"Nicewashing" and Tarot

Jennifer VanBenschoten

In one of the online Tarot forums I belong to, I've seen numerous posts lately about "nicewashing" and Tarot. The conversations that followed were interesting, to say the least.

To explain it, there were some Tarot readers that were complaining about the way some readers make everything out to be love'n'light and gloss over the challenges in the card. On the opposite side of the coin, there are a lot of readers out there who just deliver bad news in every single reading. Personally, I've been approached a number of times by people who had readings with other readers and were thoroughly shook up by all the "bad news" they received. 

Let's get real about this: life is full of challenges. Those challenges are reflected in the Tarot and in the energy we feel when we see those cards. So how do we read that energy without being all doom and gloom? 

A few years ago, one of my shamanic teachers reminded us that challenging situations like the loss of a job, the end of a relationship, or a physical illness can all be seen as opportunities for growth. In shamanic cultures, when disasters like this occur, they're very often viewed as an initiation of sorts into a new way of life.

When I read Tarot for people, there are bound to be challenges that come up, because let's face it, without those challenges, we wouldn't really need to consult the cards, would we? Here a few examples of how I re-frame the energy of a few cards to be more empowering:

The Tower: A difficult card for a lot of people, especially since 9/11 when the Twin Towers in New York City were destroyed in a terrorist attack. In the Rider-Waite deck, you can actually see human figures falling from a tower as it crumbles under a fire. It indicates having a huge shakeup in life, and destruction of the foundations on which beliefs are built. Instead of believing that your entire world is about to come crashing down, nudge yourself towards questioning your beliefs - all of them. Where did they come from? How do they serve you? Are there any beliefs that are holding you back? Realizing that everything changes - everything - can help make this a more empowering card when you approach it from the standpoint that things don't always shift the way we'd like them to, and look at this as an opportunity for some shadow work and to build resilience. 

Three of Swords: I've never yet seen a deck with this card where my 12-year old hasn't looked at the 3 of Swords and said, "Mommy, that's BRUTAL." The images used are usually swords (natch) piercing a heart, or piercing a dead animal or something else equally shudder-inducing. It's a card about heartbreak and loss, and who among us hasn't experienced that? When relationships end in disappointment and heartbreak, it's never a pleasant experience, but learning to deal with loss is part of being human. To shift the energy of this card, think about ways you can cut cords and honor the experience of loss.

5 of Pentacles: While definitely less challenging than the Swords, Pentacles offer their own challenges. Many of the images I've seen used to depict the energy of the 5 of Pentacles literally make me feel "left out in the cold" - images of human figures in rags, missing limbs, hands out begging for anything that passersby can spare. There's lack mentality in every single corner of this card, until you look behind the figures and see the vibrant colors of the windows. Re-frame the energy of this card by asking yourself what do you need to do to ask for help. Are you even open to receiving help from others, or are you determined to do it on your own? The challenge in this one may be learning to get out of our own way and asking for financial assistance.


So, what do you think? How would you take a challenging card and shift the energy from victimhood to victorious?

Of course, a big part of how you interpret the energy you feel in the cards depends entirely on how comfortable you are with the cards. The more you read and experience, the easier it will get to shift those doom and gloom readings into more empowering, productive experiences for yourself and anyone else you choose to read for.

Make sure you check out the new downloadable resources in my online shop to help you learn how to read Tarot cards! Choose from either the 30 Days of Tarot Prompts Workbook and Journal, or The Art Of Intuitive Tarot workbook

If you're ready to take your Tarot practice on new adventures, make sure you join me for Advanced Integrative Tarot beginning May 3, 2020! This special live online course will cover 7 weeks of practices for Tarot including Tarot + the chakras, Tarot + spirit guides, Tarot + astrology, and Tarot + the Wheel Of the Year. There are only 15 seats available, so register soon!

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1 comment

  • Great article! I’m not a fan of “nicewashing” in life beyond tarot either. It’s great to have a positive outlook in life, and embrace positive thinking, but life is like the Wheel of Fortune card- sometimes things are up, and sometimes they’re down. I think hope for the best but prepare for the worst is more realistic. So in my readings, I basically just try to say what I see. If it’s a lot of “negative” stuff coming up, I try to find the most “positive” card in the reading and circle back to that at the end to at least end on a positive note. And always emphasize that nothing is set in stone, and things can be changed. The cards just show a possible trajectory but we still have choices to make.


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