Tarot journaling is hard. You’ve written out the meanings of all the cards. You’ve recorded keywords. You’ve copied the Celtic Cross, a three-card past-present-future spread, and maybe one other spread (probably something astrological or specific to the theme of your deck) out of the LWB that came with your Tarot deck. Maybe you’re even writing down all of your readings so that you can revisit them later. But beyond that, what do you do? What do you write about? How do you keep a Tarot journal fresh and interesting, instead of letting it turn into a chore?
This is something I struggle with quite a bit, and Gods know I am a terrible journal-keeper. So today I thought I’d share some thoughts and prompts for things one can do to keep a Tarot journal alive—and to make the practice worthwhile.
1. Track a symbol. Pull a card at random. Now pick one symbol on it—preferably something smaller, like a background detail, as opposed to, say, the lion on the Strength card. Spend some time journaling about what that symbol means to you. What personal associations do you have with it? What are some more classical things that this image is supposed to represent?
Then, hunt through your deck and pull out any other cards that have this same symbol. Write about what these cards have in common with each other and what distinguishes them. Is the symbol doing the same thing in all of these card images, or does it appear differently in different contexts?
2. Design a spread. People get skittish about writing their own Tarot spreads. Many are afraid that they’ll somehow do it wrong. But really and truly, you’re unlikely to find a spread that works better for you than one you’ve designed yourself. You can do a catch-all spread similar to the Celtic Cross, or you can come up with one tailored to a specific question. If the latter, think about the things you want and need to know in this situation. Do you want card positions to represent yourself and other people involved in the situation? Past influences? Future outcomes? Hopes, desires, roadblocks? Write out a spread that’s all your own, and then record a reading with it.
3. Draw a card. Draw as in “illustrate”, not as in “pull at random”. You don’t have to be a terribly artistic person for this; I’m certainly not. If you are more artsy, get creative with it! Try to think of how you would design the card based on its significance, without falling back on established imagery. (e.g. How would you draw the Hermit, if not as an old man with a robe and a lamp?) But if you’re not more artistically inclined, don’t worry. You can also do a stick figure drawing, try a collage with magazine clippings, or even just put one of your cards behind a sheet of paper and trace over it. The idea is to engage with the card visually, creatively, and in a different way than just writing about it. It’ll help you establish a different kind of familiarity with the Tarot.
4. Record a pathworking. If you don’t know what pathworking is, you can check out the video I made about it not too long ago. Pick a card and mentally step into it—put yourself in the scene that it depicts. Talk to the characters, pluck an apple off a tree, or do whatever, really. Your imagination is the only limitation. Then, when you’re done, write out your experience in your journal.
5. Turn stories into Tarot spreads. This is a good way to flex your knowledge of the cards. Take a favorite story—a book, a movie, or a fairytale—and figure out which Tarot cards would tell that story. Reverse-engineer a Tarot reading out of it. That is to say, rather than drawing cards at random, purposefully choose each card based on its meaning and the part of the story you want to represent. Which card would come up as the significator? What would be the main challenge? Past influences?
As an example, here’s a reading I did for a movie from 1999.* Bonus points to anyone who can guess the film!
6. Compare decks. Of course, this one only applies if you have more than one deck. But if you do, you can take some time to write out what it’s like working with two different decks. How is the art style different? Are there certain cards you like better in one deck or the other? Is there a different feeling between the two decks that’s hard to describe? If so, think about which kinds of questions you would use each deck for. I have some decks that I like for love readings but not money readings; I have other decks that I prefer for readings about health and family. Another thing to consider: If you read for other people, are there certain kinds of querents who would likely respond better to one deck or another? Is one of your decks “friendlier” and more approachable for non-Tarot people? Why is that?
7. Profile yourself and others. Is there a card or set of cards that just really reminds you of your mother? What about your favorite TV character? Do you know anyone who’s got a healthy dose of the Seven of Wands in them? How about the Three of Cups? Try to draw connections between the cards and the people you know. Most of us are complex individuals, so it’s going to be fairly rare for anyone to be fully described by just one card. Instead, build a profile. Think about the main traits of the person you want to describe, and then find a card that shows each of those traits. Person X’s spending habits are like the Six of Pentacles, but her tendency to gossip is like the Page of Swords. And so on, and so forth.
8. Relate a card to a challenge you’re facing. Tarot cards are meant to symbolize themes that recur in our lives. Leverage that for your journal. If you’ve been struggling to save money, spend some time writing about the Four of Pentacles. What does the energy of this card feel like to you? What can it teach you about how to handle your current situation? If you’re battling addiction, think about Temperance and the Devil. What do these cards mean to you, and how can you meaningfully relate them to what you’re going through? Tarot is ultimately about storytelling, and one of the most important stories you can tell is your own. Use your Tarot journal as an opportunity to view your own life through the lens of Tarot—not just when you perform readings for yourself, but also just when you’re thinking through your problems.
*Because the cards might be a bit hard to see in the picture, they are: The magician, the Moon rx, the Hierophant rx, Four of Cups, Eight of Swords, Judgement [sic], the Fool rx, Page of Wands, Three of Pentacles rx, and the World. The deck used here is the English Magic Tarot.