In this exclusive essay for , Jaymi Elford, author of the new book Tarot Inspired Life: Use the Cards to Enhance Your Life (Llewellyn Publications), explains why your self-care routine should include tarot cards.
Our lives are full of activity. We drive to work, hit the gym and rush the kids off to sports or play parties. We eat quickly, shop fast and sleep less. We rarely slow down to reflect on our lives and habits. When was the last time you took a day off to think and reflect on the amazing things you’ve done? When was the last time you treated yourself to something you enjoy? If the answer draws a blank, then it’s time you sat down and investigate the world of tending to your needs.
Self-care is a broad category containing many activities, philosophies and ideas. The core definition is simply “take care of yourself.” It means slowing down, listening to your body and doing things that benefit your physical, mental and spiritual health. In many cases, people think of massages, mani-pedis and hot baths as their options for doing self-care. Not this time! While baths are great, there are many other ways to slow down.
Self-care means different things to each person. One of my favorite ways is using a tarot deck. Tarot inspires lives. This popular divination tool can be used to answer questions, it can be a force for change and it can help you promote self-care. Here are five ways you can use any tarot deck with images on all 78 cards to promote rest, reflection and re-energize your mind, body and soul.
- Frame and reflect on your day with daily draws. Many tarot readers pick a daily card. If you pull a card in the morning, you can gain insight into how you should act, or see something to watch out for. Drawing a card at night gives you the opportunity to reflect upon an aspect which occurred during the day, or a “lesson learned.” Make sure you record the card name, time and jot a few reminders of your reading in a journal before you go about your business. This helps you slow down and understand the connections and choices you make.
- Ask a friend. Tarot can act like a trusted friend. Ask the cards a question, and they’ll give you answers. First, find an appropriate spread (which is a specific pattern to lay the cards out in to receive information on your question). You can find all sorts of spreads online, or from books. Pick one and shuffle your deck. Lay out the cards in the pattern and look at each card. Understanding what information you are given is as simple as relating each card meaning to the position it appears in the spread. Sometimes the cards can relate your answer directly. Often, they don’t—they’ll suggest a different area you need to focus on before getting your heart’s desire. Keeping a deck of cards nearby is like having a counselor on hand to give some quick advice.
- Celebrate the seasons with tarot rituals. A ritual is a symbolic action people do for a specific purpose. Rituals set intention and give us space for achieving our goals. Both birthdays and graduations are examples of rituals. In my book, Tarot Inspired Life, I give readers eight ways to use the cards to honor the moon and seasons of the year. By practicing these rituals, you’ll regain a stronger connection to the natural world. I also intentionally draw cards with images or meanings that specify an aspect I desire more of in my life. These cards get placed in stands on my desk, or I’ll take images of them and carry them with me on my smartphone (you can also create desktop and screensaver images). This way, I am surrounded and supported by the cards which reflect energies I desire.
- Focus your meditations. Meditation is a good way to help yourself slow down, reflect and breathe. Tarot aids a meditation practice in many ways. You can draw a card, intentionally or at random and focus a session around the meaning. My favorite way is to use the images as a gateway to step into the card and to allow my mind to wander around the landscape and see what my senses come up with.
- Play games with tarot. Wait? Play games with tarot cards?! Yes, you can totally do this. Playing games is a wonderful self-care activity. Games keep our minds limber and provide a good forum to connect with friends. Board games, role playing games, video games—the world is filled with amazing games. Even tarot has its humble origins in the game industry. Back in the 1400s, people were using tarot decks for a trick-taking game called Tarocchi. You can find the rules online. But you don’t have to stop there. If you do a bit of digging you can find the rules for all sorts of fun games which require only a tarot deck. Try playing poker with tarot (I’ll bet you’ll have a hard time divining the hand you were dealt).
You don’t need to believe in tarot for these tips to work. In fact, you don’t even have to understand what each card means. The best way to learn the cards, in my opinion, is to let the images speak to you. Art has a way of providing meaning without words. Tarot acts the same way. Give yourself permission to let the cards tell you what they mean in the moment. There are no right or wrong ways to read the cards. If you get stumped, turn to the little booklet or the internet for good meanings.
Go find a deck and give one of these tarot self-care methods a try. Of course, there are many more ways tarot can support you and your goals, so if you have any other tips to share, leave them in the comments. I love hearing how others experiment with tarot.
Jaymi Elford views tarot as a tool to create meaning and explore the world we live in. She’s been slinging cards since she was young—a deck is always close. Beyond authoring numerous books and decks, she teaches and discusses innovative divination techniques at conferences across North America, and online on popular podcasts. She lives in Portland, Oregon, and would love for you to visit her at innercompasstarot.com.