Tarot as Self-Care When the World is Doing Way Too Much

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What you see in the card is what it exists to teach you.

Originally posted on BlackGirlBliss.com

I’m sitting down to write this just after watching Spike Lee’s BlacKKKlansman. The movie illustrates the true story of a black man who infiltrates a notorious white supremacist terrorist organization in order to subvert their actions and protect his community. We are forced to experience the brutal racism, ignorance, and malice of the terrorist organization as it is reenacted on film. 

Movies, books, and media like this always weigh heavily on me as a queer Black woman. I don’t want to avoid art that reminds me of the violence of the systems we’re living under. For me, witnessing this reality is essential to our resistance and survival. But also essential to my survival is self-care, and making sure I have the emotional strength to hold space for the feelings that arise when encountered with the brutality of truth.

This is where tarot comes in. Tarot is a centuries-old divination tradition typically comprised of a deck of 78 cards. Each card represents different circumstances from which we as tarot readers make meaning, representing life lessons, obstacles, and sources of strength. The cards can — and should, if you’re using them seriously — have a “universal” meaning (what shows up if you Google it) and personal meaning. What you see in the card is what it exists to teach you. 


For me, tarot doesn’t exist to tell us about the future – or, it does, only to the extent that the future is determined by our present actions. I believe that tarot can center us more deeply in the present moment. Through reading mindfully – especially when reading for ourselves – we bear witness to own experience, with all of its joys and challenges, so that we can nourish ourselves with compassion and care. 

The following are two spreads I’ve designed for folks to heal through systemic oppression. They’re great after a hard day of work, a hard day of news, or anytime you need a little extra TLC. 

The first is the tenderness spread. As the iconic Zenju Earthlyn Manual writes in her book The Way of Tenderness, the places where we feel most vulnerable – tender – are those from which we draw our greatest strength. The purpose of this spread is not to make the pain go away, but to observe it with warmth and attention. The tender spots will grow it into areas of strength. 

I find that when we feel our oppression the most, we can either feel pain, as mentioned above, or just feel that our energy is very scattered. I personally know that I get sucked into feeling responsible for all of the evil in the world. It’s too easy to let ourselves get strung out and overwhelmed. This spread below, the centering spread, helps to gather our energy. Use this spread when you’re feeling scattered, exhausted, or unable to focus on what’s important. So often we lose sight of what is most meaningful in our lives. Hold space to center yourself and ask the deck to shed light on these key uses of energy. 

These are just two of many ways to use tarot, and other spiritual tools, to heal through the wounds that our systems inflict upon us. I hope that they are helpful to you in whatever capacity you need them most. 

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