You ok, sis? Aside from the nonstop news, America being America, and those social media takes that make you question humanity, you probably have a host of personal things to deal with too. It seems like life is always throwing something at us. Don’t get me wrong, life is beautiful — but it does know how to trigger some uncomfortable emotions.
So, what do you do when you’re in your feelings? When you’re sad, frustrated, or maybe even a little dark? Hopefully you have some healthy self-soothing habits, but have you ever also thought about investigating those feelings? Yep, we’re going there: shadow work.
Before we start, you know we need to do a mental health check-in. While spiritual practices are important parts of our well-being, you’re still human. It’s always best to speak with a professional if you’re ever feeling hopeless, experiencing depression, or things just get too tough to handle on your own. As a tarot reader living with depression, I’ve been there and there’s no shame in getting help (in fact, therapy has deepened my faith and spirituality).
Are you ready to get into these feelings?
While diving deep into your emotions isn’t the easiest thing, there are some spiritual tools that can help you along the way. Think of them as lighthouses guiding you as you tread, or floats holding you up as you look down on the waves with a higher perspective. If you’ve ever done a reading, then you know one of the best ways to get to the bottom of something is to pull out your tarot cards.
Tarot can be a great way to tap into the energy around you; whether that be your love life, friendships, or to find out what’s happening with your coins. You can also use tarot as a form of radical self-care by tapping into the energy within you.
Oftentimes, we run from uncomfortable emotions because they’re just that — uncomfortable. What’s worse, we might use spiritual practices to help us run away (known as spiritual bypassing). Praying, meditating, or smudging it away just prolongs healing and robs you of a chance to investigate and learn from these emotions in a non-judgemental way. Real magic happens not when you bypass these emotions, but when you transmute them. In other words, using your feelings as an opportunity for growth by transforming them from dark to light.
Here’s how you can use tarot to help transmute emotions:
You’ll want to have something you can take notes with; you can use your phone or computer, but this practice might resonate more deeply if you journal with pen and paper.
Start by sitting with your feelings. Do this by taking three deep breaths to ground yourself and tap into your intuition. As you breathe, notice the sensations in your body and let any thoughts or reactions to the emotion (like crying) happen without judgement. Feel free to take more deep breaths if you need to.
When you’re ready, cleanse the energy from your tarot cards (and your energetic field if you’re called to) with your method of choice, like smoke, Florida water, or Selenite. Shuffle your cards with the intention of connecting to either your shadow side or your Higher Self, depending on what you’re feeling and what you want to ask the tarot. If you’re not sure what to ask, use any of these questions to get started:
What is the current energy around me?
What is at the heart of my current mood?
Why are these feelings uncomfortable for me?
How can I navigate these feelings?
What lessons can I take from this situation?
How can I find balance in this moment?
How can I nurture myself right now?
What can I do to lighten my mood?
Go with your gut and ask the question (or questions) you’re drawn to. After you’ve pulled a card for your question, take some time to feel what messages you get intuitively, then start to journal those answers. Feel free to write for as long as you need to, then ask the next question and repeat the process. Once you’ve asked all your questions and journaled your answers, read them back and see what gems or patterns you pick up. We’re practicing radical acceptance, so (again) don’t judge yourself for anything you’ve written. Sit with these answers for a while if you need to.
When you’re done, cleanse the cards and energy around you, thank your Higher Self and/or shadow side, and close your ritual with three deep breaths. Set the intention to release the energy from this practice and let it go on your last exhale.
If you’re ready for this ritual but don’t consider yourself a tarot pro, don’t worry. Anyone with intuition and intention can use tarot to transmute emotions.
While there are too many decks on the market to count, including some beautiful ones by Black artists, if you’re new to tarot I suggest starting with the OG Rider-Waite deck. (Fun fact: the Rider-Waite illustrator, Pamela “Pixie” Colman Smith, is said to have been a bi-racial queer woman).
When you get your deck, you’ll notice it has a specific set-up with 22 Major Arcana cards, and 56 Minor Arcana cards. The Major Arcana represents what’s often referred to as “The Fool’s Journey”, or major moments and themes in our lives. The Minor Arcana is split into four suits (Cups, Pentacles, Swords, and Wands), with each representing a different element (water, earth, air and fire) and their associated zodiac signs.
Your deck will most likely come with a guidebook, which you can use to get a feel for the general card meanings. However, the art of reading tarot lies in trusting your intuition. When you do a tarot pull, combine the meanings in the guidebook with things like the art on the card, numerology, and astrology. Most importantly, think about the energy around your question and situation to help interpret your reading.
I encourage you to use your intuition first when you pull a card. Notice how you feel, what thoughts pop up, and what symbols you’re drawn to. For example, if you pull The Lovers, you might immediately spot the snake in the background. That’s not a coincidence, so take note. Then, if you need to, you can look up the card meanings. Don’t get discouraged if you need to rely on the guidebook when you start out. Like most things, reading tarot takes time and practice. The more readings you do, the stronger your intuitive muscle will become.
You Got This
If it gets heavy, that’s okay — they don’t call it shadow “work” for nothing. Investigating emotions you’d normally want to avoid can seem draining, but it’s so worth it. In the end, the only way to truly heal emotionally is to confront the emotion. It’s like laundry, you can keep putting it off to watch Netflix, but eventually that pile of clothes will overflow. And just like you have tools to make laundry easier, tools like tarot can help you when you’re feeling down.