I was gifted my first-ever tarot deck this year, along with an accompanying guidebook — a set titled Our Tarot, by Sarah Shipmen. It's a beautiful deck, featuring women who changed the course of history, including Joan of Arc, Emily Dickinson, and Harriet Tubman. But I admit, I was intimidated. Getting into tarot is more involved than, say, downloading a horoscope app. I had no idea how to use the deck. But I always enjoyed the tarot pulls that pop up on my TikTok feed, so I pledged to figure it out.
I started with Google ("what do I do with a tarot deck?"). I learned that tarot is a form of divination. The cards are less about predicting the future than about providing guidance around how to best cope with things that crop up day to day. (The Death card, for instance, doesn't mean you or someone in your life will die; just that you're coping with some kind of ending or change.)
Sarah Potter, a tarot reader, professional witch, and color magic practitioner based in New York City, suggested thinking of the practice as a form of self-care. "It's just something to reflect on and guide you and give you more meaning," she tells me. "Whatever the card is, there's a lesson — there's something to think about, and there's a myriad of ways it can apply, whether it's to something small or something major."
As someone who's felt a bit directionless since the pandemic began and all my usual routines were upended, I was drawn to the idea of starting the day with some sort of guidance. So I pledged to pull one card a day for five days, use the card to set an intention for the day, and record my experiences so I could look back and see how it was helping. Here's how it went.
Pull #1: XI. Justice, Ida B. Wells
"What an amazing first pull!" Potter exclaimed after I texted her a photo of my first card. (I was recruiting her help in order to make sure I was interpreting the cards correctly.) Justice is what's known as the Major Arcana card of Libra season, meaning it's the major theme of that month. Since I pulled this card during Libra season, Potter said it indicated that I was in tune with the zodiac's energy, a good sign.
Justice is all about truth and accountability, which prompted Potter to ask if I had any big decisions to make. Not really. In fact, I've felt stuck in the mud all year, because the one big decision I'd been hoping to make pre-COVID — moving out of my parents' house — is on an indefinite hold. As a result, each day I feel like I'm just waiting for my life to really begin.Though the delay in moving out feels mostly out of my control, Potter's interpretation of this card reminded me that there are plenty of areas in my life where I can take action right now.
My intention: To hold myself accountable, and to stand by my choices, no matter how small. I felt motivated; I haven't plowed through my to-do list as efficiently in weeks. I also loved that Ida B. Wells was the imagine on the cards. She was an investigative journalist, an educator, and an early leader in the civil rights movement — a great energy to bring with me into day one.
Pull #2: VII. The Chariot, Harriet Tubman
"The Chariot is another Major Arcana card, this makes two in a row for you!" Potter said. I was on a roll. "The Chariot brings a swift energy of success and ambition. This is your green light to go for it, especially when it comes to your dreams around professional ambitions," she continued. Potter also told me that the Chariot can bring with it a sense that things are speeding along too quickly, but I could counter that energy by leaning into my confidence in my abilities.
My intention: Remember, I got this. My career is incredibly important to me, but sometimes the dark side of feeling passionate about work is pervasive insecurity — I want to do well so badly, and I'm afraid that I'm missing the mark. But does anything sap motivation like uncertainty? Focusing on reminding myself how talented I was encouraged me to set aside some extra time to hone some pitches I planned on bringing to a Friday brainstorming session — and it turned out great. Thanks, Chariot.
Pull #3: Keeper of Wands, Cleopatra
The King of Wands indicates both creativity and the drive to make a vision come alive, Potter tells me. She also says there's a community aspect: "Bring in others to help make your vision a reality."
My intention: Do something about my dreams. Talk about a much-needed message. Like I said, I've felt super-passive during the pandemic, when so much is out of my control. But here was a card pushing me to take action — even if that just meant asking a friend for help finding the perfect word for an article or to critique an idea I had. I don't usually struggle asking for help, but it was nice to have a reminder that leaning on others can help propel me closer to my goals.
Pull #4: III. The Empress, Nefertari
"The Empress has nurturing energy. Take care of yourself today," Potter tells me. It's all about face masks and bubble baths, she says, adding, "This card comes up when we are bringing something to fruition and based on your cards this week, you're being called to be creative and make your dreams a reality."
My intention: Indulge in self-care. Potter wasn't wrong; it had been a busy week. So after signing off of work, I decided to pamper myself for the rest of the night. I painted my nails, watched a movie on Netflix, used a face mask, started a new book, ate ice cream — the whole nine yards. I've had trouble dealing with my stress in a productive way throughout the pandemic (usually I just... sleep it off) and I'd forgotten how important it is to set aside time for myself. I loved that the tarot pull gave me an excuse.
Pull #5: Six of Pentacles, Ada Lovelace
The week was ending on a generous note. According to Potter, the Six of Pentacles is all about giving back — and accepting with an open heart.
My intention: Give generously and accept graciously. I did what I could to help others during the work day. I spread out a comfy blanket for my dog so he could lay on the couch. I listened patiently to my boyfriend while he vented about his classes and work, without interrupting with my own problems. This pull put yesterday's self-care card in a new perspective: I could give back, because I'd filled my own cup first.
I never pegged myself as a tarot person, but the pandemic has given me new appreciation of anything that adds structure to my days, whether that's a tea leaf reading or a hypnosis session. I liked the routine of waking up, pulling a card, parsing through Potter's analysis, trying to find my own spin. In that way, the tarot pulls did feel similar to reading a daily horoscope: I got a general sense of what areas might be problematic for me and what strengths I could lean into.
I don't see myself doing this every day; it requires a little too much thinking a little too early in the morning, if I'm being honest. But I definitely plan on reaching for the deck when things get hectic and I need to re-center myself. Sometimes, you need a little outside clarity.