When you pose a question for the tarot, have you ever wondered who you’re asking?
Yes, it’s the reader who’s spreading out the cards, or a friend, or yourself, but who is it that’s offering an answer?
Maybe you believe it’s your “spirit guides”, the unknowable, undefinable energetic emissaries that funnel messages to us from the Universe. Or perhaps you assume it’s the wisdom of the reader, or the cards, or the whole vibe, who for some mysterious reason just know. And maybe you guess it’s just God herself puppeting your hands as you shuffle, laying out the resolutions before you.
For a long time I’ve ruminated on this quandary, and though I’ve never quite settled on what I believe to be the truth of it, there is one thing I know for sure. When I ask a question of the tarot, I’m really asking it of myself. And after years of deep contemplation of this knowledge, I’ve realized that more than anything the tarot is a spiritual exercise, a form of prayer. It will not divine the future for me, nor is it ever meant to be literal. At its heart the tarot is a collection of archetypal images and truths, the sacred characters of psyche.
And so the best way to use the tarot is to partner with it as a tool of spiritual reckoning, to push past the predictive and mundane meanings of the cards to discover their meditative essences. The Two of Cups is no longer about a looming breakup, but about the balance of the love we receive and give. The Ten of Swords is not about an impending betrayal, but about examining the complicated ways we betray ourselves. The Fool is no solely an omen of luck when beginning new projects, but a signal that we must embark on the hero’s journey, the winding path of individuation.
In working with the tarot this way, it becomes a method of deep, potent reflection that draws us inward. It becomes a practice to save our souls, not from damnation, but from unawareness. It reveals to us what we deeply feel, what we truly need, and who we really are.
So here are 4 ways I believe you can begin to use the tarot for profound inner reflection and support on your spiritual journey. Try them out and only keep what works for you. And remember, when you ask the tarot a question, it is you who answers.
Tarot lovers are likely already familiar with this technique, as it’s a popularly suggested way to familiarize yourself with the card meanings. The idea is simple—pull a card and write about it, what it means and how you relate to it. But for a deeper spiritual exercise, try answering these 3 questions: What was my initial reaction to this card? What does my mind believe it’s trying to communicate about me in this moment? Listening to the wisdom of my heart, why is this the card I pulled for myself? Imagine that the card you pull is a riddle sent to you by the divine, and your job is not to crack it, but to comprehend why it was chosen. Spend ten minutes journaling, allowing whatever arises, and return to it at the end of the day to reflect on how the card settled in you.
Tarot and meditation go really well together, and it requires nothing but a single card pull and a little time (and maybe some gentle tunes). You can journal first, or use a mantra (see below), or simply look at your card and then dive into meditation. This tool is so powerful because we prevent ourselves from overthinking the meaning of the card. Often when we pull cards for ourselves we get worked up about what it means, what’s the big message, what’s the great Universal Clue. But meditation allows a space to just be with the card without pressing it for answers. Silently sitting with the card somewhere in the background of your mind may actually act as a channel for more revelations to come through unconsciously. This is part of my personal practice, and a really powerful tool for me.
3. Mantra work
This can be done in one of two ways. Either you can compile a list of mantras that suit you for the 78 cards, or you can work with a deck that provides a mantra or keyword for each card. Either works just fine, but I do recommend you pull only one card for this type of practice. I often use the Wildwood Tarot, as each card offers a reflection word that I can carry with me throughout the day, giving me insight into my relationship with that particular message.
Creating the mantras on your own are not difficult, but do require a bit more effort. Using either the traditional meanings of the cards, or your own intuition, form a simple sentence that you can repeat to yourself over and over throughout your day. For example, if you pull the Queen of Swords, a possible mantra may be, “I’m clear on what I need to support myself,” or simply, “Clarity and confidence.” This will bring you back to yourself throughout the day with softness and mindfulness. (A note, you may want to store them in a notebook so you can reference them without having to come up with one each time.)
4. Daily Spread
It’s much easier to grab for information rather than settle into reflection, which is why I shy away from full-on spreads as a daily practice. But if you really feel called to pull more than a single card, I recommend this 3-card spread that allows for contemplation and action. Card 1: What is rising up from my unconscious or being sent to me by the divine mind? Card 2: Where is my ego focusing or holding? Card 3: How can I support myself today on my spiritual journey? To simplify, you can think of it as Soul’s Truth / Ego-Focus / Support. Once you have your cards, it may be a good idea to journal or meditate, or to pick up a mantra based on the 3rd card. But be careful not to overthink your message, or to prod for more answers. Allow it just to be the card’s for today, not forever. Remember your inner realities are always shifting, always in flow, and your only job is to flow with them.