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Tarot in Times of Illness and Healing
I sometimes liken the tarot to a good friend - it offers reflection, hope, encouragement, and insight, and it helps us to know ourselves better. The tarot is there whenever we feel the need to draw a card for inspiration, delve into a question, or examine a situation in our lives. It helps us, whether for something short-term, or something that extends far into the future. And it can help us in all aspects of our lives, from the most mundane to the highest spiritual aspiration.
When we are facing illness - ours or that of someone we love - it is tempting to turn to the tarot to find out as much as we can. We often feel desperate at such times, and it is hard to resist the idea that the tarot can show us an outcome, reinforce a positive medical prognosis, or simply let us know everything will be okay. When my husband was hospitalized several years ago, I avoided using the tarot, because I knew that just the opposite was possible and perhaps even more likely: rather than be reassured, I might find myself more frightened and uncertain, depending on what cards came up for me. In a highly charged emotional state, it is easy to misinterpret the tarot, and easy to see negatives where none may be given. It is no good living from a place of fear. Whether we need to be strong for our own healing or someone else's, it is important that we do not burden ourselves with unnecessary questions, doubts, or uncertainties.
However, the tarot does have its place during times of illness and healing. There are many positive elements to the tarot that can be emphasized during meditation, visualization, ritual, and magic. It is easy to include tarot imagery in meditation, use it as a launch pad in visualization, include cards in ritual, and use it to call upon specific forces in magic.
Meditating on a card can be especially useful if you are feeling anxious or scattered. It can be very grounding, and can help bring a sense of peace. When meditating on a card, choose one that represents the energy you need. One choice might be Temperance - it suggests balance and calm. The Empress might even work well, in giving you a sense of comfort, or health. Create a quiet space for your meditation, center your card in front of you, breathe deeply a few times, and gently focus on the image. This isn't an exercise to learn all there is to know about the card, so don't concentrate so much on details or symbols as on the feelings that arise from connecting with the card. You should feel the energy of the card becoming your own. The grace of Temperance will be your own; the nurturing female energy of the Empress will nurture you or help you nurture others.
Visualizing with a card is a little different than meditating on one, but there are close similarities. In visualization, you will more actively identify with the card, visualizing changes based upon the card's meaning, symbolism, or energy. The Star is a great choice to use for visualizing, because it can represent good health, positive energy, and hope. The Six of Wands is a surprisingly good card as well, as it points to triumph and joyful success. As when meditating on a card, start with a quiet space. Once you feel you have made a connection with the card's energy, begin to imagine yourself either acting with the energy of the card, or in a way the card may direct. If you have chosen the Six of Wands for example, you can begin to visualize how you will triumph through your situation. You may not need to visualize yourself sitting atop a horse, returning triumphantly!, but it may be appropriate to visualize yourself returning to work in full health, surrounded by your friends and colleagues. Be sure to keep your visualization positive, and do not dwell upon it long.
Add a little bit of prop to your visualizing, and perform a ritual. Place your card in a nice holder, surround it with flowers, herbs, feathers, or other natural items, and light a candle and some incense. Take it further by raising energy - drumming in a circle, dancing in place, stepping mindfully, and your ritual becomes more magical. Contemplative words, spoken or silent, will also add to the power of these practices. If you are using a deck that includes goddess images (or other deities, spirits, etc.), you can call on specific spiritual entities.
I am sure you already have long-established practices in which you can simply insert tarot for these uses. These are just a few basic starting points. The point is, use the tarot's positive energies to create positive energy in your own life.
If you feel you must do a reading about an illness, keep some things in mind. Avoid asking about an outcome or the future. Any answer you receive may be hard to understand, if you are terribly worried. Remember that the cards often point to very immediate aspects of a situation - what is happening right now - and things are constantly changing. You can remove the Death card before beginning, if the thought of drawing it is too unsettling. You can also avoid the challenge of understanding reversals and use only upright cards. Write down your reading, but think before sharing it with others. It might help you to examine this situation through the tarot, but it might make others uneasy to think in these terms. I would also recommend keeping it rather simple and short. Don't delve too deeply into it, or spend too much time focused on it. A basic three card reading might include the following, in a way to help you understand your situation and be proactive - 1.) Key emotional issues as foundation of illness -
what might lie at the center of this illness? This might also indicate how you can change your emotional approach to the illness. 2.) Where to find strength - whether internally or externally - what can you draw upon for strength? 3.) What or who is helping? Be open to answers that indicate unseen influences. A one-card reading might also be helpful, and offer just enough insight. Also, consider using a deck that has a particularly positive energy, or one that uses affirmative messages.
An important reminder is that there is no substitution for medical care. Never rely upon the tarot to diagnose, never share a reading's advice as if it were medical advice, and please, never believe that something very bad is going to happen, because of how tarot cards fall in a reading.
Allow the tarot to act as a good friend - a friend who has the wisdom to know your boundaries and only offer what is going to help you during challenging times such as this.
Originally published in The Beltane Papers
All writing and photography © N Levine - Illumination Tarot, unless otherwise noted. 1999-2021