No matter where you look, one of the first things tarot experts recommend to help learn the meanings of the cards is to start using a tarot journal.
And I absolutely agree. If you are beginning to learn the tarot – especially when you are struggling to learn the meaning of each card – a tarot journal is one of the best resources you can use.
I journal everyday (usually a brain-dump based off of free-writing & Julia Cameron’s morning pages) and have done this for years, so it’s surprising how long it took me to get into tarot journaling. But once I did, my tarot knowledge and confidence leaped a crazy amount.
My tarot journal is one of the top three reasons that I credit to being able to learn the tarot card meanings so quickly. (The other two? Writing this blog and using the tarot cheat sheet.)
Using My Tarot Journals
I’ve been talking like I use just one tarot journal, but the secret is I have three. When I tried to fit all of my taroting – (is taroting even a word?) – into one journal, it never worked. Too much pressure, not enough structure.
For me, the secret was breaking down what I wanted to do, and creating a journal for each role…
- Learning the meanings of each card = my tarot art journal
- Getting more in touch with my intuition & shadowside = my tarot writing journal
- Tying the tarot to my daily life and making it a habit = my tarot daily planner
- All of the above = writing this blog! Although it’s more of a tarot-wiki for me than a journal. I use this listing of the tarot card meanings All The Time!
Tarot Journal #1: The Tarot Art Journal
My tarot art journal is for fun, with the idea of exploring individual cards and their meanings. I’m not making art – the end result doesn’t matter to me at all. It’s all about the process, and I probably do a page once or twice a week.
There’s something magical about this tarot-art-journal thing I’ve been doing. Sometimes I pull a card at random, and sometimes I choose a card based on how I’m feeling that moment. Art journaling is all about the feels.
I’ll focus a bit on the card, which means I stare at it dumbly for a few minutes while I try to clear my head. Inevitably, my eyes and brain get drawn to one of the symbols, or the facial features, or the way the person on the card is using their hands. Anything, really.
Then I’ll pull out some art supplies and, still focusing on that thing that caught my eye, start to make marks.
Sometimes I’ll pull up a copyright-free image from Flickr or Google Images and sketch it realistically. Sometimes I’ll make patterns or do something abstract. Sometimes it’s about the colors, or I’ll have a song lyric or quote stuck in my head, or I’ll go off on a weird tangent and I’ll have no reason for what I’m creating.
But, the entire time, I’m thinking about that one card, and its meaning. And, somehow, the combination of that focus plus the process-centered creativity of art journaling really cements that card in my mind. I’ll never forget its meaning again.
Okay, I admit, things don’t always work so wonderfully. I make a lot of ugly art in those pages. (Hence no photos of this journal – it’s truly horrid sometimes).
And sometimes, the ideas or “creative inspiration” just doesn’t come. When that happens, I use some tarot journal prompts and that always helps.
But, this has been the best way for me to learn and remember the meanings of individual cards, hands down, and it’s one of the most centering and relaxing times of my week.
Not only have I gotten DEEP with the meanings of each card thanks to this practice, but images, inspiration, and design of each of the cards in The Simple Tarot Deck came out of this journal.
Tarot Journal #2: The Tarot Writing Journal
This is my every-day tarot journal, although I don’t write in it every day. Sometimes I’ll go weeks without touching it and some weeks it feels like it’s attached to me. I can definitely tell when I’m not writing in it, though – life seems to get out of whack.
Whenever I’ve got something brewing that needs more creativity, or when I feel stuck, or when I’m caught in a loop in my head, I’ll pull a spread specifically about what’s going on. I’ve created more than 30 spreads for different topics or problems, so you can check them all out here, in The Secret Library of Tarot Spreads.
I’ll record the spread in my tarot writing journal and dump out everything in my brain. (This is the notebook I use. It’s got 600!!! gridded pages, fits in my purse, takes a beating, and works with wet fountain pen ink. I LOVE it!). Please note: that link goes to Amazon, but I’ve regularly found the book for 1/2 the price at my local Barnes & Noble).
Spew might be a better word. It’s like word-vomit on the page.
I do this when brainstorming, product planning, Resistance-breaking, and all sorts of positive times. But it’s really great when I’ve got something ugly brewing in my mind.
When it’s a big nasty problem, the journaling feels pretty awful while I’m doing it. There’s a lot of avoidance, plenty of “poor me” language, and there might be some snotty tears. But I’m always grateful afterwards.
Just writing the nasty stuff down will relieve the pressure and anxiety. But, even better, there’s always something that bubbles up from my subconscious that helps me look at things differently and I can approach the problem with a better attitude and positive ideas.
I really don’t know how I solved problems without it.
The act of writing things down is magic, but the tarot cards often act as a trigger or challenge to my usual patterns, habits, and ways of thinking. Sometimes I want to throw my cards or my journal against the wall – but it’s exactly those times when I know I’m about to have a breakthrough.
I know this probably sounds more dramatic than it actually is, but I definitely want to stress that tarot journaling isn’t always pleasant. You’ll be diving deep & confronting some scary shit. Don’t back down. It’s always worth it, I promise.
The Tarot Daily Planner
And, because I’ve clearly become obsessed, I combine tarot with my daily planning and To Do List making.
Generally, I’ll pull one card a day, just for some additional guidance. I do this at night, when I’m planning out my schedule for the following day, and I usually let the card guide my focus for the next day’s activities. (Because I’m both nerdy and lazy, I created The Daily Tarot to randomly present a new card each day, with a related tarot journal prompt. I often use this instead of getting out my deck).
Yes, I know I’m tarot-obsessed. I love how it ties into my daily habits and routine. There’s this magical thread woven through my life, connecting one day to the next and connecting everything I do to the deeper energies of the Universe. It’s pretty wonderful.
Creating Your Own Tarot Journal
There is no right or wrong way to create a tarot journal. Here’s just a few step-by-step ideas to get you started:
- Decide whether your journal will be an art journal or a writing journal (or a hybrid of the two). Or be like me, and have a few different journals to handle different things.
- It doesn’t have to be a physical journal, either. Creating a blog or using 750words.com works, too!
- Gather your notebook, planner, or loose paper. Art journaling usually requires heavier paperstock (if you’re painting or gluing a lot), but you can also just use plain copy or notebook paper.
- Get some writing, painting, or mark-making supplies. A pencil, some pens, ink or paint. Whatever you’ve got.
- You don’t need anything fancy. Repeat after me: There’s no right way or wrong way to read tarot cards – or to use your journal. There’s only YOUR way.
- Decide how, when, and where you’re going to use your journal. Then use it!
- And if it’s not working for you, try something different until you find the sweet spot.
Now, Your Turn!
I frequently post pictures of my pages & spreads on Instagram (using the hashtag #thesimpletarot on @thesimpletarot). I’d love to see your journal set up, so share your tarot pages with me there!