Tarot 101

Coming out of the tarot closet

When you look at Wicca or Witchcraft, a common phrase in the community is ‘coming out of the broom closet.’ This refers to when you finally own up that you’re actively practicing the religion or the Craft to your family and friends. Hello vulnerability.

For a lot of people, it can be an incredibly nerve-wracking experience, which is completely understandable. The old ways tend to attract a lot of mixed opinions. Some people will be curious. Others will tell you what you’re doing is ‘evil’ or ‘wrong’ and some may try and get you to convert to a more ‘appropriate’ path.

Stepping out of the tarot closet can also bring up similar feelings of vulnerability. After a while, it does become hard to hide a tarot practice (and this is usually because you’ll buy so many decks you won’t be able to hide them – I kid, but you get the idea). If you have a read of my free e-book on tarot (you can download here if you’d like), I talk about how I held a lot of conflicting feelings about my tarot practice growing up.

I grew up in a Catholic household and I was given my first deck by my mother. Because that gift came directly from my mother, I never had to really ‘come out’ to my family, per se. But I did have to come out to my friends and then, many years later, my fiancé. Because of my Catholic upbringing and due to a lack of positive resources on tarot, it took me a long time to get comfortable with this practice. Despite the fact that I was so drawn to the cards, I had years where I’d be immersed deep in study and then fretting for my immortal soul ‘cause I obviously didn’t want to go to that Catholic hell my religion teacher kept banging on about in secondary school.

Living in Ireland, I also found that there were a LOT of people out there who had strong feelings about tarot cards and, as a result of this, I found it easier to keep my practice to myself. I was lucky and, for the most part, the people who knew I was throwing tarot cards on the regular were pretty relaxed about it. But I was always worried what people’s reactions would be. Would they think I was stupid for believing in it? Would they start trying to ‘save’ my soul? It became a bit of a complex for me.

This complex is what made me hide my tarot reading ways from my now-fiancé for an embarrassingly long time. In fact, the poor guy didn’t even realise I was so into tarot reading until we moved in together and suddenly there were decks everywhere (that’s a story for another time).

But long story short, what I’m trying to say is that I get how coming out of the tarot closet is hard for people. I totally get it. And I totally get it when people feel torn over the practice. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, tarot speaks to a part of us that is much older than just this life and because of this, that connection is going to pull us to the cards over and over again. However, if you’ve been brought up with a particular ideology that goes against tarot, then it’s understandable if you’re feeling conflicted.

My advice to you if you’re struggling is to trust in where you’re being guided. We live in a universe where we’re constantly being shown the way forward and if your version of god/source/the divine is guiding you towards tarot then absolutely trust that.

If you feel you want to have a formal ‘coming out’ of the tarot closet then here are a few tips.

1. Ask yourself if it’s safe: What I mean by this is that you put your personal safety first. Not all people will agree with your views on tarot. Thanks to crappy stereotyping in the media, a lot of people believe that tarot is evil or a tool of the devil. Is this likely to put your personal safety at risk? Do you come from a religious background where tarot is a huge no-no? Just consider these things first.

2. Ask yourself if you’re ready to do this: You should never feel under pressure to tell people about your practice. Your practice is private and no one has the right to force you into revealing anything about yourself. So do a little check and try to examine if you’re ready to do this and why you want to do this. For me, I was just tired of hiding it and I felt that by letting people know about it, I would become more comfortable in my practice. But everyone has different reasons and whys.

3. Aim to educate people: The more we speak about tarot as a tool for positive growth and personal empowerment, the more we normalise the practice. When you open up about your practice, start with the good stuff and show people that there’s so much more to tarot that what they may have seen on TV. Print off some articles that they can read. Offer to talk them through the deck or you might even like to let them draw their own card. Education is essential and the more you can talk about it and answer questions, the more you’re helping to make this normal.

4. Understand that it’s nothing to do with you: When you’re an out and proud tarot reader you will encounter people who feel that they absolutely have to give you their opinion, even when you don’t ask for it. They’ll likely tell you that what you’re doing is wrong, evil and that you’ve secured yourself a one-way ticket to hell, or similar. When these situations arise, it’s so important to know that a lot of the time it has got nothing to do with you. This is just people projecting their own fears on top of you. You become the target because they’re scared. As long as what you’re doing works for and is serving you, then please don’t let these voices get to you. Trust yourself. You are the only one who knows the path that’s right for you. Don’t allow someone else’s fear to make you question yourself.  

My tarot rules

When you’re getting started in the world of tarot it can be an overwhelming time. There’s so much to learn and it can be hard to keep your head above water.

I’ve been asked a lot by people who are new to the cards if I have any advice or tips I can give them. While I think you’re always your own best guru or expert, I do have some ‘rules’ (for lack of a better word) that I think are helpful to those taking their first steps.

(Shameless plug: If you’re just getting started in tarot, make sure you check out my free e-book which contains everything you need to help you as you begin your journey).

1. Empowerment above all else: I’m pretty particular about this one. For me, the entire purpose of tarot is to empower your sitter to go out there and absolutely kick ass in their own life. When someone leaves me after a reading, I want them to be full of how amazing they actually are, how boundless their potential is and to understand that when it comes to their life, they are 100 per cent in charge of what happens. Over the years I have seen and heard readers who encourage their clients to continually come back to them. They make them dependent on the cards and this is so not healthy. What do I want? I want you to come for a reading and be so pumped up afterwards that you stop self-sabotaging and you go after those amazing dreams. I’m all about that. I don’t want you to hand over your power. I am just the messenger that tells you what you (usually!) already know and offers you a bit of clarity, you’re the one that makes these incredible things happen in your life.

2. Ignore what you’ve seen in popular media: The stereotype of the old witch in the back of a dark, dingy shop is so outdated. And the interpretations of the cards used in popular media give me a pain in the face. The death card does not mean you’re going to die. Yes, you can purchase decks that have a ‘Happy Squirrel’ card if you want to. And there’s only one death card in every deck (not four or five). Honestly, it’s just best to ignore whatever you’ve seen in films or on TV. Most of the time it’s just not accurate and all it seems to do is make people afraid or uncomfortable.

3. Your comfort should come first: Boundaries are essential as a tarot reader. What this means is that you put your own comfort first on all levels. You don’t have to read for every single person that crosses your path and demands a reading. You are free to say no. Reading expends a lot of time and energy, so you’re allowed to say no. A lot of new readers are excited and eager to practice, and that’s great. But sometimes, people can take advantage of this. So it’s okay to protect your energy and say no if you need to. It’s also okay to refuse to read for someone who makes you uncomfortable in any way, shape or form. And, speaking of comfort, this goes for your physical comfort too. You will give better readings if you’re comfortable. So it’s okay to ask for what you need in order to be comfortable e.g. you can ask for a table and chair, you can ask people to give you 15 minutes before a reading to get into the right headspace etc. Know what you need to be comfortable and then set up firm boundaries around these things and don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.

4. Intuition trumps set interpretations: I’m not slating the set interpretations of the cards, but I do firmly adhere to the rule that intuition will always trump whatever set interpretation a card has. For example, if you’re doing a reading and you see the High Priestess and you’re getting that niggle that maybe the standard meaning isn’t applicable here and your intuition is suggesting something that, to your logical tarot mind seems a bit crazy, I would make it a rule to always run with that crazy intuition-inspired interpretation. Yes, it can be scary to throw something a bit risky or crazy out there, but honestly? In my experience, most of the time the intuitive interpretation fits way better than the standardised one. Experiment with this technique and if you’re not an intuitive reader at the end of your trial, I’ll buy a hat and eat it.

5. Trust yourself: You know what’s right for you. You know what learning resources will help you the most. You know your deck best. You are your own guru. What this means is that it’s okay to trust yourself. The relationship that we have with the tarot is almost primordial. It speaks to the part of us that is continually in conversation with the divine whether we’re aware of it or not. Therefore, you already know what to do and what’s best for you and your path. There’s a lot of noise out there about tarot courses and certification lately, but trust what your gut tells you about these things. If someone is telling you that the only way you’ll learn is to shill out for a class, but your gut is saying otherwise, then trust your gut. Your intuition will become your best friend the more you read tarot so it’s best to start developing that gut instinct as soon as you can. There’s no book that say you absolutely have to learn tarot the same way as everybody else. Trust your instincts. The path will unfold exactly as it is meant to for you.