Mental Health

Jeffree Star, Self Harm, and Taboos.

To many of us, Jeffree Star is infamous. We’ve watched his Myspace superstardom, his music career, his many feuds with beauty influencers, his makeup brand, and now his latest resurgence into pop culture. He is a rather controversial figure, with public fights and fall-outs dividing public opinion on him, and his racist actions in the past. The image built up around him was the subject of a 5 part documentary series by YouTuber Shane Dawson, who delved into Jeffree’s secret life.

The series followed Shane and Jeffrey over the course of what seems like a few days, as they explore Jeffree’s home (a mansion in Calabasas), drive his cars (a pink Tesla being among them), and explore his local WalMart. They also explore Jeffree’s makeup business, see the warehouse that ships his products, and the lab that creates them. With all of this success, Shane decides to take Jeffree back to his past, and they head to his old apartment.

Secret Life of Jeffree Star Thumbnail

It is here that Jeffree opens up to Shane about his past with mental illness. He discusses his insecurities, addresses some of his past friendships, and what his life was like before fame.

He revealed that in his teen years, he self harmed a huge amount. When he shows his legs, he reveals that he had “over 5,000 scars” on his thigh.

Link to video in question. Trigger warning for discussions of self harm, and images of healed scars.

When he felt that he had overcome the urge to self harm, he decided to cover his entire body in tattoos. He tells us how he used to hide his body under long sleeves, leather, full coverage, in all weather. He says he’s more comfortable now, but he’s still careful to hide any hint of this past in his videos now, using bracelets and long sleeves in his videos.

Today, Jeffree Star uploaded a new video to his channel, where he goes into these subjects in a little more detail.

 

In this video, he reveals that it has only been 4 years since he last harmed himself, and not 10 years as he stated in the last video with Shane. He mentions that telling the world about this has left him feeling embarrassed, exposed, and vulnerable.

Despite Jeffree’s life being very different to most of ours, that is something I think we can all relate to. If you’ve ever tried to open up about mental illness, especially self harm, those feelings will be all too familiar to you.

While many of us are trying to break down the massive stigma against talking about mental illness, self harm remains a massive taboo. Even amongst the fiercest mental health advocates, it’s difficult to find regular open discussions of self harm. It’s heavily misunderstood by many, which makes it even more difficult to reach out and admit to doing it, because you can never be sure what reaction you’ll get. Will they understand, be compassionate, maybe share their own experiences? Or will they jump immediately to the stereotyped image of someone who is “attention-seeking”?

What we need to understand, is that people self harm for many reasons. There is no single answer to explain why we do it. Even a single person can have multiple reasons behind it. If we truly want to help, we have to open up a dialogue about it, and let people share their experiences without judgement.

It’s about time we do away with the judgemental image of “attention seeking” behaviour. Aside from the fact that this is generally completely false, as most people who self harm actively hide themselves away, just as Jeffree Star admitted to doing in his videos. Ask yourself, if a person is so lonely that they turn to hurting themselves in order to be seen, shouldn’t we be paying attention to them?

I hope that, from Jeffree Star sharing his experiences, and receiving an outpouring of responses from people who have been through the same thing, that we can perhaps begin to break down this taboo against self injury. After all, it is only through talking about things openly and with compassion that we can begin to help.

Mental Health, Recipes

Deprecipes – Simple Beginnings

Depression has a great many symptoms that we don’t talk about much. We know all about the sadness, the emptiness, and potentially harmful thoughts but, actually, you don’t even have to be sad to be exhibiting symptoms of depression. Appetite changes can actually be a huge indicator of a depressive episode, way before emotional symptoms happen.

For some people, these appetite changes take the form of a hugely decreased appetite. Undereating, not being able to prepare food, and just plain not eating for long stretches of time. For others, they overeat. This may take the form of comfort eating, turning to junk food rather than something nutritious, or being just plain hungry all the time.

Both of these situations are not ideal. What we want is to nourish our bodies, to an appropriate level, and keep ourselves healthy and comfortable. Of course, it’s never that simple. But we can try!

 

deprecipes

 

And with that, I’d like to talk about something I’m calling Deprecipes! Great recipes to use when you’re deep in a funk, but still wanna do the right thing. I’m going to try and keep these relatively cheap, and always simple.

So, without further ado, here is an almost insultingly simple recipe for you! 

 

Kickass Tortizza

 

Ingredients:

  • Tortilla (1 per serving)
  • Tomato pasata/puree/pizza base (a couple of spoons, enough to coat the tortilla)
  • Cheese (as much or as little as your little heart desires)
  • Other Toppings

 

This one is super simple. It’s basically a pizza, but with a tortilla base. I love this one for lunch and dinner. It’s as healthy as your toppings, super versatile, and very quick to prepare. I firmly believe that tortillas are a staple ingredient, especially for those of us who need convenience.

Turn your oven on. This is only gonna take like 5 minutes to prepare, but it’ll give you a headstart.

Take out a tortilla, and lay it flat on a baking tray.

Choose your pick of base sauce. I generally go for a simple tomato puree, because it’s very cheap. Spoon out however much you’d like, usually about two or three heaped teaspoons worth. Spread it evenly across the surface of the tortilla, using the back of your spoon.

Select your toppings. I personally enjoy chicken. In order to keep things simple, I use ready-cooked chicken breast. You can buy a ready-prepared version of whatever tickles your fancy.

Rip up your pre-cooked chicken into small, even pieces, and spread them across your tortilla.

 

For veggies, I like sweetcorn. I use tinned sweetcorn, but you can also buy it frozen. It’ll defrost very quickly in the microwave, and having it frozen will help you reduce waste. Spread a little of your sweetcorn across the surface of your tortilla.

 

You can substitute for your own toppings, of course.

 

Next, is cheese. I use a pre-grated cheese, because the extra cost for me far outweighs the extra motivation I’d need for preparing it myself. This can work out cheaper if you grate your own, but it’s very helpful to have the ingredients available immediately. Cover your tortilla surface with as much cheese as you like. For me, that’s a very small handful.

 

Once you’re all done and your tortilla is topped to perfection, slide that baking tray on into the oven.

 

You have like, 5ish minutes to try and distract yourself from the void.

Put all those packets back in the fridge, clean any mess you left on the counters, and maybe get yourself a drink of water. If you have meds to take, now’s a great time to do it.

The time you have while you wait is a great time to integrate one of your Tiny Changes.

 

Whap that badboy out once the cheese is melted to your preference. Plate it up, and cut it into quarters. If I’m having this as a more substantial meal, I’ll have more than one, and in that case I like to fold it over and eat it like a quesadilla.

 

Now you’re free to go lie on the floor and think about stuff. Ya did good, kid.

 

Cost per serving: £1.09

 

  • Pack of 8 tortillas – £0.95 (12p each)
  • Tomato Puree – 50p for 200g tube (5p/serving)
  • Cooked Chicken Breast – £2.00 for 240g (60p/serving)
    Tinned Sweetcorn – 35p for 325g (less than 5p/serving)
  • Pre-grated Cheese – £1.90 for 250g (27p/serving)
Mental Health

Sunshine Is Not Medicine, But It Helps

If you’re a depression aficionado (or depressionado as I like to call us) much like I am, then I’m sure you’ll have heard all the usual advice from people who got their psychology degree on Facebook. Eat lettuce, do yoga, think happy thoughts, and go outside.

Of course, we know that depression is so much more than just diet and exercise. It is a fundamental issue with our brains. We simplify it as a chemical imbalance, but there’s also stuff like neural pathways, family history, past traumas, and a whole bunch of other sciencey bullshit. So we know that the advice from Dr Facebook MD, doing a downward dog and eating a leaf, won’t cure us.

I know this advice is too often parroted by people who don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s frequently used to invalidate our struggles, by telling us that we can prevent this all if we just go outside for five minutes. Believe me, I know how frustrating it can be to explain the reality of depression to someone who has nothing but misconceptions in their mind.

No, it won’t cure us. But it can help.

When I get really down, to the point where all of my thoughts are negative ones, and I’ve already pushed everybody away, I like to think of this comic from poorlydrawnlines.com

poorlydrawnlines houseplant
[Image transcription: Three panel comic, with the heading “Don’t Forget”. The first panel shows a bottle of water with the heading “Drink Water”. The second shows an open window with sunshine outside, with the heading “Get Sunlight.” And the third shows a small potted plant, with the heading “You’re basically a house plant with more complicated emotions.” There is a watermark for poorlydrawnlines.com at the bottom right corner.]
Of course, it’s a huge simplification. But it’s true, we do need water, and sunshine, and sometimes it’s good to recognise that while our minds may run wild, we still have a body to take care of too.

Right now, let’s talk about sunlight.

 

Sunlight in particular, is an oft-neglected part of our self care routines. It’s very easy to sit in your depression cave, curled up in the dark, watching Emilia Fart videos on youtube for 7 hours solid. But as difficult as it is, sometimes we need to give ourselves a kick up the arse and take care of our physical bodies. Going outside for five minutes is one of the easiest ways to start that journey.

I’ve written about this before in my 15 Tiny Ways article, but it’s very important to note that you actually don’t have to go to extremes to start getting better. Even just spending 5 minutes on self care is a good start. And I mean literally five minutes. Set an alarm. Be nice to yourself for five exact minutes, then you can go right back to wallowing and I won’t judge you at all. But do the 5 minutes.

 

Here’s a tiny bit of science to back up my reasons for digging sunlight so much. A brief disclaimer, I am not a scientist, and I’m talking about studies, not accepted scientific fact. Do not take medical advice from someone whose only qualification is paying for a web domain. Speak to your doctor.

Sunlight, of course, gives us Vitamin D. It’s well established that vitamin D promotes healthy bone growth and maintenance, among some other things. There are some studies though, that actually show a link between vitamin D deficiency and depression. Although I will point out these are just preliminary studies, and this has not been fully researched yet. The study in question is a meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, wherein some scientists did find that people with depression in their sample also usually had lower levels of Vitamin D. They concluded from this that there was indeed consistency between vitamin D deficiency and depression. While of course, one study just shows that we need to do more work on this subject, it does give us something very interesting to think about.

We also know that in cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder, light therapy is often effective in treating it. Light therapy is a treatment wherein a person is given a lamp that simulates sunlight, and they use it at times where they usually would get sunshine in the summer months. SAD tends to affect people the worst in winter, where we have far more dark and cold days. There are, of course, other reasons behind SAD, such as an interference with the circadian rhythm and a greater likelihood of staying indoors and becoming inactive, among other things.

But still, sunshine shows its benefits. A lack of sunshine is, of course, not the only reason you’re depressed. But getting a little bit extra sunshine in your life may help you along the way to recovery. Maybe. Hopefully.

 

Now, what does that mean for you?

 

Well. I know it’s easy for me to sit here on the other side of a screen and tell you how great it is to go outside. To tell you that getting some sun will help you feel like less of a bag of shit. Maybe you’ve had a bad day, it’s late at night, and you’re desperately searching for something to grab hold of, something that says maybe you’ll feel okay some day. I do that too. I grip tightly to every self help article that floats my way, as if it’s a raft and I’m stranded in the middle of the Atlantic. Point being, maybe it’s not possible for you to go get some sunlight right now. 

 

I’m not gonna tell you you’ll be cured by getting some sunshine. I won’t tell you to go guzzle down some Vitamin D pills. Actually, if you’re on any medication, you shouldn’t take Vitamin D unless your doctor says so. Serious talk, if you add that and most antidepressants, you’re at a higher risk of serotonin syndrome. Which is not a fun disease. So I’m certainly not telling you that. Don’t do that.

 

Here’s the thing, man. There’s no easy cure. No easy way out. And I mean, yeah, that’s an absolute bummer to hear. But that’s the truth. I’m not gonna lie to you just so you get the warm fuzzies for a second. Us depressionados, we’re pretty good at sussing out lies and empty platitudes for some reason. It’s a long slog, and it’s gonna be hard going, but even on your absolute worst days you can get through it. You don’t have to get through the entire year. Not even the entire month. Just get through today. Through the next ten minutes, if that’s all you can face. It can be done, even though it sucks while you’re doing it. And that’s the truth. I’m not lying to make you feel better here. 

If I can be real with you for a second, and I think I can because this is my website and not anybody elses, I wrote this whole thing because I bought a hammock recently. I’ve loved sitting outside, even if I’m just on my phone. Same thing I’d be doing inside, just a little brighter. Last Thursday I went out to hammock as usual, and it just didn’t work. I sat in my hammock, under a blanket, and cried. Over nothing. I just cried about crying. I did that for an hour then called the doctor to make an appointment, then went back inside. But the next day, I went back outside. Because even if I felt like absolute complete and utter shit, it’s a little nicer to feel like that in a hammock. And slowly, it does start to feel a little nicer.

I’m not gonna shame you for not being able to jump enthusiastically over every hurdle that you meet either. God knows, there are plenty of hurdles I encounter, and I just sort of sit there and wait until the wind blows them over so I can crawl past it. If that’s all you can manage, that’s plenty. You’re doing enough. Shit’s hard. Shit’s way hard. I know. I see you there, struggling along. It’s hard. But you’re doing it.

 

And it might be nicer to struggle along in the sunshine.

Art, Uncategorized

Mountain

mountains

 

Buy this on Redbubble

 

I was speaking to my friend Maliri, who has been an incredibly important person in my life for many years now, even when we don’t speak for a long time. We had a brief catchup. She’s an incredibly talented writer, always has been. I wanted to remind her to never stop writing. She told me to never stop creating art.

I hadn’t actually finished a piece for a long time, so inspired by her words I decided to push on and finish something.

It may not be perfect, but that’s not what we’re striving for here. All that matters is to never stop creating.

So here’s to you, Mal.

Mental Health, Uncategorized

Scott Hutchison, Rest in Peace

Today the news broke that Scott Hutchison, lead singer of Frightened Rabbit, passed away.

 

His lyrics have been an incredible comfort to me, and to many others. His complete honesty in his struggles, his incredible gift with words, has been such a blessing to those of us who struggled with some of the same things he has.

 

In his lyrics he spoke about hurt, pain, depression, hopelessness, suffering, and about being that cripple with a fully functioning body. But he also wrote about hope. About light. He never shied away from both sides of things.

 

fr show

This picture is from when I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Frightened Rabbit play live, at the Alhambra in Dunfermline. I had two tickets, but I couldn’t find a gig partner. I gave my ticket to a young girl who wanted to go with her friends. I sat up the back, alone, but on that night I didn’t feel lonely. All of us, every single one of us, was connected, through Scott’s words.

I remember walking to the bus station late at night, after the show. I took my shoes off because they were hurting my feet, and I walked barefoot on the cobblestones. I carried the feeling of connectedness with me. The feeling of not being quite so alone in this horribly isolating illness. Depression may make us feel like we’re utterly alone, but it’s lying to us. Scott is proof of that. His battle may be over, but so many of us continue to fight tooth and nail for the same goal. Never stop. There are so many of us doing the same. There are people who understand, I promise.

He had a great sense of humour that came through in his lyrics too. The kind of humour that made him seem like a friend. He was never some untouchable rockstar delivering words from on high, he was just a guy with a gift, sharing what he could.

 

Today I want to remember him by some of his hopeful words.

 

When my blood stops
Someone else’s will not
When my head rolls off
Someone else’s will turn


And while I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to earth

 

Today, remember that he did. He made tiny changes, just like he said he would. Those tiny changes became so much bigger, and his work, his honesty, his genuine heart, has reached out all across the world and given us comfort. We are not alone. You are not alone. And Scott’s family, in their grief, are definitely not alone.

 

Thank you, Scott, and thank you Frightened Rabbit, for everything.

Mental Health

15 Tiny Ways To Start Getting Your Shit Together

There are a lot of reasons you may not have your shit together right now. Mental illness, chronic pain, physical disability, all of these things can massively impact our ability to take care of ourselves. In this post, however, I’ll be assuming that things are really bad for you right now. Too often I see articles like these that are geared towards people who are doing okay, but they could be doing a lot better. When you’re already doing so badly, that can be really discouraging. So if you have absolutely none of your shit together right now, this is for you.

 

plaster

 

Imagine your level of functioning right now is at a 1. You’re breathing, you’re still alive, you might have even managed to eat and drink properly, but there’s not much else going on. This article isn’t going to take you all the way up to a 10. I’ve been there, I still go there regularly, and I know how hard it can be to take care of yourself when you feel like you can barely do anything. We’re going to try and take you from a 1 to a 2. Be proud of what you can manage.

 

I also want to note, you don’t have to do every single one of these things. Some of them won’t be relevant to you, some of them will just seem like too much. That’s okay. Pick one thing and give it a go. Or bookmark this article and come back to it later when you feel like you can manage something. Nothing is too little. Even the tiniest baby steps are still steps forward.

 

Wash one dish

I know you’ve got a pile of dirty dishes sitting in your sink right now. I do too. The thought of filling the sink with hot water and getting dish soap and sponges, or loading the entire dishwasher, probably sounds super overwhelming. But you are gonna need a plate to eat off eventually. You don’t need to do the whole thing. Wash one plate, or one cup. Maybe a fork, if you feel up to it. That’s not too much, is it? Put the hot water on, squeeze a tiny bit of dish soap onto a sponge, and just get that one fork clean. If you want to, you can keep going. But if you can’t, it’s okay. You did one thing. That’s more than zero things. Be proud.

 

Clean your body

When you’re in the throes of illness, it can be incredibly hard to keep up with basic hygiene. We tend not to talk about it, because it can be super embarrassing. You’re not alone, and you’re not a bad person for falling behind on your self care. If a bath or a shower is more than you can deal with at the moment, see if you can get some baby wipes. Give yourself a wipe down, see if you can make yourself feel a little fresher. It’s not going to replace a full wash, but it’s going to help a little bit.

 

Drink a glass of water

You can even do this one while you’re washing one dish. Lately, I’ve just been drinking straight from the tap, because getting a glass or a bottle can be an extra task that i’m just not up for at the time. Fill a glass, or a bowl, or a bottle, or just lean yourself over the sink and pretend you’re a gazelle drinking from a watering hole. Get yourself a drink. It’s important to keep yourself hydrated, and a lot of the time we’ll use soda, tea, coffee, or other drinks to keep dehydration at bay. Water, however, is always the best.

 

Light a candle

tiny candle

It sounds silly, but doing a tiny thing like lighting a candle can help to lighten your mood. Of course, make sure it’s safe, keep the flame away from anything that could catch fire, but I don’t need to tell you that. Turn off the lights and focus on the flame for a little bit. Spend five minutes just sitting quietly, enjoying the smell of your candle, and watching it burn and melt. You can also do this with incense if you prefer. Light a stick or a cone, watch the smoke rise and dance around. Enjoy the smell. How does it make you feel?

 

Go outside for five minutes

Especially if it’s sunny outside. You’ve probably been cooped up inside, breathing the same stagnant air for a while, only seeing artificial light. Go to your door and stand outside for a little bit, breathe in the air, look at your surroundings. If even that is too much, open a window and stand next to it. Just take five minutes out of your day to do that. Going out for a walk is great too, so if you can manage that then go for it! But if not, just go outside and breathe.

 

Make your bed

I don’t mean wash all your sheets, change your covers, anything like that. Just make sure your bottom sheet is all tucked in, straighten your covers, get your pillows in order. This is actually a tip that UnfuckYourHabitat promotes as the very first step in cleaning your bedroom, or your whole house. The reason for this is because it gives you one clear area to touch base when you get overwhelmed. When your mind is messy too, having one clear area can be invaluable.

 

 

Change into clean clothes

It doesn’t matter if you’re just going from one set of pyjamas to another. Put on something clean. If you feel up to it, you can even put on real clothes. This can help give you a little boost of energy, and help you to feel productive. If you’re just changing into clean pyjamas, you’ll still get a little bit of a boost.

 

Brush your teeth

Much like our general bodily hygiene, when you’re in a real bad spot it can be hard to keep up with your oral hygiene. It’s okay, no judgements here. I’ll admit that I’ve slipped behind plenty times before. Go through to the bathroom, pick up your toothbrush, and squeeze a bit of toothpaste on it. If all you can do from there is just stare at it, that’s fine. Put it down and come back later. But if you can, pick it up and brush your teeth. Go for one minute. Count up to 60 seconds in your head. Again, if that’s all you can manage, it’s okay to stop there. But I will encourage you to try and push through, go all the way to a full two minutes. Once you’ve done this, you should hopefully feel a little fresher.

 

Wash your face

A really common thing amongst us depressed beasts, is to do an elaborate skincare routine and declare ourselves healthy. Been there. I get it. It can be nice to treat yourself, but we know it’s not sustainable. If you feel like going for a full on fancy facemask, go for it. If not, let’s just go for the base level. Head over to the sink, get the water running nice and warm. Lather up some soap on your hands, and get your face nice and clean. Wash the soap off, then pat yourself dry with a nice clean towel if you have one. Hopefully after doing that you’ll feel a little more human.

 

Stretch

If you’re physically able, stand up. Stretch your arms up as high as you can, while standing yourself on tippy toes. Bend over and try to reach your toes, so you can give your back a bit of a stretch. Hold yourself steady against a wall, then bring one leg up in front of you. Stretch your leg behind you as well. Then do the same on the other side. We’re not looking for something super fancy here, just something to get the blood flowing. Of course, if you’re not physically able right now, then don’t do something that’s gonna hurt yourself. You know your body best, so do what you know you’re capable of. Don’t put yourself at risk here, all we’re trying to do is wake your physical body up a little, to hopefully give you a little boost of energy.

 

Take your prescribed medication, then set an alarm to remind you tomorrow

tiny pill

Sometimes it’s hard to remember to keep up with your medication. I always try to take mine in the morning, but it’s pretty common for me to forget and then rush to take it at lunchtime. Or even dinnertime. If you have medication you’re supposed to take but have forgotten, see if you can take it now. If you’ve just missed one dose, check the information leaflet to see what you should do. Once you’ve got that step all figured out, set an alarm to remind you to take it tomorrow. Set it for a time you realistically think you’ll manage, for example if you’re having trouble being awake in the mornings maybe it’s not a great idea to set your alarm for 8am. Try and remember to take your medication when it goes off tomorrow.

 

Eat something

When was the last time you ate? Remember that your body is like a car; it needs fuel in order to run. Of course, I’m sort of obligated to tell you to try and grab a healthy snack. Get something fresh, something nutritious. But if all you can bring yourself to eat is takeout, or chocolate, I won’t tell anybody. Grab yourself something to eat, and enjoy it as much as you can. Take some time to focus only on eating your food.

 

Spend 5 minutes throwing away trash

Grab a bag, then go to the place you spend the most time. For me, that’s at my desk. Set a timer on your phone, and just start picking up obvious trash. Empty bottles, cans, wrappers, scraps of paper, anything like that. Throw it all in the bag. When the timer runs out, it’s up to you if you want to continue. But be proud of yourself for getting 5 minutes of productivity done!

 

Check your emails

I personally have about 5000 unread emails. I’m sure there’s some important stuff in there, but we may never know. Set aside a little bit of time to go through your emails, make sure you’ve replied to all the important ones, and if you have to send anybody an email now’s the time to write up a draft. Delete the useless ones, maybe even unsubscribe from a mailing list if you’re feeling spicy. If there are some emails you see are important, but you don’t have the energy to deal with right now, just mark it as important and go back to it later.

 

Write your thoughts down

This is the one thing that helps me to start climbing out of a depression hole. When your thoughts are only in your head, they can be overwhelming. You can’t quite look at it objectively, because all you have in your brain is telling you “this is true! Listen to this!”. Write it down, and it can be easier to process. Whether you just open up a blank word document, or make a post on tumblr or twitter, or write it down on paper, just get it all out there. Be completely honest with yourself, just write it as stream of consciousness. It doesn’t matter if nobody else understands it, it doesn’t matter if it’s not Hemmingway. This can help you to feel a little bit lighter, like you’ve gotten a weight off your shoulders.

 

Once again, not all of these things will be relevant to everybody. And even if they are relevant, you may not be able to complete the task right now. That’s okay. Bookmark this article and come back to it later, when you feel more up to it.

 

Remember that you are a person who deserves compassion and care. If nobody else is giving that to you right now, try to provide it to yourself.

magick

A Beginner’s Guide to Tarot

Tarot, at its essence, is a tool to give us insight into what’s already there. Many people believe it’s a fortune telling device, but I think that oversimplifies things. If you read tarot to divine the future, you are likely to run into difficulties. However, when used as a lens through which to view your own mind, you are far more likely to have successful results from it.

If you’re starting completely from scratch, with absolutely no knowledge of tarot, perhaps you haven’t got your first deck yet, then I would recommend downloading an app like Golden Thread Tarot.This will allow you to pull your own cards, start your own readings, and learn about what tarot can bring to you. Personally, I would use this as a companion app to an actual deck, rather than your sole source of tarot.

In terms of starter decks, the “standard” tarot deck is the Rider Waite cards. These have the most recognisable imagery, so if you’re looking for something pretty classic then I’d go with this. If you’d prefer, there are also thousands of alternative decks with beautiful art. Tarot can be an intensely personal journey, so have a look for some artwork that resonates with you.

Personally, I use the Wild Unknown deck. I find the black and white hand drawn artwork with splashes of colour really easy to connect with. I also enjoy the various changes this author made, making the deck better for personal relations.

 

Now, once you’ve settled on a deck, whether it’s virtual or physical, I’m sure you’ll be anxious to know how to read.

 

Your First Reading

First things first, clear yourself a small space. It doesn’t have to be big, it doesn’t have to be special. Just make sure you have a space where you feel comfortable, and where you have enough space to work. If you have it, perhaps light some incense or a candle. Take a moment to clear your mind. Try to put all your worries and responsibilities to one side for a moment. You can pick them back up later. For now, focus on the cards.

Shuffle your cards. A simple overhand shuffle is usually plenty. You can also scatter the cards across your work space and shuffle them that way. While you shuffle, focus your intent. This is a phrase you’ll hear a lot in magick spaces; it simply means you should keep your mind focused on what you want to get out of this session.

A good question to ask the tarot is generally based around the concept of “what should I know?”. It’s not usually a good idea to ask the tarot about specific things. Remember this is a deck of cards. They won’t magically be able to tell you “you should bring your grandmother’s meatloaf to Linda’s potluck next Tuesday, that’ll make Jenny finally respect you.”

Some good things to ask your cards include…

  • What do I need to know?
  • What should I focus on for this situation?
  • What can I do to bring about success/prosperity/love/etc
  • What message do you have for me?
  • How can I be my best self?

As you’ll notice, these questions are generally vague. They don’t ask a specific yes or no. They will provide the best space for your cards to show you a new insight, and hopefully provide you with some clarity.

Keep your question in mind while you continue to shuffle.

If any single cards fall out of the deck while you’re shuffling, this card may have something to say to you. Take it out and place it off to the side.

Gather your cards back into a pile when you feel you’ve shuffled enough, and place the pile in front of you.

Cut the deck with your left hand, and place the cards you’ve grabbed to the left hand side. Put the right hand pile on top of your newly made left hand pile. Now, the top card in the pile should be one that was originally somewhere in the middle. Pick this card up, and turn it over.

Before you turn to look at the guidebook, spend some time looking at this card. How does the artwork make you feel? What imagery seems important to you here? What do you think it might represent?

Now check your guidebook. Were you close? Does this card make sense to you? If you find it helpful, write down your thoughts on this card. Write down your interpretation of it as it relates to your question. If you do this often enough, you will eventually build a good relationship with your deck, and reading will become far more intuitive. This is the key to becoming truly successful with tarot.

Clarifying Cards

If it doesn’t quite make sense to you, or you’d like to gain a deeper understanding, then pull another card. I like to call this a Clarifying Card. Its intent is to broaden the understanding brought about by the other cards in your reading. Personally I try to keep myself to between 1-3 clarifying cards, however I have known great tarot readers to pull several. Go with what feels right. If you feel you have enough from your single card, that’s fine. If you feel you need a little more insight after you’ve pulled 3, then go ahead. Remember the key, tarot is personal. For each clarifying card, follow the same process as above.

What if my card is upside down?

When a card appears upside-down, we call it reversed. A reversed card simply inverts the original meaning of the card.

For example, if we take the Five of Wands.

wands05

This card in its upright position generally stands for conflict, unsurety, disagreement, imbalance, and competition. This can mean that you are experiencing a maladaptive conflict in your life. This issue isn’t helping anybody get any further. It may be that the conflict is actually a discussion, and it has been productive, but now it’s time to move on before it devolves into chaos. It can also mean that you simply need to take the time to work through conflict. Is this an inner conflict, or are there others involved? Work with every aspect involved, rather than against. Every person in this card is powerful. They all have something to offer. You just need to be sure to listen.

In its reversed position, this very same card instead means that you are avoiding conflict. You’re shying away from a discussion, a disagreement, a fight, that needs to happen. Consider then if this is the best thing for you to be doing right now, or is it time to grab your stick and get into the fray? Or is it that you’ve recently come out of a period of conflict, and now need to reflect on what happened?

Now, you don’t need to use reversed cards in your readings. In fact, while you’re just starting out, I would recommend reading only the upright positions while you get your bearings. When you feel that you’re building a relationship with your cards, then you can start incorporating reversed cards into your repertoire.

Or, you can entirely ignore my advice and jump straight into things. That’s the beauty of this craft; it’s entirely up to you.

Okay, what else should I know?

An important aspect of tarot is the Fool’s Journey. This journey is depicted in the 22 Major Arcana, which are the cards without numbers on them. This starts with 0, the Fool, who represents all of us. Fool does not mean stupid in this instance, think of it instead as naivete. Have a read of the Fool’s Journey in the link above. It’ll help you to get a clearer picture of the ideas behind tarot.

In the Minor Arcana, which is every card that’s not in the Major Arcana, we have four suits. These suits are Cups, Pentacles, Swords, and Wands. Each suit represents a different side of life, and therefore will give you insight into something different.

Cups represent our emotions and relationships. It can speak about our friends, our family, or our feelings about ourselves. It is linked to the element of water.

Wands represent, quite simply, our wants. It speaks to our desires, our spirituality, inspiration, and ideas. It is ruled by the element of fire.

Swords represent our mind. It speaks to our intellect, our ability to reason and rationalise, and our internal power. It is ruled by the element of Air.

Pentacles represent the physical realm. It speaks of everyday things, such as money, material possessions, our resources, what we do day-to-day, and our careers. It is ruled by the element of Earth

By keeping these in mind, it will help you to derive the meaning from each card a little easier. The imagery from each suit may also be present in the major arcana, so keep an eye out!

And Finally…

Remember that tarot is a tool, like any other. Just as a hammer will only exert as much force as you allow it to, tarot only has the power that you give it. If you go into tarot to prove it wrong, you will. If you go into tarot to learn more about your own mind, you will.

Enjoy your journey into tarot!