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The Empress sits on her outdoor throne. In the distance, lush trees and a flowing river create a beautiful backdrop.

The people in the Six of Swords sail across a vast stretch of water, presumably searching for distant new lands.

A dog and a wolf howl at the moon, oblivious to the crayfish in the water behind them.

Did you know that in the 78 cards of the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck, a whopping 67 of them depict scenes of nature? What’s more, out of the remaining 11 cards, four of them still feature elements of nature such as fruits or wild animals. Only seven images are depicted completely indoors, with no indication of nature whatsoever. 

Stephen McCabe.jpg

My name is Stephen and I am a tarot reader and an ecotherapist/nature therapist. You might be unfamiliar with the terms ‘ecotherapy’ and ‘nature therapy’, but they essentially refer to the same thing. Ecotherapy is any therapy that aims to improve people’s wellbeing by connecting them with nature. This can be done in numerous ways, from attending gardening groups to creating nature art or practising mindfulness in nature. You will be hearing a lot more about ecotherapy in the next few years I promise!

My love of nature goes way back to childhood. Like many people, however, I became disconnected from it for most of my adult life. It is only during the last four years that I have found my love of nature again. Words can’t describe just how much it has positively changed my life. Nature is spirituality itself; alive, here, in front of us, driven by some force that we just can’t comprehend. It is magical.

Tarot, in contrast to nature, is something which I only came to discover in my early twenties. Tarot has been there in my life when nature hasn’t (or rather, I haven’t been there for nature), planting the seeds needed for me to rekindle that magical relationship. I wonder if tarot has been asking you to pay attention to nature too, without you realising?

The Two of Swords always baffled me in my personal readings. It would come up a lot over the years, but I couldn’t figure out why it kept appearing. I now realise that since I began practising ecotherapy, this card no longer shows up.

The woman in the Two of Swords sits with her back to the sea, on a sturdy seat of some kind (it doesn’t look comfortable)! She is blindfolded, and in her arms, she holds two enormous, heavy-looking swords that surely must be weighing her down. A fairly calm sea is behind her, and a rocky island is in the distance. The sky is clear and the waxing moon is visible. Even the sand at her feet looks clean and luxurious, yet her yellow footwear prevents her bare feet from connecting to it.

It’s only now that I see myself in her. There I was, living in a beautiful part of the world and yet my time outdoors was spent stuck in my endless thoughts, not paying attention to nature at all. I was incapable of seeing the beauty around me for my endless mental plans about the future, or my worries about the past. I know that I am definitely not alone in having a mind that works like that!

Tarot images are deeply nuanced, so of course, I’m not suggesting that being disconnected from nature is ‘the’ meaning of the Two of Swords. There is no one meaning to be found within any tarot card. However, when you know your cards pretty well, and one keeps reappearing (to your utter confusion), sometimes the meaning can be found within its most obvious visual clues.

Two of Swords from Rider Waite Tarot, Copyright 1971, U.S. Games Systems, Inc, Stamford, CT.
Used with permission.

The woman in the Two of Swords always seems ready for battle. If only she could just put those swords down and take off her blindfold and shoes. I want her to turn around, breathe in deeply and enjoy the beautiful landscape that surrounds her!

My relationship with tarot has been with me for (almost) all of my entire adult life, presenting me with images of hills, rivers, birds, beasts, mountains and oceans. I found deep personal meaning in the light of the sun, moon and stars, and yet I rarely looked up and appreciated them for real. 

I look back and I thank the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot for pointing the way and for planting so many nature scenes—and nature seeds—in my mind. I am almost 100% sure that part of the reason I love the Rider-Waite-Smith so much is because of the connection to nature that I feel when I read for myself or others.

Reading tarot (or at least the Rider-Waite-Smith or decks inspired by it) is a practise which draws our attention to nature, whether we realise it or not. My invitation to you is the same as the Two of Sword’s invitation to me. Sometimes, the cards that you are holding are asking you to put them down.

If you are awe-struck by a beautiful scene in a tarot card, let it inspire you to go outside, breathe in deeply and notice this beautiful planet that we are so privileged to be a part of. If you find that you struggle to connect with nature, look up ecotherapy or nature therapy online—it might just be just what you need.

Earth, air, fire and water. Remember; they are the essence of nature itself.