“You Do You”

I was looking up the phrase “You do you” for this post on self-reading and found that its origin may be older than we think, although I believe the emphasis here was on the “do” and not the “you” in this antique usage; “Do enjoy yourself” was the intent and the comma was only to punctuate it as dialogue.  This is a quote from Chapter 19 of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, Frankenstein:

‘Do you,’ said I, ‘enjoy yourself . . . ‘

Anyway, today’s subject is the advisability of reading tarot for yourself. There is a long-standing assumption that we can’t (or at least shouldn’t) attempt to read the cards to predict our own future. The idea behind this seems to be that we can’t possibly be objective about our own lives, and that wishful thinking will cloud our vision and sabotage the legitimacy of the results. But for most people, self-reading is the only way they have to learn; either they have nobody else to practice on or they’re still too timid to try. As long as it is recognized as a learning tool, there is absolutely no harm in doing it. Past that point, I find that self-reading is useful for looking at the broad scope of the situation in question (I call it the “tone” of the period) rather than to forecast specific events, which only infrequently manifest as suggested by the cards. However, there is something to be said for the fact that nobody knows the potential inherent in forthcoming circumstances better than ourselves, even if that foreknowledge is only subconscious in the form of premonitions or “hunches.” The “educated guess” is often perfectly expressed in a tarot reading.

Another point is that, when using the tarot as a self-awareness and self-development technique, it can help “explain us to ourselves.” If used with care, this can be more than delusional “navel-gazing.” The trick is to simply “read the cards as they lay” (even if it amounts to the poker-player’s expression “Read ’em and weep”), and don’t try to “spin” their import to substantiate our own preconceived self-image. There is always the risk of generating a “self-fulfilling prophecy” if we become too thoroughly convinced of the infallibility of our projections; we wind up assuming that we have to live up to them. It could even be said that “projection” in its psychological sense is all that we’re doing when reading our own cards. We accept whatever fits our internal self-portrait and reject everything else; we’re essentially fooling ourselves and wasting our time.

I seldom read for myself any more, but it’s not for any of the above reasons. My life changes very little on a day-to-day basis, and I encounter very few people during the course of any day or even week (this was true well before the coronavirus pandemic). Looking at the “tone of the day” is about as far as I go, if I remember to do a daily draw before I get too far into it. I think of it as mental and emotional “pre-conditoning” to face the day ahead in a “forewarned is forearmed” manner. For the most part, I take Aleister Crowley’s advice to “live with the tarot” but not necessarily “by” it. Trying to do the latter strikes me as a misapplication of its potency.


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