Benefits of Secular Tarot: Self-Exploration

Everyone has at least heard of Tarot, that esoteric system of cards used by new age people to tell fortunes. At least, that’s how they are generally depicted in pop culture. But this isn’t the full story of Tarot. Tarot is not only a tool used for divination by the more spiritual population, it can also be of use to those of us without buy-in in the spiritual or divinatory aspects. This is called Secular Tarot.

I do have an interest in the more occult and spiritual aspects, in an educational sort of way. I love digging into all the mythology and lore behind the cards. Recently I read through Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth, an extremely dense read, with many references to astrology, kabbalah, Christian mysticism, and more. And I am here for it. Not only is all of this fascinating, but it also adds additional context for the cards which I can use in my own secular readings.

Having a Tarot deck is like having access to therapy in a box.

So, if I don’t use Tarot for spiritual means, what do I use it for? A few things. Having a Tarot deck is like having access to therapy in a box. The cards do not divine mystical answers to your questions. Instead, I think of them as creative play. A spread of cards laid out before us act as a framework to hang a story. A story used to help you answer your own questions about yourself.

I also like to use the to break creative blocks. They make wonderful prompt cards. You can also use them to help make decisions (important or not). And, instead of divination, you can use them to explore possibilities. They are also a great way to entertain yourself on a Saturday afternoon.

For this post, let’s discuss Tarot as a tool for self-exploration. As mentioned, Tarot can be like having access to a therapist in a box. The cards all represent different archetypes of life. Where the major arcana deal with the super important life altering stuff that everyone goes through, for example starting something new or drastic change, where the minor arcana represents more specific things. These are split into four suits each dealing with their own aspects of life. (Wands to actions, Cups to Relationships, Swords to matters of the mind, and Pentacles to material things.) Then the numbers of each suit represent a journey of experience through the topic. The ace being the introduction of the topic, to the five being the central conflict, to the nine and ten being fulfillment and abundance.

Some Examples

Here’s an example spread one could use to ask about how they should approach their current career over the coming year:

The three cards are the Six of Wands, the Three of Swords, and the Hermit. The Six of Wands represents victory. The Three of Swords represents a general understanding of a mental matter. And the Hermit represents a time in one’s life meant to be spent alone and in contemplation. When put together in relation to the question about their career, I would read this as follows:

There will be a time of victory and celebration, but it may also be time to take a step back and think on the status of your career and where you would like to go from here. You already understand what you need to do for your own mental stability but need to think on how to act on this knowledge.

This is not, by any means, the only way to read this particular spread. Go to five different Tarot readers and you will get five completely different interpretations. But this is how I would read it.

Let’s take on a more complex spread using my own 3 Aspects Spread to answer another personal question: In what areas should I focus on improving myself over the next six months?

Here we have our three aspects: the Knight of Swords with the Queen of Pentacles as clarification, the Two of Wands with the Two of Swords as clarification, and the Page of Wands.

Overall, Wands and Twos stand out to me. Twos generally stand for a division or choice between two options. And Wands stand for action. So, the focus of this spread is a decision between two possible actions. It is time to make that decision. You have begun a new endeavor (the Page of Wands) but are of two minds on where you want it to take you (the Two of Wands and the Two of Swords). Seek guidance on which options make the most material/financial sense for you (the Queen of Pentacles) before just diving in based on the info you already feel you have (the Knight of Swords).

In Closing

As a Secular reader, using the cards for self-exploration is probably the most impactful way to use Tarot. And, please, don’t use Tarot as a replacement for a professional therapy. They are only meant to be a hobbyist tool that can be used to explore your inner self.

Next time I will cover ways of using Tarot as a tool to fuel your creativity.

Decks used in this post:

  • Terra Volatile by Credo quia Absurdum

  • Smith-Waite Tarot Deck: Borderless Edition