Tarot as self-help? 


Paige Gordon

If reading cards like a fortune teller is not your thing, try reading them like a counselor.

Paige Gordon, Staff writer

Do you want to be more mindful and improve yourself but self-help books are just too long and generic? Well, maybe try something more unconventional: tarot reading.

Now, for me, tarot is not about predicting the future. It is not some mystic device I use to gaze into the unknown, and I do not consult my cards when I have a problem. To me, it is more about self-reflection; pausing, examining my life, and seeing if there is anything I can do to improve myself. These days, there is a lot of talk about self-help, self-love, and self-improvement. We are told to love ourselves unconditionally, to do everything in our power, to change what we think is impossible to change. To some extent, these are all good things to do and plenty of people have made plenty of money by writing books about it. However, this type of self-love can quickly turn into self-obsession; to me, it is more productive to take a step back and reflect to improve. I read the cards to examine my position and think if my actions have been detrimental or beneficial, not just to myself, but to my environment and those who surround me. Have I been productive today? Was I considerate of my friends and family? What mistakes have I made recently?

The best spread to start out with is a single card draw specifically from the Major Arcana. Shuffle up the main 22, and pick one. When you flip it over, ask yourself questions and reflect on where you are at in life. This is a good strategy for contemplation and will aid in practicing thoughtfulness.


The Fool: The word “fool” tends to be associated with stupidity these days, but I promise, if you get this card in your spread, you are not stupid. When facing upright, the fool represents all the wonderful new things that come from new beginnings. Reversed, it represents carelessness and naivety. When you get this card, take a look at your worldview, and ask yourself if you are being healthily optimistic, or if your outlook is becoming akin to toxic positivity.


The Magician: Though it doesn’t represent literal magic or sorcery when facing upright, the Magician represents manifestation and realizing one’s true potential, so that is just as cool as plain old magic. Reversed, it represents trickery and manipulation. For this one, reflect on your interactions. Is someone taking advantage of you? Are you unknowingly being manipulative? Make sure your relationships are healthy.


The High Priestess: Upright, the High Priestess represents your intuition or a “gut feeling.” Reversed it represents mental neglect, secrecy, and withdrawal from others. Check up on yourself, and make sure you are not being secretive for the sake of being secretive. Remember it is okay to open up.


The Empress: When facing upright, the Empress represents abundance and beauty. Reversed it represents dependence on others and a loss of creativity. Take time to think about your creative outlets. Are you expressing yourself, or are you being stifled?


The Emperor: Facing upright, the Emperor represents one’s ambitions towards authority and power. Reversed represents the more tyrannical side of power, abuse, and lack of control. Check yourself before you wreck yourself and make sure you are not being cruel to people you care about.


The Hierophant: The Hierophant is as stiff as they come. When facing upright, this card tends to represent conventionality, tradition and often conformity. When reversed, there are a couple of possible interpretations, but the general takeaway is freedom and challenging the status quo.


The Lovers: Now this card does not necessarily tie directly to your love life, but many will try to convince you that it does. When upright, The Lovers do represent love, but it can be any type of love. Along with representing choices, and harmony. When reversed, it represents some sort of difference, incompatibility or selfishness. But do not end relationships just because the card implies things!


The Chariot: Victory shall be yours! When facing upright, this card represents personal victory, willpower, and an inner drive toward success. Facing down, it could represent being off-course from your aspirations or a lack of control. Whether not having a specific direction is good or bad, is up to you.


Strength: Physical strength is not really the goal, but emotional strength is just as good. Upright, represents endurance and courage. Interestingly, when reversed it doesn’t indicate weakness, but anxieties, doubts, and apprehension.


The Hermit: No, you are not a loser if you get this card. Isolation is the main theme no matter how you read this one. But be sure to ask yourself if you are experiencing healthy alone time or are deliberately avoiding people. 


Wheel of Fortune: This one is the most straightforward of the bunch. When upright it represents luck and change but when reversed it represents bad luck and resistance to change.


Justice: Balance is the name of the game with this card. Upright represents fairness and objectivity. When reversed it represents injustice and potential delinquency. Examine your behaviors and evaluate whether or not they can lead you down a bad path. Maybe watch out for cops.


The Hanged Man: Sacrifice is significant with this card when upright or reversed. Take a look at your responsibilities and the things you do for others. Why do you help people? Because you genuinely care or because you feel obligated or are seeking some external validation? Are things you used to take pride in becoming burdens?


Death: Relax, you are not going to die. The Death card usually gets a bad reputation for being a sign of bad things to come, but in reality, it just represents natural endings. When reversed, much like the Wheel of Fortune, it represents some type of fear and resistance. Try not to fear change, it is not always a bad thing!


Temperance: Upright indicates synergy and balance, reversed represents imbalance and frustration. And, that is about it.


The Devil: Alright, if any card deserves a bad name, it is The Devil. When upright, it indicates some form of addiction or bad habits fueled by fear. Luckily, when reversed, it indicates breaking free. Reflect on why you do certain things? Are you doing things because they bring you joy or are beneficial, or are you clinging on to old habits and relationships because they feel familiar? 


The Tower: The end is near? Not really, but when upright, The Tower represents destruction and abrupt changes. Usually, when reversed, it represents a warning for things to come. No matter how literally you decide to interpret this one, think about warning signals in your daily life. Is there someone in your life who is displaying red flags? Have you been delaying working on something? Take a moment to consider potential negative outcomes, and figure out how to proceed.


The Star: Have you been waiting for that “Aha!” moment to inspire you? Well, the start is all about inspiration. When reversed, it represents a lack of inspiration and clarity. Use this card to ponder your own inspirations. What are you passionate about? What inspires you to do good? And most importantly, are you doing something with your inspiration?


The Moon: When the Moon is upright, it represents our shadow self, and when reversed, it can indicate an internal struggle with the mind. We all have parts of ourselves we do not reveal to others, so use this card to ponder what you hide. Do you have a good reason to hide? Why do you feel you cannot show certain sides of yourself? 


The Sun: This card is all about good vibes and optimism, but when reversed, it could indicate an unrealistic goal. Similar to the Fool, when you get this card in your spread, reflect on your general outlook. Make sure you are not setting yourself up for failure with impossible goals. 


Judgment: Ironically, this card practically represents self-reflection, so ask yourself if you are being mindful. Are you being too critical of yourself? Are you underestimating yourself? Are you belittling others or being overly judgemental? Once you come to a conclusion, make a plan for mindfulness, and practice being kind to yourself.


The World: This card represents goals and achievements, so evaluate your progress to goals and things you are working towards. Not just how close you are to achieving things, but also what may be holding you back and examining why you want these things in the first place.