This Holiday Season, Make Space For Solitude

Tarot contributor Jessica explains why the holiday season is the perfect time to go deep – even to the places that you fear the most.

If your life is anything like mine, Halloween kicks off a couple of months of festive decorating and nonstop socializing. It makes sense that we want to gather with friends and family to beat back the long, cold nights with hot toddies and tinsel, but I’d like to encourage you to carve out some time and space for quiet solitude. Since I’m a bit of an introvert, this is just a necessary part of self-care for me.

There’s more to my suggestion than that, though. Winter is the perfect time to cultivate—or rekindle, or rehabilitate—a relationship with darkness and silence. 

Let The High Priestess be your guide. The third card in the Major Arcana, The High Priestess is unafraid to travel wherever her search for knowledge takes her. She trusts her own inner wisdom, and it’s through knowing herself that she gets to know the universe. 

If you’ve ever tried meditation—or psychotherapy—you might be aware that when we explore the contents of our own heads, unwelcome thoughts often intrude. Our first impulse is to push those thoughts right back where they came from. In these moments, The High Priestess wants you to sit with your discomfort and fear, to see what it might teach you. She wants you to step into the shadows, whether that means acknowledging the aspects of ourselves we have repressed, or acquaint ourselves with difficult truths that we’re seeing for the first time. 

The High Priestess is a paradoxical card. She wants us to seek out wisdom, but she also wants to help us learn to accept not knowing. We are never going to understand everything. If we embrace this reality, we can learn to meet mystery with wonder and gratitude. Not everything makes perfect sense, and that knowledge should be a source of peace, rather than fear. 

There are two more facets of The High Priestess that I think of as vitally important. The first is that she has agency. When she decides to confront the scariest aspects of herself and the universe, a past trauma may be what inspires The High Priestess to act…but she makes the choice to set out on this journey freely and consciously. The second thing to know is that The High Priestess acts not just for herself, but also for her community. She will share the healing wisdom she brings back from her travels through the underworld with those who seek it. 

Some questions you might ask yourself when you draw The High Priestess: 

  • Am I acknowledging and honoring my own power? 
  • What aspects of myself am I suppressing? What aspects of myself am I afraid of? 
  • Where do I need healing? 
  • How can I use what I have learned from my own experiences to help myself? How can I use what I have learned from my own experiences to help others?

**Please remember that working with Tarot is not a substitute for care from a mental-health professional. In fact, I think that the best caregivers have High Priestess energy, in that they are people who have traveled into the darkness to learn to help others navigate their way through shadow. So if you are contemplating harming yourself or anyone else, please get the immediate support you need to protect yourself from these thoughts. Counselors with Crisis Text Line are available 24/7 if you text CONNECT to 741741. The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

how to pick a tarot card deck

A Few Of My Favorite Tarot Decks

To round out this month’s column, I’m going to share some of my favorite decks with you. Finding a deck—or a few decks, or several decks, or too many decks—you love is essential to working with Tarot.


The Smith-Waite Centennial

Since I started writing this column, I’ve been eager to introduce you to some of my favorite Tarot decks. I have tried to pull together a wide range of styles while also selecting decks that are, in my opinion, accessible to beginners.

The Smith-Waite deck is the classic, and it’s a great choice for beginners because it will familiarize you with the system and symbolism most designers use as a starting point. Also, many—if not most—guides to Tarot refer to the names, suits, and imagery found in this deck. There are multiple editions of the Smith-Waite Tarot, but this is my fave because it uses the soft color palette Pamela Colman Smith chose for the first edition in 1909. This is the deck I give to someone who is interested in learning about Tarot.


Wild Unknown

I bought this deck without hesitation the first time I saw it. I felt an instant connection, and I think a lot of readers experienced the Wild Unknown Tarot as a much-needed breath of fresh air. Artist Kim Krans strips away a lot of the esoteric symbolism that we so often see in Tarot and gives us simple, primal images from nature instead. There is no deck in my collection that clients love more.



Pagan Otherworlds

I was initially drawn to this deck because it’s gorgeous, but, as I got to know it better, I realized that it filled a specific need in my evolving spiritual practice. As I become more and more aware of the problems associated with appropriation, I become more and more interested in exploring my own cultural heritage. My roots are in Northern Europe, and artist Linnea Gits has chosen imagery from pre-Christian folkways from that part of the world to illuminate the Tarot. (The only caveat I will add is that this is a pip deck, which means that only the Major Arcana cards are elaborately illustrated. Not all readers enjoy working with pip decks, and they can be especially challenging for those new to Tarot.)




The word “spolia” refers to building stones repurposed for new structures. Jen May is a collage artist, cutting and pasting existing imagery into new iterations of the Tarot deck. May’s style is streamlined while being rich with meaning. If you’ve been interested in Tarot but find the decks you’ve encountered so far too fussy and a bit kitschy, you might want to check out the Spolia Tarot.




For a time, my Tarot practice was taking deep dives into individual cards. This involved seeking out multiple interpretations of the card I was studying at that moment. Cards from the Ostara Tarot kept turning up among my favorites, but it took me some time to recognize an Ostara card when I saw it because four different artists worked on this deck. These artists, working together, create magic. Each card in the Ostara Tarot is a short story waiting to happen. Think of the illustrations in the books you loved the most as a kid… These cards are likely to stir similar emotions. Also? I am never not going to have a crush on Krista Gibbard’s Emperor.



Moon Power

I could try to write a lot of words about the Moon Power Tarot, but I feel like “Lisa Frank on mescaline” just totally captures it. Either that totally appeals to you or there’s something wrong with you.



Aquarian Tarot

This is the deck that drew me to Tarot. When I first encountered the Aquarian Tarot, my own artistic style was nothing but endlessly ripping off “The Lovers” by Picasso, and David Palladini’s use of hard outlines, stain-glass-window coloring, and soft shading was deeply appealing to me. Now I know that the publication of this deck in 1970 prompted a Tarot Renaissance and revolution, but I’m mostly including it here because it’s a sentimental favorite that I’ve enjoyed working with for decades.

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