Five of Swords
Tips to calm the timid tarot student –
by: Valerie Smith
I hear it all the time: “Isn’t that black magic? Not like I believe in magic, but, you know…just in case…”
“I’ve always been interested in that, but I don’t want to do it wrong.”
“I mean, how do you even choose a deck??”
Folx, never fear. Your trusted Spinster teacher is here to ease your worries. This is a classic Five of Swords situation: and it’s time to tell those distracting voices in your head to chill out. If you are interested, then tarot is for you; and you won’t accidentally find out when you are going to die, either. If you are asking the questions—(and especially if you are asking me!)—you are on track to becoming a very capable reader yourself. Here are a few tips to keep in mind for those curious, but nervous or scared.
- Find a deck that speaks to you! There are hundreds of decks out there, well beyond the traditional Ryder-Waite Tarot. There are colorful traveling-circus-like decks, there are strong feminist decks, there are decks that use only animals, or these animals, or those animals. ALSO: there are some great decks successfully funded by kickstarter, like this queer/people of color/southern tradition deck that comes out in November (!!!), or the Jan 2017 release that breaks down the major arcana into 22 figures from Asian-American life, or the May 2017 release of an African diasporic deck with some of the most beautiful collage art imagery I’ve seen.
Finding that right deck establishes a healthy relationship with tarot. Curiosity drives this relationship. Shared language and mutual understanding fortify it. When you find a deck that calls to you, you’re more likely to play around with your deck, to get to know it, to draw cards for fun, and to trust it when you have a real question at hand. Through developing this relationship, you can more easily learn to trust yourself in your own interpretations of the cards.
- Tarot is self-empowering, not dangerous. Tarot is a beautiful tool for personal growth. Without getting too deep into historical patriarchy against women’s wisdom, let’s just say that that tools that connect people to our own inner knowing have been derided either as “fake” and/or “evil” for centuries. Tarot is a method of self-care, self-knowledge, and self-empowerment. Of course endangerous to the status quo! But it has never led me astray. Though I have fought against some of its better advice, with time, I come to understand. Frankly, the rule I (jokingly) follow is: Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answer to. That said, watch your reaction or response to the cards you’re reading—often, this is just as important as the cards themselves. As you learn to trust yourself, to listen to yourself about things you may need to change, you may feel fear. But to explore this interior world is to become more self-attuned. We strengthen and we remedy our world; we see clearly; and we live our dreams.
- If you are open to a discussion with the cards, there is not right or wrong way to read. The only common mistake is asking the cards to “prove” themselves. A skeptical person pulls a card without a thought, and is then disappointed when I begin to ask deeper questions. “Oh,” he said. “I thought it would just tell me something. I didn’t know I’d have to be involved.” Yep, sure do! Cards deal in intention, energy, and vulnerability. How can I walk up to a stranger and say: “Tell me something deep and meaningful about myself.” Wouldn’t happen! Instead, we introduce ourselves; we ask questions, we open, we share our views; we become vulnerable—and in that space, we grow. Same with tarot. There is no right or wrong way to have an interesting conversation. If you open and expose yourself to truth, so will the cards.
- Follow Your Woah! The first card I pulled from the Ritual Tarot oracle deck said it all—Follow Your Woah. She writes, “Follow the things that light you up…they lead you to more good stuff, more joy, answers, enlightenment, fun.” That spark of curiosity that starts with finding the right deck moves into your life. What are you curious about the cards? Start there. Find all the cards that represent your friends. Create a spread using only cards from the cups suit. Pretend all the court cards are at a party together, and see how they interact. Get creative! Whatever urges you forward, do that.
- Create your own practice. I’ve heard someone say, “Isn’t it true you should never read when you’re angry?” or “You need to pull a card every day, right?” Well, those aren’t rules I follow, but you can! The point is not to follow somebody else’s rules blindly. Do what feels right to you. Personally, when I’m angry is a great time to pull cards—it helps me to see things a little more clearly. But I certainly do not pull a card every single day—I tend to revolt with too much structure. If those ideas feel right, great; if they don’t, great! The point is to find the many ways that you and your cards work together. I trust you, and you should trust you, too.