Ethics in tarot is a hotly debated topic among professionals. What feels right for one reader may not feel right for another. One area of ethics that especially seems to get people riled up is the use of tarot for readings on health, both physical and mental health.
First let me make the disclaimer: I would not use tarot to try to diagnose an illness or to try to treat someone who was not already seeing a qualified health care provider. I think it is extremely unprofessional, unscrupulous, and dangerous for a tarot reader to pretend in such a way to be an authority on such matters. That said, I do find value in using tarot as a tool to help achieve holistic wellness, alongside conventional healing and medicine, and I have used tarot in such a way for myself to great success.
What do I mean by holistic wellness? Simply this: health of not just the physical body, but also the mental, emotional, and spiritual “selves”. Too often in Western medicine the emphasis is on the health of the physical body alone. Much effort is put into treating physical symptoms of illness and disease. Tarot is an excellent tool for working towards health of the unseen and often ignored parts of a person, which all add up to the health of an individual as a whole.
I have recent experience of using tarot in such a way for my self. Last August, I became extremely ill with what I thought then was the worst flu of my life. I had been camping most of the summer in a tent in the woods by my favorite lake – hiking, kayaking, and generally enjoying life in my ‘happy place’.
It started with swollen lymph nodes, the worst sore throat I had ever had, complete laryngitis, aches, chills, a mild fever… I was miserable and confined to bed, unable to enjoy what up until then had been the best summer of my life. I saw a doctor after a week of being seriously ill, who told me that it was a virus, and that it would go away with time. Well, it didn’t. After six weeks my symptoms had changed – I was no longer bedridden every day, but I was having respiratory trouble and was put on asthma inhalers.
By the tenth week, I was still feeling weak, achey, and generally unwell, but more alarmingly I was having cognitive issues. Normally a life-long avid reader, I found I was unable to concentrate on text on a page, and would sometimes read the same paragraph three or four times still without understanding what was being said. I felt confused and stupid, and in constant pain in my joints. I was having strange sensations like I was being pricked by pins, and would often break out into clothes-drenching sweats for no apparent reason. That was when a friend suggested I look into Lyme disease.
The Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation lists 73 possible symptoms of Lyme disease. I had more than 50, including symptoms I would never have thought could be related. But since Lyme is such a pervasive disease, it can affect any and all parts of a person’s body. The bacteria that causes Lyme are able to burrow into any tissue, wreaking havoc along the way.
Luckily, my NP (Nurse Practitioner) was Lyme-literate, and even though I had never experienced the “bull’s eye” rash (many people never do), she recognized the symptoms and got me on a three week course of antibiotics right away.
I believe that to truly heal from disease, one needs to take an active role in healing. I knew that to heal from Lyme I was going to need to do more than just take the antibiotics. So that was when I turned to tarot.
In my view, disease and illness often come to us with lessons to learn, so one of the first questions I asked my cards after my diagnosis was “What is this disease here to teach me?” I drew the 5 of swords, 7 of cups, and Death from the Wild Unknown tarot: the disease was here to cut me into pieces, render me powerless until I could discern what was real and what was illusion, and bring about a huge transformational shift in my life. Alrighty then. A doozy.
Another question I asked was, “What is the potential I can reach after going through this illness?”. I drew the Hanged Man, the 2 of Cups, and the High Priestess, again from the Wild Unknown tarot : by learning how to surrender to what is and by going within, I would be able to better connect with others, and would strengthen my powers of intuition and healing.
As I worked through recovery (and it was hard – the antibiotic therapy causes a massive die-off of the bacteria, leading to a build up of toxins in the system which left me feeling like hell), I pulled three cards almost daily to ask myself what I could do that day to facilitate healing of my body, my mind, and my spirit. This helped me to focus my precious energy on doing things for myself that would help me without wasting it on things that would not… my energy was in short supply and I wanted to make sure I was effectively using it.
I would ask: “What does my body need right now?” – The Ace of Cups told me I needed to drink more water, for example. “What does my mind need to heal right now?” – The Four of Swords told me it was okay to take a rest from mental activity, to be gentle with myself. “What does my spirit need to heal right now?” – The Three of Cups told me I needed to spend time laughing and having fun with friends.
I’ve since nearly fully recovered, aside from the odd bout of arthritis pain, but I still continue to ask myself often : “What does my body/mind/spirit need today?”. Today, for instance, when I asked what my body needed, I drew the Sun card, and knew I needed to get out for a long walk and perhaps spend some time with my sun therapy lamp.
Tarot can be such a powerful tool for holistic healing and wellness, and I was so grateful to have the skills to use it through my own illness. I feel it helped me heal, and it continues to help me stay connected to my body, mind, and spirit. Tarot reading is a skill that I feel anyone can learn – please consider using it in your own wellness journey.