Tarot as a path of healing | Journaling

Using the cards to inspire a journaling practice is nothing new.

You can find some amazing posts about journaling and tarot on Little Red Tarot including Esme Weijun Wang’s post on Restorative Journaling – which reading is an act of healing in and of itself. In fact, any spread cast is an opportunity for some reflective journaling or free writing (where you just write, as uninhibited and non-judgmentally as possible) and we’ll discuss this later on in our post. Our very own Beth has created a fantastic writing-based tarot course that I love and is a great introduction not only to journaling with the cards, but to creating a meaningful and unique relationship with the tarot.

But, first – why journal? And how is it connected to healing work?

The use of journaling as part of psychotherapeutic practice is rather common, and there is such a thing as journal therapy that one can become trained in (like becoming an art or music therapist). Journal therapy has been shown to improve overall health, reduce stress, and and improve self-awareness. Basically, it’s a super cheap and accessible form of self-care.

I’ve kept a journal on and off since I was five (complete with a five year old’s attempt to spell “hugs” which ended up being “hags” and how much I liked them. #younghag). But, I didn’t start writing in a journal regularly until I was kicked out of one English class into another. Luckily, I met a far more compassionate teacher who had every student keep a journal, and she encouraged my writing – even using those big words I didn’t quite understand.

While I had been keeping magickal journals both a Book of Shadows and a tarot journal where I wrote down my readings as well as my tarot shadow work exercises, keeping a personal journal was a whole new experience. A journal where I only wrote what I needed to write became a place of refuge in a world that often felt confusing and lonely. Slowly, I began to take notes of my tarot readings in this personal journal and my readings informed what I would write about and vice versa. Through my journaling, it felt like I went from just listening to the tarot to conversing with it and, in turn, conversing with myself.

If you’ve never tried keeping a journal before, I highly recommend it. Even if it’s just a line a day. A good way to start is to commit to writing in your journal everyday for one phase of the moon. At the end of that period you’ll either have established a great journaling habit that you love or realize that the practice is not for you. To get you inspired about keeping a journal and how it might benefit you, here are some of my favorite ways to use the tarot with healing journal work.

Journal a spread

Ok, so this might seem counter-intuitive to some of you. “You want me to write the answers to the spread positions instead of asking the cards?” It’s my belief that the cards are only able to provide you with answers or insights you already have but may have forgotten, avoided or not yet realized. I know that this belief is informed by my pantheism, but the idea of the tarot as a tool of reflection won’t come as a shock to most of you reading this. So, you don’t need a deck to cast a spread.

To start, choose a spread. Traci’s Sunday Spreads are particularly wonderful for this exercise, but most any spread can be used. Working with a spread that you use often (such as the Celtic Cross spread) is another good place to start.

So let’s say that we’re using Traci’s Sustainable Resourcing spread. The first card becomes your first journal prompt. From Traci:

Card 1 – Climate of Your Energy: This first card represents where your energy resources are currently at. Are you low on energy or even overdrawn? Alternately, have you been hibernating and storing long enough and need to move forward? This card is a note on where you’re at right in this moment.”

Write as much or little on this prompt as you want. The purpose is to be honest and uncensored. If you ask yourself a question you’ll always be met with information – writing it down can help you distill knowledge from the noise. Then move on to the next card or prompt until you’ve written out the whole spread. While you’re writing, pay attention to and note any cards that pop up in your mind. Answering the question about your energy levels might make you think of the 9 of Swords or the Queen of Wands – take note of these cards bubbling up from your psyche.

After you’re done writing out the prompts you can choose to cast cards for the spread as well. The ways that the cards interact with, highlight, affirm, and even challenge what we’ve written can be revelatory.

Create your own prompts

If you’re using tarot in your healing practice on a regular basis for you or your clients, you might consider creating your own set of journal prompts for each card in the deck. I did this for my own course on the tarot, and it’s great to have a series of questions that I can reference for each card. By taking time to create your own series of journal prompts for the tarot, you’ll have an easy reference for when you’re feeling the need to untangle some energy and get insight on a situation.

Say, for example, that I’ve been struggling to feel grounded. I pull a card and receive the Ace of Pentacles. One of the questions that I have for that card is “What brings me pleasure?”. Answering this question is an act of grounding back into myself, because it helps me to pay attention to my needs and desires in an affirming way (as opposed to focusing on why I’m not grounded or what I’m doing ‘wrong’ to be ungrounded).

To create your own journal prompts start by choosing a card in your deck that you feel like you have a good understanding of. In other words, if this card were to come up in a spread you would most likely have an easy time interpreting it. Then begin to turn your interpretations into questions. Say you’ve chosen the Eight of Cups. The Eight of Cups is a card of leaving behind something you’ve invested time and effort into. There can be a lot of emotional labor and little payoff with the Eight of Cups. Turning those interpretations into questions, we can ask:

What feels hard to leave behind but must be done?
What have I outgrown?
What have I invested in that has not paid off and I need to walk away from?
Where is my sadness leading me to?

It’s a little bit of up front work, but in the long run you’ll have a lovely resource to refer back to again and again as a tarot reader. You can even make making prompts into a tarot party by inviting over a group of magickally-minded friends and creating them together.

Find the path

The final technique for using tarot in a healing journal practice is to use the same questions for all of the cards in the deck. You can either do this as a 78-day practice where you draw a card each day and journal about it, as part of a daily draw or whenever the need arises. I’ve written a few prompts below, but feel free to create your own. Asking the same question or using the same prompt for every card is a great way to get to know your deck better while also expanding your ability to imagine what healing may look and feel like to you.

What does {card} teach me about my healing path?
How does {card} embody the qualities of a healer?
What do I need to remember my wholeness?
I {card} offer the healing gifts of…

Feeling an urge to take up a journal and start writing? I hope so! All this writing will provide excellent insight for you to use when it comes to the next chapter on Tarot as a path of healing where we’ll be learning how to make friends with every card in the deck (yes, even the Tower).

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