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.
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.