Fool’s Journey: Eight Tarot Cards That Want You to Care for Yourself

Header by Rory Midhani

Header by Rory Midhani

Lately in my personal readings, I keep turning up tarot cards which tell me to focus on myself, to look after myself, to nourish or treat myself. It’s thrown me, really, as I’m used to personal readings which focus on projects, ideas and making things happen. It really got me thinking about how self-care is often the very last thing we think about when we’re reading our cards, as so often we’re focused on bigger goals.

But if we want to build lives we love, or have healthier relationships, or create careers that really give us what we need, or whatever… we have to start right at the beginning with number one. That’s you! And me!

Here are a few tarot cards which can be interpreted in terms of self-love, self-care and attending to your basic needs.

Four of Pentacles

Cards from The Fountain Tarot, The Collective Tarot and The Wild Unknown Tarot

Often seen as a miserly or selfish card, the Four of Pentacles also shows us how being reserved with our resources can be an act of self-care. I often find it comes up to indicate someone who is spending all their time, energy or money looking after others, and neglecting their own needs, and reminds us that it’s a sustainable and loving thing to put ourselves first sometimes.

If you see this card, think about the energy you have as a finite resource. It feels great to buy everyone a drink…provided you have already paid your rent and got some food in the fridge. It’s wonderful to offer a sick friend support day after day, but you can’t do this well if you’re not also strong for yourself. See that you have what you need first before giving away your valuable resources.

The Empress

By Trung Nguyen's

By Trung Nguyen

The original ‘treat yo’self’ card, The Empress is all about indulgence. The Venus symbol that often appears on this card represents luxury, sensuality and pleasure – letting go, allowing yourself to experience what you enjoy.

The Empress is a really earthy card, relating to the world around us and the way we experience it via our senses – that is, through touch, taste, smell, sound and sight. Feast your senses and nourish your body with delicious food, a holiday, a luxurious bath, a trip to an art gallery, a new album or something sexy.

Ace of Cups

From The Collective Tarot

From The Collective Tarot

If you’ve been beating yourself up about something, or are just stuck in a rut of low self-esteem or not liking yourself very much, the Ace of Cups offers you a new start. We often associate cups with love and relationships, because of this suit’s correspondence with our emotional lives. When we see the Two of Cups, for example, we might think of a new romance, or when we look at the Three, good times with friends. But it’s important to extend that kind of emotional generosity to ourselves, too.

The Ace of Cups is like a cup of love being offered to you. You’re not forced to take it, but it’s there for the taking. This is a chance to set yourself free from patterns of self-hatred or low self-esteem, and start giving yourself the love that you deserve.


Photo 18-05-2015 13 11 01

From The Wild Unknown Tarot, the Mary-el Tarot and the Dreaming Way Tarot.

Most of us are familiar with extreme feelings such as emotional intensity of a new crush, the obsessive way you might run over and over an injustice in your mind, or the fiery passion of leaping into a new project. It’s fun/energising/important to experience that kind of intensity – it’s how things get done, or how we know that we’re human. But it’s not sustainable, and can leave us depleted.

When Temperance appears in your readings, it might be helpful to calm things down a bit. Where you are all fiery passion, rushing headlong into new projects, try bringing yourself down to earth, grounding your ideas in practical reality. Where you feel emotionally out of control, try taking a deep breath of cool air, temepering all that feeling with a dose of rationality.

Four of Wands

From The Gorgon’s Tarot and The Collective Tarot

The suit of wands shows how we work through projects and ideas, including the initial idea, planning stages, getting things started, moments of victory and also burnout. With the Four of Wands, things are underway and progress is good. It’s time now time for a break! This is a card of celebration and pride – whether that’s a two-week holiday or a night out with your colleagues, or simply pausing to give yourself a pat on the back.

It’s easy to get so stuck into our projects or work that we forget to celebrate the smaller accomplishments. The Four of Wands acknowledges that there is still a long way to go, that there is plenty of work still to do. But this is a moment to fill the tank, to recoup, to motivate yourself (and your team, if you have one) by taking a break and feeling proud of what you’ve done so far.

Five of Pentacles

From the Tarot of the Cat People and The Fountain Tarot

This card often represents a feeling of being ‘out in the cold’, feeling ill, feeling sorry for yourself. Not to be dismissive of how debilitating illness can be, the Five of Pentacles can also point to a solution that is much closer and simpler than you might think.

In the Rider-Waite-Smith card, two ragged people hobble, barefoot, with crutches, through the snow. It’s a sorry sight! But they’re passing a brightly-lit church window. The suggestion here is that they don’t actually need to be out in that awful weather – the church door is nearby, and they could go inside and find physical and spiritual comfort.

When you see the Five of Pentacles, it’s time to lift your head. Whatever you’re going through, beware of slipping into a ‘victim’ mentality. Look around you, take charge of your situation as best you can, and seek out practical ways to improve your predicament.

The Sun

The Kitty Kahane Tarot and The Wild Unknown Tarot

The Kitty Kahane Tarot and The Wild Unknown Tarot

Sometimes, the most nourishing thing you can give yourself is a dose of warming sunshine – and that’s the simplest message of this card. Maybe you’re over-complicating things? The Sun reminds you that one of the most freely available forms of therapy is to step outside and feel the sun’s warmth on your face.

Maybe it’s time for a holiday, or a day off. If you’ve been holed up inside for too long, take a walk! The Sun card often shows a naked baby, reminding you that getting back to a place of curiosity, enjoying life’s simpler pleasures, is a way of caring for yourself.

Ten of Cups

From The Wild Unknown Tarot and The Collective Tarot

I think of this as the you do you card, as the Ten of Cups encourages you to go for what makes you truly happy in life. There’s no act of self care as important as living honestly – acknowledging who you are and what you love.

Frustratingly, in many decks this card will show a family – typically a straight, white, monogamous-looking family with cute little children and a lovely home. In readings for queer folks in particular, I find the Ten of Cups indicates that someone is living in line with someone else’s expectation, or making themselves unhappy chasing an ideal that doesn’t jam with what they really want inside.

So take the Ten of Cups as permission to truly be yourself. What, in your heart of hearts, in your soul, makes you happy? Go for that. Love yourself enough to work for it.

From Charissa Drengsen's Steampunk Tarot

From Charissa Drengsen’s Steampunk Tarot

There are plenty more self-care cards, of course! Which cards have helped/encouraged you to look after yourself better?

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Beth Maiden is a tarot reader and writer based in Machynlleth, mid-Wales. She has two cats, a hot builder girlfriend, far too many tarot decks and not enough coffee cups. She's really into bread, the colour red, camping and brand new notebooks. She'd love to cut your hair, read your cards or hang out with you on her blog, Little Red Tarot!

Beth has written 111 articles for us.


  1. Jeez Beth, that opening paragraph resonated with me so much my glasses almost cracked.

    At first I wasn’t even seeing the “take care of yourself” cards at all. A glorious human being best friend person did a reading for me with the Wildwood tarot. The 7 of Stones: HEALING popped up. Oh golly, duh! It took something that direct & obvious to clue me into the self-care my two previous readings were encouraging. Oops.

    This list is great! I hadn’t thought of Temperance in that way. Also, I would probably add the 4 of Swords. Mental recuperation can totes be self-care.

    • Oh wow, yes the Seven of Stones/Pentacles. I love the idea of ‘healing’ in this card – I tend to think of it as a ‘pause’, which maybe relates to what you’re saying @tttango.

      And the Four of Swords, nice choice! That one was on my list but the article was getting too damn long! It came up in a client reading recently encouraging here to create some kind of private studio or desk space where she could write and be alone with her thoughts. What an act of self care that would be.

  2. Strength has often popped up in my spreads to show me either how I’m nourishing myself or how I’ve been cutting myself off from my source. Eight of pentacles occasionally decides to tell me that I’ve kept my nose to the grindstone so long that it’s wearing off. Seven of cups also shows me where I need to take some space and get some renewal.

    • What a great interpretation of the Eight of Pentacles. I sometimes see it as ‘whoa, are you isolating yourself with all that hard work?’, but I love this idea that it could just be working too hard, full stop.

  3. The Four of Pentacles is always a card that has represented home to me– the building of a home, in all the ways that it’s not just a place to be inhabited, but community and beautiful queers surrounding me with love.

    I’ve been compiling a ton of ‘self-care’ and ‘wellbeing’ spreads recently, but I haven’t thought about the cards themselves…

    The strangest one, I think, is the Seven of Swords. It was popping up for a while in my readings and by now I’m taking it to mean taking care of myself in a Slytherin sort of way– I’m getting away with *something* and I might be playing a little dirty… but sometimes that’s the only way to get yourself out of a bad situation and that’s what you have to do to get to a place where you can embrace the brighter side of taking care of yourself.

    • @ibzombie – I couldn’t agree more about the Seven of Swords. Your interpretation is one I’d never really considered until blog commenters explained it to me recently. As queer or marginalised people especially, I think it’s important to see ‘underhand tactics’ as sometimes the only tool we have to better our situation.

      As for the Four of Pentacles – gosh, I love your interpretation. A real safe space. Check out this version from the Mary-el Tarot – you’d barely notice the home tucked away there, but it’s there – a sanctuary (a little more inviting than the open tent in the snow in the Fountain Tarot shown above, too!)

  4. Beth, it is always such a pleasure to read your articles! I love this series not only for the awesome tarot insight but the beautiful decks you include as well!

    *drools over The Collective Tarot* Man, I wish they would reprint. Mama needs that deck!

    • Thank you so much! I love love love writing this series. xxx

      PS Stay tuned re The Collective Tarot. It may be reprinted in the not-to-distant future in which case you can bet I’ll be posting here about it :)

  5. this is amazing! love the bigger perspective on cards i’ve slowly but surely been getting to know. thank you beth <3

  6. I had the High Priestess come up in a spread (that I got from Beth via Little Red Tarot) recently and I’ve been thinking about the card since then. I used the Universal Rider Waite deck but didn’t connect with the imagery used there. I looked around for others and found one drawn by Vyonne Vetjens that worked better as it situates the High Priestess in nature and doesn’t suggest (to me) an official role in a hierarchy. Plus I like roses.

    In terms of self-care, it seems the High Priestess can remind me to remember the knowledge I have and the things I have control over, even as I’m constantly feeling the need to acquire more knowledge (hello grad school) and seeing how little I control (hello still needing a summer internship). Remembering that I can control my own actions and manage my emotional reactions is also important lately as I’ve had emotionally trying experiences with friends while people close to me are looking to me for emotional support.

  7. I’ve gotten sacrifice from the Goddess deck as a “red alert” card in a reading someone did for me in a spread about an unrelated question (which I find happens to me… too often because I’m a stubborn person who does not enjoy asking the right questions), which was extremely helpful to me in making a decision that prioritized myself and my own well being over someone else.

    In this way, the Hanged Person/ Sacrfice can be a kind of extreme self care card because it’s there to let you know that something important (the person in question) has been neglected and it’s time to refocus.

  8. I was not expecting the first article I came across on google to be so thoughtful, uplifting, and inclusive! YAY! Thank you! <3

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