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Tarot for Personal Development

Updated on December 16, 2013

Tarot: Not Just for Fortune Telling

When you think of tarot cards, you might think of a dimly-lit room and a mysterious figure drawing ominous-looking cards that decide your fate. Hollywood movies have depended on this image in many horror films and have popularized the idea of tarot as mysterious, frightening, and primarily tools for divination.

Although there is a rich history of tarot being used to tell fortunes, the deck can also be used for a myriad of other purposes. The Major Arcana, consisting of the 23 named cards that run from The Fool to The World, can be seen as an allegorical journey from innocence to experience. Each figure in the Major Arcana can be seen as an archetypal figure, which can represent an aspect of one's life, an aspect of personality, or places where growth is required. Read on to find some specific ways to use tarot for your own personal growth, exploration, and creativity.

Tarot Meditation and Visualization

Tarot cards can provide a vivid and new way to meditate. There are a few ways you can go about meditating on tarot cards. First, you can go through the deck and find a card that either speaks to you strongly or that you feel a strong aversion for; it might be useful to pick through only major arcana cards for this, since they are usually associated with major life changes or aspects of the self. Both cards you are attracted to and ones you are not attracted to can teach you something.You can also do a daily draw, in which you pick a random card each day and choose that card as a focus of meditation.

Once you have found your card, find yourself a comfortable, quiet place to sit and focus on your breath for about five minutes. Try to bring your attention back to your breathing when you find yourself lost in thought, but be gentle; your mind is bound to wander. Let your body relax, but not droop. Once you feel ready, take the card in your hand and look at it. Take in every detail until you can see the card fully when you close your eyes. Once you can do this, imagine yourself stepping into the card. Imagine the figure in the card turning to you, ready to help you understand the message. What do you want to ask the card?

As the card the questions you would like to know, and when you feel done, thank the figure in the card for speaking with you, step out of the card, and imagine it, with your eyes closed, becoming simply a card again. Then open your eyes and view the card.

Write down any insights the figure in the card gave you. I'd suggest keeping a tarot journal for this purpose.

Visualizing and meditating both take some practice, so don't feel surprised if you find it difficult to concentrate at first, Just keep at it, give yourself time to sit quietly before beginning the visualization, and remember to try to visualize sensory details, such as sounds, smells, tastes, and the feeling of your own body in the space of that card.

Tarot for Emotional Exploration

This exercise is a modification of a longer exercise in the book "Tarot for Yourself", an excellent resource for anyone interested in tarot. Please see the links below for more information about this book.

For this exercise, it is best when you are in a particular mood that you'd like to better understand or resolve. Before beginning, take a few moments to sit quietly and observe your internal sensations and thoughts, and then pull out your deck. Go through the cards and pick out a few cards that represent your current mood. Try to limit it to two or three. Do this without thinking too much; try to be spontaneous. Next, pick out cards that represent how you wish you felt. Spread out both sets of cards and pull out your notebook. What are your associations with each card? What is happening in each card? How do you feel about each card?

Move to the "positive" cards. How could the individuals or scenes in the "negative" cards reach the situations of the "positive" cards? Can you see the relationship to these cards and how they contain elements of each other?

Spent some time journaling about these collections of cards, their relationships, and how you can reach those emotions and situations you desire by working through the difficult emotions.

Tarot for Shadow Work

You can also use tarot to explore the parts of you that you do not want to face, otherwise called "shadow" parts. "The shadow" is a Jungian term that refers to the parts of ourselves that we refuse to see, push down below consciousness, or have an extreme aversion to. When we do this though, we leave ourselves blinded to our full nature and vulnerable to the shadow coming out in ways that might be harmful to us or others.

For this exercise, fan the cards in the Major Arcana out before you and choose, intuitively, the cards that you feel most averse to or that feel are "not you" (some of these cards might also be "positive" ones, too: we can refuse to see the "positive" parts of ourselves as well as the "negative"). After you have chosen your cards, sit in meditation for a few minutes (you can decide how long), and then proceed with the tarot meditation above, but ask questions specifically about your relationship to the card: What part of this card do I reject? What in my life represents that card? What makes me want to refuse this part of myself? How can I incorporate this card into my life and fully accept all of who I am? Questions like this can help you to clarify exactly what makes you have a strong negative reaction to certain aspects of your personality.

Write down your responses in your tarot journal.

The Tarot and Shadow Work

Tarot Cards

Did you know tarot cards could be used for more than divination?

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Tarot Beyond Fortune Telling

As I hope you've gathered from this article, tarot cards are interesting far beyond the scope of fortune telling. Their rich imagery can aid in meditation, provide insight into unknown parts of ourselves, and help us to regulate emotions. They are also often complex and multifaceted works of art, depending on the deck you choose. Beyond what has been discussed here, tarot cards have also been used to help writers create narratives and create complicated characters. Although tarot can be a fun way to practice divination, the cards can represent so much more!


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    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 4 years ago

      Love some of these exercises and am definitely going to try some soon. This is a really great hub, thanks for the info.

    • profile image

      MysticMoonlight 4 years ago

      I've watched reviews on the Mary El and it is very lovely. It seems like a very deep deck for sure. Shadowscapes is beautiful, I only wish it were bigger! I'm currently studying and working with the Anna K. I love it! It's like it's been stripped down to the basics and I'm really enjoying that aspect. I'm waiting on the Ceccoli Tarot and the Silver Witchcraft Tarot to come out, they look amazing!

    • Lettyann profile image

      Lettyann 4 years ago

      I'm currently loving the Mary El Tarot, though it's a bit dark. Hoping to pick up the Wildwood tarot soon. Also love Haindl and Shadowscapes.

    • profile image

      MysticMoonlight 4 years ago

      Yes I do, the DruidCraft is my favorite but I have so many that I love, it's almost too hard to pick just one favorite! I have a bit of a Tarot deck addiction, I must admit :) What about you, do you have a favorite?

    • Lettyann profile image

      Lettyann 4 years ago

      Thanks so much for the comment! I, too, have a daily-draw practice, and I've found it incredibly helpful. Do you have a favorite deck?

    • profile image

      MysticMoonlight 4 years ago

      Great tips. I often do a daily draw and find it incredibly helpful for insight and for learning different decks as well. I also do this with Oracle cards, too. Meditation with the cards really gives a unique perspective and is greatly beneficial to delving deeper and fully grasping the meanings for us as individuals. Nice article.