This tarot journaling guide originally appeared at the beginning of the Grimoire Tarot Journal, printed in 2014 by Eberhardt Press in Portland, OR. I no longer have access to the images that accompanied the “Spreads” section.
A TAROT EXPLORATION
Whether you are new to the tarot or an experienced reader building a relationship with a deck, using a journal is a great way to get to know your cards. Memorization is only one aspect of “knowing” the tarot—how we engage with the art in our decks deeply influences the way we interpret each card’s meaning. No image looks the same to any two people, and that’s just one of many reasons why art is magic.
Consider using your tarot journal as the travelogue for a journey with your deck. Meditate on each cards image—what does it make you think of? A break-up? A certain camping trip? Devote a page (or more!) in your journal to unpacking the emotions that lie beneath those associations. If the Empress’s hair reminds you of your cat, there’s a reason! We are co-creators in our individual worlds—if we stay conscious of how personal associations affect the way we experience life, it will help us discover the many ways that we are powerful. Write it all down and create your own truly unique personal tarot resource. A book about the tarot, written by you.
JOURNAL WITH THE TAROT
Somebody, somewhere, once said, “You have to tell your own story because nobody will tell it for you. “This is particularly true for those of us on the margins. How do we see ourselves represented in art? The media? You may not be ready to write a memoir now, but I hope (so much) that one day you will. Your journals will help you recall those details that may have been lost in those valleys between heart rise and heartbreak.
In the internet-age, we hear that we must be careful with our words because “nothing ever disappears.” Hearing that phrase is quite confusing to me, as I can neither touch nor feel the internet. How could there be such permanence—an idea that so many of us seek for our stories—in something we cannot hold to our skin? Though computers and the internet play their roles in our projects, we should be conscious of the way we perceive permanence. While there are many reasons why we may type or speak rather than hand-write, consider keeping hard copies of your brilliant words & experiences, even if just to smell the ink.
For those who feel physically comfortable handwriting, consider diversifying where you store your memories. Your journal is a great starting point. But sometimes it’s hard to write about our days, and that is where the tarot comes in. The tarot offers new ways to think about our experiences. At the close of the day, shuffle your deck and focus on your query. Choose a card or spread and then write about the way the cards relate to your situation.
RECORD YOUR READINGS
A tarot journal is a great way to keep track of your readings (for yourself or others). You can draw the card positions in the journal or simply make lists. You may look back at your journal after a week of reading record-keeping and notice that you keep drawing certain cards, or that there are patterns that come up when certain questions are asked. Patterns can be give insight into messages that may not have been otherwise apparent. Sometimes hidden patterns hold secrets, ones that are crucial for understanding, healing, or creating change.
Some tarot practitioners pull a card every morning and apply that to their upcoming day. Many pull a card at night and do the same in reverse. No matter how you do it, single-card readings act as a spectacular journaling prompt. You may ask yourself how this card applies to your day, how you plan to use its message, or some thoughts on how you’d like to manifest this card’s message in the future.
Here are a few tarot spreads you can use for journaling. Using a single card or having a deck conversation can also be great ways to get the story going. It’s up to you!
On the day of the new moon (or the day just before or after it), draw two cards as shown on the left. The left card is waxing, the right is waning. The waxing card is insight into what you may want to manifest for the period leading to the full moon (or your next reading). The waning card represents an influence that has passed (or is passing). You can also read the waning card as an influence that you should consider letting go.
This spread is also great to do at the end of the day.
Should you stay or should you go? Cards 1 and 2 represent your two options/choices, and card 3 is a reminder of something to consider. For another traditional three-card spread, switch the positions of cards 2 and 3 and read as Past, Present & Future.
Shuffle the deck and face the direction of an element that resonates with you. Lay a card face down in the position of each element as shown in the illustration. Starting with the element you are facing, write about how you interpret each card in relation to its elemental position.
North (earth): home, resources, health, bodies, money, work, stability East (air): Communication, intellect, thoughts, logic, ethics.
West (water): Emotion, intuition, receptivity, relationships, compassion
South (fire): Passion, creativity, sexuality, ideas, energy
Spirit: A card of guidance and influence at the intersection of the four elements.
Everyone interprets the Celtic Cross in their own way. Here is one way to read it:
1 – Signifier: You, the situation, heart of the matter
2 – Crossing: What opposes or reinforces you or your situation
3 – Unconscious, deeper meaning, the unknown
4 – Past: Waning (or past) influence
5 – Crown: Conscious influence, goal or purpose
6 – Approaching influence, or something unresolved.
7 – How you see yourself, you as you are.
8 – Environment: External factors, how you are seen by others
9 – Hopes and/or fears.
10 –What to keep in mind for the future (most call this card the Outcome, but nothing is unchangeable. Don’t fear the tarot!)
Take note of how people or animals in a card interact with the cards that surround them. Are they communicating? Are their backs to one another? Can you see patterns in color? Land/water features that indicate a flow of movement? What time or season do you see in the image? What do the colors make you think of? How many Major Arcana cards are there? The more you see, the stronger the external influences will be—including the universe. This does not mean you are powerless, but sometimes it’ll be more of a challenge to shake up what you see. Repeating elements/suits generally indicate an underlying theme. Refer back to the notes for the elemental spread for what those may indicate.
Lots of Aces: Beginnings
Lots of 2s: Change
Lots of 3s: Balance
Lots of 4s: Security
Lots of 5s: Instability
Lots of 6s: Harmony
Lots of 7s: Intuition
Lots of 8s: Journeys or progress
Lots of 9s: Achievements and rewards
Lots of 10s: Triumph
Lots of Pages: Education
Lots of Knights: Action
Lots of Queens: Support or intuition
Lots of Kings: Power
I have a handwritten tarot journal that contains somewhat of a “quick reference” guide for certain decks. Just when I think I know my deck inside out, a card pops up and stumps me. In those moments, I find it helpful to read information about the card. Even if you feel that you know everything about The Empress, it can be helpful to refresh your memory on some of her more arcane details, such as symbolic, astrological, and numerical correspondences.
Remember, these are all just ideas and suggestions. Please use this journal as you wish. As we all interpret things in our unique ways, numbers and spreads may mean very different things to you. I hope this short guide serves as a starting point for your tarot journal.