Why People Are Turning To Astrology And Tarot Cards For Their Mental Health

Paige Smith

“People who get what they truly want in life know how to walk away when something is good, but not good enough,” tweeted Jessica Dore, a licensed social worker and tarot practitioner.

The message accompanied an image of the “eight of cups” tarot card, which depicts a cloaked figure walking away from eight golden cups. The tweet racked up over 14,000 likes. And there are dozens of others just like it.

“I really needed this message today,” one user replied. “Thank you.”

“Needed this ... I’m scared!!” another wrote. “But I know I need to reach for more.”

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Spiritual practices like tarot and astrology have been around for ages, but are now becoming more prominent in wellness culture. Thanks to Twitter, trendy horoscope apps like Co-Star and a wealth of information online, it’s easier than ever to research tarot, read your horoscope and examine your birth chart. 

“Often when people are stressed out or experiencing something negative, they want to better understand the ‘why’ behind it,” said Sari Chait, a clinical psychologist and the owner of Behavioral Health and Wellness Center in Newport, Massachusetts, adding that astrology and tarot readings can provide “the framework for doing that, even if it is not empirically based.”

It’s also no surprise that practices like tarot and astrology are increasingly coupled with mental health advice. Therapeutic guidance (sometimes from actual therapists) has a bigger platform thanks to social media, which has arguably made talking about and understanding mental health more possible for the general population. 

Plus, many people can’t afford professional help or need a supplement to therapy, so they turn to the internet and social media for advice on dealing with daily stress, Dore said. There are numerous barriers to getting mental health treatment, including high cost, insufficient insurance coverage and a lack of options. Recent data found that 1 in 4 Americans said they had to choose between paying for daily necessities and paying for mental health care.

 

Astrology And Tarot As Tools For Self-Awareness

“It’s important to resist the urge, when you’re new to astrology, to start seeing your chart as the reason things are wrong with you or your life,” said consulting astrologer Katie Sweetman. “Instead, see it as a map or a guide for being your best self.” (Photo: stevanovicigor via Getty Images)
“It’s important to resist the urge, when you’re new to astrology, to start seeing your chart as the reason things are wrong with you or your life,” said consulting astrologer Katie Sweetman. “Instead, see it as a map or a guide for being your best self.” (Photo: stevanovicigor via Getty Images)

Both astrology and tarot are archetypal and use similar language to describe past, present and future situations and emotions, Dore said, but they’re different practices. 

“Astrology is an ancient system that uses the movement of the planets through different signs of the zodiac to help reveal how our lives may unfold,” said Katie Sweetman, a consulting astrologer and the founder of Empowering Astrology

In astrology, there are 12 zodiac signs and 10 planets. The simplest and most popular component of astrology — found everywhere from print magazines to the New York Post — is a horoscope, which is a short forecast or reading based on your zodiac sign. Birth charts are more complex and claim to reveal information about your personality and tendencies based on where the planets were positioned when you were born. 

Tarot, on the other hand, is more visual. “It’s a deck of 78 cards with images that show different archetypes and symbols and situations,” Dore said. A few examples include “death,” “the sun” and “the magician.”

“These images represent the vast array of things we encounter in the human experience,” she said. 

Most people initially gravitate toward tarot and astrology because they’re fun, but the two practices may also put some on a path toward greater self-awareness.

“While it’s important to work with a skilled professional such as a therapist for deeper or more acute matters, astrology can be used as a personal development tool to help us understand our blocks and where we can self-sabotage,” Sweetman said.

By learning about your personality traits and how you tend to interact with the world, you may learn to recognize not just your strengths, but also your negative thinking or behavioral patterns. Another benefit of reading something like a horoscope is that it can remind people that their negative feelings and experiences are temporary, Chait added. 

“This is similar to several therapeutic approaches where the emphasis is on how to understand what you are feeling or experiencing in the context of today and trying to see how things may be different in the future, including how you can contribute to making that change,” she said.

Dore uses tarot in a similar way, pulling cards for her clients to help prompt conversations about how they’re feeling and what they’re dealing with in their lives. 

“Many of us are oriented toward the external, looking toward the outside world to tell us what to do,” Dore said. “It’s not necessarily intuitive for people to look inside for answers.” 

Pulling tarot cards, however, gives people an opportunity to check in with themselves and explore their thoughts and feelings, she said. This type of self-reflection is often the first step toward improving your mental health. 

“At the most basic level, if everyone was more in tune with themselves — their needs, wants, boundaries, strengths and weaknesses — we’d be better partners, co-workers and communicators, not to mention more effective in our work and our interpersonal relationships,” Dore said.

Anyone can start using either (or both) of these practices pretty easily. For astrology, Sweetman recommended reading “The Essential Guide to Practical Astrology.” To read your horoscope, you can use a number of websites — you just need to know which sign your birthday falls under. To read your birth chart, you need to know your birth date, as well as your birth time and the city you were born in. You can use apps like Co-Star or reach out to a consulting astrologist for help with interpretation. 

“It’s important to resist the urge, when you’re new to astrology, to start seeing your chart as the reason things are wrong with you or your life,” Sweetman said. “Instead, see it as a map or a guide for being your best self.”

As for tarot, Dore said you can pull cards yourself or have someone else pull them for you. There are countless tarot decks available, but the Rider-Waite version is a well-known, affordable option. Most tarot decks include a booklet that explains the cards and offers general interpretations, but you may also want to purchase a book on tarot that goes deeper. (Dore recommended “Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom.”)

There’s no rulebook for what to do when you pull a card. Dore said you can sit with the image, talk about it, journal about it, set it aside or simply put it back in the deck. “If it resonates, great, and if not, you don’t have to force it to mean something,” she said. 

 

Taking Multiple Routes To Managing Mental Health

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Practices like astrology aren’t a substitute for therapy. The two <i>can</i> be complementary, though.  (Photo: Zinkevych via Getty Images)
Practices like astrology aren’t a substitute for therapy. The two can be complementary, though.  (Photo: Zinkevych via Getty Images)

Tarot and astrology, while helpful, also have their downsides. It’s important to remember that astrology is a pseudoscience, Chait said. Unlike psychology, which is rooted in empirical evidence, “the methodology used to determine whether one’s zodiac sign is related to human behavior or personality has either been flawed or shown no relationship,” Chait said. 

Looking to your birth chart to explain your experiences and circumstances is only so effective. “Sometimes we use astrology to overly pathologize in a way that limits our thinking,” Sweetman added. “We can get caught in a trap where we believe that if we have such-and-such placement in our chart, that certain things will always negatively be a part of us.” 

This can trigger a cycle of passivity that results in blaming negative experiences on your birth chart, rather than taking responsibility for your choices or figuring out how to make changes.

And while tarot can be a good avenue for introspection, Dore said it’s not a tool for managing mental health issues, like trauma or anxiety, that take a major toll on your daily life. If you’re struggling with overwhelming emotions, you should consider reaching out to a therapist or counselor for help, Dore said. There are resources to help you find a good therapist and ways to make the process more affordable.

“If you have trauma or painful memories, you need to be safe,” she said. “You don’t want to open things up that you don’t have the coping skills to process alone.”

Chait agreed, adding that practices like astrology aren’t a substitute for therapy. The two can be complementary, though. 

“If someone believes in astrology and draws conclusions about themselves from astrology, it can provide a backdrop for important therapeutic conversations about how they view themselves and the world,” she said.

Just remember that taking care of your mental health requires a multipronged approach. If you want to explore tarot or astrology, go for it. But make sure you invest in other practices, too. That includes making time for self-care activities, prioritizing sleep, engaging in regular socialization and cutting back on unhealthy activities like over-drinking, Chait said.

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Michelle Williams

In 2013, the former Destiny's Child member revealed that she has been battling depression since she was a teenager. "We're taught, 'Just go to church and pray about it. The Lord is going to heal you,'" Williams told <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/17/michelle-williams-depression-destinys-child-singer-reveals_n_2495297.html">HuffPost</a> at the time.<br /><br />"Well, in the meantime, I believe God-gifted people, physicians, doctors, therapists —that's your healing. Take advantage of it," she said. "Go see a professional so that they can assess you. It's OK if you're going through something. Depression is not OK, but it is OK to go get help."
In 2013, the former Destiny's Child member revealed that she has been battling depression since she was a teenager. "We're taught, 'Just go to church and pray about it. The Lord is going to heal you,'" Williams told HuffPost at the time.

"Well, in the meantime, I believe God-gifted people, physicians, doctors, therapists —that's your healing. Take advantage of it," she said. "Go see a professional so that they can assess you. It's OK if you're going through something. Depression is not OK, but it is OK to go get help."

Brandon Marshall

Marshall, a wide receiver for the New York Giants and founder of the mental health initiative <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/project375.org" target="_blank" data-beacon="{"p":{"lnid":"Project 375","mpid":16,"plid":"project375.org"}}" data-beacon-parsed="true">Project 375</a>, opened up about his ongoing experience with borderline personality disorder in a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brandon-marshall/the-way-people-talk-about-mental-health_b_8258152.html">2015 HuffPost blog</a>.<br /><br />“We need to accept that mental illness is a disease — and like any other disease, it needs stronger research, early screening and treatment, especially for young people,” the athlete wrote.
Marshall, a wide receiver for the New York Giants and founder of the mental health initiative Project 375, opened up about his ongoing experience with borderline personality disorder in a 2015 HuffPost blog.

“We need to accept that mental illness is a disease — and like any other disease, it needs stronger research, early screening and treatment, especially for young people,” the athlete wrote.

Alicia Keys

In a 2007 interview with <a href="http://people.com/celebrity/alicia-keys-talks-about-her-ups-and-downs/" target="_blank">People</a>, Keys revealed that she has dealt with depression in the past. “I was feeling so sad all the time, and I couldn’t shake it,” Keys said. <br /><br />“I started burying my feelings, and it got to a point where I couldn’t even tell my family or my friends, ‘I’m twisted,’ or ‘I’m exhausted,’ or ‘I’m so angry.’ … I became a master of putting up the wall so that I was unreadable,” she said.<br /><br />The singer-songwriter said she had to "learn to let go" in order to get through it.
In a 2007 interview with People, Keys revealed that she has dealt with depression in the past. “I was feeling so sad all the time, and I couldn’t shake it,” Keys said.

“I started burying my feelings, and it got to a point where I couldn’t even tell my family or my friends, ‘I’m twisted,’ or ‘I’m exhausted,’ or ‘I’m so angry.’ … I became a master of putting up the wall so that I was unreadable,” she said.

The singer-songwriter said she had to "learn to let go" in order to get through it.

Wayne Brady

Wayne Brady has been very vocal about his depression throughout the years. In a 2014 interview on <a href="http://www.etonline.com/news/153335_wayne_brady_opens_up_about_his_depression/" target="_blank">ET</a>, the comedian admitted that he'd suffered a debilitating mental breakdown. <br /><br />"Having a bad day is one thing, having a bad week is another, having a bad life … You don't want to move, you can't move in the darkness," Brady explained. <br /><br />“It took me a while to get my stuff together to go, ‘You know what? If you’re not happy, you have to do something about it,’" the comedian added. <br /><br />“Just to admit that you are feeling this way is a huge step," he said. "To claim that, to say, ‘Why do I feel dark? Why do I feel unhappy? Let me do something about this.’”
Wayne Brady has been very vocal about his depression throughout the years. In a 2014 interview on ET, the comedian admitted that he'd suffered a debilitating mental breakdown. 

"Having a bad day is one thing, having a bad week is another, having a bad life … You don't want to move, you can't move in the darkness," Brady explained. 

“It took me a while to get my stuff together to go, ‘You know what? If you’re not happy, you have to do something about it,’" the comedian added. 

“Just to admit that you are feeling this way is a huge step," he said. "To claim that, to say, ‘Why do I feel dark? Why do I feel unhappy? Let me do something about this.’”

Metta World Peace

Metta World Peace, the basketball player formerly known as Ron Artest, has been very public about how his sports psychologist saved his life.<br /><br />Speaking with <a href="http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/13385190/why-metta-world-peace-needed-sports-psychologist" target="_blank">ESPN</a> in 2015, Peace explained:  "Everybody has different issues, good or bad, that they carry with them on the court. It affects you. And for me, it affected me to where sometimes I would be overly aggressive and, in other ways, it would affect people to where they can't perform on the court." <br /><br />"I was always able to perform, but sometimes I would act out and I wanted to see a sports psychologist," he continued. "Because to me, I didn't need a psychologist to get my mind right. I needed a psychologist to help me perfect what I love, and I can't perfect it when I'm on the bench or when I'm getting suspended because I'm playing upset."
Metta World Peace, the basketball player formerly known as Ron Artest, has been very public about how his sports psychologist saved his life.

Speaking with ESPN in 2015, Peace explained:  "Everybody has different issues, good or bad, that they carry with them on the court. It affects you. And for me, it affected me to where sometimes I would be overly aggressive and, in other ways, it would affect people to where they can't perform on the court."

"I was always able to perform, but sometimes I would act out and I wanted to see a sports psychologist," he continued. "Because to me, I didn't need a psychologist to get my mind right. I needed a psychologist to help me perfect what I love, and I can't perfect it when I'm on the bench or when I'm getting suspended because I'm playing upset."

Lisa Nicole Carson

Lisa Nicole Carson, best known for her role on the '90s hit TV show "Ally McBeal," revealed in 2015 that she took a decade-long hiatus from Hollywood due to complications with bipolar disorder. <br /><br />Carson wrote in <a href="http://www.essence.com/2015/06/09/woman-interrupted-lisa-nicole-carson-opens-about-her-struggle-bipolar-disorder" target="_blank">Essence</a>, "I’m tackling the myth that African-American women have to be pillars of strength. We have the right to fall. We have the right not to always have our sh*t together. We just have to take our mental health as seriously as we do the physical. Do not be afraid to go to a therapist or a doctor to make sure everything is fine."
Lisa Nicole Carson, best known for her role on the '90s hit TV show "Ally McBeal," revealed in 2015 that she took a decade-long hiatus from Hollywood due to complications with bipolar disorder.

Carson wrote in Essence, "I’m tackling the myth that African-American women have to be pillars of strength. We have the right to fall. We have the right not to always have our sh*t together. We just have to take our mental health as seriously as we do the physical. Do not be afraid to go to a therapist or a doctor to make sure everything is fine."

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson

Known for his charm and his thousand-watt smile, Johnson has discussed his darker moments with depression in the past. "I didn't know what it was," the actor told <a href="http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/features/drive-despair-rock-dwayne-johnson-712689" target="_blank">The Hollywood Reporter</a> of his first bout of depression in his 20s. "I didn't know why I didn't want to do anything. I had never experienced anything like that."<br /><br />On a 2015 episode of "<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_T9Jg0U2DA" target="_blank">Oprah's Master Class</a>," Johnson said that he got through depression by realizing that he wasn't alone. <br /><br />“Have faith that on the other side of your pain is something good,” he said.
Known for his charm and his thousand-watt smile, Johnson has discussed his darker moments with depression in the past. "I didn't know what it was," the actor told The Hollywood Reporter of his first bout of depression in his 20s. "I didn't know why I didn't want to do anything. I had never experienced anything like that."

On a 2015 episode of "Oprah's Master Class," Johnson said that he got through depression by realizing that he wasn't alone. 

“Have faith that on the other side of your pain is something good,” he said.

DMX

The rapper has had a long and public battle with bipolar disorder and drug addiction. In 2011, he spoke candidly with <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZ6QkCS8gNQ" target="_blank">ABC News </a>about his ongoing struggle, saying:  <br /><br />“I used to be really clear on who was what and what characteristics each personality had. But I don’t know at this point. I’m not even sure there is a difference. I’m Earl when I’m with my children. I miss my children," the rapper said. <br /><br />He added that, though he still struggles, God has been a big part of his healing process.<br /><br />“Every day, I start my day off with a prayer, ask God to guide my steps. Cover me and keep me safe."
The rapper has had a long and public battle with bipolar disorder and drug addiction. In 2011, he spoke candidly with ABC News about his ongoing struggle, saying:  

“I used to be really clear on who was what and what characteristics each personality had. But I don’t know at this point. I’m not even sure there is a difference. I’m Earl when I’m with my children. I miss my children," the rapper said. 

He added that, though he still struggles, God has been a big part of his healing process.

“Every day, I start my day off with a prayer, ask God to guide my steps. Cover me and keep me safe."

Janet Jackson

In 1998, Jackson told <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/features/janetjack.htm" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">The Washington Post</a> that she struggled with depression throughout her early career, and made the mistake of not reaching out for help. <br /><br />“I remember, even after the ‘Rhythm Nation’ tour in 1990, when I was in my early 20s, I was really bummed out," Jackson said. <br /><br />"Looking back on it now, it was depression," she said. "But it hits a lot of people — and a lot of artists — and I didn't know that. Nobody ever talked about that in my family — I still haven’t talked to anybody in my family about it.”
In 1998, Jackson told The Washington Post that she struggled with depression throughout her early career, and made the mistake of not reaching out for help. 

“I remember, even after the ‘Rhythm Nation’ tour in 1990, when I was in my early 20s, I was really bummed out," Jackson said.

"Looking back on it now, it was depression," she said. "But it hits a lot of people — and a lot of artists — and I didn't know that. Nobody ever talked about that in my family — I still haven’t talked to anybody in my family about it.”

Jennifer Lewis

Jennifer Lewis, one of Hollywood's most beloved character actors, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder two decades ago. <br /><br />"It's hard to accept that you have a problem," Lewis told <a href="https://newsone.com/2849976/jenifer-lewis-you-have-to-love-yourself/" target="_blank">NewsOne</a> about her diagnosis. <br /><br />"That's another piece of the disease – the denial," she added. "You think everyone cries themselves to sleep. You should ask yourself why am I so depressed, why am I so angry with my children, angry with my partner … why am I depressed, or over the top?"<br /><br />Lewis, who currently stars on "Black-ish," says that one must practice self-love in order to overcome mental illness: "You have to look in the mirror … and say, before you can go or grow into anything, you have to say you love yourself."
Jennifer Lewis, one of Hollywood's most beloved character actors, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder two decades ago.

"It's hard to accept that you have a problem," Lewis told NewsOne about her diagnosis.

"That's another piece of the disease – the denial," she added. "You think everyone cries themselves to sleep. You should ask yourself why am I so depressed, why am I so angry with my children, angry with my partner … why am I depressed, or over the top?"

Lewis, who currently stars on "Black-ish," says that one must practice self-love in order to overcome mental illness: "You have to look in the mirror … and say, before you can go or grow into anything, you have to say you love yourself."

Kid Cudi

In October 2016, Kid Cudi shared a deeply candid <a href="https://www.facebook.com/kidcudi/posts/10154706102758586" target="_blank">Facebook</a> post in which he wrote about his struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts.<br /><br />"It took me a while to get to this place of commitment, but it is something I have to do for myself, my family, my best friend/daughter and all of you, my fans," Cudi wrote. <br /><br />"Yesterday I checked myself into rehab for depression and suicidal urges," he continued. "I am not at peace. I haven't been since you've known me."<br /><br />The post sparked an important conversation about mental health in the black community, especially among black men.
In October 2016, Kid Cudi shared a deeply candid Facebook post in which he wrote about his struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts.

"It took me a while to get to this place of commitment, but it is something I have to do for myself, my family, my best friend/daughter and all of you, my fans," Cudi wrote. 

"Yesterday I checked myself into rehab for depression and suicidal urges," he continued. "I am not at peace. I haven't been since you've known me."

The post sparked an important conversation about mental health in the black community, especially among black men.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.