Tarot cards are often used for messages, right? Sometimes we use them to tune into something outside ourselves: spirits, ancestors, deities, even the Universe itself. Other times we use them to turn deeply inward, seeking messages from our intuition, our subconscious, our memory. But have you ever used your tarot deck to receive a message from your own body?
Even for the able-bodied and neurotypical, it can be tempting to see the body as something wholly separate from the mind or the spirit. To imagine that the mind and soul are places of pure logic and emotion, while the body is a soft, fragile-feeling thing that needs constant care. And this goes double for the neurodivergent (ND) and disabled among us. In my less-than-ideal moments. I see my body as an enemy. It punishes me with pain flareups for daring to live my life, it spitefully runs out of stamina at the most inconvenient moments, and it constantly finds new ways to trip me up. (And then I’m shocked when I’m dissociative, as if I haven’t done everything in my power to purposefully disconnect from my body. I am, as a friend would say, not a smart man.)
There’s so many reasons why a disabled or ND person might feel at odds with their body, including pain, dysmorphia, body image, physical limitations, trauma, damaging medical “treatments” like ABA that teach us to ignore bodily sensations, dysphoria for the non-cisgender folks among us, and on and on. And while feeling embodied and connected 100% of the time might not be attainable (or even safe) for us, being disembodied and disconnected 100% of the time probably isn’t healthy, either.
Though they may be differently wired and often-frustrating for us, our bodies are tools, housings, and even sources of intuitive messages if we listen. One of my favorite artists, Sleeping at Last, sings in his heartachingly beautiful song Body, “A feather is a ton of bricks, or maybe I’m too sensitive. I don’t know. All I can say is this: from now on I’ll try to listen to intuition.” When our stomach drops at an ex’s text tone, that’s information. When our fingers feel warm or buzzy as they hover over a certain tarot card, that’s information. And we owe it to ourselves to at least spend some time mindfully connecting with our bodies. Even if we can only do so in small, mindful bursts.
I designed this quick tarot spread for that purpose. The goal is to tune into the messages your body is trying to get across to you. The image that sprang to mind when I was deciding how to lay the cards out was a flower just blooming or a tree beginning to branch out, but one of my partners pointed out it could also be a person stretching their arms out over their head, and I love that image, too.
I try (the keyword being try) to see my relationship with my body the same way I see any other relationship. Sometimes it gets on my nerves, sometimes I want nothing to do with it, but ultimately I do care about it and want it to be happy. And like a relationship, it needs to be a give and take. If I push my body too hard during an activity, I need to be understanding of its desire to knock me flat so I can recover afterwards. But facilitating that give-and-take is MUCH harder when my connection to my body is tenuous at best. So I use this spread as a quick check-in, a way of gauging how I’m getting on with my body and what it might need from me.
Before you begin, take a few minutes to tangibly, physically connect with your body in whatever way feels comfortable. There’s a million ways you could accomplish this, but here’s a few possibilities:
- Taking a shower or bath and focusing on the sensations of the water against your skin
- Using a fidget toy or stimming
- Running your hands over your shoulders or arms, almost giving yourself a mini massage
- Masturbating or having sex
- Simply sitting still with a hand or two over your heart
When you feel ready, get your tarot deck of choice and lay out your cards in the following configuration:
1. What is my relationship with my body?
2. What is my body trying to tell me right now?
3. What gift can I give to my body today?
4. Who can I ask for help?
Here’s a sample I did for myself, to give you a better sense of how this spread might play out. I used one of my absolute favorite decks, the Numinous Tarot, which is usually very honest with me but also very encouraging. It felt like the right combination of vibes for the spread.
What is my relationship with my body? I drew the Three of Bells (the equivalent of Swords in this deck). Okay, my deck clearly came out swinging today. Three of Swords signifies betrayal and heartbreak, and yeah, I can definitely fall into the trap of feeling like my body is a traitor to my cause. On an intellectual level, I recognize that my body isn’t the enemy and isn’t willfully trying to hurt me. But anyone with chronic pain can probably relate to that “why are you doing this to me?!” feeling.
Going a bit deeper, though, it’s very possible that my body feels betrayed and backstabbed by me, too. It’s doing its best to function despite how very overwhelmed and overstimulated it is, and here I am yelling at it for anything less than perfection. This card is a good reality check: my relationship with my body is what you might call Fraught, and that’s probably something I should work on.
What is my body trying to tell me right now? We got Nine of Tomes (aka Pentacles). Initially I saw this as a purely positive thing: I am independent, and I’m figuring out how to sustain myself and my needs. But on second glance, this could be an echo of my first card. My body is saying, “Yo dude, I can’t go this alone and neither can you.” Which I definitely try to do sometimes, as evidenced by my manner of talking about my body: as if it is a separate entity and not part of me. My body is telling me that I need to be more interdependent with it.
What gift can I give to my body today? We have Dreamer of Candles, which translates to Page of Wands. This is a court card that overflows with inspiration and new ideas, someone who isn’t afraid to start from scratch again and again (though they sometimes struggle with the following-through part). The best gift I can give to my body is a willingness to approach everything with fresh eyes–the “beginner’s mind” that is often discussed in meditation and mindfulness practices. My body and I can’t tackle every activity as an able-bodied person could, and that’s okay. If I bring an energy of “how can I adapt this,” even (especially) if it’s outside-the-box, my body will have more opportunities to thrive.
Who can I ask for help? My intention with this question was to help the reader find a support buddy, whether that’s a family member or friend, a fur family member, a deity or ancestor, a coworker, anything! But in this case, we have the Diviner, which is the Numinous’s version of the High Priestess. This card is all about turning inward, listening to the voice of your intuition above all else. So to tie this whole reading together, the person I need to ask for help is myself. Not my outer self, who wants to Do All the Things and never get tired. But my inner self, who knows when I’m running out of steam and tells me to slow down. Who senses an oncoming pain flareup and tries to warn me to quit while I’m ahead. That little voice that Sleeping At Last is referencing when he sings that “from now on (he’ll) try to listen to intuition.”
(All right, all right, I get it, body. And tarot deck. Message received.)
Of course there are a multitude of ways this spread could play out for you, and it’s possible you’ll look at a card or two (or the whole layout!) and say, “I have no idea what this is supposed to mean for me and my body.” I encourage you, though, to take a picture of the cards or jot them down in a notebook or on your phone. Even if they don’t feel connected to your current situation at all. There may be a moment weeks or months from now where they spontaneously click for you. (Or not! I’m a big believer in “take what works and leave the rest,” even where tarot readings are concerned!)
If you give this reading a try, please let me know how it went in the comments! Especially if you have any cards that you absolutely can’t figure out–I’m happy to try and connect any dots I can!