Everyone knows that Tarot cards can be used for divination: the art of gathering information about past, present or future through supernatural means. But few people are aware that the arcane imagery of the Tarot—and virtually any other deck of divination cards—can be repurposed to magically create outcomes, rather than only predict them.
While there’s no official term for this technique, it’s commonly called pathwork (even though this term can refer to a wide range of practices). Pathwork is about using imagery to visualize your spiritual path in life. You’re not restricted to using the Tarot’s imagery—you could even design your own if you like. But for those of us who aren’t so artistically inclined, the Tarot offers a ready-made set of symbols that are deeply layered with profound meaning.
Tarot cards tell the story of the Fool’s journey from ignorance to enlightenment, mirroring the spiritual journey we all go through in life. Each card is an archetype that represents the various stages of awakening. While everyone may not pass through each stage sequentially, we will all experience every scene of the Tarot at one point or another.
Normally, you would shuffle the Tarot while pondering a question and then draw cards to interpret their meaning. In pathwork, we reverse this process. So rather than drawing cards at random, we intentionally pick the cards we want and meditate upon them.
You’ll need some knowledge of Tarot card meanings to truly master this art, but you can start just based off your gut reactions to the cards. For example, the Ace of Coins is unmistakably about a windfall of money, while the Lovers obviously represents romantic union. Your immediate interpretation of a card is probably the one you should trust, but you can always consult a book or website to help you make your choices.
You can choose to lay out a complex spread, or a simple one, depending on your goals. If you are vexed by a complicated situation with a lot of moving parts and history, then you’ll probably want to do a whole Celtic Cross spread, choosing each card carefully for its significance and placement. Or, a simple three card spread will do in a pinch. For example, if you’re going in for a job interview, you could lay down the Ace of Swords (for clarity in communication), the Chariot (for triumph & success) and the Ace of Coins (for a big financial offer). Meditate upon those three cards and know that the universe has received your message.
It’s also helpful to remember the differences between the Major and Minor Arcana. The 22 cards of the Major Arcana are the big changes in our lives—birth, death, and all the life-altering transformations in between. The remaining cards of the Minor Arcana deal more with the practical challenges of daily life, and not so much the broad strokes of your entire life. The Minor Arcana are like the individual scenes of your life, whereas the Major Arcana are the overarching chapters.
Knowing this distinction, you can use the cards more effectively. Lay down Major Arcana cards for bigger, more ambitious changes you’d like to initiate in your life, like finding your true purpose, changing careers, starting a family, etc. Expect the changes you’re requesting through the Major Arcana to unfold over the course of years. These are huge, epic changes that will take time to accomplish. For more pressing issues, the Minor Arcana is more appropriate. These cards reflect changes over months, weeks and days, so their effect is much more immediate.
You can even simplify pathwork to just one card. If there is a certain archetype you are trying to embody, placing that card on your altar and meditating upon it will help bring that card’s energy into your life. If you’re trying to be taken more seriously at work, choose the Emperor. If you are trying to get pregnant, try the Empress. If you are trying to be more present and care-free, choose the Fool. Or if you’re trying to get your energy levels back up (along with your libido), try the Sun.
Once you’ve chosen your card(s), just place them on your altar or another place of prominence in your home. You can also light candles around them to amplify their energy, but that’s optional. The real key is that you meditate upon the cards you’ve chosen, actively imagining how it would feel to experience the outcome you desire. Repeat this meditation for at least seven consecutive days to maximally charge up the spread. Then, you can leave the cards out until the outcome you desire materializes or the spell is no longer relevant.
When your spell is complete and you’ve achieved your goal, you can simply place the cards back into the deck and give them a good shuffle. For extra cleansing, you can bury the cards in earth for one to three nights, which will give your cards a full reset.
Remember that using Tarot for pathwork is a way to influence the universe, not control it. Ultimately, if you are using magic to manifest something that is not in your best interest, fate will likely throw up roadblocks and obstacles urging you to move in the other direction. If after three months, you’re not experiencing results, the problem may be that what you desire is not actually good for you. If you can realize that and change your goals, then the magic will still have worked for you, but not necessarily how you expected.
Pathwork is a powerful way to visualize your goals and plot your course from where you are to where you want to be. This technique gives you a way to actively interact with the universe and co-create your life. The arcane symbolism of the Tarot is steeped in psychologically resonant imagery that can tap into your subconscious and help you manifest the life you want. So don’t just sit there desperately asking your deck questions: flip the script and start telling the Tarot what you want and chart your path to enlightenment.