Tarot as witness

Being seen is a powerful thing.

A needed thing. And a rare thing.

In our rush to be of service, to help each other, we don’t always listen, not really. We’re so keen to say something helpful that even as friends, lovers, strangers are telling us their stories, we’re already formulating our response, our helpful response.

Practical advice is great, of course. Many’s the time I’ll chew over a dilemma with a friend, valuing their helpful, pragmatic, actionable advice. Sometimes it’s important to get someone else’s take on a situation, to help you step back and see things from a different viewpoint.

Other times, though, what’s needed – what I need, what you need, what we need – is only to be heard. Seen.


It’s the same with our tarot cards. We get used to asking questions, turning to our cards for advice, guidance, something practical, a different perspective, something we hadn’t noticed, something to focus on.

That’s all good! Sometimes, that’s just what we need. I use my cards this way all the time, I bet you do too. Entire courses and books and blogs have been created, showing you how to find the very best guidance from your cards.

But tarot cards can offer something far more profound than that.

Tarot cards can witness you.

Or rather (and more importantly) they can help you witness yourself.

Life rolls on, sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s tough. We change, constantly, we grow, we learn, we take backward steps, then forwards, always feeling, always responding. That’s just how it goes. But every so often, it’s good to feel seen. To mark those changes or feelings by simply…noticing them.

Last week, under that beautiful full moon in cancer, Emma and I pulled cards. No question, no expectation. Just a shuffle and a pull beneath the bright silvery light.

She drew the dynamic Six of Wands. I drew the couple-y Two of Cups. We laughed and saw ourselves in the cards, enjoyed the way each card mirrored back just exactly where we were ‘at’.

It was more helpful than any ‘advice’ card, any big spread or digging to get to the root. It showed us qualities in ourselves that had become lost in the quagmire of overthinking, over-doing, or just, you know, worry. Those individual cards, one each, pierced through the fog and shone a spotlight on each of us. It was comforting. Validating.

A couple of days later we talked about the cards.

For Emma especially, that sense of being seen – and of seeing herself – in the Six of Wands had given clarity, energy, encouragement. She’s working on a huge project, one that requires intense self-motivation and confidence. It requires her to believe in herself every single day, in a way that can’t always be pulled out of nowhere. Her card reminded her of her inherent optimism and excitement for life, showed her that she had everything she needed to make a success of this, to keep going. It witnessed her tiredness and her unsureness. It witnessed that this might be a battle sometimes. It reminded her of what was underneath.

For me, the Two of Cups had shown me the depth in a decision I’m currently mulling over. It had reflected the values that sit at the heart of it, shown me how simple the thing I’m seeking really is. Emma and I laughed as we looked at the two dykes on the cards, short hair, check shirts, hands held, arguing over which was whom. I remembered that everything I’m doing right now is about partnership, love, and connection.

I felt seen. Emma felt seen. Heard. Witnessed, in this brief moment of our lives.

We were simply witnessing ourselves. Nothing more was needed. A profound and simple thing.

Like this post? Please share it!


  1. Whew. So glad comments are working now. I tried to speak to this when it first posted and grew v. confused.

    I loved this post b/c I finally have a term for my practice of tarot. I followed your blog and tarot thoughts intitially b/c I was relieved to find someone who eschewed tarot as predictive. With my religious framework predictive is off the table, but the cards and their non-verbal consistency (between decks, the expanding of meaning), their patterns and reaching of intuition, are really meaningful to me.

    As my people find out I have cards (and they don’t even know how many decks), the response is almost universal *concern* that leaves me a bit staggered at the intensity of their bias. And I can’t blame them because before connecting with my first real deck I think I would have reacted the same (common conditioning).

    Looking at tarot as witness, I see that has been my use all along: when I layer the card with the position in a spread (or plot format– I’m a novelist and use them for story-building), it’s like the perfect storm for my intuition. It combines concepts and lets me look straight at things I haven’t thought about before.

    Again, because of my background, religious/social framework, I don’t trust everything I read, but that is just a reminder that the cards don’t rule my life and I can throw them again. When the spots do line up, when the cards illustrate something that resonates as true that I hadn’t thought of before, I recognize a deep delight, because this tool (and such a visually pleasing, beautiful tool) has enriched my life, and my understanding of myself or the world around me.

    (I have a couple examples I could share, but this “comment” is long enough already.)

    Thanks for what you do here, and the gentle awareness, the welcome, of this space.

    Peace to you.

  2. Catherine says:

    Dear Beth,
    Thank-you. For years I have questioned my ability as a tarot reader because the cards invariably reflect the querent’s question or situation exactly as it stands. I have come to espouse the ‘I’m not a predictive reader, this reading is to help you explore things as they stand and help you discover your strengths, hinderances and best options for moving forward’ form of readership. I’ve struggled with the dream of having a tarot reading business because I’m stymied at coming up with a catchy name – Holding Space Tarot and Witness aren’t big street draws hee hee. Despite the accuracy of the cards reflection, you see the disappointment in querent’s eyes and their minds as they blurt out – “but that’s obvious!” or “I already know all that, this isn’t very useful!’ And despite guiding them through a more in depth investigation and options for actions, I worry that they feel ripped off or that it was an unhelpful waste of time as no concrete results were revealed. Life doesn’t offer predictable concrete results. Often the reason folks come to a tarot reader is because they want magic. They want to know that there is some awesome plan already in place for their life – and maybe there is, my job is to help them see that they are already living it and this is merely a bump in the road. Although my querent may not be impressed, I’m continually gobsmacked by the tarots ability to hit the nail on the head. They’ve been living with the situation and are already sick of it, but I’m new to it. I’m considering that the first half of a reading is the cards cluing me in on things and then, maybe, I need to do another spread given what I know about the context of the situation.

    Little Red Tarot has been a source of enjoyment, and intellectual and spiritual stimulation. Thank-you. Keep up the good work!

    • Beth says:

      Hey Catherine, y’know, I’m much the same. Not predictive, and often my readings don’t go far beyond ‘what the querent already knows [on some level]’ – for me that’s a deep and important part of my practice. Bringing things to the light. Witnessing. Affirming. For me that is radical magic, but it’s important that I am clear with querents (preferably before I even encounter them) about my approach.

      I love that you are continually gobsmacked by your own readings, that’s brilliant!! And I’m sure you know this but: There are many, many people out there who are aching to find you and your service, for whom witnessing and holding space for ‘what they already know’ is a vital and radical act. Don’t let the others put you off – they’re seeking something else and that’s fine 🙂

Comments are closed.