People need not be afraid of negative cards in the Tarot any more than they need be afraid of negative thoughts. Here is how to approach reading them.
1. The Tarot represents consciousness, not events. Negative cards can look scary, like someone is in pain. The Rider Waite deck has some gruesome images of people with swords stuck in their backs. The Thoth deck’s nine of swords, called “Cruelty” shows broken swords with blood dripping from them. The Tower card, which is the scariest card in the Tarot (see image), looks like Armageddon. But these scenes merely represent how a person perceives a situation, not the actual event.
2. Ignoring negative cards is like sweeping something under the rug. It just keeps the pain inside rather than providing a chance to release it. I have known people who only use happy decks with sunny messages. I find those decks a bit fluffy and have a hard time trusting their message. Often it is the pain that helps us grow.
3. Seeing a negative card in a reading of the future is a useful warning. Precognition is a gift to steer us around the mine fields of life. Studies show that we all have this gift because it has helped our species survive. So when you see a negative future, find out how it can be avoided or, if it can’t be avoided, how it can be resolved over time. Maybe the person needs to see how they are creating that future. Maybe they just need to see what steps they will have to go through to come to resolution and happiness. So if you’re reading a spread and you don’t like the outcome card, just throw more cards to see how it can be resolved.
4. Negative cards can serve to make us more aware of how we experience reality which enables us to choose more healthy reactions to events. We create our reality with our expectations, our thinking, and our responses to the events in our lives. This awareness is the basis of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is the leading form of psychotherapy today. It’s only when we become aware of the thoughts we form about our lives that we can change our thinking and see life through a more positive lens.
5. Negative Tarot Cards Can Help You Transcend Your Fears. In her book, The Tarot Handbook, cross cultural anthropologist Angeles Arriens addressed the negative cards as positive and negative mind states. Arriens notes that the Thoth Tarot’s thirteen negative and twenty-six positive Minor Arcana cards correspond to the Tibetan Buddhism’s thirteen Bardo or Beasts states, similar to the structure of Dante’s Purgatory. These cultures saw negative mind states as aspects of thinking that we have to transform to become happy or enlightened.
6. In the Thoth Tarot, there are twenty-six positive states that Arriens says we can use to transform the negative ones. This is cognitive behavior therapy a la Tarot. When you pull negative cards, tell yourself they are indicating fears and distorted thinking, rather than reality. Ask the cards what will help turn this thinking around and pull another card.