Have you ever gotten a card that stuck with you long after your reading, and not necessarily in a good way? Most of us do at one point or another. How do you respond when you turn up a card that leaves you feeling anxious?
It’s helpful in that situation to bear in mind one of the most basic functions of Tarot: The cards act like a compass and point in the best direction for going forward. Without the cards that show difficulties and conflicts Tarot would be less powerful, unable to offer much more than a metaphysical “Have a nice day”. Challenging energies are described in the cards in order to help us thread our way through them when they occur around us. Think of these messages as advice from a good friend who always tells you the truth, no matter what.
What cards are we talking about? Remember that Tarot speaks in archetypes, so there are certain cards that speak to fears residing in the collective human subconscious. Helplessness and loss of control are at the root of many of these, such as Death and The Tower. The Devil can touch on things people don’t really want to talk about. Some people perceive The Moon as a call to madness. Not all of the cards that speak to our fears are major arcana however; many of the swords and the fives of all four suits frequently elicit strong emotional responses.
People will surprise you, though. One person’s bliss can be another’s disquiet. In the following game people list one or two cards that make them wince when they appear in a reading for themselves. One man recently indicated The Sun, which typically represents a state of grace, as his most dreaded card; to him, it represented excessive expectations from other people. This is a good example of how universal archetypes have the potential to express in different ways within the personality.
The object of the game is to illustrate the way people have certain doubts in common, which isn’t as negative as it sounds. To acknowledge that our fears are shared opens the door to the idea that we aren’t alone with them, and to the knowledge that these feelings are simply part of the human condition rather than a flaw buried within the personality. The ultimate goal of the game is to provoke discussion about constructive ways to respond when you feel uneasy about a card in a reading, including the consideration of different interpretations. Play this game with lots of people, or just a few.
THE “WHAT CARDS MAKE YOU NERVOUS?” GAME:
Each player gets two blank slips of paper. On each slip, write down the name of a card that generally causes you to have a negative emotional reaction when you get it in a reading. Put your slips into a basket with everyone else’s.
Pass the basket around, with each player removing one slip at random. Tell the group what the card on your slip is, and talk about your own reaction to it. Your feelings aren’t necessarily the same as those of the person who wrote the slip in the first place. In fact, the card might not represent anything negative to you at all. Or maybe it does, but in either case your perspective is valuable because it offers the other person connection, and new ways of thinking about the card. After you’ve given your take on the card, ask the originator if they’d like to add anything.
Typically, certain cards will repeat as the basket is passed around. As this happens, keep talking if anyone has more to say. Continue until all of the slips have been pulled, keeping a tally so you can see what kinds of issues people have most in common at the end. Sometimes the cards that don’t show up are as telling as the ones that do. For instance, if no one in your group is fearful of The Hanged One it’s likely you’re among people with a high degree of spiritual awareness.
Here are a few thoughts to help spark discussion:
Describe your immediate EMOTIONAL reaction to the cards. Try not to over-think.
Blurt out any clichés that come to mind when you look at a card. Don’t worry about being right, that doesn’t matter in this exercise. If you use a metaphor that’s off the mark, emotional reaction makes that clear and offers as much information as one that hits home.
Offer examples of positive interpretations when you can.
Give an example of a time the card has impacted you personally, if you have one.
Talk about techniques you use to deal with anxiety in general. Do you deal with Tarot in the same way, or differently?
Have you ever felt like you didn’t understand what the cards were saying? What do you do when the cards just don’t seem to be speaking to you?
Were you surprised by any of the cards that were selected in your game?