The Luck of the Draw: Ruth Spencer on Playing Your Cards Right

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20 December 2022

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Unable to bear the anticipation of waiting to see what the future holds, Ruth reaches for her secret weapon – her mystical deck of tarot cards.

It’s that time of year when we wonder to ourselves, what’s in the cards for the next 12 months? 

What if I literally checked the cards, though? Not the Christmas cards, not the credit cards (shudder) but the mystical, prescient cardboard that is tarot. I’m going to step boldly onto the etheric plane and shuffle my way into the mysterious practice of card-reading. 

For a long time I was too jittery to get into tarot. Like ouija boards, they represented a path into the dangerous occult. Superstitious nonsense, of course; you wouldn’t go around believing in it, but also BEWARE the lurking threat to your spiritual safety. Don’t mess with the Infinite! What if you let something in? Frankly at this point if something wants to take possession of me it can. Welcome to back pain and the school run, demon. I’ll be on the couch. 

This was before I heard of a different way to use tarot. If you throw out the idea that the cards are going to reveal your future, you can use them as a tool for mindfulness. Tarot can give you a focus, a point of view from which to approach your swirling thoughts. Rather than a crystal ball gazing into the void, they’re a pair of reading glasses for your soul. 

I bought a pack. I don’t hold with the idea that you have to be gifted your first tarot pack, just as you don’t have to wait to be given a diamond. You can have whatever you want – say I sent you. Some people try to gatekeep tarot but now that you can get a traditional Rider-Waite deck in the colouring book aisle of The Warehouse, it’s fair game. If you can pick up tarot cards, an air fryer and a SpongeBob onesie in the same transaction, the veil has worn a bit thin. 

My tarot deck (not from The Warehouse, but that unfathomable apothecary known as “online”) has stylised Art Deco illustrations and a little book with concise card meanings. I wish I had the memory capacity to learn the meanings of 78 cards, but my solemn laying out of cards will always be followed by a furtive thumb through the booklet, ruining any sense of ceremony. I will never convince anyone that I’m privy to arcane knowledge, no matter how many velvet capes I may or may not have purchased from that woman on TradeMe. 

In any case, the meaning of the card is just a way to approach your thoughts, a fresh perspective. It could answer the question you were asking, or flag something else that needs your attention. Fortunately there’s no Three of Unwashed Dishes or Seven of Your WOF Is Due or I would have quit already. 

I think ritual is important, and as we become an increasingly secular society we don’t have enough of it in our daily lives. Ritual reminds us to be grateful, carves out spaces for paying attention, changes the mood. Shuffling and laying out the cards is like speaking an intention: a moment to take the time to consider my state of being. And it’s fun. It feels significant and theatrical, which is how I like my rituals. Do you like my cape?

Okay, Universe, let’s go. I lay out three cards on a vintage scarf for a Past-Present-Future reading. They look suitably portentous. As I turn the last card though there is an actual roll of thunder outside. Oh my. Am I… psychic? Are my powers burgeoning, flowing through the cards, affecting the very landscape with my potency? The roll is going on for a long time. It’s getting louder! Oh. It’s my husband bringing in the wheelie bin. Never mind. 

The first card, in the Past position, is the Six of Wands: confident, successful, ready to shout my achievements from the rooftops. When was that, I wonder? The next, representing the Present, is Seven of Wands: I will have to fight to retain my position. Probably true because my current position is sitting down and someone’s sure to notice soon and ask me for something. The last is the Eight of Wands. I can guess this meaning without looking at the book: I didn’t shuffle the cards properly. 

This is a learning curve. As far as predicting the future goes, credit card statements might be a better guide. But for someone like me who can get trapped in circular overthinking it’s been great for focus and clarity. And I won’t lie, it makes me feel like an ancient forest witch (me) dispensing wisdom and magic to passers-by (also me). Although that’s probably the cape. 

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