As someone interested in tarot and personal growth, you may have heard of shadow work. But what is shadow work, and how does tarot play a role in it?
Shadow work in tarot explores the unconscious and suppressed aspects of one’s personality through tarot cards and symbols. It gains insight into their negative patterns, emotions, and behaviors and promotes self-awareness, healing, and personal growth.
Shadow work is a practice that explores the darker sides of your persona to help you grow as a person and understand yourself better. In this article, we’ll dive into what shadow work is, why it’s important, and how tarot can help you in this journey of self-discovery.
WHAT SHADOW WORK IS
Shadow work explores the darker aspects of our personality that we tend to suppress or ignore. These aspects are often referred to as our “shadow selves.” They consist of traits, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that we consider negative or unacceptable.
Examples of shadow traits may include anger, jealousy, fear, guilt, shame, and more. These aspects of our personality are often associated with negative experiences and traumatic events from our past.
When we suppress these parts of ourselves, they can manifest as negative patterns, causing us to feel stuck or unfulfilled.
Shadow work aims to surface the root causes of negative patterns in our lives so we can heal from emotional trauma.
All shadows have a light side, so don’t feel like shadows are something scary. All shadows we have come from a place of light.
WHY SHADOW WORK IS IMPORTANT
Shadow work is essential because it helps us to understand our shadow selves. When we acknowledge and embrace these aspects of our personalities, we can learn to heal and release negative patterns, allowing us to live a more authentic and fulfilling life.
Shadow work also helps us develop greater self-awareness and self-acceptance. By embracing all parts of our personalities, including the dark and light, we can learn to love and accept ourselves for who we are.
Shadow work leads to a deeper sense of peace and fulfillment and improved relationships with others and yourself.
Shadow work has been an important part of my way of healing. My Ego created a persona that was not me, and it caused me lots of pain and struggles. I could not understand why I reacted the way I did at times.
When I identify the aspects of myself that my Ego tries to suppress, I can love myself for who I am instead of chasing the person I want to be.
HOW TAROT CAN HELP WITH SHADOW WORK
Tarot is an excellent tool for shadow work because it provides a powerful framework for exploring and understanding our unconscious thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
One of the ways tarot can be used for shadow work is by using the cards to reflect on and explore our negative patterns.
For example, consistently drawing the Tower card in a tarot reading may indicate that you are struggling with anger and frustration.
By exploring the symbolism and meaning of the Tower card and reflecting on why you feel this way, you can gain insight into your shadow self and begin the process of healing and transformation.
Another way tarot can be used for shadow work is through the practice of self-reflection. When we take the time to reflect on our experiences and emotions, we can gain a deeper understanding of our shadow selves.
This can be done through journaling, meditating, or simply taking a few moments each day to reflect on our experiences.
Reversals as shadow energies
A popular way of exploring your shadows is by reading reversals as shadow messages. This way, you can work on your shadows in various readings. You don’t have to have a specific spread or like.
It is important not to attach good and bad meanings to the cards. It is light aspects and shadow aspects, and they are both present in the human experience, like Yin and Yang.
Reversals in tarot can be used to explore shadows in many ways. Here are a few common ways that reversals can be used for shadow work:
- Reversals can indicate a blocked or inverted energy: When a card appears in reverse, it can suggest that the energy represented by the card is blocked, reversed, or not flowing properly. Shadow work can help bring awareness to aspects of the self that are repressed or ignored.
- Reversals can reveal the shadow side of a card: Each tarot card has a light and shadow aspect, and the reverse position can highlight a card’s darker or more negative elements. This can be particularly useful in shadow work, as it allows you to delve deeper into the unconscious parts of yourself that you may be avoiding or denying.
- Reversals can help to uncover unconscious motivations: When working with reversals, it can be helpful to consider the motivations or intentions behind the actions represented by the reversed card. This can reveal unconscious fears, desires, or behaviors contributing to the blockages or inversions indicated by the card.
In conclusion, incorporating reversals into your tarot shadow work can provide deeper insight and help you confront and understand your unconscious aspects.
For example, if we work with shadow and light traits of tarot cards, you notice that two cards are in reversal (upside down) in the Past, Present, and Future tarot spread. The reversed cards are in the past and present positions. This indicates that shadows affect the situation anchored to the past and present.
The Page of Wands might indicate that a person with youthful energy has hurt the person. Wands represent passions, hobbies, and the spark of life; in short, a person hurts another person in a way that impacts the joy of life. With this information, the reader might be able to highlight an event that needs to be addressed.
In the present, there is a shadow at play as well. This time it is the Fool, the card of happy-go-lucky. Maybe their person is too restrained and can’t let loose? Maybe they won’t jump on a new endeavor out of fear. Whatever keeps the person chained needs to be addressed and healed.
shadow work tarot journaling
Shadow work journaling involves exploring your unconscious mind and emotions to understand better and integrate aspects of yourself that are hidden or repressed.
How to work with your shadows
- Set aside time: Choose a time when you won’t be interrupted and can focus solely on your journaling.
- Create a safe space: Make sure you’re in a comfortable and private place where you feel free to express yourself honestly.
- Reflect on your emotions: Write down any negative emotions or feelings that have come up for you in the past day or two. Try to identify what triggered these emotions.
- Explore your shadow: Write about any patterns or behaviors you may avoid or repress. This could be traits or aspects of yourself that you dislike or things you’ve done in the past that you’re not proud of.
- Write freely: Allow yourself to write freely and explore your thoughts and feelings without judgment. You may discover things about yourself that you didn’t previously know.
- Look for insights: After you’ve finished writing, take a moment to reflect on what you’ve written. Look for insights or truths about yourself that have come to the surface.
- Practice self-compassion: Remember to be kind and compassionate with yourself as you work through your shadow. This is a process of self-discovery and growth, not self-criticism.
Journaling for shadow work can be a powerful tool for personal growth and self-awareness.
Try these questions if you have difficulty finding a place to start your tarot and journaling session. They help you unlock shadows that your Ego might try to hide from you.
- What is holding you back?
- What do you need validation or praise for?
- What are you afraid of? Why is that?
- What makes you feel shame, anger, fear, or sorrow?
Shadow work tarot decks
For shadow tarot work, you typically use a deck with images and symbolism that evoke darker or deeper aspects of the human psyche. It is easier to work with shadows when the cards have depth and symbolism.
It is also recommended that the tarot deck comes with a guidebook that includes shadow traits of the cards. Sometimes they are labeled “reversal meanings.”
My favorite options for shadow work include the Original Rider-Waite deck, The Wild Unknown Tarot Deck, and The Guardian of the Night Tarot deck.
It’s important to note that your chosen deck will largely depend on your preferences and the type of shadow work you need.
So, you may want to experiment with a few different decks to find the one that resonates with you the most.
If you are unfamiliar with tarot, it might be a great option to go for an Oracle deck. Oracle decks are easier to decipher as they have thorough card meanings and often elaborate guidebooks. You don’t have to know the tarot system and can start working on your shadows immediately.
My favorite Oracle deck is the Urban Crow Oracle deck. I also love to use this one as a supplement to tarot reading. It brings advice and guidance in times of need. I love the play between light and shadow, as life truly is.
shadow work tarot spread
You don’t have to use a specific tarot spread to explore your shadows. You can draw three cards and go with your intuition if you want to.
A tarot spread can be helpful if you want guidance and a framework. It is recommended if you are new to tarot and unfamiliar with creating storylines with your cards (yet).
Here is one of my favorite tarot spreads for exploring my shadow side.
- What negative pattern of behavior are you seeing?
- What shadow is linked to the pattern or behavior?
- What you can do to heal (advice)
It is important to keep an open mind and heart to the messages the tarot delivers; It is very easy to duck the hard questions, but try to look inside for icky, shameful, uncomfortable, and anxious emotions.
When you feel uncomfortable, you are on to something that needs further investigation so that you can finally heal,
shadow work ritual
A shadow work ritual can be an effective and powerful way to explore and address feelings of shame, guilt, unworthiness, or fear holding you back. Below you will find my ritual when working with shadow work and tarot.
Remember that you can create your own ritual if you want to. There is no right or wrong way of doing things regarding the tarot.
- Start by setting up a comfortable and silent space.
- Meditation and deep breathing can create a relaxed atmosphere where you can focus and feel safe.
- Choose a tarot deck that resonates with you, and shuffle the cards to clear any outside energies or influences. You can also use a crystal or light a white candle to clear the space.
- As you shuffle, focus on the intention of the ritual and the feelings or issues you want to explore.
- Draw a card and take some time to examine it. Consider the imagery, symbols, and archetypes presented and how they relate to your feelings or the issue you are exploring.
- Close your eyes and reflect on how the card’s energy and message can help to bring awareness and understanding to your issue.
- Use your insights to create an action plan to address the issue and move forward.
If you want to learn more about how to cleanse your tarot deck and space with crystals, you will find lots of useful information in the article below.
Related article: Cleanse your tarot deck with crystals: Complete guide
Shadow work can be challenging but rewarding, and tarot can provide a valuable tool for self-discovery and transformation. By exploring our shadow selves and embracing all parts of our personalities, we can learn to live a more authentic and fulfilling life.
Remember, shadow work is not about denying or suppressing our negative traits but embracing and understanding them. With the help of a tarot, you can gain the insight and wisdom you need to navigate this journey of self-discovery and growth.
Never force yourself; always be kind and understanding. The shadows often come from a place of light; you want things to be great. The shadows trick us and add stress and anxiety to our lives.
THE DEFINITIONS IN THIS ARTICLE ARE BASED ON THE RIDER WAITE DECK AND SYSTEM.