Let’s Get Real: A Tarot Spread & Reading for When You’re Ready to Stop Avoiding Self-Awareness

Sometimes it feels simpler to hide. There’s an ease in it, a sense of purpose and tidiness in pushing strong emotions into a quiet corner of our souls, in vowing not to look at them again until we’re ready. Fear, anger, frustration, desire, need, insecurity, loneliness, heartbreak, anxiety — the stronger the feeling, the harder it can be to process and understand all that’s within us. And dealing with heavy shit? In 2020, when it feels like literally everything that could go wrong has? It’s no wonder we’ve all found creative ways to protect ourselves, to force our longings and dreams into strong little boxes that we tuck into the darkest of places. Right now, for many of us, avoiding examination feels like a matter of survival.

And yet. We’ve just moved through the season of the Hermit, with Mars still in Aries, as the world around us burns, and we cannot permanently hide from what is real. We cannot live in an endless period of waiting, cannot stunt our own growth and call it a real and lasting solution. The Hermit urges us to be gracious with ourselves, to retreat with intentionality, to pull back from the physical world so that we could begin to examine our own internal landscape. And while it might feel terrifying to dig into our own secrets with so many other things to worry about, the Hermit invites us to carve out space for patient exploration, for deep introspection. What have you been hiding from? Where have you been longing for freedom, and what has been holding you back? What dreams are you ignoring, wishes are you downplaying, desires are you deflecting from? How can you safely step into your shadows, understand how fear is impacting your opportunities? And what powerful emotions are shaping your choices, perhaps in a way that you aren’t even fully aware of?

A stack of tarot cards on a weatherworn wooden table with the Hermit card facing up and three small crystals beside the deck

Look, I know you’re exhausted. This might be too much for you right now; might feel too heavy or overwhelming on top of everything else that’s happening in the world. I’m not pushing you to forcibly unpack every single fear and concern and uncertainty, to rip out your beating heart and tear open old wounds; I’m not ordering you to dive recklessly into all of your trauma and pain. But the things that you’ve been refusing to look at closely, to deal with, always reveal themselves in the end. And if you can find the courage to open your eyes, to pull out even one of those little boxes and slowly examine the contents, you may find a bit of weight lifting, a sense of power and control gently returning. You may be able to rediscover a bit of your own magic.

Remember that while the Hermit asks us to dive deep, there’s also space for protection and care – and that even though we’ve now moved into a new astrological season, this archetype still has much to teach us. Like Virgo, the Hermit is patient and deliberate, adaptive and conscious, fully present and intensely detail-oriented. Rather than pulling out everything at once, this is a chance to be methodical, intentional, to step into a space of self-examination with care and caution. And although the tarot can be brutal in its honesty, this spread isn’t designed to leave you sobbing and scared in the corner. Instead it’s an opportunity for you to be truthful, to gently consider the secrets that you’ve been keeping from yourself. The Hermit wants you to be safe and comfortable even as you dive deep, wants you to balance protection with growth. And by making space for reflection, by prioritizing your own needs and longings and desires, you can start to figure out your next steps, to uncover where you really want to go.

Text at the top of the image reads "Let's get real: a tarot spread for truth & reflection." Four rectangles indicating spaces to place four tarot cards are below, formed in the shape of an upward arch; reading from left to right, the card spaces read: "What are you ignoring?," "Why are you hiding from this truth?," "What resource have you not fully tapped into?," and "How can you overcome this blockage?" Below the cards, a caption reads: Ready for some clarity from the cards? Remember the energy of the hermit and take some time to be honest with yourself. What is holding you back?" The image is watermarked 3amtarot.com

1. What are you ignoring? Something you’ve been unwilling to face, either consciously or subconsciously. What have you been overlooking or avoiding? What are you hiding from yourself? What have you been unwilling to face?
2. Why are you hiding from this truth? Something that’s been holding you back from examining this truth more fully. Is it fear, anger, frustration, uncertainty? What has been stopping you from learning more? Why are you afraid of seeing clearly?
3. What resource have you not fully tapped into? Something that might help you find stability or purpose in dealing with this issue. What people, communities, energies, ideas, or assets could you be utilizing? Who wants to help you?
4. How can you overcome this blockage? A next step, idea, or solution to your current challenge. What haven’t you considered? What new perspective might help you see new possibilities? Where can you start?

To help you see how this spread can be used, my dear friend Heather Hogan has graciously agreed to let me share a reading that I did for her using Cristy Road’s Next World Tarot. While I’m just including a small portion of her reading, I hope that this helps you find the courage to use tarot for some personal exploration, to understand how you can embrace a spirit of awareness and work to move forward with strength, power, and magic. The Hermit can push us hard, but ultimately this is a chance to show ourselves real love, to make space for healing, to understand what is motivating us.

Four tarot cards arranged in an upward arc on a wooden table; from left to right, the cards are the 7 of Wands, the 6 of swords, Temperance, and The Star. All cards are in the upright position.

What are you ignoring?

A card of courage, independence, and powerful progress, the seven of wands speaks to an intense belief in the self, a clear and searing vision of the future that is on its way, a reminder of the kind of life that you are actively building. Don’t underestimate the fortitude and magic it has taken to get as far as you have. This is a moment to keep going, and to stop overlooking how much you’ve achieved. Are you afraid to see yourself as brave? Does being seen as independent make you feel proud, frustrated, or just really fucking tired? What about this identity feels like something you aren’t connected to, and how can you combine your personal insights with a broader and more authentic perspective on who you really are?

Why are you hiding from this truth?

The six of swords comes after fighting and struggle, after conflict and confusion, after a harsh realization that has caused some complicated shifts. Sometimes truths can force us to reevaluate where we’re going, or grant us certainty that we are moving towards our goals with clarity and purpose. It’s possible that your ideas around what it means to be independent may be shifting, or that you’ve been so ready to move forward that you’re not fully examining your reasons for escape, and the pain that those challenges have caused. What have you been afraid to acknowledge about your own movement? What have you left behind, and what are you reaching for? How can honoring what you’ve moved away from help you understand where you want to go next?

What resources have you not fully tapped into?

A card of balancing elements, Temperance asks us to ground ourselves in our needs and wants, to pay attention to what our instincts are guiding us towards. Sometimes we get so caught up in movement, in the need for measurable progress, that we end up pressing on towards things that don’t ultimately matter. Temperance as a resource reminds you that you already know how to guard yourself, how to advocate for yourself, how to balance work and rest. Yet that knowledge may still hold opportunities for growth, and there may be ways that you can find harmony between all the things you’re juggling that you haven’t fully explored. Where are you being too hard on yourself? How can you put structures in place that help you move and grow at a pace that is sustainable for the long term?

How can you overcome this blockage?

The Star is an archetype of quiet and gentle healing, of sitting in stillness, of believing in the possibility of hope. In spite of chaos and destruction, in spite of pain and grief, in spite of all that has been lost, the Star is a moment of rebirth, a glimpse of all of the possibilities that are visible now that the dust from the Tower’s fall has cleared. As you sit in this moment of healing, as you reflect on how far you’ve come and how far you still have to go, pay attention to the ways that you are reinventing yourself. What new dreams are emerging as possible futures? How can you give yourself space for reflection rather than immediately pushing towards a new goal? What clarity are you tapping into, and how have your struggles shifted your understanding of what truly matters?

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Meg is a freelance photographer, writer, and tarot reader living in New York City.

Meg has written 103 articles for us.


  1. I dig this.

    Two of Wands- Decisions & Planning. Yup

    Queen of Cups- over emphasis on my emotions?

    Untapped Resources:
    Eight of Swords- No distractions, new perspectives. Quarantine. Yup.

    How to overcome:
    Three of Cups- Community, friends. Yep. Got a new creative friend who has helped me out of hermit life a LOT. Thank you friend. I shall call tomorrow. Dunno if she reads Autostraddle but she would love this article.

    Thanks for the tool!

  2. Buddy, I did this reading and the first card I pulled was The Devil.

    Then I pulled both The Hierophant and The Tower, reversed for the second spot. I didn’t realize I had two until I was setting it down and I was like. Welp. Gotta go with the cards.

    And you were right. I did need to hear this, but it did not leave me in a crying heap on the floor. Which is great!

    It did still totally kick my ass though.

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