Tarot IRL: Practicing Tarot with People Watching

Mountain Dream Tarot Bea Nettles Ten of Pentacles Photographs

Tarot doesn't have to be limited to evocatively lit rooms or private practices. It's easy to find connections to the cards in our everyday lives and doing so can be a great way to bond with the cards and make their meanings stick in your memory. 

I originally stumbled on this technique by accident and ever since it's been a go-to whenever I'm out and about. So next time you're in public and feeling the pull to sedate yourself by scrolling through Instagram, give this a try instead...

People Watching with Tarot

It's no secret that I love people watching. One of my favorite things to do is head the mall, grab a greasy pretzel and diet coke (the vice of my teenage years), and sit on a bench in the food court watching peole walk by. Aside from the thrill of seeing late-Capitalism crumbling around me, I love the mall for its uniting force. On a busy Saturday you can find people of all stripes running about - large families, elderly couples, rogue packs of teenagers trying to look tough, and sweatpant-clad college students. It's a warm and bustling scene; diverse, messy, and oh so human. 

In the midst of all this hustle and bustle I get the best ideas. Strangely enough, I write my favorite poems while sitting at the mall food court. And lately I've been honing my tarot skills as well. 

The Four of Cups could be an embarassed teenager pretending not to be related to his parents

The Four of Cups could be an embarassed teenager pretending not to be related to his parents

I was introduced to this technique in a very bizarre way. One night while standing in a club waiting for a show to start I noticed a man testing the microphones. Aside from being tall and striking he was also wearing an amazing tarot t-shirt. It had the Death card emblazoned in white across a black background. Looking closer, I noticed that the stage itself was decorated with dangling stars and comets. "It's Death on the cosmic stage!" I thought. It seemed very much like a moment.

Inspired, I decided to ascribe tarot cards to the band as they started to play. The lead singer had a shoulder-length mane of wavy hair and a stoic gaze that seemed to look off into the distance with noble purpose. He's The Chariot! The guitar player was self-posessed and calm, yet her solos were effervescent and masterful. A perfect Star! Once I got going it was hard to stop, and now I take this fun exercise with me wherever I go, adding tarot to any situation I stumble upon.

The Ten of Cups could reflect that happy family eating pizza in the food court

The Ten of Cups could reflect that happy family eating pizza in the food court

It's really as simple as this: go to any public place and observe the people around you. Allow your intuition to speak - what is the first tarot card that comes to mind? After you've come up with one, dig a little deeper. Just what is it that makes you see The Hermit in your taciturn bank teller? Why does that screaming toddler remind you of the Three of Swords? 

An especially fun addition is to look at interactions, too. So you've identified a man who seems like the King of Swords with a woman who is like the Nine of Pentacles. How are they interacting? Is it harmonious, tense, flirtatious? What can this tell you about these cards?

Keep in mind that this is a fun mental exercise and not a prescriptive judgment. No one person is ever reflected completely as a tarot card, so don't worry about getting things right or wrong. I know that right now, for example, I am definitely feeling more like the restful Four of Swords while last night I was a jovial Three of Cups. 

Seeing tarot at work in the world around us can be enlightening and helpful, not to mention a good way to practice our skills of observation while having a little fun. Give it a try and let me know what you find out!