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How to Use Tarot Cards for Inner Work

Updated: Feb 8

Tarot cards are an exciting and excellent way of exploring who we are, what is really going on deep inside of us (of which we prefer to ignore at the best of times!), and for giving wisdom to us.

Many of my clients come for card readings because they're seeking answers, seeking guidance, seeking change. Most of them leave a reading feeling inspired, maybe a bit frightened by what they saw or even a bit challenged by what they need to face.

Tarot cards are a wonderful tool for helping people who are exploring inner work. I started using them for exactly that purpose and have extended using them into my own work as a transformational coach.

While tarot cards aren't everyone's cup of tea, I'm writing this article to inspire those who want to explore the world of these ancient, mystical cards.

The Story Behind Tarot Cards

Tarot has been around for centuries, in fact since the middle of the 15th century. They were originally used as playing cards but became a popular divinatory tool, especially in Europe. For years, people have turned to tarot to tell their fortune (or their future) and for many, the tarot was regarded with much skepticism.

The first record of tarot cards being used for esoteric purposes was in the 1750s. They became even more popular in the 1780s when Jean-Baptista Alliette introduced the Tarot of Marseilles in Paris. These cards used themes from ancient Egypt which only added to their mystery and allure!

In 1909, the original Rider-Waite tarot deck was designed and to this day, is one of the most commonly used decks of tarot cards for divination purposes. If you're interested in exploring the tarot deck, the Rider-Waite cards are a good introduction.

How to Use Tarot Cards to Give You Clarity

Many people believe tarot cards hold some kind of mysterious spell and maybe they do. If you look at a true tarot deck you'll see fascinating images portraying typical human experiences and patterns. These patterns are referred to as archetypal experiences in the world of psychology.

If one looks at birth you'll know this is a typical human experience. But the psychological experience of birth refers to a new beginning or the entering of a new phase in one's life. In other words, this is the archetypal experience.

The same goes for death. This is another typical human experience, but it can also be an archetypal experience such as life endings brought on by changes.

By understanding the archetypal experience of the human being, we can learn to use tarot cards as a mirror image of our own psyche. When we pull a card and gasp, "That's amazing, that's exactly how I am feeling", what is happening is a deeper connection within ourselves. Something deep inside of us recognizes the message being portrayed by the card pulled.

Watch this documentary on tarot cards and be fascinated by the story behind the origins of these cards.

I have found the Osho Zen Tarot extremely powerful in bringing clarity to what is going on within myself. Many of my clients, who are unable to express an emotion or a thought, have found they can open up with the help of using these cards.

The Osho Zen Tarot was designed with the human's spiritual journey in mind. The archetypal images are a reflection of our own journey to self-discovery. What's more, these cards are best suited for those who want to tune into their own intuition and individuality.

Using Tarot Cards for Guidance

Nearly two years ago, in April 2020, as I was sitting in lockdown with the rest of South Africa (and the world), I turned to my tarot deck called The Mythic Tarot. I was given this beautiful deck by a special lady who has since passed on.

I was asking for guidance for myself and all those I love. I was asking the question, "What is the message of this COVID-19 pandemic?" and the cards were clear in their message.

This was a time of the breaking down of old forms (both internally and externally). I can expect death (both on a physical and psychological level).

The cards told me it was a time of facing up to my (our) actions that have brought us to this place. They also told me it was the end of a cycle. We're being called to go within and explore ourselves and that courage would be needed.

The last message was that I (we) am being called on to make voluntary sacrifices for the greater good. I was asked to put my faith in the unknown and then be patient. Yes, there would be fear and yes, there would be anxiety. But, there's also hope for a new and better life.

I still turn to these messages today when I feel overwhelmed with all the uncertainty and fear of what is still happening. I then remind myself it's part of my own human experience and to continue acknowledging the journey for what it is. I find comfort in such guidance.

I love this tarot deck for its artwork and depiction of our archetypal experiences. Look out for The Mythic Tarot: Book, Cards, and Cloth by Juliet Sharman-Burke if you want to explore this deck.

When Doubt Sets In: Questioning the Tarot Cards

I do get those clients who, at the time of their reading, acknowledge and realize what the cards are telling them is true. But, for days afterward, they start questioning them by casting doubt on the messages. They convince themselves that what they felt before the reading was more relevant than what the reading told them!

They start asking me "Are you really sure that's what the message was?", "But, I don't want to break up with him....", "I really do not face control issues but if I don't take control of this situation......" (sorry, you were saying?) and so it goes on.

I wait patiently while they struggle with what they know they should be dealing with but would rather not. After all, CHANGE can be very frightening. It takes you out of your comfort zone. It makes you face things you normally shove so deep down that you have almost forgotten they are there.

Until they start nudging at you gently, reminding you that you're still harboring issues, memories, thoughts that do you no good to hold onto.

I remind my clients it was this nudging that made them consider a tarot card reading in the first place. It was this nudging that made them realize they're not happy with where they are right now. I tell my clients that this "nudging" is often a sign from their spirit guides, angels, or Higher Being (whoever it is that you believe in) calling out "Hey you, it's time to take a real hard look at where you are".

For me, it's a calling to acknowledge and follow my true life path.

Inevitably, the call from my doubting clients will come. Maybe a week later, a month later, even six months later. It may be a message, an email, even another consultation but their words always confirm what the tarot cards knew all along - "You won't believe what has happened...", "It's amazing!" or even, "You know, I should have trusted the reading in the first place!".

I do believe what happened, it's actually not amazing because the tarot cards were only doing what they could do - read off my clients' energy vibrations and reflect back on their archetypal experience.

And, yes, I learned the hard way, that I can always trust the readings.

Final Thoughts

Tarot cards don't work for everyone and I appreciate the reservations held by those people. But, they're one of the many tools you can use when taking a journey into your Self. I always encourage my clients, who are open to using this tool, to explore the different tarot decks available and pick one that resonates with them.

If you're wondering whether you should delve into tarot cards, I say go for it. Treat them with respect and you'll discover a whole lot more about yourself.

This post was updated on February 8th, 2024.

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