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