In this series, I’ll be talking about how to use tarot as a way to meditate on and form an action plan for self-care. In the first few posts, I’ll use the four queen cards to demonstrate how to use a card as a focal point for coming up with self-care strategies. Then I’ll introduce a few simple spreads that will help you figure out what self-care you need.
Why the queen cards? Because the Queens often symbolize one’s inner life, which makes them useful lenses for self-care. If the King of Coins tends to the external world of the kingdom, for example, creating wealth for those around him, the Queen of Coins keeps the castle’s coffers full. (Yeah, I know, it’s totally sexist. I’m heartened by the increasing number of non-patriarchal decks out there, but we’ve got a ways to go.) They don’t symbolize your “feminine side” or your mom or your wife, though–they’re an integral part of your psyche, no matter what gender you are.
By examining the function of the queen, coupled with her suit, we can open up some useful strategies. You can also look at the queens in your deck and get more meaning from their gestures, environments, and other details.
So! Let’s start by meditating on the Queen of Swords. I chose to start with her because she represents the aspects of self-care that aren’t always obvious, but are absolutely necessary. When we think of self-care, we often think of treats like manicures or retail therapy. But simply treating yourself whenever you feel unwell isn’t just a strain on your wallet, it’s not going to solve the root problems that are causing an illness or imbalance. (That’s not to say manicures don’t count as self-care! It’s just that there’s more to it.)
In reality, self-care is any self-initiated activity–pleasurable or not–that keeps us emotionally and physically healthy. Taking your medicine is self-care, even if the medicine tastes icky. The Queen of Swords comes in when we need to figure out the best way to keep ourselves healthy. The swords suit represents intellect, justice, and honesty, but also conflict, distance, and war. Pretty startling array of meanings, right? But let’s see how they play out when the Queen of Swords shows up for self-care. Here are the activities I came up with when meditating on her:
Cutting through delusion. If you’re ill or run down, maybe you need to be honest with yourself. Are you engaging in activities that are unhealthy? Are you working too much? Eating junk? Are you telling yourself something’s worth it because it feels good in the moment? The first step might just be admitting that there’s a problem.
Fighting for your rights. Maybe you know exactly what the problem is, but you’re being forced into unhealthy situations. It might be time to take up arms (figuratively, I hope!) to protect yourself. Just make sure you know the difference between self-defense and aggression.
Forming a plan. Sit down and write a self-care to-do list. What do you need? What needs to happen for you to be well? Seeing it laid out in writing might help. Here’s a Buzzfeed article on how to use a bullet journal for mental health! The Queen of Swords loves bullet journals.
Keeping appointments and commitments. I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember, and keeping appointments can be damn hard. The Queen of Swords implores us to come up with strategies to make it easier. If I need to make a stressful phone call, I make a cup of tea and go to a quiet room. My husband sets reminders on his phone for when to take his medication and go to bed.
Distancing yourself from toxic people. Blades keep people at a distance (if those people know what’s good for them!). If there’s a person who keeps barging into your life and making you unwell, maybe it’s time to stretch out your sword to keep them away. Again, self-care isn’t always cheerful and fun. (By the way, the National Domestic Abuse hotline is 800-799-7233 in case you need it.)
Carving harmful habits out of your life. If you have an addiction–to alcohol, to social media, to work, to sugar, whatever–make breaking that addiction a priority. If you know that you respond in an unhealthy way to a certain situation, like screaming at drivers who cut you off, then commit to changing that behavior.
Tending to your immune system. The swords, when they act as a means of self-defense, correspond to the immune system. Is your immune system weakened? Are you constantly getting sick or battling chronic illness? Take note of this.
Overall, swords cut things away, clarify, and make space. What do you need to cut away? What needs to be crystalized? What space needs to be made?
Now it’s your turn! Pull the Queen of Swords from your deck or find her on the Internet. Put her in front of you with a notebook and pen. Grab a book on tarot if you like (Joan Bunning’s Learning the Tarot is a great place to start) and read up on her. What images, themes, or ideas in her card pop out at you? How can you embody her?
Remember, these ideas are starting points, not quick fixes. The Queen of Swords can help us diagnose a problem and start to address it, but she can’t jump out of the card and heal us!
Next up, the Queen of Cups, who can guide us through the aspects of self-care relating to water, emotions, relationships, and intuition. Stay tuned!