Tarot and the Ancestors

by Nancy Hendrickson, author, Ancestral Tarot

Back in the day, anyone interested in ancestors was probably trying to prove a connection to European royalty or an American Revolutionary War hero. But now, especially with the availability of DNA testing, we all want to know our heritage. Where did we come from and who were the people who came before us? Fortunately, tracking down ancestral origins is as easy as spitting into a tube and waiting four weeks for the results.

For some — especially those with Eastern European Jewish DNA — your ethnic origins probably don’t stray that far into other ethnicities. But for most of us, our DNA can be as diverse as several countries lining Africa’s ‘slave coast’ to an exotic blend of Polynesian and Danish. But does knowing where your bloodline runs help in working with ancestral energies? I think so. In fact, I wrote an entire book about it.

PC: Adobe Stock

Called Ancestral Tarot, the book delves into using 78 cards, not for divination but rather to help understand your place in the long line of your forebears. Additionally, it helps you identify and begin to heal some of the more negative patterns that your family has adopted over time. For example, if a branch of the family tree came from Ireland during the potato famine (the mid-1800s) it’s possible that your immigrant ancestor passed down a ‘lack’ mindset that still exists, even in your own parents. Using Tarot, you can begin to unravel those beliefs and be the one in your family who ends the pattern.

Family dynamics, particularly when it comes to relationships, can adopt many generational beliefs that are accepted without a second thought. Some are benign, such as what time the evening meal is expected; some are not, including a belief that it’s not okay to question authority, get a tattoo, or advocate for human rights. Once generational beliefs are identified, Tarot is a valuable tool in understand their origins and begin to do the work needed to heal.

Beginning the Work

Working with the ancestors can begin by randomly drawing one of the 16 Court cards for each direct ancestor. Go back at least three generations (parents, grandparents, great-grandparents) to see if patterns exist. Once a card is drawn, return it to the pile of Court cards because you never know if several of your ancestors might share a common personality trait.

Next, cognitively draw a card for yourself. Then begin looking for patterns that either sync with one another or are at odds.

In this example, you’ll see the querent sees herself as the Queen of Swords (thoughts) while her mother is the Queen of Disks (Pentacles) and father the Page of Wands. Interestingly, dad’s mother is the Knight of Disks and his father is (like him) the Page of Wands. What might this mean?

If both the father and the grandfather are Page of Wands, might it be that they are far more interested in adventure than in taking care of home and family? But neither married a fellow-adventurer; in fact, both wives were Pentacles — the people who tend to home, family, money, and responsibility.

And what of the Queen of Swords — the thinker in the family? How might this particular dynamic impact her world view? Dig into the cards and see if you have an idea or two. Of course, we haven’t even looked at the mother’s side of the family or the third generation. Who knows what patterns could come out of that?

As you can tell, ancestral tarot work can be puzzling as well as illuminating. Try this exercise and see what you find out about yourself and your own family. Stay tuned for more.

Deck: Luna Sol Tarot

Nancy Hendrickson is an author with decades of experience in genealogy and tarot. Her published work includes several genealogy books and magazine articles. Nancy has been interviewed on the topic of internet genealogy by the New York Times, Kiplinger’s, and Better Homes and Gardens. She is a columnist for The Cartomancer Magazine, writing about Tarot decks of the past as well as Tarot from a cultural perspective. She is active on Instagram @nancysageshadow where she posts daily about Tarot and other forms of divination. You can learn more about Nancy and her work at www.sageandshadow.com, and find her on Instagram @nancysageshadow

Imprints include Red Wheel, Weiser Books, Career Press, New Page Books & Hampton Roads. Books to live by.