I’m Bridget Owens and you're listening to the Waxing Soul podcast. Join me on an exploration of mindful modern magic, a journey towards deeper understanding of self and transformative individual spirituality. It's August 4, 2021, and today's episode is the first in a seven episode series on using tarot for self growth. Today we're discussing the basics of divination, what it means, and why we don't even need to know what's in our future. Are you ready to grow your soul?
It’s been a few weeks between episodes, and back in my blogging days this would be the point where I’d go, so sorry for not having content up, here’s my reasons and excuses, blah blah blah. But I’m not going to do that because, first of all, nobody is perfect, right? This expectation we have that someone stepping out to write a blog or record a podcast or put up a website or whatever is going to be perfectly consistent all the time as if they had a whole production team behind them is really ridiculous.
I just finished and submitted my book manuscript to my publisher, three weeks late because that’s how my life works, and the book is about authentic spirituality. And part of authenticity is getting really straight about how much we internalize the expectations others have for us. More importantly, it means really being brutally honest about the how much we internalize expectations that we think others have for us without questioning whether that’s even the case. So for me, being authentic with my audience right now, with all of you listening, means going, yeah, I know I missed recording and posting episodes over the last two weeks. It happens.
Now welcome to my Autumn series on Divination and Tarot for Self Growth!
When I did the livestream Q&A for the first half of the Summer series on the Basics of Magic, I mentioned that I’d probably do this one on Divination, and since I just finished writing my book I think it’s a nice merging of the two to talk about how we can use tarot for self growth rather than seeing the future or telling fortunes or the other cliches about divinatory practices. What we’re going to dive into is, first, what divination is, then the rest of the series will cover what I mean by self growth, what divination can tell us about ourselves, how we evolve, and how we can use the information we get from the cards to help us evolve.
And I want to start off by saying that, if you’ve never read tarot before but want to learn, the best thing to do is just start reading. For yourself, for your friends, whatever. Find a good book or a good website or whatever to be a reference for the card meanings, my favorite site is aeclectic tarot, I think it’s aeclectic.net, because I like the detail it goes into, it explains the reverse meanings as well, but the important thing isn’t that you get one that’s “correct.”
Because here’s the thing about divination: it’s communication. It’s communication involving your brain, your subconscious, your life experiences through which you interpret and explain the cards. So the cards have to make sense to you. They have to speak your language. Not just in the card meanings, but in the way you interpret and string the card meanings together to paint the whole picture and tell the whole story. No matter how you think the cards work, where the message or meaning comes from, the thing is that every single tarot reader is going to look at the same spread of cards and interpret them a bit differently, even if they all worked from the same book of meanings.
Tarot isn’t about memorization as much as it is about interpretation, and the interpretation filters through you and your worldview. And this isn’t just tarot, it’s all divination. Even a pendulum telling you yes and no. What yes means, what no means, the clarifying questions you ask after, what you think is the best thing to do with those answers once you have them, that is not going to be the same from person to person.
I just wanted to dig into that really quickly because for this series of episodes, it doesn’t matter whether you consider yourself a tarot expert or if you’ve never picked up a deck in your life. It’s not about mastery of the tarot as a tool. That’s something each of us has to kind of undertake for ourselves in whatever way speaks to us.
And with that covered, let’s hop into an exploration of what divination actually is. What the word even means. Because here’s where I think a lot of the potential of tarot and other divinatory forms gets wasted.
I used to read tarot once a week at a local metaphysical shop, and I know that most everyone thinks of divinatory practices in general as a way to tell the future, to get answers about whether things are going to turn out good or bad. It’s fortune telling, right? Are we about to have good fortune or bad fortune and how can we change or prepare for what’s coming?
The thing is, though, that of all the information we could get about our lives, our existence, the most helpful is not, actually, what’s going to happen next, is it? It seems like it would be, but that’s not even what we want to know, right? It’s not what’s going to happen, it’s what do we need to do to be able to deal with or change or prevent or just prepare for it.
That’s the why of it. We want to make better decisions, be more able to do what we have to do to thrive in our lives, and that’s why we want to know the future. But divination isn’t really about that, and we’re about to dig deeper into why not.
If you're enjoying this episode of Waxing Soul, subscribe to the show! Each week we will dive into a different part of the world of spirituality, magic, and self-evolution. Check out last week's episode where we discussed spiritual empowerment, equality, and how our spiritual histories have warped our sense of self worth. And come back next week for part two of this series where we will discuss the basics of self growth, the difference between growth and evolution, and what it looks like to thrive in your life.
I know we like to think that if we know the future, we’ll make better decisions and choices, we’ll be prepared for what’s coming. And we like to think that whatever things have gone wrong in our lives, if we just had better intel, if we’d just known ahead of time what was about to happen, we’d have been able to avoid whatever it was. That’s ultimately why we like the idea of being able to see what’s coming down the pipeline.
But the important thing to cut through here is that the important thing isn’t knowing what’s coming, it’s knowing what to do. It’s knowing the variables in play. Because not all knowledge is equally useful.
So here’s the important thing about divination: divination by definition is not about seeing the future. It’s about discovering, uncovering, locating things. Specifically, it’s getting information. Divining rods point us towards things we’re looking for. You can divine the truth or divine the answer. It’s not specifically about predicting things, although the Old French root of the word does mean that, and it not NOT about predicting the future. It’s just not MAINLY about predicting the future.
We’ve made it about that because that’s what we think we need to do. We think we need to know what’s about to happen. But if you’ve ever read tarot for people (and if you haven’t, here’s some insight into what happens when you read for people), when you read tarot for people, the vast majority of the time what they want to know and the answer that comes up in the cards are two different things. What they want to know isn’t what’s important for them to know. And if it does tell them a straightforward answer and they find out what’s about to happen, they still don’t know what to do.
AND, and this one’s a big one, if the cards don’t give them the answer they want, it becomes quickly obvious that what they really want is either reassurance that things will turn out good or they want to know how they can make things turn out good.
The reason, I really believe this, the reason we associate divination with fortune and future telling is because that’s the kind of question humans are obsessed with asking. So quick little exercise, I want everyone listening to take a moment and think of a time when something seemed to go wrong or happen unexpectedly in your life. Some time when, as things were happening, you were upset, distraught, angry, whatever. Things hadn’t gone right. And then afterwards, you realized that had that thing not gone wrong, so to speak, some other good thing wouldn’t have happened. There was some lesson you needed to learn and having that happen taught you that lesson in time for it to make a difference in the rest of your life. Or maybe you were upset but not getting things the way you wanted turned out for the best. I’m one hundred percent sure that most of us can easily come up with several of those.
So what would have happened if, before all of that went down, someone had told you what was going to happen. Just the first part, the thing that was so upsetting. Would you have tried to prevent it happening? Would you have missed out on the good that came after? Would it have helped you to know what was about to happen? Of course not!
We don’t know what chain of events is going to be kicked off by even the most disappointing of events in our lives. We don’t know when something seemingly great will end badly. And I don’t say that to imply that there’s no way to make our lives smoother, easier, better, whatever it is we try to do by figuring out what’s about to happen. But knowing the future doesn’t help us. It doesn’t give us enough information.
The good news is that divination is about getting information. It’s about insight and discovering things we don’t know just from logic and observation. It’s tied into intuition and our subconscious and the energies around us. So to use it for trying to tell the future is actually a huge waste of potential.
We can get insight into so much more. SO MUCH MORE. We just have to ask better questions. We have to have a better understanding of the kind of information we need to have, the things we’re actually curious about. Because it’s like intention – we have to keep digging into the deeper levels to really get to what we want. The questions we think we want, like, you now, What’s about to happen in my future? Does this person love me? Will I get this job? They aren’t the questions we really want answered. We want things like, Am I prepared to handle the challenges coming in my life, and if not, what do I need to do or know to be prepared? What can I do about my loneliness? What stands in the way of my prosperity and stability? Those are the questions we really want answers to, and what it really comes down to is self growth. It’s finding out more about ourselves.
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When people used to come to me for tarot readings, I got lots of questions about how tarot worked because at least half of the clients were people who had just discovered the shop, never had a tarot reading before, weren’t really part of the community. And all they knew was that tarot was, you now, fortune telling or something like that, and they understandably had lots of questions. And I always told them that when I did tarot readings, at least, it was more like life coaching than fortune telling.
Because even if it did tell you what was going to happen, even if it gave you an answer about how a situation was going to turn out, it was mostly going to point you towards aspects of your life and your habits or whatever to work on. Because the future telling info, if you get any, is just context. Life isn’t what happens to us, it’s what happens within us. So the context is good, but the more context we get, the better. And even more than that what we want is guidance.
So this is, I really feel like I got a much clearer understanding of what divination is and what it can do when I made the mental link between divination as in cartomancy, runes, pendulums, etc and divining as in using divining rods and such to locate buried things. Because not only are we looking for buried information, we’re looking for direction. We want to be pointed in the right direction.
And tarot is really great for that. It’s notorious for giving, like, really vague answers to straightforward fortune-telling questions. Which is another thing that points to, like, this is not really well used for that purpose. The reason it’s hard to decipher straight answers from tarot is that it’s best at self-growth guidance. Ask it whether you’re going to get into a relationship with someone, and it’s going to poke into your unresolved emotional issues which are likely to cause you to sabotage a healthy relationship or confidence issues which might be causing you to be attracted to someone who isn’t compatible, stuff like that.
So tarot is really ideal for self growth work. For shadow work. And I believe that’s because divination more than anything else is a conversation with your subconscious, with your intuition. Your subconscious is connected to your shadow. It knows what you don’t, and divination is a way to have that conversation with it and get that information. Dig it up.
Which is why it’s super important, especially if you’re just starting to learn tarot, to let go of the idea that there is a right and wrong way to read the cards. It’s not about doing it right. It’s about tapping into your subconscious, so the cards will speak your language.
I’ve read tarot at events where I was near other readers, could observe their readings, and I assure you that if one person went to several legit tarot readers – and by legit I mean actually interested in reading a person and not just wanting to tell them something to make money, it happens – if one person went to several readers with the exact same question and they all did the same spread, each of those readings would turn up different cards, but the messages would all be very similar. Because there are lots of ways to say the same thing with different cards.
I did tarot readings at my birthday party one year, and I had a friend get a reading and when I finished the first one she was like, “I don’t like that, do it again.” We did three separate spreads. Different cards each time. Same message each time whether she liked it or not.
So just do whatever you need to do to get over the worry that you don’t know the cards well enough or you don’t have them right. And on the free download today, there are two exercises there – one for learning to read tarot for self growth, learning how the cards speak your life language, and the other is for journaling, some prompts to think about hidden information and how it gets uncovered in your life.
Now, before I sign off, I want to talk about the big thing coming up, which is my first book! It’s called Deep Self Magic, and it will take you through a step-by-step process of discovering and embracing your spiritual authenticity and going on to discover your innate magic and how to facilitate your spiritual evolution. And it fits in really nicely with this series because what we’re doing here with tarot is really facilitating all stages of self growth and evolution by using the tarot as a guidance tool. Letting it point the way to your shadow aspects, those things that aren’t necessarily bad about you but which you’ve pushed aside and hidden, repressed and suppressed, because you felt pressure from others to conform to their expectations rather than be who you are.
Tarot is really good for pointing especially to those things which need to be transformed so you can fully thrive in your life. Which is the whole point of the book. I just finished the manuscript and handed it off to the editor, and I’m very excited to be bringing it to everyone. I’ll be sharing more about the book as we work towards the release date which will be in late September.
Thank you so much for listening. New episodes of the Waxing Soul drop every Thursday. All materials and resources except the music are copyright Bridget Owens. Many thanks to my readers, listeners, friends, mentors, inspirations, and my framily for riding with me into season two. Until next week, blessed be and be good to yourself.