I love journaling with tarot. It’s a great way to connect with your cards and to expand your understanding of their meanings. Recently, I’ve had a couple people ask me how exactly to get started with tarot journaling, so I wanted to put together a quick post about some of the journaling methods I use. This is by no means comprehensive. There are tons of methods for journaling with your cards and everyone finds their own way of doing it. My intention is that this can serve as a jumping off point for further exploration.
First Thing’s First
Before you start, obviously you will need a journal. I use both bound books and three ring binders. I keep two types of journals. I have my reading journal, where I keep track of daily draws and any personal readings I do for myself, which is organized chronologically. Then I have my master journal where I journal about the individual cards and they are organized by suit usually, but not always. I also have a couple journals for specific decks, but that’s getting complicated. Essentially, you just need to find something to write in.
Three ring binders are nice because you can shuffle things around and organize your entries so they are easy to find. Bound books are nice when you want something kinda fancy and you don’t need to worry about organization as much. That is why I use bound books for daily draws, because it will automatically end up in chronological order anyway, which is how I would choose to organize it if I had the choice. In the end, it all boils down to personal preference.
Once you have your journal, notebook, loose-leaf paper, or whatever you chose, you select a card. You can also journal about a whole spread, or card combinations, but for the purpose of this post, let’s just work with one card. You can either pick one randomly or select one intentionally. Sometimes if there is a card or cards that you have a particularly hard time understanding it can be good to select that card, or those cards to work with. Once you have your card, then you get to writing. Here are a couple ways how.
Free writing is my preferred way of journaling. I draw a card and I just start to scribble. I free associate. I describe the image. I write down some possible divinatory meanings. I note any impressions I get from the image. I record any reactions that I might have or personal connections that I might make with the card. The idea is just to let your mind chew on the image and write out whatever comes up as you think about it. There is no length requirement. Some days I’ll write pages. Some days I’ll just get a sentence or two.
For a real life example, here is a page from one of my journals where I’m writing about The Hierophant card from the Vampire’s Tarot of the Eternal Night.
So the insight that I got from this card is that it can be about devotion and dedicating oneself to a path. It also brings up the question of why we dedicate ourselves to paths, especially religious paths, and asks how much external influences may be pushing us down one road or another. Now when I pull this card in a reading, I have that meaning in the back of my mind.
Q & A
You can also ask yourself questions about the card and then write down the answers. Questions to journal about might include:
“What does this card remind me of?”
“What do I like about this card?”
“What do I dislike about this card?”
“What is the general atmosphere in this card?”
“What is happening in this card? What is the story?”
“Is there a parallel between what is happening in this card and anything that is occurring in my life right now?””
“What symbols do I see in this card and what do they mean to me?”
“What about this card confuses me?”
“If this card could speak, what would it say?”
“This card reminds me of that one time when I worked overnights at a bakery. I was mostly all alone, like the figure in the card. It was late and I just kept turning out bagels, all night long, sort of like the person in the card keeps making more and more pentacles. Baking took a lot of concentration and I couldn’t get distracted or the bagels would burn. It seems like this figure is concentrating pretty hard too and wants to do well. They are inspecting their pentacle to make sure it looks good. One thing I liked about baking was that it was nice getting to work independently, but it also got monotonous after the 400th or so bagel and those long nights kicked my butt. It seems like making all those pentacles might get boring for the person in the card too.”
By connecting the card to an event in my own life, and the aspects of the image with my own experience, I now have a sense of what the card is about. Its about hard work. Perhaps its about repetitive work too. It might communicate boredom, monotony or dedication. Regardless, I’ve created a more personal association, so when it shows up in a reading I will remember my experience and I will remember what the card is about.
This is a fun way to come up with keywords or key phrases for a card. You write the name of your card in the middle and then start jotting down all the words that you can think of which may associate with that card.
Here is the beginning of a spider diagram that I did with the Death card.
You can really go wild with this and extrapolate as far as you want. I did a spider diagram with The Fool once that covered an entire page and doubled back on itself. Having those keywords gives you a jumping off point when a card comes up in a reading and doing this type of exercise helps you to train your brain to follow the keyword breadcrumbs to a more expansive understanding of the card meaning.
Single Word Associations
This exercise, similar to the spider diagram, works with keywords. I’m pretty sure I picked this one up from Kelly-Ann Maddox, but I can’t for the life of me remember which of her You Tube videos it was. Anyway, it uses the whole deck, or a portion of the deck and you just flip over cards and write down the first word that comes to mind based on the card image, then move on to the next card. The purpose of moving so quickly is to get you to bypass your thinking mind, that wants to remember what the “traditional” keywords are and activates your intuitive mind, which will produce an association based on a more personal sense of the image.
Here is a portion of this exercise that I did in my own journal.
The purpose of this exercise isn’t to limit yourself to one definition of a card, its to get your intuition firing and see what you pick up on as the essence of the image. For bonus points, do the exercise again and don’t repeat any of the words you already chose the first time through the deck.
One more important thing I should mention before I leave you to your own devices, there is no “wrong” when it comes to journaling. Journaling is merely and exploration, a chance to wander down many avenues and examine many facets of these images. If you’re learning about your cards and connecting better with your deck and having fun, then you’re doing it right. I actually wrote a short post about that in October of last year titled: Tarot Journaling – Use Your Authentic Voice.
So now I will leave you to it. If you have any questions or want to report back after trying some of these journaling exercises, please feel free to comment below. I would love to hear from you.
PS – Just one more thing…don’t be afraid to make a mess of your journals. The pages I have included from my own journals are the neatest one’s I’ve written. I chose them for this post because they are actually legible. 99.99% of my journaling is a borderline undecipherable mess with cross-outs and write-overs and microscopic print scribbled in the margins. So don’t worry about making it look pretty. I’m a perfectionist. I tried. I couldn’t do it and it killed my joy of journaling. So just write and let it be as gloriously messy as it will be. 🙂