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Dealing with a Difficult Tarot Card

Last week saw the first truly difficult tarot card in the Weekly Tarot Card series. We worked with the 3 of Swords to try and develop understanding so as to cast it in a less damning light so that the medicine of the card could be seen through the dreary images.

On this note, I wanted to bring forth some thoughts on difficult cards.

The key thing to remember with these difficult cards is that no card is inherently evil, bad, or damning. They all have different aspects to them that can be blessings in disguise. Each of the 78 cards of the Tarot have different levels of difficulty—some in unexpectant ways, and some more obviously so.

From Left to Right: The Faerie Tarot, The Rider-Waite Tarot, The Spiral Tarot, the Thoth Tarot, the Prisma Vision Tarot, the Impressionist Tarot, and the Vampire Tarot

The Tarot is a set of challenges and lessons that we all experience through life. Let me illustrate this with a childhood example.

A Bird Walk, if You’ll Indulge Me

When I was a kid, I repeatedly had to take the States and Capitals test in various grades. It wasn’t that I failed and had to repeat it, it was that part of the curriculum had us taking the stupid test at multiple levels. However, despite having passed the test in the year before, I forgot my lesson, and had to relearn it. I got the information I needed in the moment, but then had to relearn at the next level and apply.

Sometimes we forget to hold onto lessons. There is so much going on that other times we simply can’t hold onto it. Thus, we are called to learn the lesson again, which is why you’ll repeatedly get certain cards.

Other times, you have to learn what seems like the same lesson, but you’re at a higher level, the next grade up, and are learning the lesson through a different lens. In doing so, you understand the lesson in a different way.

The lessons might seem like they’re increasingly getting more and more difficult, but that is only because you are advancing. While you still have to face the situation presented to you, say the Tower—which delivers a shake in the blink of the eye which forces you to reevaluate your foundation—how you view and take on the lesson will determine the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ experience of the card.

The Tower as a Difficult Tarot Card

When I moved to the UK, I was doing a lot of readings for myself because I wasn’t certain about the move. I got the Tower and the Lovers—a lot. I was moving over with a boyfriend at the time. I kept thinking that the Tower represented the move—I was going to be starting anew, after all, and having to build a tower from scratch. The Lovers I thought was just me and my boyfriend having to build it together.

No. This difficult tarot card, the Tower, was telling me that I’d built our relationship on a false foundation, and in an instant it came down when I found out he was cheating on me. I was actually relying pretty heavily on him, so the foundation of the trip was what was shattered.

But the lesson of the Tower reminded me to build the foundation for me, not for me and another person. If I didn’t have steady feet, how could I also stand with another person? The Tower helped me shake loose something I didn’t need, which was that relationship, and go on to do what I needed to do.

The Tower is a difficult tarot card, but when you stop to think of it like giving a shake to the thing you just built and seeing what crumbles, it’s just telling you where you need some extra attention.

The Devil as a Difficult Tarot Card

The Devil is a card that people always find scary. But what is the Devil? A tempter. The Devil wants to tempt you into things. Thus, this card shows you the bad habits that aren’t serving you, and reminds you to examine your actions and thought patterns that might not be in your highest interest.

When we take a step back and look at the broader message that goes along with these difficult cards, then they’re less intimidating. They might imply a difficult time, and that’s fine. Life can’t always be peaches and roses. The best way to address it is to look at what will be on the other side once the difficulty is dealt with.

Furthermore, when we are able to see the broader lessons of the Tarot cards we don’t necessarily want to deal with, we can see the actual message of the card. Going back to my Tower/Lovers cards, I didn’t want to see destruction when I was about to move. I was looking too closely at the card. I coudln’t see the link between it and my relationship. But if I’d stepped back, considered that it was telling me to look at what I was already building my foundtation on and give it a good shake–I don’t know, before the move–then I might not have been in as precarious a position as I was when the Tower came crashing down.

By not allowing ourselves to see the light in the dark, or the dark in the light, then we’re missing out on a huge part of the reading.

Exercises to Get Over the Bad, Difficult Tarot Card

Get Used to It

So how do we deal with a difficult Tarot card? Get accustomed to the card. I came across an exercise…somewhere, I don’t remember where (Instagram? Twitter? YouTube? Who knows!)…which had the Tarot student go through the deck of cards, flipping over each card and saying the first word that popped to mind.

I suggest taking this exercise, but instead of saying a keyword, quickly put the cards aside that you find particularly difficult.

Once you have your pile of difficult cards, go through them one at a time, walking yourself through the following practices:

  1. Just look at the images. Don’t define them, just look at them, one card at a time. Get comfortable with what you see in front of you.
  2. If an image makes you uncomfortable, ask yourself why. For example, there is a Tarot deck that has a goat with sharp teeth, wide innocent eyes, and blood dripping from its mouth. For some reason, this image makes me uncomfortable. So I would spend some time examining what isn’t sitting well with me about that image.
  3. Define the card on your own, without the book, by the images you see and what you feel they mean. Really delve into this. Break it apart. What do the loose bits of flame falling in the Tower represent? Is the sun setting or rising in the horizon of the 10 of Swords? What does it mean which way? Should it be ambiguous?
  4. Look up as many definitions of the card as you can. Look on Biddy Tarot, on here, in the Little White Book, listen to Tarot for the Wild Soul, look up blogs, YouTube channels, read books, ask around in Tarot forums and groups–get every perspective you possibly can on that card.
  5. Find a time in your life when one of these or many of these definitions applied. Consider that time in depth, how you felt, what led you into that situation, and how you got out of it. Did you survive?

By exposing yourself as much as you can to the card, your discomfort with it will deminish. When you see it, hopefully, you’ll just view it as a level of difficulty rather than something to dread. At the end of the day, we can handle what’s to come. We can find the strength within us to handle it. I have faith in you.

Mind Your Language

How we use our words drastically shapes our perception of the world around us. This is true for the Tarot. If we percieve a card as bad, then it will bring on bad omens.

However, if we erase words like ‘good’ and ‘bad’ from our Tarot dictionary, then suddenly we can view the card a little more purely. We can see the card for its message, more subjectively.

When looking at a map, all you see is roads winding along, crossing others, and so on. However, if someone tells you one of them is a bad road, then it alters your direction. You try to avoid that bad road. As a result, it might take you longer to get to your destination, or you might get entirely lost. However, if you just accept that any road is going to come with bumps along the way and you’ll handle it when you get there, then you’ll learn new skills in navigation and get to your destination having grown a little.

I invite you to try eliminating judgemental adjectives from your vocabulary when you look at the cards in this pile. See them for what they are without saying they’re ‘bad’, ‘negative’, ‘ugly’, ‘scary’, ‘serene’, ‘beautiful’, ‘positive’, ‘good’, etc. Try this for a week or so, drawing a few cards a day and describing them to yourself. See how your perceptin of them changes.

Remember What The Cards are For

In the Tarot for the Wild Soul Podcast, Lindsey Mack calls the cards medicine. Some medicines taste nice, and others are bitter. But at the end of the day, they have the same goal in mind: to heal.

The Tarot is here to guide you, to help you see what you don’t want to see or what might be difficult. If your intention is to naviage through the day most successfully, then you need to know when the rough stuff is coming, and that’s what these more difficult cards do. They let you know what’s coming. But like a storm, they’ll arrive no matter what you do, so the best thing you can do is figure out what you need in order to weather it.

The Tarot are not around to curse you or anyone else. They’re not here for bad omens. They’re here to help you or the Seeker to grow. That’s all. They are a tool for development.

As you go through your difficulties pile, ask yourself how they can be used to help you develop. I would love to know what you come up with. Let me know in the comments.

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