Reading Tarot for Yourself: Are There Times to Put the Cards Away?
Scroll through any social media tarot group and you will find a great deal of information, a bit of misinformation, and plenty of advice from tarot enthusiasts all around the world. It’s an opportunity to put your finger on the living, breathing pulse of tarot and see what is unfolding in the tarot world.
One bit of evolution I’m happy to see over the past few years is that the notion that one can’t or shouldn’t conduct a reading for oneself seems to be less in play than ever before.
This makes me happy. I believe that if one can’t read for oneself one shouldn’t read for others. I believe that self-reading is the process through which we learn about tarot and learn about ourselves. When we get good at self-reading, we also learn a great deal about practicing detachment.
This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t have readings with others. There is something very powerful about letting another individual divine for you, and it’s a different process than divining for yourself.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that, while most people seem to advocate self-reading, many tarotists also advocate the concept of “giving the cards a rest” and “putting your deck away” in response to sincere queries from readers who feel disconnected from their cards, or unable to read for themselves.
Let me restate that to be clear.
A tarot reader asks for suggestions because they are not feeling the flow of a reading. The standard ‘helpful’ solution is to stop trying and put the cards away.
There are plenty of techniques for pushing past a tarot reading block, including simply saying the name of the card aloud and listing its keywords. The idea that one should stop trying because one is struggling seems ludicrous to me.
Imagine telling a golfer struggling to get their putt right to put their clubs away! Would you tell a singer to stop practicing if they couldn’t hit the high note? Would a yoga teacher tell a student to just give up on a challenging posture, rather than helping them do the best expression of that posture possible?
Struggling to find a psychic connection, or having a hard time getting into the tarot zone, is rarely a reason to put the cards away. That so many tarotists use this as a first go-to seems to me to be the next bastion of the “you can’t read tarot for yourself’ crowd. The tune has changed only slightly. Now you can read for yourself, but only if no struggle or need for skills growth is involved.
This begs a question, though. Are there times when it does make sense to put the cards away? If you are using it right, tarot is a helpful companion on life’s journey; a companion that can make your life easier by giving focus, reassurance and perspective daily. Yet, I can think of two times in the past thirty years when it has made sense to put the card away for a minute. One was personal, the other happened to a client.
Long before I was a professional reader, I was a dedicated tarotist. When I became pregnant with my first child, I was a bundle of nerves. How would things turn out? Would I be a good mother? Would we have enough money? My mind raced with worry and insecurity.
I turned to the cards, but not in the contemplative and support way I now teach my students to use. I fell into the anxious cycle of predictive questioning, made worse by the fact that the Devil was stalking me. It was time to put the cards away.
After my son turned one, the cards came back and haven’t left since. I became a professional reader when he turned three. He’s twenty-eight now.
The only other time I’ve seen a need to put the cards away was in working with a client. My statement to her was not that she should put her cards away, per se, it was that it was okay not to listen to them. In fact, my exact quote was, “F the tarot”. Here’s why.
My client, a young woman, had met a guy she really liked. They were getting along, she saw a few red flags, but enjoyed him nonetheless. Her friend did a tarot reading for her that said he wasn’t to be trusted, and the relationship would not last. This prompted her to call me for a professional reading. My assessment was the same.
My client was bummed. She was having fun and enjoying this new relationship. The cards suggested that she was grounded and realistic, and that she could easily survive the worst this relationship might become. I didn’t see evidence of violence or abuse, and neither did she.
It was under those circumstances that I said, “Okay, F(orget) the cards. It’s fine to go forward and see what happens. If things start to go bad, you are forewarned and can get out quickly. In the meantime, enjoy yourself.”
Basically, the cards are not your mother. They can’t tell you what to do. Well, they can tell you what to do, but you can always choose to do something different. That’s how free will works.
If you are struggling to read the cards and understand their message, it’s usually better to lean in, study harder and listen deeper. If you are struggling with anxiety, or with a desire to throw caution to the wind and take a risk, there may be a moment in time when you find yourself unable to use the cards in a helpful way. These moments in a tarotist’s life should be rare and temporary.