Tarot: An Exploration of Self
by: a. v. escudé
Have you taken the time to know yourself? When was the last time you faced within? Your within. Have you ever reached inside your mind and felt your edges? If you have, welcome back, if this is your maiden voyage into the unknown, then welcome. I am your host: a. v. escudé, and I am a writer, and reader of the world’s lore. I am also the creator of Moon and Roots. An authentic online botanica, that curates a variety of lunar, herbal, and ritual natural body products. Specializing in Lunar + Herbal Oils. If you are new to the unknown, then you are instore for a ride.
If you have found yourself reading these lines, I like to think that you were meant to.
Tarot has a way of finding people in the most peculiar of ways, and for me it was a love of stories that brought me to Tarot.
Tarot finds its roots deep in our history and can be traced back centuries. The cards find their origin in the records the Italian court of the 13th century. Currently, there appears to be no accepted historical record of Tarot ever existing before then. However, it is worth noting the numerous studies on Tarot, and the cards’ influence on leading an authentic, curious, and compassionate life. Tarot is no different than its playing-card counterparts. In their physical use they are mundane, but their mental, emotional, and spiritual uses are quite different.
Tarot illustrate universal messages, wisdoms, and cautions through symbolic pictures.
The arcanas are comprised of archetypes and paths, many which can be dated to well before the rise of the early Renaissance. If we look at history—as well as in our current social climate—then we can observe a peculiar pattern. The pattern is simple though; those who take the time to notice their thoughts and feelings are the ones who recognize themselves on an unseen level. This is not as mystical as it appears, and it is for anyone willing to see into themselves and witness the darkness. I have learned over and over…nothing is as it appears.
When we become more conscious of ourselves, we see that our actions are not just mere random stimuli. We stop thinking of ourselves as isolated individuals. When we realize we all share similar paths and experiences, we see proof that humanity can be a force for good. We all can see the human-being in others; and nature shows us that, at any level. Our minds are not as isolated as we think. We share too much and know too much.
There is something universal about knowing thyself: a very human but magical act. So, it is time to get to know yourself more. It is the time to play a game with yourself. During this time, you will learn to laugh or cry, love or rage, acknowledge or disregard, reject or accept. You have trained for this very moment your whole life. This is the time to take-up a mindful task that will transform your mind body and soul.
It is time to teach yourself Tarot.
In truth, it has been time, this whole time; but our egos have a way of averting our gaze from what is already in front of us. It does seem natural to seek out things and acquirements, and I am guilty of this. As a proud owner of four fabulous divinatory decks, numerous shiny rocks, and a hoard of plants I have no qualm with indulgences. Indulgence of self is a form of self-love in moderation…. Like all things balance of soul, mind and heart is key. A message we can see in the fourteenth Major Arcana of the Tarot card: Temperance.
Patience is the message here.
Temperance is an archetypical reminder to the reader to mindful of your needs. To carefully watch for indulgence verse impulse, and to fortify the inner self, to make room for new roots to grow. Knowing yourself is the blending of the physical and the spiritual self. We are rooted in the physical world, but our dreams and imagination tell us we are capable of more. Our minds are as deep as the universe.
In the physical world Tarot may only be compromised of seventy-eight cards, split into two arcana: the Major and the Minor. The former comprised of twenty-two archetype “lifepath cards”, and the latter made of fifty-six cards, containing four suits, each associated with a natural element. The Wands relate to fire, Cups with water, Swords and air, and Pentacles—or Coins— are linked to the earth. The cards can also be read in reverse and ask you to ponder the inverse meaning of the card when it is right side up. This may take some extra focus and time but is worth considering.
The cards extend past the earthy realm and help readers delve into the otherworld. The places left unseen. In the spiritual sense Tarot is a sea of speckled portals, leading you to your subconscious and higher-self. Tarot is more than its traditional portrayal.
It is also widely seen as cathartic.
I have observed its effect on mental and emotional health in myself and can say that from adding this ritual to my life I have greatly improve my inner balance and strength. Tarot is not an art for fools or frauds like conventional society has portrayed for a more than a millennium; but rather, it is an introspective practice for all seekers of knowledge. It can be used in tandem with a mundane or magikal life, or it can be exclusive to the spheres you feel comfortable using it in. Tarot teach us to liberate ourselves, and to first look within when we are in need of answers.
Why do we always regress back to looking for things we want rather, than looking things we need. You want money, you need stability. You want love, but you need compassion. We forget that the things we need are typically found within.
Of course, baring a few bodily exceptions. It is curious to me why we do not intuitive turn our gaze inward when perplexed? I walked for so long in the darkness of my own mind before I decided to looked-up and see what I had to offer. When I looked up through the fog of my own mind, I met the kind of knowledge that no one can teach, a type of knowledge named, intuition.
Intuition is our constant companion, and our most trusted friend.
We humans wander around lost in a world designed for growth, and it is because we have blindly accepted this idea that all the answers, we are in search of are found on the outside. Consider the following: what if all the answer you need are buried within you? To simplify, the answers you need will find you, but you must be open to them. Our higher selves—the part of us that is in touch with the soul— wants you to dig deeper. How about reconsidering that natural impulse, and hone your senses?
Tarot is a tool to achieve that. The cards are insightful tools in mindful practices, and they can help focus your mind. The cards have aided me in casting out self-doubt and letting go of deep-rooted traumas. Emotional, Mental, and Spiritual work is not all positive vibes, it is also deep and reflective. It takes time, patience, acceptance, to focus and know thyself.
All you need is hovering just beyond the horizon, waiting for you to find your edges.
The initial structure of the cards is split into the Major Arcana and Minor Arcana. The Major begins with the number zero. The zero signaling the cyclical nature of Tarot and life. The Major Arcana begins with the zero, so it can return there after completion at twenty-two. After twenty-two is rebirth at zero.
Starting with The Fool—0, we see innocence, new-beginnings, mania, folly, and/or free-
spirits coming out to play. Then cycling through and ending with The World—22; when a reader can encounter a time of completion, serenity, unity, triumph, and/or a new-world order.
When Major Arcana cards are frequent in a spread, it is sometimes best to contemplate life.
What major-life-changes are beginning, where do you find motion in your life? I encourage you to study these archetypes and see how they correlate or diverge from your own experiences. A study of Carl Jung or Joseph Campbell is a good place to start.
If I notice Major arcana cards are stalking me, then I may ask myself: how my place in time and space is shifting or growing?
What needs to die, so something else can be reborn?
Images of the Major Arcana cards are the most prevalent in society. Cards like the Wheel of Fortune, the Magician, or the Lovers are easily identified and can typically be read in a general way, though not all the time. Still, the Major Arcana also possess misunderstood cards: like Death, the Devil, or the Hanged Man. These cards reminding the reader to either let-go and transform, or maintain control over impulses, or remember that sacrifices are sometimes necessary in life.
The Major Arcana lead us through moral findings, and ethical dilemmas. They are cues to remember the cyclical nature of all things in life, in and out of the Tarot. This meaning, that those lessons learned are not gone and done with, and they may come back around if we do not watch ourselves.
Growth is an eternal endeavor, and Tarot shows us that. The other arcana is the Minor, and it is constructed of fifty-six cards within four suits: Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles. The suits are sometimes referred to by other names, but for the most part take these four forms. As previously mentioned, they are representative of the four elements: fire, water, air, and earth. I encourage you to look up these terms and study their meanings, messages, images, and histories. They have much more than I have shared here.
Which deck, which deck, which….?
There are many decks to choose from, both commercially and artistically produced. I have multiple decks and they range in from mass produced, to limited artistic prints. It does not matter it origin, but it is what feels right to you. I do encourage you to support local or small business who sell Tarot and other spiritual and esoteric objects. You never know what rare find you may score. I bought my first deck myself and gifted it to myself.
Personally, I do not think your first deck must be gifted to you, but I do like to cleanse and smudge my decks with smoke, herbs and crystals. Follow the path, rituals, and traditions you feel most comfortable with.
However, if you feel drawn to the tradition of gifting, then share your interest with friends and family. If you do not feel comfortable with sharing your interest with Tarot with your loved ones and community, that is okay as well. That hesitation and/or anxiety is real thing, and not uncommon. I too was and am in way still in the broom closet.
We all have our own reasons and rational for what we choose to share or keep.
You will know what is right for you if you trust yourself. Your thoughts are not going to betray you, you emotional are not out to get anyone. They simply need to be acknowledged and understood.
Remember, know thyself, and you will persist. It suggests purchasing from a variety of sources though, I bought my Smith-Waite Tarot deck from a local metaphysical store, I got an etheric nature and animal themed deck from The Creeping Moon on Etsy, and I have also ordered a deck from the Golden Thread Tarot off online. I also encourage downloading an app to help you learn, and there are a few out there. I use the Golden Thread’s app, and its companion apps: Labyrinthos and Luminous Spirit. Also, Google works too.
Tarot asks you to consider yourself.
This ritual helps cast out self-doubt and reminds us to be considerate of ourselves. Remember to be aware of yourself, remember to pay attention to the unseen places of the worlds. The empty spaces where novel and expansive things grow. Dare you unearth your own potential? The potential that is placed within everyone, resides in the place where you meet spirit. The place that moors us to our lives and humanity. These places and spaces are liminal and dwell inside of you and me and all living things just waiting to be found.
Remember to take time and watch yourself.
First be an observer of your own thoughts and feelings, then consider who you are. Ask yourself questions and see what comes to mind. Mindfulness is a practice of observing the self, and is not something we are taught, but it is something we—in due course—will all
learn. Through mindful practices we remember how indomitable we are, and that we are the crafters of our own fate. Tarot is a game of self, something you play to become more conscious of yourself.
a. v. escudé – call me, Alex: a poet, storyteller, historian, teacher, empath, and inkling. Creator of Moon and Roots, found on Etsy, Instagram, and Facebook. Scribbler of spiritual, feminist, herbal, and social writings; passionate about rewriting the witch-archetype and promoting earth-justice. Changing the world, a moon a day.