Empathetic Tarot

When I began working with tarot I learned to read intuitively. I studied the Rider-Waite deck, as so many modern interpretations use this system, but I also learned to use my intuitive abilities and inner-knowing to read. I would take the card and notice the images, seeking connections in memory and imagination to draw out the reading.

What has struck me recently is that alongside this way of reading I also read tarot empathetically.

I spent the first few years of writing this blog living with the cards. As I wrote each of the original card posts I found that it resonated in my lived experience, when I was working with the cups I was dealing with deep emotional work, with the swords major adjustments in thought patterns and shifts in ideology.

I don’t know whether the cards where influencing my focus in a subtle way, or whether I was facing these situations in any case and the cards resonated; I suspect it was a mystical symbiosis of the two.

In any case I discovered, as you may have also, that I could “feel” the cards. The ten of cups would bring a deep sigh of contentment and satifsfaction, with a bittersweet realisation that this bliss could and would not last forever; the devil would bring me back to a sense of my patterns and well-worn ruts, I could feel the stuckness, the cycle of repetition and the drowsy numbness it induced, safe but also frozen, deadening.

I am coming to realise that for me this is how I read. When I pull a card it is not just the image which captures my notice now, not just the idea of it; I feel it throughout my body, like a plucked string, vibrating. In a reading this means that I can “feel” something perhaps of what the querent is feeling; in a deeper way I can “see” the situation that they are inhabiting, and also the way they might take to get through and out.

Maybe this is true for all readers, but I have felt that this is something we don’t talk about when we speak of intuitive readings, not just our mental faculties, also the knowledge of our bodies and their wisdom. We are one species, and our species has shared the experiences of life we see depicted in the tarot, over millenia. It is a common language of feeling.

How can we deepen our working with this understanding of the cards?

In the Tea Break Tarot live class we are working with a card each week. The card becomes our companion as the week progresses, perhaps we keep it on our altar, or carry an image of it with us. We notice its energies at play in daily life; in the people we encounter, in daily routines and experiences. We know how it feels, for instance, like the Emperor, to take charge of a situation, to put plans in place, whether we are engaged in a creative project or planning a house move. We know how it feels to wait suspended like the Hanged One, relaxing into a situation over which we have no control, consciously choosing to surrender.

Connecting these lived and felt experiences to our readings brings them to life and, when we share readings with others, adds an extra layer to our understanding. We can never assume that we know what someone else is experiencing but using our empathetic abilities alongside our imagination enables us to read with compassion and humanity.

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