Tarot? Count Me In!

Tarot has seen a resurgence in recent years, with media outlets from The New York Times to Elle to The Conversation running stories on its appeal. The latest trend seems to be tarot reading on TikTok, as noted in an October article in Wired.

This tickles me pink because tarot and I have a history going back to my childhood. My father worked on Madison Avenue and a paper company called Linweave sent a deck of 42 cards to his office as a sample of their papers. He brought the deck home and I found them on the bookshelf when I was about 8 years old. They were created in 1967 and looked like something out of the Beatles’ movie Yellow Submarine. I was fascinated by the artwork, the colors, and the paper.

Eventually something else got my attention, life happened, and I didn’t come back to cards of any kind until I stumbled upon the Druid Animal Oracle in a bookstore when I was 27. My interest in Druidry is a tale for another entry, but at various times in my life I came back to that deck, and still use it now. Then in 2016, long after I became an atheist, I saw the Animal Totem Tarot on Amazon, decided to splurge on it, and the rest is history. Also picked up Bird Cards because there was no way I could not get them.

Wait, what? An atheist who reads tarot?

Yep. Not believing in a deity has nothing to do with meditation or problem-solving, which is what I use it for. I have never believed, nor do I believe now, that it is possible to predict future events in one’s life, so I do not use it for divination. Basically, I use tarot to bring to my conscious thought the things that are already bubbling beneath the surface, and to prompt ideas. When I look at a spread of tarot cards, it’s like my eyes ping around like a pinball in a pinball machine, sending all of this visual input into my brain until DING-DING-DING, my brain finds a pattern in what my eyes are seeing and TA DA! Insight, idea, or potential solution. To date I have only done readings for a few close friends, though I would like to read for other folks at some point.

Different decks are useful for different things, at least in my experience. (And this is all just my experience. It will be different for everyone.) The original Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the most common deck, is good for learning tarot and for checking in and seeing if I’m in denial about something that my brain is trying to tell me. The Animal Totem Tarot is good for tough love and getting out of self-destructive patterns of behavior. If I’m feeling lost and just kind of blah, The Star Tarot is gentle encouragement. (I also like that one because it has racial diversity.) The Gilded Tarot tends to point out raw resources at my disposal that I might not be aware I have.

In October I bought two new decks, The Crow Tarot and White Sage Tarot. From the initial getting-to-know-you spreads, it would seem that The Crow Tarot might be good for sorting out pros and cons and making decisions, and White Sage might be good for those times when I need to remember to chill out. The artwork for both give me that feeling. Crows are natural problem-solvers, and the White Sage deck is all soft colors and some of the cards in the Major Arcana and Court Cards are rather adorable and make me smile.

A few other decks have caught my eye over the years, but I like to work with new decks for a while before getting more. If you have any favorites or recommendations, please feel free to share in the comments.

5 thoughts on “Tarot? Count Me In!

  1. Mary

    I like the BOTA deck – it’s more or less an enhanced version of the Rider-Waite deck. (BOTA is Builders of the Adytum.) As part of the practice, you color your own deck. I carry a miniature set of the Major Arcana in my purse – just to have it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. John S

    As an atheist myself, I guess I have long written off tarot cards, but your approach to them sounds interesting. What’s the best way to learn more? Is there a website or book that approaches them this way, as a sort of window into the unconscious rather than something supernatural?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. zenzalei Post author

      Gee, never thought to see if there was a book about it. Googling doesn’t turn up much, either. However, many, if not most, reputable tarot readers will talk about how the cards are useful for personal insight. Brigit Esselmont takes that approach. She describes it on her website, biddytarot.com, as “It’s like holding up a mirror to yourself so that you can access your subconscious mind and tap into the wisdom (and answers) that lives in us all.”

      She also acknowledges that the cards are based on archetypes. Looking at them, I can certainly see that. Take the Devil, which is about addictions, temptations, materialism, and things that vex you. One time I got that with the Three of Swords, which is about betrayal and heartbreak–and looks like it, classic blades right through the heart. Then it hit me. I was indeed ruminating too much on a betrayal, constantly spewing about it in a handwritten journal, like I was addicted to the misery. Next came the Ten of Swords, which I call the “Yeah, He Dead” card because there is a certain finality to seeing someone face down on the ground with ten swords sticking out of his body. All three of those together got me thinking, “ZEN, it’s in the PAST. Quit wallowing and MOVE ON.” The best part was the final card, Three of Cups, which shows three women celebrating. Yep, I needed my friends, so I had a Girls’ Night Out and it went a long way toward getting my mind out of its rage-y rut.



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