By Amber C. Snider
Authors of Tarot for Troubled Times discuss ways we can use the tarot as a vehicle for healing and socially-conscious change.
In an exclusive interview, authors Shaheen Miro and Theresa Reed (Tarot for Troubled Times) get real about the many uses of tarot – including how to work with your shadow self, personal year cards, archetypes, energy as currency, light meditations, and more.
Amber C. Snider: Why is thinking of the Tarot in terms of archetypes useful on a practical level?
Theresa Reed: The archetypes in tarot reflect our daily life and spiritual journey. When we connect with those archetypes, we can check in on our own path. Where are we now? How are we showing up at this time? What can we do to deepen our understanding – or shift gears? Simple reflection (which leads to conscious living) is one of my favorite ways to work with the archetypes.
When we bring awareness to any part of our journey, we can make better, healthier decisions going forward.
Amber: What exactly is the shadow self?
Theresa: The shadow self is the side of ourselves that we tend to hide away from the world. This shadow can be many things, including emotions like anger, fear, grief, and jealousy – or anything that makes us feel ashamed. Often, that’s how the shadow is formed - we do something when we are younger and are told it’s ‘bad’. We’re made to feel defective or unloved if we act a particular way. So we repress those parts of ourselves and this forms the shadow.
This can cause great pain and trauma - and can lead to behaviors that undermine our sense of self. The way to work with the shadow is to befriend, embrace, and, most of all, face it. When we acknowledge the so-called ‘dark’ parts of our persona, real healing can begin.
Amber: How can we work with our shadow to help heal past traumas, behavioral patterns, and negative cycles?
Shaheen Miro: I’ve come to see the shadow as an ally, a teacher, and a dear friend. It is the part of each of us that has been obscured from our vision…we swallow it down, lock it away and try to banish it from our awareness. Yet, it’s like a ghostly visitor bumping around in the night trying to get some attention.
Early life experiences are the breeding grounds of the shadow. You go through a series of experiences that either fortify your 'authentic' self or disconnect you from it. It might sound simplistic, but you either become who you are or who you’re told to be. This means your shadow is created when you are robbed of some essential part of yourself and your personal power.
Begin by asking yourself:
What was once a gift of your identity becomes a mutated, shadowy part of yourself: Turning your self-confidence into vulnerability, your passion into anger, your empathy into sadness or oversensitivity. None of these things are negative or bad, they are just misunderstood or out of focus.
What does your shadow want? It wants to be acknowledged. It seeks life, color and expression. When you learn to befriend the disconnected parts of yourself you can move into expression – a clear, focused, intentional use of your power – rather than an exaggeration. Begin by asking yourself: Does this grow my light or feed my shadow?
Amber: In one section of the book, you discuss 'personal year cards' and 'birth cards,' which are forms of tarot numerology. How can people can figure out their personal year cards and use them to find deeper meaning?
Theresa: The birth cards are based on the work of Angeles Arrien and Mary K Greer. It involves adding up your birthdate and reducing the number until you come down to a number that corresponds to a Major Arcana. For a yearly number, you would take your birth month and day and add it up with the current year.
For example, let’s say you’re born on January 22 and you want to know your number for 2020. You would add up 1 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 0 +2 + 0 = 9. Nine is the number of The Hermit so you would be in a Hermit year, which means 2020 would be an ideal time for introspection. You might want to focus on inner work. Meditation would be an excellent spiritual practice for this year.
Shaheen: I see the personal year card as a guide throughout the year. You can use the power and wisdom of your personal year card to help you navigate the terrain. If your personal year card is the Empress you might ask yourself when faced with a situation…what would the Empress do?
Amber: How can people use the Major Arcana as archetypes (in their personal lives, to help others, and promote progressive social change)?
Theresa: This earth is inhabited by billions of people and creatures. We are not alone and we’re all in this together. It’s not enough to heal ourselves. We must look at what is happening out there in the world and do our part to ensure that the earth is healthy and everyone is cared for.
The yearly archetypes can tell us what needs to be done so all can flourish. For example, next year we are globally in an Emperor year. (2 + 0 + 2 + 0 = 4). The Emperor in its highest form protects. In the lowest nature, it becomes a dictator. How do we ensure that the latter doesn’t happen? By finding our voice and taking right actions to fight oppression. We need to be brave next year or we risk heading into a dark place.
Amber: I loved reading this affirmation in your book: 'Create change through empathy, not force.' Can you talk a little bit more about this idea of empathy, especially when it comes to energy work?
Shaheen: I truly believe we are in a time of great change…change that is happening faster than we can ever wrap our heads around. When faced with change it is natural for us to become defensive. We want to puff ourselves up, draw lines in the sand, and dig our heels in the dirt. We go kicking and screaming into the unknown. In those moments, force feels much easier than empathy. It is easier to point the finger of blame or call out the enemy. But nothing and no one is one dimensional.
If we really want to get through the turbulent times of life we need to feel into things. We need to lean into our empathy. Walk awhile in the other person’s shoes. It takes work…it is a practice. The only way to navigate change is to lean into the current, feel the ebb and flow of the tides.
It’s not enough to heal ourselves. We must look at what is happening out there in the world and do our part to ensure that the earth is healthy and everyone is cared for.
Amber: In part two of the book, you discuss the tarot as a 'mirror on the self.' How can the tarot help us heal?
Theresa: Tarot isn’t just for divination. It can be a remarkable tool for introspection. As we peer at the images in the cards, we can see parts of ourselves, parts that may need to be healed. Tarot cards give us something to ponder and a chance to see where we need to be compassionate with ourselves and others. Interestingly, many therapists are now using tarot in their practices!
Amber: What are some self-care practices that you find the most useful?
Theresa: In Tarot For Troubled Times, we cover a lot of rituals and practices that we’ve both used in our own healing and shadow work. Meditation is my favorite tool, hands down. It can be done anytime, anywhere, and doesn’t cost a dime or require any tool except tuning in. It’s simple, effective, and has changed my own life. Lately, I’ve been getting into self-hypnosis, which has been altering my life in a major way. I’ve been using it to change my habits, moods, and mindset.
Shaheen: Self-care has become somewhat of a buzzword, but it is such an integral part of healing and personal growth. It seems like we’re all seeking a way to navigate through the world and find some semblance of understanding, and that has to begin with yourself.
In the book we discuss practices, simple, and more complex, but approachable for anyone, on any path.The best self-care practice I have found is journaling, doing an inventory of what I am feeling, what I am struggling with and what I am dreaming into life. I also like to go for a walk in nature – it feels like stepping outside of time for awhile.
Amber: In the book, you write about 'energy as currency,' saying that 'everything begins on the energetic level.' Can you talk a little bit about how we can grow, empower, and shift our energy and dispel previously limiting belief systems, including past traumas, and negative self-talk?
Theresa: To make any change, you must begin by bringing awareness to how you feel. Once you start there, you can unravel how you got there and what you need to do to create change. Becoming conscious doesn’t happen overnight. It takes real time and dedication. I recommend paying close attention to how you feel in any given situation. That high level of awareness can help you to see when a situation is traumatic, unhelpful, or positive. From there, you can make change.
Shaheen: We are always trying to prove what we believe to be true, whether or not that belief feels good and empowering, or completely limiting. Most of us are stuck in chronic cycles of belief because we keep choosing the same thing…hoping that it will be different this time. But the truth is, you get to choose what you believe. I encourage you to challenge any of the negative thoughts, ideas, beliefs or feelings you’re experiencing. Really dig deep, excavate your soul to find the truth for you. Rather than holding onto some worn-out perspective, see what happens when you look at life differently.
You came here to be magic! Be empathetic with yourself. That self-care will pour out into the world around you.
Amber: What is EFT and how can people do it?
Shaheen: EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique is a method of releasing negative beliefs and stuck energies through a series of ‘tapping points’ on the body. I find EFT to be very helpful because you begin right where you are. There’s no covering up those feelings with some saccharin affirmation about love and light (though I think that can be helpful as well). As you go through a series of tapping gestures you disrupt the energy circuit in your body and consciousness, which allows you to release blocks until you can find a better feeling.
If you’re feeling angry because of your broken relationship, then you start with that. You would begin with a statement, such as, “Even though my relationship is failing…I honor and accept myself fully and completely.” While repeating this statement you tap key points of the body for a few rounds, or until you no longer feel the emotional charge of that feeling.
Amber: You also discuss energy cords and psychic vampires in the book. How can people effectively deal with them and recover any energy loss?
Shaheen: Psychic Vampires sound far scarier than they really are. Folklore tells us that Vampires are creatures that feed on life force. Psychic vampires siphon away energy as a survival mechanism – usually this is a person that you interact with intimately, but even a casual encounter or acquaintance can take on the role of a psychic vampire.
Sometimes this can be very subtle and without any malice at all. Other times it can seem very obvious and may tread into abusive territory. Often you see this in a codependent relationship; Think about the partner that gaslights their spouse. Or, the parent that berates their child into submission. Or, the boss that belittles their employees to feel superior.
One of the simplest ways to identify a psychic vampire is to notice when you feel drained around certain people. The remedy to this is disengaging from the person and situation and setting strong boundaries. NO is the magic word against Psychic Vampires.
Tarot has endless possibilities, but the magic of tarot lies in its ability to show us things from a different perspective. It gives us a chance to have deep conversations, to break down walls and barriers, to look beyond the boundaries of our own box with expanded awareness.
Amber: Spiritual hygiene and cleansing your aura is an important part of everyday life. Do you have any personal anecdotes associated with times when you’ve used either the white light visualization, ultraviolet light visualization, or cloak of black velvet visualization? If so, can you describe it?
Theresa: When I first began my career as a tarot reader, I would often get depleted from the work. It’s like I was absorbing all of my clients’ energy and holding on to it. I didn’t realize how vital spiritual hygiene was for myself at the time and this lead to burn out as well as major boundary issues with ne’er do wells. I began using a white light visualization every day and that changed everything for me. Don’t get me wrong: I still have days where the work gets under my skin. But the white light shield helps to deflect most of it - and a quick visualization after work helps to reboot the light - and me.
Shaheen: I began working with the black velvet visualization as a teenager when I would find myself in threatening situations like walking into a place that might not be LGBTQ+ friendly or where some sort of conflict was taking place. I would imagine myself wrapped in black velvet as a way to obscure me from harm, almost like becoming invisible to anyone or thing that might target me. At the same time the energy of black absorbs and transmutes negative energy… I believe this is why mystics, witches and people on the fringe gravitate toward the color black.
Amber: How can we use the tarot to become a more socially conscious force in this world, a vehicle for change, an ally, an activist?
Theresa: Understanding the energy of the world – and how you might be most effective – can make you a force for good. We are living in troubled times and the world is not all ‘love and light.’ Tarot helps us to see what may be going on from both the positive and the negative – and hopefully, that inspires us to take action.
Shaheen: Through the tarot you can remove yourself, even just a little, from a situation so you can find possibilities and connections that you might have otherwise overlooked. I believe tarot encapsulates a profound truth…we are far more connected than we know! What I do to you, I am doing to myself and vice versa. Tarot becomes the bridge between chasms of disconnection, and through those connections we can heal individually and collectively.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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