Most of us are familiar with using tarot for divination—in other words, for looking into the future to see where we’re headed—but the tarot is also a powerful tool for creating the future. Or, I should say, for co-creating the future with Spirit, the universe, or the goddex of your understanding. By using “how”-focused tarot spreads and calling on specific cards to work with, we possess huge power to direct our futures from the present moment. Once you start using tarot in this way, it will enrich your ritual, magical, and day-to-day mindfulness work, and it will shift your tarot practice into a deeper, more intimate, and even more supportive relationship.
Tarot can be used for co-creating the future in lots of ways, but a great place to start is by using tarot to set intentions or call specific energies into your life. Your intentions can relate to tangible goals like completing a long project or finding companionship, but I find that the best intentions are spirit-based, focused on embodying the existence we want from the inside out. I mean things like letting go of fear, opening the heart, connecting to the body, or practicing non-judgement of self and others. Often, when we desire an external thing, it’s only a projection of an internal need. That’s where tarot comes in! It can help us clarify our desires and uncover the core work that calls to be done in order to create the best future and most aligned existence for ourselves.
Here, I’m going to share with you my practice for using the tarot for intention-setting.
Step 1: Explore your intention through the cards.
Holding your intention in mind, sit with a favorite tarot deck and pull out the cards that look or feel most aligned with your intention. Let’s say you want to call more abundance into your life. You might be drawn to the 9 of Pentacles for independent prosperity, the 10 of Pentacles for financial stability, the Empress for self-care and pleasure, the 3 of Cups for plentitude and enjoyment—or something more unexpected! Pull out as many cards as feel right, and don’t overthink it. Following your intuition is a valuable part of the process.
Next, look at the cards you’ve selected and identify what aspect of each card speaks to your goal or desire. What does the Empress capture that the 9 of Pentacles doesn’t? What flavor of abundance does the 3 of Cups offer, and how does that compare to the 10 of Pentacles? You may find that you’re surprised by some of your selections! Maybe you were drawn to the Devil, let’s say. Sit with that and consider what the card illuminates for you. The Devil might ask you to embrace sensual pleasures, especially of the taboo variety, and to work to release the shame you might hold around those pleasures. Working with the tarot in this way can unearth needs that we hadn’t been conscious of before and invite us into self-healing.
Dig into the imagery of your cards, meditate on them, journal about them, whatever works for you! This process of consideration and discovery helps refine our intentions and is a beautiful step that invites us to learn about ourselves and get to the root of our needs and desires.
Step 2: Put your intention into words.
Once you’ve narrowed down your selections to one card or a set of cards that best help you connect to your intention, it’s time to put that intention into words. Some folks will tell you to be as specific as possible in your wording, but I like to be a little looser to allow room for co-creation with the universe. I also like to use my intention or part of it as a mantra that I can repeat when I need a reminder or find myself in difficult moments. Use the present tense to get yourself into the mindset and energy of it already happening!
“I connect to my sensual nature without shame.” “My body is home to abundance and pleasure.” “My heart gives and receives love freely.”
“I am worthy of pleasure and peace.”
Write your intention on a piece of paper and place it and your chosen tarot cards on your altar or somewhere you’ll see them frequently. Pro tip: take a picture and make it your phone background for an extra visual reminder! If you need to continue using your cards in your tarot deck, photocopying them for your altar is a great solution.
Step 3: Ritualize it!
Committing yourself to your intention through ritual is a powerful part of the embodiment process. I encourage you to make a personal ritual that feels good to you, and it can be as simple or as elaborate as you want it! I sometimes involve candle magic, in which case you might choose to place your intention paper below the candle, burn it in the flame, or write your intention or the name(s) of your tarot card(s) on the candle. I also love charging a crystal or object on top of my tarot card and carrying it with me as a talisman. But sometimes, I simply speak my intention aloud and go about my day.
One thing I always do is pull a tarot spread for guidance. Below, I’ve included my original tarot spread for working intentionally with a card’s energy. I use it as part of my initial intention-setting ritual, and it also works as a helpful check-in along the way.
Step 4: Work it.
You can’t just leave your cards there and expect things to happen! You’ve got to work the energy, and that means taking tangible steps toward your intention, making necessary changes in your life, and returning to your card(s) often to reflect on your progress and recommit yourself.
And remember: embodying our intentions takes time and can be difficult work! Be gentle with yourself along the way.
One day in not too long, you’ll look back and realize that your intention has become your reality.
A Spread for Setting Intentions
0. Place your self-selected intention card here.
1. How can I best work with this card’s energy to embody my intention?
2. What do I need to release in order to make room for this energy in my life?
3. What challenge may this energy bring up?
4. What blessing may this energy reveal?
5. What action can I take right now to step toward embodying my intention?
6. Message for co-creating with Spirit.
Claire Burgess (they/them) is a queer and non-binary tarot practictioner, teacher, writer, artist, and witch. They’re the creator of Fifth Spirit Tarot, a queer and inclusive tarot deck for a world beyond binaries. They’re also the host of The Word Witch podcast, exploring tarot, astrology, magic, and belief through a queer and anti-oppressive lens. Claire teaches tarot classes online and in Portland, Oregon, and reads tarot by appointment. Find them at www.thewordwitchtarot.com
and on Instagram at @the.word.witch.