Tarot cards dont have to predict the future to be fun – I use mine as daily journal prompts and theyve helped me self-reflect

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  • I bought a tarot card deck for a Halloween party and it’s now one of my favorite journaling tools.
  • I’m not into the mysticism of it all or an occult believer, but tarot helps me with self-reflection.
  • Pulling a card each day helps me think deeper about what’s happening in my life.

I am very much a non-believer when it comes to the occult and predicting the future, so I’ve always shied away from things like crystals, tarot, and astrology; mostly because I just didn’t understand them very well. Imagine my surprise when a deck of tarot cards for a Halloween party turned into one of my favorite journaling tools. 

Since purchasing my Rider Waithe tarot deck, I’ve learned a lot more about tarot. Here’s what I learned and why I think it can be a great purchase for journaling and self-reflection.

What are tarot cards?

tarot cards all laid out with The Fool showing

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Quite simply, tarot cards are playing cards. Traditionally, they were used for playing card games (and still are in many parts of the world).

Sometime around the 18th century, they gained popularity as a divination tool. The most common decks used for tarot today are 78 cards, consisting of 22 “Major Arcana” cards (the ones you probably most closely associate with tarot, like “The Fool”) and 56 “Minor Arcana cards” that are divided into four suits: Wands, cups, pentacles, and swords.

The imagery most famously associated with tarot cards comes from the classic Rider-Waite deck, which was illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith in the early 20th century. 

Major Arcana cards

The Major Arcana cards tell the story of The Fool (the first card of the deck, and the only unnumbered card). Each subsequent Major Arcana card represents a meeting or challenge for The Fool. When used for tarot readings, these represent more significant revelations. 

Minor Arcana cards

The Minor Arcana cards are quite similar to your standard deck of cards, but with different suits and imagery. Instead of the five of spades, for example, you may encounter the five of wands. These cards represent minor revelations in tarot readings.

How to use tarot cards for journaling

notebook with deck of tarot cards nearby

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There are lots of different ways to use tarot cards for readings or journaling. You can try different shuffling styles or changing up the number of cards pulled and interpreted. If you’re just starting out, I recommend keeping it simple and start with pulling one card to reflect on. Here’s my process:

1. Think of a “query” or something you want to reflect on. This can be about a relationship, your career, your health, a current challenge, or just what the day has in store for you.

2. Keeping this query in mind, shuffle the deck and cut the cards.

3. Pull one card and keep it in the orientation it was pulled (cards can either be upside down or right-side up).

4. Reflect and journal on the meaning of the card in relation to your query (or anything else that comes to mind). 

There are lots of ways to interpret the meaning of a card. You can simply look at the imagery and come up with your own meaning, or you can use a book or website to help you interpret traditional meanings. The tarot deck I bought came with a small booklet for interpreting cards that I’ve found useful. 

My experience using tarot cards for journaling

hand holding three tarot cards

Lauren Savoie/Insider

For me, the cards really act as prompts for journaling. I often get into the habit of only journaling when something is going massively wrong. The cards help me inventory other, less pressing aspects of my life and how they’re impacting my overall well-being.

For example, I recently pulled a card pertaining to money when it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind, but the more I reflected on it, the more I realized I felt some low-level stress about bills after a recent vacation. It’s probably not something I would have normally taken the time to journal about or reflect on, but the prompt from the card helped me release some of those thoughts and feelings tucked away in my subconscious.

I also just like to have fun with it: Sometimes I pull cards for other people in my life, and other times I pull cards for my cat. It tickles me to think my cotton ball of a cat is “working through technical problems” or “overcoming treachery” as foretold in two of my recent readings for her.

I used to think tarot was something that was very serious and rigid, but actively using my deck has taught me that it’s really an open-ended tool that can be serious or silly.

The best tarot card deck for beginners

a hand holding a tarot guidebook

Lauren Savoie/Insider

If you’re just starting out, I highly recommend this deck from Amazon. The cards are thick and sturdy, feature classic Rider-Waite imagery, and come with a little guidebook for interpreting results. At just under $20, it’s a pretty cheap entry to the world of tarot and tarot journaling.

For best results, I recommend pairing it with a new notebook. I used a standard Moleskine notebook, but you can also buy specialized tarot journals if you need more guidance. 

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