Let me know what you think!
I'm plugging away at my first tarot deck. Just finished illustrations for majors 3-5: The Empress, The Emperor, and The Teacher (Hierophant). That makes six total under way. Still don't have a title yet.
I think of cards 1-5 as the power players of the world. I'm replacing the most archaic titles with more current archetypes, so I've subbed in The Witch for The High Priestess and The Teacher for The Hierophant.
These scans all came from my phone, and they're not fully formatted yet, which is why the borders don't line up perfectly. These aren't necessarily final images for the deck, though I'm liking them so far. (Clearly, the final cards won't be watermarked either.)
Let me know what you think!
This is the second post in a series on tarot journaling. Last time, we talked about why you want a tarot journal and how to get started. Today, I’ll discuss what to include in your journal with a broad list of potential topics.
Card Meanings, Standard & Intuitive
If you do nothing else with your tarot journal, do this. Dedicate at least one page per card to write down your own intuitive impressions of the imagery, as well as the keywords, symbols and meanings you pick up from books and blogs.
Some people prefer to memorize the book meanings first, and dig into their intuitive responses later. Others prefer to develop their own impressions before looking at established symbols. You get to choose which works best for you. I used a loose, mish-mosh of both approaches stretched over a long time, and that worked for me. A good tarot practice begins as a personal practice, so you want to tailor your journaling to your own learning style as much as you can.
Either way, you want to distinguish between your own impressions and others’ work with separate sub-sections, and attribution when appropriate. You also want to make sure you have the cards in front of you when you examine their meanings. This is a visual art form. You need to look closely at the pictures when you think about what they mean, whether you paste images right into your journal, or simply keep your favorite deck in front of you as you write.
If you read with reversals, keep notes on reversed meanings in marked sub-sections. Look at each card reversed as you write about the reversed meanings. This sounds stupidly obvious, but images really do look different upside-down than right-side-up. You’ll get insights just from visual cues on reversed cards.
Symbols & Correspondences
Look at the core symbols in the tarot imagery - everything that makes up the pictures on each card. These include the elements and suits, colors, numbers, astrological symbols, the planets, mythological references, animals, and more. Dedicate space to examining these symbols and what they represent. Include charts of correspondences.
Look at the order of the cards, and the groups the cards form. Ask yourself what story the cards tell in order, and how each card relates to the others. Write about the differences between the major and minor arcana. Write about each suit and the story it tells. Try grouping the cards in new ways - in different narrative orders, by elements, by numbers, by chance - by whatever catches your interest. See how the cards interact in different groupings and structures. How do the meanings change and how do they hold?
Draw diagrams of your favorite tarot spreads, and write new ones of your own. Take notes on how they work out, and use those notes to make changes and develop stronger spreads.
When you draw tarot cards for yourself, record your analyses in your diary. If you read for others, jot down notes about your readings. Look back on old readings to track your development as a reader, and to make notes about how the readings’ messages played out over time. Pay as much attention to things you interpreted incorrectly as to things you got right. Look at how the cards’ meanings change for you as you grow.
Your Reading Style, Approach, & Ethics
The more you read, the more you understand about your own process. Where is tarot most useful in your life? When do you reach for the cards? Do you get information through intuition and psychic impressions, through memorized meanings and keywords, through psychological games and brainstorming, or some combination? What are your intentions in working with tarot cards? How does tarot fit into your beliefs, spiritual practices, and personal philosophy? What are your ethical guidelines?
Variations on Card Meanings by Deck
So many of us love to collect different decks, and most of us probably have more than one go-to deck for readings. Each artist puts their own spin on the cards, and each deck has its own character. Different types of decks (Rider-Waite-Smith, Marseilles, Thoth, etc.) draw on completely different symbolism. You can add pages in your section on card meanings for each different deck that you use.
Quotes & Cultural References
Do you see tarot archetypes in your favorite characters from movies and books? Do quotes or songs remind you of particular cards? Include these references in your journals, either with your card meanings or as a separate section. Linking the cards to references you love brings the cards alive and gives you more material to draw on in your readings.
Excerpts From Books & Articles
I read constantly. Constantly. I highly recommend reading constantly, but I loathe that feeling of half-remembering something wonderful I once read, and having no idea what it was, who wrote it, or where I found it when I want to reference it later.
Start a file on your computer today for links and text excerpts. Whenever you come across something in a blog, article, or book that really grabs you, bookmark it right away. Paste the quote along with a link to the article, book, or author’s homepage in your file. If you’re reading a physical book, jot down quotes along with titles and page numbers so you can find them again later. To stay hyper-organized, paste these excerpts and quotes into your tarot journal by sub-section. You’ll always find a relevant reference when you need it.
If your blog is your main tarot journal, it’s obviously not okay to paste big chunks of other people’s writing into your posts. But you can post link round-ups of all the fantastic articles you stumble across, and your readers and fellow bloggers will love it.
Client or Sitter Feedback
If you read for other people, keep records of their feedback, and add on your own notes on what you’re doing well and where you can improve. This is a fantastic way to become a clearer, more professional, more engaged, and more ethical reader for others.
Psychic/Intuitive Development Exercises
If your tarot approach is intuitive or psychic in nature, I’m sure you’ll periodically do psychic and intuitive development exercises to strengthen your abilities. Since tarot is one of your psychic tools, why not include your notes on your psychic development with your notes on tarot?
Personal Growth Exercises
You may use tarot exercises other than regular readings for self-help and/or brain-storming. If so, add a section for tarot-related growth exercise in your diary.
Whether or not you think of yourself as an artist, it’s fun to liven up your tarot journal with doodles in the margins. Drawing and doodling while meditating on tarot imagery will get your intuition flowing. You may even find you have fodder for a future deck in you.
Not all tarot readers are witches, but some sure are! If you’re magically inclined, you can treat your tarot diary as a specialized grimoire and add a sub-section for tarot related spells and magical work.
Other Forms of Divination
If you branch into other forms of divination, journal your progress there, too. One method informs another, and so many tarot illustrations draw on other forms of divination like runes and astrology. You can keep all your notes together, or cross-reference them when they intersect.
Does tarot inspire your other creative practices? Do you get ideas for paintings, poems, photos, recipes, outfits, or songs from your cards? Take notes on the ways that your tarot practice influences and enriches your other creative work. Use the cards to brainstorm ideas, to structure new projects, and as prompts when experiencing creative block. Illustrate your journal with pictures of your tarot-inspired works. Add a sub-section for poetry, recipes, sketches, or any other medium that borrows from your tarot practice.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Clearly, this is a lot material for any one person to tackle, and it’s too much for any one book. These topics are ideas to get you going. You can pick and choose what sections you wish to include in your tarot journal, tailored to your own interests. You can use multiple notebooks or files for different topics.
I feel most organized with different subjects in their own places. I’m slowly digitizing my journaling practice, to stay organized and give my writing hand a break. I keep notes on my readings, sitter feedback, intuitive development, and dreams in my personal diary because these all integrate with one another, and with the rest of my daily life. I keep separate documents for individual card meanings, tarot-inspired poetry, and article excerpts, plus a whole folder for blog drafts and posts. I include tarot-inspired art in my physical sketchbooks. Someone else might want to include all of these things under different tabs in a single (massive) 3-ring binder.
There are so many ways to use a diary, and so many potential topics to include. Draw as much inspiration as you can from what other people do, and use it to come up with a customized system that works best for you!
I'm back from the nice, long holiday weekend with an exciting new project: a tarot deck in progress!
When I heard the news about the US Supreme Court ruling last week, I was surprised by how emotional my reaction was. Queer rights is a topic near and dear to my heart, but I didn’t expect this news to trigger a strong gut reaction given that a) I’d figured marriage equality would happen here eventually, b) gay marriage has been legal in my own state for years, and c) I’m not interested in getting married anytime soon, myself.
Well, I was dead wrong. That collective rainbow rush was powerful, and I found myself gobsmacked by a tidal wave of unanticipated thoughts and emotions.
It inspired me to use my tarot cards in a different way than usual, in an exercise I’m going to call Sorting All The Feelings.
I didn’t need to gain any fresh, external insights or perspectives. I needed to pull apart, nail down, and sort out the hovering cloud of chaotic thoughts and impressions I could already glimpse in my sphere. Instead of choosing a deck and a question, and drawing random cards in response, I pulled out all of my decks and flipped through each card one by one. I pulled out any cards that reflected my half-baked thoughts and impressions, and any cards that represented the stories I was seeing around me.
Holy Moly - that alone was illuminating, and it’s a great technique to identify which tarot decks in your collection speak best to particular moods, questions, and issues. I noted some interesting observations for later - like that I read way more androgyny into most of my decks than is actual depicted visually, and that, while there is a lot of androgyny peppered throughout different tarot decks, the vast majority of it skews femme-of-center. The Dreaming Way Tarot, for example, can read great for queer stories, but definitely leans femme and young. Interesting . . .
I found that The Wild Unknown Tarot represented queer stories better than the other decks by far. There are a couple reasons for this. First off, the imagery is all abstract and/or nature-based. There are no humans on the cards, and the only figures are animals. Even many of the gendered cards, like Mother, Father, Emperor, Priestess, and so on, can be seen as representing a person of any gender from the visuals. The abstraction and nature imagery let you connect to each card’s qualities, without the distraction of seeing those qualities assigned to a person with a different gender, body type, race, or age. They make it easier for everyone to see aspects of themselves reflected in each of the cards.
Plus the Wild Unknown deck is full of rainbows, so there’s that.
Once I realized I wanted to work with the Wild Unknown deck on this topic, I narrowed all the cards I’d pulled down to six just from that deck. I played with putting them in different orders, until I settled on an order that felt right.
That’s my feelings sorted. Now I can hear them out and analyze them:
1. The Wheel of Fortune: It’s About Damn Time!
We know the wheels of history and society turn towards progress, justice, and human rights. We see this over and over. Many of us have felt that marriage equality was inevitable, and that it was only a matter of time before it took hold of the entire country. However, our collective free-will allows us to speed-up, slow-down, stall progress, and even regress for long stretches of time.
I expected to see marriage equality in my country during my lifetime. I didn’t expect to see it now. Maybe it was inevitable, maybe it wasn’t. I don’t feel invincible right now. I feel grateful that the wheel spun in the right direction on this issue at this time. Let’s keep it turning in the right direction, and use this momentum to make some much-needed progress on other human rights and LGBTQ issues!
Equality isn’t something that can be handed out by the state. It’s an innate, divine birthright that we all claim and all share. The wheels of human law and spiritual/universal law don’t always turn in the same direction. We do have the collective free-will and power to align them. Let’s make that happen and keep it going.
2. The Lovers: Love Celebrates.
Something unsettles me about the #LoveWins hashtag. I’m not offended by it, nor do I object to its use. Something about the nuance of it just strikes me as slightly off. Can Love really win if it was always present, neither created nor destroyed? Love is the glue that binds us all together, and is an intrinsic part of our lives and experiences. Not every person loves at every time. Some individuals have very little love in their hearts, but people as a whole always love. Love is present within every group of people on Earth, no matter what oppressions they face. It’s always there, and it’s always expressed, whether or not our laws align with it. Can something win that was never threatened to begin with?
Queer folk have always been around, creating, exploring, falling into, and expressing love. Oppression doesn’t change that, and neither, really, does victory. Yes, there was a big win this week. Individuals won, families won, and society won - on this one particular thing. Love was golden to begin with. Love doesn’t so much win here, but it does celebrate.
3. The Star: Partial Healing.
The Star shows us a pinprick of light in the darkness. It helps us navigate, and it ushers us through our first steps in a healing cycle. The healing is only beginning. This change in law is a soothing balm to a festering wound that’s gonna take a lot of work to heal completely, and may leave a permanent scar.
We’re on the right track, and we’ve set a good course, but we’re not out of the dark yet.
4. The Six of Swords: Eye of The Storm.
Big key phrases for this card are “safe passage” and “eye of the storm.” We have a moment of calm, with drama behind and ahead, wherein we can safely transition from one state to another (better) state. I just love this image for the six of swords: a rainbow arcing over a haphazard pile of blades.
Activists adopted the rainbow as a symbol of gay pride in the 1970s, largely because it was a natural symbol representing a spectrum of diverse identities. Even though some Christian groups hate on rainbows now because of that, the rainbow is actually, ironically, a significant Biblical symbol, too. I remember being told in Sunday school how the rainbow was “God’s promise” of love to humanity post-flood. Kind of a big, majestic gesture of “sorry for killing you all - won’t do it again (exactly that same way).” It would take a whoooole nother article to unpack the rainbow in Christianity. Point is, the rainbow is symbolically loaded in a lot of ways beyond the gay, and the Christian symbolism, as a signal of hope and reparation, is fairly relevant here. We’re celebrating hope within a relatively calm point of what is otherwise a violent storm.
The dropped swords remind me of those who’ve fallen. The peak of the AIDS crisis in the US was not long ago, and it still rages on across the globe. It still devastates queer communities. We still live in a world where people are persecuted, attacked, and even murdered for their sexual orientation and gender expressions. Too many of us never make it to the point where we can express openly and share our love and commitment with our families and communities.
Queer Americans can get married now, but all over the country, we can still legally be fired from our jobs and denied housing. That caterers and florists can refuse to serve us is one of the smallest problems. Too many of us can’t walk down to the church or city hall without facing harassment. Black churches across the country are burning. It’s difficult to celebrate anything to do with marriage when Americans of color can’t even sit in a church without fearing for their lives.
My celebration is all tangled up with my mourning. One does not diminish the other. They go hand in hand. This can be sobering, but it can be empowering, too. I believe in embracing the love and the good with joy and gratitude, and facing all that is wrong with the criticism and courage to fight it. Sometimes we have to do both at the same time. We’ve got a whole lot of fighting left to do.
5-6. The Ten of Cups & The Ten of Coins: A Piece of The Pie.
These cards go together here because they both represent different sides of fulfillment: emotional/spiritual for cups, and material/social for coins. I chose these both because, at the end of the day, this matters. It really really really matters. We have access to a piece of the pie today that we couldn’t claim days ago. We officially have a stake in an institution that, for many people, is a cornerstone of emotional, spiritual, social, and material fulfillment.
It’s not just about getting married. It’s about being able to, and having your personhood recognized by your community, your government, and your country. It’s a big fucking deal, and I reckon that’s why it affected me more than I ever imagined it would.
So that’s the issue itself sorted out. How did this all work as a tarot exercise? Pretty well, I think. I started out with an amorphous flurry of half-baked impressions and feelings. By consciously representing those feelings with tarot imagery, then using select cards as writing prompts, I was able to solidify my impressions, listen closely to my own thoughts, and map out a clear and detailed picture of some complicated emotional terrain. I’m feeling good. I might use this exercise again here sometime.
This all serves as an example of the many ways we can work with tarot. It’s a powerful introspective and organizational tool, with many potential applications for journaling and creative work. Fortune-telling is just the tip of the iceberg.
My name is Evvie Marin. I'm an artist, writer, and ever-loving sucker for the woo arts, especially tarot. I have a B.A. in art and theatre and I've been reading tarot cards for about fifteen years.
Full blog index. Includes links to each post, by topic, with hand-picked highlights of the recent and the good.