In middle school (ages 11 through 13), I often carried around a lunch tin that was stocked with my ESP studies set-up. The study of ESP, or extra-sensory perception, was my jam for many years (ok, admittedly, I still slather my metaphysical toast with it) and if you met me around that age I would’ve likely asked to test your psychic abilities. I would’ve taken note of the results in my little notebook, letting you know whether or not your results were of note and the different style of “extra” you might have in your perceptions.
(As I’m writing this story I’m realizing where the gap emerged with my regards to being able to do small talk. Here. In junior high when I started conversations with “Have you heard of Zener cards?”)
I’m older now and don’t carry around a lunch tin full of Zener cards, pendulums, vision-inducing oils and other metaphysical accoutrement. Now, I carry a deck of tarot cards with me everywhere.
It’s basically the same thing.
So in a reclamation of the power of being the weird kid (and now the weird adult) which I know that many of you reading this were and are, I want to share with you some of my favorite tarot party tricks for developing your psychic abilities. Now, when I talk about psychic abilities, I’m referring to the broad expanse of our ability to perceive our inner and outer worlds in a way that helps us to gather information that is useful to our lives. Essential stuff for self-discovery, working magick, and being a decent humxn.
I think this development of and increasing awareness of extra-sensory perception is essential for our ability to survive and thrive as a species. It’s hard to ignore the fact that we know far less than we think we know as a species when you begin to engage in the world of the extra-sensory. And we need some of that humility in the face of mystery instead of continuing to make fear-based choices thinly veiled as arrogant confidence (hello thinking we’re just going to ride out climate change without radical change on our part).
We need to perceive more. Feel more. Experience more.
And - this is key and why I think psychic development is important - have the tools to return to our center when it feels overwhelming.
While I encourage everyone to make their own Zener cards out of markers and construction paper (please be friends with my 11 year old self), a tarot deck will serve you well, too. All of these activities can be done on your own-some, but I think they are particularly fun to do with friends and covenmates. If you’re new to the world of psychic development, I hope that these activities serve as little gateways to get you curious about the practice. If you’re an older-timer nerd at this stuff but haven’t used tarot yet for psychic development, I hope you’ll be excited to find some new techniques.
One more thing… there’s debate as to the best way to approach psychic development activities. Does one ground and center, focusing on the breath, and removing distractions from their environment? Or should it be approached from a space of play, maybe with laughter and music happening at the same time? I’ve seen success with both and you should experiment (that’s basically the motto of any advice I give - Experiment! Thou shouldest do-eth you!). What’s fun about working with the tarot as opposed to another psychic development tool is that the tarot cards are rich with energy and symbolism giving our psychic reach a lot to hold onto and hopefully pull back into our consciousness. Remember that like with any new skill, it takes time and practice to show up. Your gifts will show up, too.
Find that Card
This is a super simple, no set-up required game. Either you or a friend chooses a card for you to find in the deck without looking at the cards. You can hold the deck in your hand, rifling through until it feels right. Or lay all the cards out in front of you until you feel like you’ve found the right one. If you don’t choose the right card, check out the cards surrounding it to see if its shown up there. I do this game during tarot classes I teach when I want to find and talk about a particular card.
Sorting the Suits
For this game you’ll only need the Minor Arcana. On a table before you indicate a spot for each of the four suits (you might want to write this down on scraps of paper so you don’t have to spend mental energy trying to remember where to place each card). Shuffle the cards and then sort them by suit into the corresponding piles. It’s typically recommended that you do this quickly and without thinking too much about what card you are putting where. At the end, find out how many cards you sorted correctly. Sorting 16 or more cards correctly shows that you are beginning to move out of randomness into something significant.
Predicting the Order
Using the Minor Arcana, pull out 5 cards of each of suit and set them aside. On a piece of paper list out order you think the cards will fall in (i.e. Wands, Cups, Cups, Swords, Wands, Pentacles, etc.). If you receive even more specific information (i.e. instead of just a Wands card, the Three of Wands specifically) make a note of that, too, but that’s not the primary focus. Then shuffle the cards a few times and place them all in a single pile. Go through the pile in order to see how well they match up to your predictions. A score of 7 or higher shows that you’re predicting more than getting lucky guesses.
Ordering the Arcana
This next exercise leans on your connection with tarot. You will only need the Major Arcana from your deck. Shuffle the cards and with the backside of the cards up, start by finding the Fool and placing it in front of you. Then proceed through the rest of the Major Arcana with three lines of seven cards each. A score of 7 or higher is a good sign that you’re flexing your psychic muscle.
The Psychic Court
This is less a practice and more of a helpful way to affirm or help you discover your psychic gifts. Now, these correspondences are not based on tradition or a hard and fast way of determining what sort of extra sensory person you are. It’s meant to be a bit of fun and help you to start thinking about yourself and your skills, including areas that you might consider developing more. These correspondences are based on my work with the Colman Smith tarot which was the first deck I ever owned and the one that I developed most of these exercises with. I encourage you to create your own correspondences with your favorite deck.
Begin by separating the court cards from the rest of the deck and shuffling them. You can simply ask for insight on what is the strongest area of your psychic skillset and pull a single card as an answer. Or you can do a three card spread asking the following:
What is my psychic strength?
What is my weakest psychic muscle?
What psychic ability should I work on developing more?
Once your cards have been pulled, check out the list below:
Student or Page of Swords : Clairaudience
Traveler or Knight of Swords : Psionic manipulation (i.e. affecting electrical currents such as your computer crashing when you’re experiencing intense emotions)
Architect or King of Swords : Clairvoyance
Visionary or Queen of Swords : Astral projection + lucid dreaming
Student or Page of Cups - Clairvoyance
Traveler or Knight of Cups - Scrying
Architect or King of Cups - Remote Viewing
Visionary or Queen of Cups - Claircognizance
Student or Page of Pentacles - Clairgustance
Traveler or Knight of Pentacles - Dowsing
Architect or King of Pentacles - Clairalience
Visionary or Queen of Pentacles - Plant and animal communication
Student or Page of Wands - Psychometry
Traveler or Knight of Wands - Channeling
Architect or King of Wands - Aura reading
Visionary or Queen of Wands - Energy Healing
Partner Exercise #1! Choose a card from the deck and, without showing your partner, sit across from them. Concentrate on sending the image of the card to your partner’s (the receiver) mind. The receiver should visualize receiving a message or having an image pop up on a phone screen or whatever feels most effective. When the receiver feels like they have received enough images to go on, have them draw what they felt they saw (this is especially helpful if the receiver doesn’t feel like they were able to see the whole card but only snippets). This is a great exercise for folks who practice magick together to strengthen their energetic bonds.
Partner Exercise #2! I think this is a fun practice to practice for tarot readers in general. Its success is far more subjective than the other exercises, but I still think it works our intuitive and empathic abilities. Have one person concentrate on a particular emotional state that is easy for them to connect to (i.e. the anxiousness they experienced this morning after a bad dream). Have them hold on to that feeling without speaking it aloud while their partner looks through the deck to find a card that they feel illustrates the emotional state. Once a card is chosen the querent and reader compare notes about how close the card feels connected to the emotional state that the querent was holding. The reader might pull out the Nine of Swords for a particularly successful read of a situation, for example, but they also might end up pulling out a card that’s more about the dream that the querent was experiencing anxiety from.
So there you have it - how to make friends, become more psychic and save the planet!
Or something like that.
Tell me about your psychic gifts (and shortcomings) in the comments below. And keep being the delightful weird kids. We going to need to get weird and kind and stubbornly connected to do better as we and all future generations deserve.