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 26, 2021, and today's episode is the third in a seven episode series on using tarot for self growth. Today we're discussing why our deep self is a mystery to us, how we can uncover more of the unknown parts of ourselves, and why it's so important to practice radical self-honesty. Are you ready to grow your soul?
Welcome to part 3 of the tarot for self growth series, and today we’re going to kind of get into the meat of what divination and self growth have to do with each other. Because I think I always surprised people a bit when they came in for tarot readings in the shop because, obviously, what a lot of people expect to hear in readings is stuff like, you know, um, “There’s someone coming into your life soon who will bring you some opportunity,” or, “Your life sucks now but it’s about to get better,” or whatever. People who come in wanting to get readings often have specific questions they want answered about what’s going on around them and what’s about to go on around them.
And this is… The thing that I think I had the hardest time with in tarot reading, this question of, if we’re creatures of free will, why are we convinced that the future is something we can tell? But more than that, I think what we want is just to not have things hidden from us, right? We want to know what someone else is planning, what decisions other people have made, and we want truths… we expect in some ways that there are truths we don’t have, facts we don’t have, that would come to bear on the choices we are going to be making, so that’s what we want from a tarot reader.
What we think about using divination for, even if we do think of it in terms of simply revealing information to us, even if it’s more like expecting messages like, “The reason your spouse is acting that way is because they’re worried about this other thing,” or, “Your boss hasn’t decided about the promotion yet, but you could do this to win her over.” That kind of thing. Even if we turn to divinatory methods to reveal information we wouldn’t otherwise really know, it’s not usually about us, it’s about what’s going on around us.
Which, yeah, we talked about in part one.
The thing is, though, that we treat the world around us as the biggest mystery in our lives, the most important mystery to crack, when really the biggest mystery in our lives is ourselves. It’s… I’m always reminded of the thing you hear about how we know more about deep space than we know about what’s in the deepest parts of our own oceans. We are the same way. We often know more about the people and things around us than we know about our deep selves.
And when I talk about deep self, I’m talking about, well, it’s what some would call our soul, right? It’s the part at the very core of us, and no matter what we tend to think, most of us don’t know our deep selves as well as we think we do.
Oh, and I call it deep self because I think the word “soul” carries some meanings and associations which aren’t helpful. Soul means a lot of different things in different traditions and cultures and belief systems, so rather than try to all agree that soul means one common thing, it’s easier to just pick a new word.
Deep self is exactly what it sounds like, it’s the deepest parts of who we are. And that’s where our shadow self is. That’s where our basic way of seeing the world comes from. And it’s not just something we instinctually understand and tap into, especially as adults, because our life experiences and traumas and relationships with other people all cause us to distance ourselves from our deep selves. We try harder and harder to shape ourselves into what we should be, what we want to be, and we get more disconnected from who we really are deep down.
So as we’re digging into the mysteries of life with divination, the most important mystery to dig into is who we are. What’s really down there in our deep selves? And let’s be honest, what we do instinctually realize is that when we dig into who we are, the mystery of self, what we’re likely to find includes stuff we don’t always want to poke into. Some of it is definitely the parts of ourselves we would rather not face. Some of it is the stuff that isn’t so much what we don’t want to face, but which we’re afraid to have other people know about us.
There’s a lot in there that isn’t easy or pleasant or fun to dig into, but it’s not all that. There’s also a lot deep down in our deep selves that is just, you know, the parts that we’ve never really given the chance to grow. All the stuff that we just neglect as we’re trying to be who we think others want us to be, who we think we’re supposed to be, there’s lots in there that we are going to want to connect with and embrace.
All of the work to uncover that stuff is called shadow work, and there’s a lot of ways to go about doing it, but because it’s about uncovering hidden information, tarot is a great tool for it. And this is why, you know… I have a friend who is just getting into tarot, and she’s in that phase of, like, “Why can’t my cards just tell me something useful instead of telling me all the stuff I already know and don’t want to hear?” And it’s because tarot is so good for this stuff. It’s telling you to stop brushing aside the inner work you need to do. It’s pointing inward because most of the time that’s what’s important. It doesn’t matter what’s going on around us. It matters that we dig into the mystery of self.
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 the basics of self growth, the difference between growth and evolution, and what it looks like to thrive in your life. And come back next week for part four of this series where we will discuss how divination is more of a mirror than a crystal ball, the ways we can see ourselves in the tarot deck, and how to look at ourselves with a less biased eye.
I want to focus for a bit on why the mystery of self is so important to tackle, and for me it boils down in part to this whole, as above, so below idea. As without, so within, as well.
Yes, here we go with the alchemy again.
This is a great way of understanding and envisioning the way that we fit within the larger context of the universe, right?
So, I used to love, love, love the whole concept of fractals, fractal art. There was that whole phase when everyone had fractal art calendars and posters and screensavers… That dates me, I know. Screensavers. But the whole idea of something that is the same no matter what scale you view it at. It’s like, if you look at the shape of a coastline on a map, it’s irregular and jagged, and if you zoom in on just one stretch of beach, it’s equally irregular and jagged. You can keep zooming in, and you’ll never get a smooth line because it’s made of sand and waves and it’s going to be irregular. It’s naturally fractal.
The point is, we are part of that fractal nature of the universe, right? You’ve surely all seen the images where it shows the similarities between, say, the vascular system and tree roots or the structures in an eye and in a galaxy. But it’s not just a matter of the physical or how things look. Philosophically, conceptually, we can use our own experiences to help inform our understanding of the larger patterns in the world, in the universe, and we can look to those larger ideas about the fundamentals of how the universe works to help us understand ourselves.
We’re not just a piece in a puzzle, we’re not just an organism drifting in endless space and time, we’re tied to everything else. And if we discount the importance of discovering ourselves, both our humanity and our individuality, we’re basically trying to work an equation with part of it missing. We’re not separate from the rest of existence, we’re interwoven with it, so if we want to understand the nature of reality, we have to understand ourselves.
But, like I said, none of us really do. We can, though – we’ll never get one hundred percent there, but the closer we get to really deep connection with our deep selves, the better our understanding of everything around us. So what we can learn from our day to day experiences, our relationships, what happens because of the decisions we make, our patterns, what we learn from what we experience has to do with who we are – it can reveal things about us if we investigate in that direction – and it also has to do with similar patterns in our families, our communities, in society, in nature, and beyond.
And this is a big task, right? Trying to learn ourselves, to learn the nature of existence, that’s a lot, that’s a lifetime pursuit. It really is.
Frankly, I think that’s the heart of spirituality. It’s the point of it. We can’t expect it to be quick or simple. But divinatory practices like tarot help us cut through some of the tough parts, speed things up a bit. It can point us to what’s relevant in the moment, what’s the most informative directions to pursue. Not just when it comes to what’s internal to us so we can understand ourselves first and use that to understand the bigger context, but the other way around.
So, here’s the thing that I love about tarot. And for those of you who also love tarot, one of the hardest things, of course, is the number of cards and the amount of meanings to learn if you’re trying to pick up the practice, right? It’s 78 cards, which is already a lot, but then there’s the reverse cards, so that doubles it, and then the same card is going to mean something slightly different depending where it is in a spread and what cards are around it. Sometimes they indicate a person, sometimes a circumstance, sometimes it’s you, sometimes it’s something in your past, sometimes it’s the future. It’s a lot to learn, which is why it’s not for everyone.
But I think that’s where the real strength of tarot is. There’s lots of different ways to say the same meaning by stringing different cards together in different ways. There’s not a single idea or experience we live through which can’t be described by the cards, and every single one of those cards or combinations of cards can mean something about the world we live in as well. And of all the endless meanings a spread of cards can possibly have, focusing on one at a time is a huge help in trying to gain understanding and perspective.
It’s like they say you eat an elephant one bite at a time. Tarot is going to work to zero in on the best place, the most productive place to focus. It’s going to pick a spot on the fractal artwork to look at and study so you’re not just paralyzed by the enormity of the task at hand.
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I’ve mentioned this book that I’m writing which comes out, the new target launch date is October 28, it’s called Deep Self Magic: A Step-by-Step Roadmap to Spiritual Authenticity, and in it I talk a lot about this idea of authenticity and how authenticity is really about radical self-honesty.
And here’s the thing: the reason I talk so much about authenticity is that it’s really the core of spirituality, right? We, individually, are the core of our own spiritual lives, and if we aren’t occupying that place with at least the intention of being as authentic as possible, then the rest of our spirituality is going to be sort of plastic and short on substance as well. Spirituality – distinct from religion and cultural tradition, here – our individual spirituality is meaningless if it’s not impacting our deep self.
When I started to get interested in tarot, I obviously started by reading for myself. That’s the natural first instinct, right? And then I heard someone assert that you aren’t supposed to read tarot for yourself, it doesn’t work to read tarot for yourself. And at the time, I was like, okay, I kind of see the logic here, but that’s BS. Because the idea was that it takes an outside party to see clearly, there has to be a certain amount of separation and distance and impartiality in a reading.
And, okay, here’s… Part of my authentic self at the time was… I mean, it’s still there, this isn’t a part of me I’m working really hard to get rid of, but I’m more aware of the implications now – yay, shadow work! But my reaction was, “The average person might be crap at being honest with themselves, but that doesn’t mean we’re all crap at it!”
But aside from the defensive reaction, the thing about the general struggle with self-honesty is that getting through the obstacles to self-honesty is one hundred percent part of spiritual development. Yeah, using tarot for self growth takes an openness to being told things we don’t want to be told by the cards. It means being open to messages that poke at your soft spots. It doesn’t work, otherwise.
Self growth happens after healing. If you’ve got a ton of stuff to heal, spiritual energy is going to pour into dealing with those wounds, whether that’s in trying to cover them up and ignore them or whether it’s actually working to heal them, and until you’ve done the healing work there’s not going to be energy left over for real growth. So using tarot for self growth means it’s going to keep poking at the stuff you need to heal, and then it’s going to poke at the stuff which is holding you back and needs to be released, and that all requires you to look at the cards and be honest with and about yourself and then, you know take the action.
Tarot is notoriously repetitive. Like, tarot doesn’t care how much you like a message, it’s going to repeat it until you get it. That’s shadow work in general. Whatever methods you use to do your shadow work, you’re going to be pushed towards the things you need to deal with over and over until you deal with them.
So the key to cracking the mystery of self is radical self-honesty and it’s something you can learn. That’s why I hate this idea that people generally aren’t honest with themselves so they shouldn’t read tarot for themselves. It’s like saying, you know, most people aren’t very good at choosing a healthy diet or active lifestyle for themselves, so you should only ever eat and exercise under the guidance of someone else, but feel free to tell other people what diet and exercise is good for them because you can be more objective that way.
It’s not only possible to learn radical self-honesty, it’s an essential spiritual skill and undertaking. Ultimately, other people aren’t, no matter how intuitive they are, no matter what divinatory practices they use, aren’t going to be able to really get down to the core of who you are and what your growth and evolution is going to look like because only you can really get that insight into self. Like, I can read tarot cards for someone and give them clues, point them in a direction, but that’s not solving the mystery, that’s just giving clues, right?
We’re the only ones who can string those clues together, sift through our own experiences and beliefs and shadow aspects and all of that, and come up with what it all means, how it all fits together. Who we are, authentically. We’re really the only ones who can truly connect with our own deep selves.
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.