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 September 16, 2021, and today's episode is the seventh in a seven episode series on using tarot for self growth. Today we're discussing how to choose spreads to get the answers you really need, tips for getting clarity in the messages, and how to make friends with every card in the deck. Are you ready to grow your soul?
Welcome to the final episode in the series on tarot for self growth! Mabon is around the corner, Autumn is nearly half over, and then before we know it we’ll be celebrating Samhain, my birthday, the one year anniversary of the Waxing Soul, and the launch of my upcoming book! I just sent the manuscript back to my editor for another round of edits, and I’m really really pleased with how it’s shaping up. I’ll be sharing more from the book in the coming week all over my social media presence, including my new TikTok. It’s all very exciting.
So today what I have in store is a practical dive into using tarot for self growth. We’ve talked through the mechanism, the theory, the approach in pretty good detail, but let’s finally get to the actual act of reading.
Now, there are lots of different ways to do readings, ways to use the cards, all of that, and I’ve mentioned some over the past six episodes, everything from dealing one card a day and using it as a challenge to doing full Celtic Cross spreads. And I want to talk through this, to break this down by starting with the question you want answered or the information you want to get and how to use the cards to do that.
So I feel like the most basic question to ask for self growth is, “What do I need to know?” Basically letting the cards direct your attention and your efforts. If I could only teach one way to approach readings for self growth, this would be the question I’d teach because it takes you out of that thing of trying to shape your growth, shape your evolution for the result you want.
This is huge because one thing we tend to be super goal-oriented, tunnel vision, not working things into our self growth mechanisms that should be there like rest or fun or even embracing challenges. So instead of deciding on a way that you want to be and then working hard towards that, you can use tarot to direct you and keep you from turning self growth into a project.
So, the practical side of this… I highly recommend single card draws especially for people learning tarot or who want to do this stuff on a daily basis. You don’t want to do a huge 10-card spread every single day for yourself unless you know you can handle that kind of influx of information and sometimes extraneous detail. You can get really distracted in all the bits and moving pieces as things shift around in your life that way. So if you’re looking for a daily practice out of this, go simple.
For a one card reading, I would draw a card to answer the question, “What should I focus on today?” Don’t just ask what you need to know, the fewer the cards, the more specific the question needs to be. “What should I focus on today?”
Now, when it comes to interpreting what comes up, keep in mind that this is for you. It’s about you. Your self growth is not ever going to be focused on someone else. It could be your reactions to someone else and what they do, but the cards here are about you. So if you draw a card that could be a person, it’s you. If it’s about a trait or a behavior, it’s yours. If it’s something that might happen, it’s happening to or for you.
And part of the benefit of doing this kind of reading and asking that particular question is that for some of us that’s the shift we need to make for self growth. Not the day to day stuff necessarily, like it’s not that every day you draw a card and put your spiritual focus on whatever comes up teaches you some super vital lesson in itself, but getting into the mindset where you realize that self growth means being open to self-examination, open to seeing your strengths and weaknesses in different contexts, being open to needing to go about each day with a different focus, that sort of thing – that’s growth.
I’m also a big fan of three-card draws because I think they lend themselves well to creating a narrative, painting a picture, but without getting too bogged down in details. And the secret to a great three card reading is, first, picking the right spread. The right bits of information. And in this case I kind of like these three questions: What do I need to know? Why do I need to know it? What should I do about it? So it doesn’t just answer the question, it gives you some context. And the important things to remember with this are, first, that these cards will all relate to each other. It’s a whole picture, not three separate pictures. And then second, that the last card, the what should I do about it, can and probably will often give you an answer of… nothing. Or, well, not nothing, but not DOING anything. Not an action. What should I do about it? Maybe think on it. Maybe just learn a lesson from it.
Definitely keep in mind that that question is not about trying to fix or change it. Because this is about what you need to know to grow, not what you need to do to grow, necessarily. And maybe it’s just acceptance. Maybe it’s acknowledging it.
I’d say if you get cards that kind of all point to the same thing, it can very well be something like, “You need to learn this thing, because you need to learn this thing, and so you should learn the thing.”
Sometimes it’s that simple.
Not always, sometimes you’ll get, “You need to learn this thing, because it stands in the way of getting through this situation, and so you need to put energy into this activity.” Just keep a very open mind about what it’s telling you.
And the point about it being for you and about you still stands, but it can… Maybe the what you should do about it thing could refer to someone else that you need to consider, partner with, something like that, and sometimes the why could refer to a relationship. But definitely that first card is going to be about you only. The action isn’t ever going to be something someone else needs to do. It’s always what you need to do.
And then finally if you want to do a more in-depth reading, I always fall back on the Celtic Cross but in this case I would interpret it not as predictive but go into it with the intention of getting a plan laid out from it. All the contextual stuff is going to be the important stuff from your past to deal with, the important stuff to look for going forward, important relationships, reactions, motivations, that kind of thing. Stuff to dig into rather than stuff which is going to happen.
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 mechanism of personal evolution, the difference between aspiration and evolution, and how tarot can be used to guide your own evolutionary path. And come back next week when I will interview Laura Greenwood, the leader of a local initiatory coven as well as a hobby biologist, about her exploratory approach to spirituality and why we are sometimes too afraid to follow our spiritual curiosity!
The best approach to using tarot to guide self growth may be for getting the most important information, to guide your focus, but self growth does necessitate action. We can’t just think about ourselves or whatever, we actually have to do something. Try new things, adopt different habits, get different experiences, that kind of thing.
And I know I’ve mentioned using a one card daily draw as something like a challenge more than a reading. And that makes the interpretation of the cards really open to all kinds of variation because it’s not about just learning one lesson, solving a problem, something like that. It’s about spreading your wings, focusing on things you wouldn’t normally focus on, and I think it’s best in that case to really clear your head of this idea that the card is going be specific or to teach you something particular. In fact, I think part of the benefit of doing this kind of one card draw comes from contemplating how you could explore a card’s meaning in your life, in real action.
And if you’ve never done something like this, it requires some creativity and it also requires being willing to push outside your comfort zone. So, let’s say you draw a card and it’s… Let’s say four of cups. So maybe you challenge yourself to think of the most boring thing you can and spend a certain amount of time doing that thing. Or maybe write down in a journal a story of the time you’ve felt most like your life was stagnant, that you got sick of the same thing day after day and what you did about it. Or maybe the challenge is that you reach out to someone you know who might be at this phase in their life and offer to do something fun with them. It could be anything, but the point is to really explore all sides of the meaning of the card and kind of push your experience in that direction with the intention of learning something about yourself in the process.
Don’t forget that that is the point. To learn about yourself, to spread your wings a bit.
It’s like those… I always think about those challenges that I’ve seen people do about, like, learning to overcome fear of rejection by making it a goal to get told no at least once a day. That kind of thing. And remember that the tarot deck contains representations and keys to all of human experience, so going through the deck this way really opens you up to a wider set of experiences and deeper understanding of who you are.
Of course, you can use a larger spread to encourage you to get into action, but it’ll look a bit different. It’s sort of part challenge, part reading, part… part mystery? So here’s the three cards in the reading I recommend: The first one is The Challenge, the second is The Obstacle, and the third is The Lesson. The first one is a lot like the one card draw, it points to something to immerse yourself in, push against, experience, dig into, whatever. The second one then points kind of to the reason you need to do that thing. It’s whatever is making it difficult for you. So in this case, the challenge is probably going to be something related to a particular thing you need to overcome or get through or whatever, so that second card is the mindset or situational piece which is the biggest anchor keeping you from moving ahead. And then don’t turn over the third one. If you’re going to do this for whatever… This is something you need to go experience, conquer, whatever, so look at the first two cards, go off and do your challenge, face down your obstacle, and whenever you’re done with that, whenever you feel like you’ve taken up the challenge and come out the other side wiser or whenever you… You could set a time limit and at the end of that period of exploration, whatever. At the end of that, you look at the lesson card and reflect on if you already picked up on that lesson or if it’s something you need to think about more. To continue to process it. Put things in context.
Now, if you want to do a bigger spread on something like this, I definitely want to suggest that the more cards involved, the longer you spend focusing on whatever action needs to be taken. Like, seriously, I feel like I can’t say enough times that there’s no benefit from doing a full on 12 card spread on yourself every day. That’s… That’s counterproductive. That’s not self growth, that’s… excessive. So if you want to do something more complex like a Celtic Cross, you’re going to want to go into it with the intention of getting a full transformational plan out of it. Like a blueprint. Here’s stuff from your past to deal with, here’s your current state and the actions you’re taking right now to think about, here’s some info about what to focus your work on when it comes to your self image, your relationships, all of that. It’s… It’s like, I don’t want to say a diagnosis, but it’s like, here’s a bunch of stuff that relates to each other in your life, and if you kind of focus on taking action on, challenging yourself on all these areas of your existence which link together, then the final card is the, like, here’s the big focus that ties it all together. Here’s the reason all this stuff is relevant. Where it’s usually a “this is where you’re headed,” in this case it’s like “this is the conclusion of all this, the goalpost.” It’s not where you’re headed as far as what’s going to happen, what life is going to be like, it’s more like, here’s the understanding, the big lesson you can get to down the road.
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Last one! The last way to put the cards to work for self growth is to use it as something of a barometer. I think about it kind of like a gauge on your car’s dashboard. Could be a warning light, could be like a speedometer or odometer, but in this case it’s basically assessing and helping you shift things so they’re more in balance with the goal of thriving. So you want to go into these readings with the intention of being guided towards a state of being where you thrive more. But this isn’t about, like, what’s wrong with my life, what do I need to fix, how can I be better. Those kinds of questions are unhelpful, really.
So for a single card reading, this is… Okay, I’m actually going to back up here a bit because I want to reiterate here that you can literally make up your own ways to read tarot cards. There aren’t rules, here. Seriously. Just because you don’t know anyone who uses cards a certain way doesn’t mean it’s not done or that you can’t start something new.
So, for instance, there’s sort of an agreed upon, commonly understood way of interpreting upright and reversed cards, right? But that’s not the only way to interpret them or use them, and it all goes back to your intention, what’s in your mind when you do a reading.
So, for instance, you could do a single draw where if it’s upright it means seek out more of that in your life. Embody it more, seek it out, think about it more, focus on it more, put more spiritual energy into it, whatever. And if it’s reversed it means less of that. For the day, week, whatever. Not permanently, just, like, for whatever time you intend. Because there are absolutely people and circumstances where in one case someone could do more of something and benefit and someone else could do less of something and equally benefit – this gets into the mindset of nothing being inherently bad or good.
And this works really well as a three card spread. You can do cards that are More of This, Be Grateful for This, Less of This. I think of this kind of like a three card yes or no reading, which if you’ve not heard of this, basically you ask a yes or no question, three cards, if most are upright it’s yes and if more are reversed it’s no. But more than that, if you then look at the cards themselves it kind of explains why it’s no or why it’s yes, how definitive it is. And this is kind of the same way in that there’s each card alone that gives a meaning, but then if you look at all the cards together it can kind of paint a more detailed picture, fill in the blanks a bit, get more clarity on the whole thing. An overall assessment of where you’re at.
When it comes to a bigger spread, honestly I don’t think this is the best kind of thing to do a bigger spread for although you do get some of this in more detailed readings. Some of it is going to touch on those shifts you need to make. If you do a whole reading with this kind of focus, it’s really really like getting a fully physical at the doctor or whatever with recommendations… It’s a lot of info and it’s going to shift day to day and so maybe it would be good for a once a year thing but not frequently, you know.
But I do think that it’s a good thing for this purpose, for just the checking in on how you’re doing, how in or out of balance your life is, what kind of things you’re ignoring and avoiding and what kind of things you could lay off of a little, it’s a good approach to take a look at the whole deck and come up with a bit different system of interpretation.
For instance, I like to assign the suits to areas of self care and associate them with activities. Like pentacles is caring for the body, cups is caring for your emotional state, swords is mental health, wands is doing practical, like, adulting stuff. Maybe the face cards are your support system, your friends and family and other interpersonal relationships to lean on when they come up. That kind of thing. And this especially works well with the types of readings I’m seeing more and more tips about where you look in the deck and find a specific card – maybe go back to the episode on finding yourself in the deck – and then look at the cards before and after that card. That sort of thing.
The bottom line in all of this, though, is that you’re getting the information necessary to guide your self growth actions. Your inner work, your aspirational work, the shifts you need to make, the things you need to learn or practice… It’s all about giving you direction and focus and being a guide.
And it’s really really important to remember that there isn’t one final goal you’re trying to get to. It’s not about becoming the perfect version of yourself, it’s just about thriving more every day.
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.