How I Started Reading Tarot and Believing in Magic
Tarot marked the beginning of my spiritual path. I have always been interested in magic and mystery, and I was attracted to Tarot because I was learning about spiritual practices, women’s rituals and paganism in an undergraduate Gender Studies course.
I was looking for a magic formula to solve my problems and give me the answers I needed to move forward in my life after a difficult break up.
Witchcraft may not be the first thing that comes to mind when considering healing and problem solving modalities. Many would initially consider psychotherapy, medication, consulting a good friend, a new health regimen, or even substance use before entertaining the notion that a deck of tarot cards could help solve their problems.
Tarot cards appealed to me because they seemed like a golden ticket, and I wanted to believe in magic and the possibility of a bright future (I thought magic was the only way to achieve that possibility!). I also considered myself to be fiercely independent, and cowered at the thought of reaching out for support from others. The cards presented me with a third party I could consult from the security of my bedroom.
As I ventured out on my spiritual path, I undertook an assignment from my Gender Studies professor to conduct a participant observation of a spiritual practice or ritual that was unfamiliar to me. I chose to observe the Spring Equinox ritual at the Wiccan Church of Toronto. The ritual was powerful. It drew upon the four elements and themes of collectivity and community healing.
I was not taken by the Wiccan organization in general, mostly due to my perception of the hierarchical leadership structure. I decided to continue pursuing my path through tarot independently, because there did not seem to be a spiritual organization that spoke to my political values.
As I continued to practice reading the cards, consulting my beginner’s guide on every card, I was struck by the accuracy of the messages I was receiving. I continued to read the cards for two main reasons: I couldn’t figure out how or why they worked, and I felt at ease and in touch with myself whenever I used them.
My spiritual beliefs have ebbed and flowed through my use of the tarot. There have been times I have gotten mad at the cards for showing me what I didn’t want to see (too many times to count!). Other times, I have put them aside altogether because I couldn’t make sense of how they worked and convinced myself I was projecting my desire to believe in magic onto the meanings of the cards.
There were times I got carried away with my readings, sometimes doing more than one reading every day. This was the result of wanting to see different answers and outcomes than were shown in the first spread, and spiralled into obsessively seeking third party guidance rather than using the messages to do my own self work.
When I discovered the connection between Tarot and Jungian psychology it was like a light bulb went off. Jung’s theory of archetypal symbolism applies to the imagery depicted on the cards, and allows room for mystery and continued speculation and theory about how energy connects us. I had previously studied Taoism among other ancient eastern spiritual philosophies, and was of course enamoured with astrology. Jung’s approach helped me to weave my prior learnings together.
I believe that Jung’s work helped me to ground my spiritual beliefs in my social and cultural education in the West. Part of my western upbringing required indoctrination into an ideology I call the post-Enlightenment cult of rationality. The weight of a theory presented by a well-respected western psychologist, (he was Freud’s student after all!) helped me bridge the gap between my intellectual and spiritual interests.
These days, I work toward integration of the mind, body and spirit. It is critical to explore and accept gray areas in life and in self. Now I try to open my mind to accept paradox, recognizing that different points of view originate from equally valid experiences of life. Tarot has been instrumental for me in gaining this clarity.
I believe in magic, but I don’t prescribe to the traditional definition. Magic is based in acceptance of reality, rather than fantasy. Magic happens when we immerse ourselves in the reality of our lives, when we are not afraid to look at the dark aspects of ourselves or our world, when we are brave enough to seek healing and to believe in something we cannot see or touch.
It is naïve to think that our existing discursive frameworks can explain the mysteries of the universe. There is still so much to discover, and we need to embrace new ways of thinking to reach the next level of understanding.
I think that magic and science have been unnecessarily pitted against one another, much like emotion and rationality. In my opinion, epistemological diversity is necessary for expanding our capacity for knowing, for elevating consciousness and for spiritual and material growth.