are one of the crazy ones who want to try this process, get your favorite deck ready (other options: use a deck that you don't like—which can lead to interesting results—or use one that you aren’t familiar with—to encourage you to move past your rote ideas about the card and explore new aspects).
This is easiest to do if you have a situation about which you want advice. Not just advice to achieve an outcome that you think is best, but advice on how to behave in the situation in a way best reflects your ideals. The outcome is irrelevant. Only your choices matter here. That is, you will commit to the right thing (and the right thing is very personal…based on your values) and thus live according to your beliefs.
You will draw one Court card, one Major, and one numbered Minor. Each one will give you a piece of the advice for this situation. For each card, you will ask four questions. The questions are the same for the numbered Minors and the Majors. The Court cards have slightly different questions.
Court card questions to ask yourself:
- How would you describe this card's "ideal" qualities?
- How do you exhibit this card's qualities (ideal or otherwise)?
- How do you feel or what do you think about the gap between the two?
- What is one thing you can do to narrow the gap between the ideal and the actual? If you feel stuck on coming up with a step, ask a friend or sibling (they are always full of helpful advice) or pull a card or three.
The Majors and the Minors show us truths about the human experience, both in macrocosm and microcosm. Although they differ in scope, they are similar in type, so the same questions can be used for both.
Majors and Minors questions to ask yourself:
- What is this card's "ideal" response to the situation?
- How would I act out this card's energy in this situation?
- What do you think about the gap between the two?
- What is one thing you can do to narrow the difference between 1 and 2?
It is interesting to keep a record of these readings so you can watch your progress.
Barbara Moore (Northern California) has studied and read tarot since the early 1990s. She wrote the bestselling Tarot for Beginners and more than a dozen other books, and she has contributed to many bestselling tarot kits, including Mystical Manga Tarot and Shadowscapes Tarot. Barbara also works with clients and leads retreats and workshops all over the world.
Copyright 2016 Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd. All rights reserved. Originally published in The Llewellyn Journal