An aerial view of four arms reaching into the center of the image where tarot cards are laid out in a circle among tealight candles, symbolizing the activist witches who use tarot for social justice
Self-Care

Using Tarot for Social Justice Activism (with Workbook)

Some people think tarot has to be a fortune-telling device used by trained readers, but this is not true. Increasingly, tarot cards are used by people as a tool to access their own intuitive wisdom and practice spiritual self-care. Tarot can help us to draw deeper cognitions and emotions to the surface and reflect on decisions and dilemmas.

Tarot comprises a deck of 78 cards with their own symbolism and story. It’s believed that the deck originated in 15th Century Milan where the Visconti family allegedly commissioned the artist Bonifacio Bembo to create the cards as a game for a wedding gift.

In this post, I’ll outline some ways you could begin using tarot cards in your life. For those of you who may be interested in using tarot for social justice, I offer some inspiration about the growing range of diverse decks now available to buy from independent artists and creators.

When you’re ready to weave a little activist magic, I share a spread that I’ve designed to help you get clear on your path forward in your struggles for social justice. There’s even a workbook you can download to help you take notes on your reading.

Activists can use tarot cards for social justice to intuit our next steps in the struggle.
Photograph by Anastasia Shuraeva

Ways To Use Tarot

1. Making Decisions and Resolving Dilemmas

Tarot cards can help us to gain clarity on our needs and desires. Drawing cards around a situation or dilemma can enable us to tap into our intuition and identify our fears, anxieties, barriers, and blockages.

In that way, tarot cards can be useful therapeutic tools. The visual symbolism helps you see your life laid out and more easily externalize the challenges you face.

2. Meditation

Every tarot deck has unique art for each card and as such, every deck can carry slightly different variations on the meanings.

Richly illustrated decks can serve as evocative tools for meditation. You can look through your deck and choose a card that resonates with you, then spend a few minutes meditating over the art. Another technique involves visualizing yourself entering the scene depicted on the card and spending an introspective moment inside.

3. Setting Intentions & Manifesting

One of my favorite ways to use tarot cards is to invoke an intention, quality, or energy into my life.

I’ll look for a card that symbolizes what I hope to develop. I especially like the simple, elemental meanings of the Major Arcana. So that may be The Fool for spontaneity, Lovers for harmony, Chariot for success, Strength for courage, or Death for transformation. I’ll set the card up on my altar at home or carry it with me during the day as a reminder to cultivate that quality in my thoughts and actions.

Related: New Moon Ritual to Set Intentions and Full Moon Ritual to Raise Power

Finding Inclusive and Diverse Tarot Decks

The classic tarot deck is known as the Rider-Waite. It was first issued in England in 1910 by occultist, Arthur Edward Waite, and printed by the Rider Company. The exquisite art, however, was created by Pamela “Pixie” Colman Smith. To acknowledge the immeasurable contribution Smith made in bringing this deck to life, some refer to the deck as the Rider-Waite-Smith.

Black and white photograph of Pamela Colman Smith or Pixie from circa 1897. She was the artist behind the Rider-Waite tarot deck
Photograph of Pamela Colman Smith from the October 1912 issue of The Craftsman.

In response to the Eurocentrism of the traditional tarot imagery, contemporary artists and spiritualists have created new decks that reflect the diversity of their readers.

These are some examples of the beautiful, inclusive tarot decks that have been created in recent years:

Guided Hand Tarot

Multimedia artist Irene Mudd created this intersectional deck from a queer and feminist lens. The gender binaries in the traditional tarot archetypes are disrupted through androgynous figures. I love Marsha P. Johnson as the Queen of Wands.

 
 
 
 
 
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Sasuraibito

An old, literary term in Japanese meaning “wanderer”, Stasia Burrington’s richly illustrated deck is a pleasure to behold. Draws on Japanese and Buddhist symbolism in the art.

 
 
 
 
 
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The Black Power Tarot (Major Arcana only)

The Black Power Tarot was conceived by King Khan and illustrated by Michael Eaton. It features 26 African American figures including Sun Ra, Nina Simone, Richard Pryor, and Erykah Badu. I love the beautiful, old-style art and muted tones.

 
 
 
 
 
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The Melanated Classic Tarot

The Melanated Classic Tarot created by Oubria Tronshaw and illustrated by Julia Goolsby recreates the Rider-Waite-Smith deck with Black and Brown folx.

 
 
 
 
 
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The Marigold Tarot

Finally, I wanted to share with you the deck that I’ve been coveting for a while now. Artist Amrit Brar created this stunning black and gold deck full of skeletal figures. Gorgeously spooky.

 
 
 
 
 
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Tarot for Social Justice Activism

Prepare for a Tarot Reading

If you wish, you can take some time to create a sacred space before you consult the cards. I’ve written a detailed guide for how to intentionally create sacred space in my new moon ritual. New moons, symbolizing reflection and introspection, are perfect times for tarot readings.

If tarot isn’t a part of your spiritual practice, you really don’t need to do anything ‘witchy’ to read tarot. Please feel free to set aside any instructions you may have heard before about ‘knocking’ the negative energies out of the cards with your fist, ’cutting’ the deck with your non-dominant hand, or laying them out on a selenite crystal.

Clear your mental space. It’s best to do tarot readings from a place of receptiveness and calm. Find stillness in your thoughts and take a few deep breaths.

Form the topic, situation, or question in your mind and shuffle the cards face down. Again, special shuffling techniques are certainly not necessary. If you want some extra guidance, this extremely detailed video below by Southern Magick walks you through a number of different techniques you can use to shuffle and draw tarot cards.

When you’re done shuffling, you can either fan out the cards on a flat surface and pick out individual cards that resonate with you, or it’s fine simply to draw from the top of the pile.

As you lay out the spread, you can flip them face-up or reveal them one at a time.

If you’re new to tarot, you can use the booklet that usually comes with your deck to discern the meanings for each card or you can use an online resource. I really like Labyrinthos for comprehensive explanations of the symbolism and stories behind each card and it’s WOC-owned.

In the next section, I’ve designed a five-card spread to help you as a social justice activist to tap into your inner wisdom and gain greater clarity about your purpose and actions.

Five-Card Spread for Activists

As you shuffle the cards, think about the activism you currently do or would like to do.

When you’re ready, draw five cards in whatever method feels right to you, and lay them out as per the layout below.

tarot social justice activism card spread

Card 1: Foundation of your message or purpose

This first card represents the foundation of your core message or purpose. It signifies what is at the heart of your commitment to social justice, for example, it could be transformation, community, love, or healing. This card helps you get clear about what lies at the center of your politics.

Card 2: What is blocking your way?

This card represents the barriers and challenges, both external and internal, prevent you from fully engaging with your activism and bringing about the change you want to create in the world. This is why the card is laid on top of the first card in this spread.

Card 3: How can you communicate your message?

The third card symbolizes the systems, methods, or tools that you need to best communicate your message and align with your purpose.

Card 4: Who needs to hear your message?

The fourth card signifies the people, communities, or institutions who need your truth. These are the ones who will either benefit the most or require the most significant transformation through your activist work.

Card 5: What is one action you most need to take this month?

Looking ahead in the next month, the final card represents a meaningful or urgent action you need to take in your activism. It may be a discreet, practical step, or it may signal to a mindset shift you need to make that’s required before you can move forward.

As you draw and interpret each card, be sure to relate it back to your original query or topic.

It’s a good idea to write down your full reading in a notebook including the question you asked, the cards you drew, your interpretations, and the decision you resolve to make or the actions you resolve to take as a result of the reading. 

Come back a month or two later to your notes of the reading, and reflect on the messages you received, what you did, and what actually transpired. This reflective practice allows you to improve your tarot reading skills and strengthen your connection with your intuition.

Four women sitting around a circle of tarot cards and candles on the ground, representing the value of using tarot for social justice
Photograph by Anastasia Shuraeva

Download the Workbook

To make it easier for you to try out this tarot spread and record your notes, I’ve created a PDF workbook that you can download.

It has a handy reference for the spread layout and what each of the five cards of the spread signifies, along with space for you to write notes for what comes up in your reading.

tarot for social justice

When you sign up for my newsletter Moon Rites, you’ll receive a copy of my tarot for social justice activism workbook. If you enjoy reading my blog, I think you’ll really like my emails too, but in case you don’t, you’ll be able to unsubscribe anytime.

To learn to play seriously is one of the great secrets of spiritual exploration.

Rachel Pollack, The Forest of Souls

Learn More

Tina Gong (2020) Tarot: Connect with Yourself, Develop Your Intuition, Live Mindfully

Cassandra Snow (2019) Queering the Tarot

Benebell Wen (2015) Holistic Tarot

Sarah Lyons (2019) Revolutionary Witchcraft: A Guide to Magical Activism

David Salisbury (2019) Witchcraft Activism: A Toolkit for Magical Resistance

Featured image by Anastasia Shuraeva

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