Tarot Journaling: The Ultimate How-To Guide For Building a Strong Connection with Your Cards
Welcome to the Magical World of Tarot Journaling!
Whether you’re just beginning your journey with tarot or you’ve been reading for years, keeping a tarot journal can deepen your practice, increase your learning, and bolster your connection with your cards.
I like to journal with new decks each time I get one, as it helps me to “bond” with the deck. It also helps me to pick up on any little nuances in meaning in each card as compared to the same card in other decks. Doing this gives me some insight into how that deck reads, its personality if you will.
Yes, I said “personality.”
Does the thought of a tarot deck having a personality seem odd to you? It’s an inanimate object after all, right?
Well, yes…. but the more you work with the tarot in general and with different decks, the more you’ll come to understand that different decks absolutely have different personalities.
Some feel playful, some feel somber… some may have whimsical artwork that would lead you to believe it’s a deck that is playful and lighthearted, but in working with it you find it will absolutely kick you in the knickers when you need it.
I have a few of those “kick you in the knickers” decks and they ain’t playin’.
What Is a Tarot Journal?
Simply put, a tarot journal is a place to record your interactions with your cards.
You can record personal readings, “Aha!” moments with card meanings, personal insights, ideas for spreads, or interesting spreads you’ve seen elsewhere, etc.
Another fun thing you can include in your journal are interviews with your deck, where you ask your deck a question about itself and pull a card for the answer.
You can dive deep with your journaling, keep it light, or anywhere in between.
In my experience, it’s hard to go anywhere but deep when you start journaling with your deck because the insights can come fast and furious when you start making a habit of working in your journal this way.
You’ll find what works best for you.
Do You Really Need to Keep a Tarot Journal?
In a word, no.
When I first started learning to read the cards (or *trying* to learn to read the cards), book after book that I read and video after video that I watched suggested keeping a tarot journal.
To be honest, I thought it sounded like a total waste of time and effort. After all, I just wanted to learn the meanings and start reading with my cards. I didn’t want to write in a journal about them.
I wasted a whole lot of time and effort just trying to memorize card meanings, leaving my intuition and my creative subconscious entirely out of the equation. Consequently, it took me a lot longer to learn than it would have had I just started my journal sooner.
What I didn’t realize for a long time (years, in fact, which I’m embarrassed to admit) was that keeping a tarot journal is one of the best practices to help you expand your knowledge of the cards, develop your own meanings (yes, you can do that!), and help you form a strong bond and connection with your cards. As you can imagine, all of these things are incredible tools when it comes to delivering the most meaningful and powerful readings, whether for yourself or others.
There’s a reason I was a “serial dabbler” in the tarot for years and never seemed to make much progress when I first began trying to learn to read the cards. I didn’t realize the absolute magic that would unfold inside a tarot journal and how it would explode my learning and understanding. Little did I know at the time that it would be the key that would finally unlock the door to the proverbial magic of the cards I’d heard so much about but had yet to experience for myself.
The reason it works this way, in my opinion, is because journaling actually encourages you to step out of the mundane and into the realm of emotion and creativity. As you stare into a card and begin to write about what it is you see and what each of those things might mean, the flood gates tend to open wide. It can be truly a magical experience that opens up your intution and allows you to see the images in the cards in an entirely different way.
As you study the tarot, you’re likely consuming a lot of information from all kinds of sources like books, blogs, online courses, group study, etc. In addition to these avenues of learning, you should be looking at the tarot through the lens of your own life experiences and applying those meanings to those experiences. This is how you really build an understanding of the tarot that is rich in its depth and breadth – by seeing the meanings of the cards within your own life.
Handwritten or Digital? What Kind of Journal Should You Keep?
There are a variety of ways you can keep a journal and it all really just boils down to personal preference:
Handwritten in an actual journal or binder ~ This can be as simple as a basic spiral bound notebook, or you can seek out journals that are created specifically for working with the tarot, like this beautiful cosmic tarot journal and guide from Peter Pauper Press.
If you want to go all-out, you could splurge on a gorgeous antique-look journal filled with handmade deckle edge paper like this one from Nomad Crafts Company. This journal makes anything look absolutely magical and makes my little heart go pitter-pat!
Digital ~ This can be as simple as opening up a blank page in your word processor and typing away, but you can also purchase a digital journal specifically made for tarot enthusiasts to download and print, like this stunning journal from The Writual Planner Shop.
In the form of a personal blog ~ If you’ve never started a blog before but would like to, I have a guide you can check out to help you do that. You can can find it at this link: Ever Wanted to Start Your Own Blog? The Super Simple Guide (Even if You’re Tech Challenged!).
In addition to keeping a journal, you might want to carry a small notebook around with you in case of any “Aha!” moments you have when away from your main journal.
I often find that I encounter people or situations throughout my day that resonate for me with a particular card, or I’d like to think about what card would best illustrate those things.
You can then take your notes and add them to your journal and expand on them later without having to worry about forgetting those spur-of-the-moment insights.
You might even want to buy a special pen to use, or if you’re the art journaling type, you could create a beautiful tarot journal with pens, markers, or even paints. The sky is really the limit here. This is your journey… make it your own.
How Often Should You Journal?
When I first started journaling with the tarot, I devoted time to it daily, but as you get into this process, you’ll find your own favorite way to organize your journal and how much time you want to devote to it. Every tarot journal is as unique as the person keeping it.
While you definitely don’t have to write in your journal every single day, bear in mind that the more time you spend working with the tarot this way, the more quickly you’ll expand your knowledge.
The other thing to consider is that the more time you spend journaling with your deck, the more you’ll find it easier to retain what you’ve learned. In turn, this means you’ll likely gain confidence in reading much more rapidly. This is really beneficial because gaining confidence in the ability to read the cards is what most students of the tarot find to be their biggest sticking point.
In any case, it’s safe to say that if you make the effort to maintain a regular journaling practice with your deck it will speed up your learning curve immensely.
What to Do if the Sight of a Blank Page Fills You With Dread
As odd as it may seem to some….
Does staring at a blank page give you anxiety? It certainly does me. It stops me right in my happy little tracks.
I’ll try to be brief with this little pep talk because I know not everyone is affected by this…. but for those who are, we understand it can paralyze us to the point that we just don’t even start, and we definitely don’t want that here.
The internal dialogue can run quite the gamut:
“What if I make a mistake?”
“I don’t know what I’m doing!”
“What am I supposed to say here?! What if it’s wrong?!”
In the case of a beautiful journal to handwrite in, I’ve even caught myself thinking
“I hate my handwriting! I’m going to ruin this gorgeous journal with my chicken scratch!”
Trust me, I’ve thought all these things when keeping journals of any kind…. and I finally just had to get over myself.
There is no “wrong” way to do this. There are no wrong answers, no wrong thoughts, and no wrong approach when it comes to journaling with the tarot.
It’s all about building a relationship with your cards, so if you have a thought about a certain card – it’s not wrong! That’s *your* language with the cards and how they make sense to you in the context of your own life experiences. This is the secret sauce to how you create both nuance and depth of understanding in your journey with the tarot.
Now Comes the Fun... Let's Get Started!
In the first few pages of your new journal, you might want to take the time to write down some personal thoughts about the tarot.
You could write about what the tarot means to you, how you first discovered it and why you feel so drawn to it, and why you feel called to read the cards.
Also, write down what your favorite card currently is and why. I say “currently” because you will find that over time your favorite cards in the deck will shift as you travel through the ebbing and flowing of life’s proverbial currents.
I thought it might be helpful to give you a starting point, so I’m going to share with you exactly how I set up my tarot journals and what I include in them.
I’ve always created my own journals from either simple spiral bound notebooks, binders with paper inserts, or pretty journals I’ve picked up at the store or off of Amazon. This section may be more helpful to you if you choose to go that route rather than purchasing a specific tarot journaling guide.
If you’re an “artsy” and visual person, you may want to create a beautiful journal with images and sketches in it alongside your entries. You could also print off images (or cut them from magazines!) that fit with the meanings of a particular card and attach them to the page for that card to create a mixed media type collage.
There are a lot of creative ways to put together a journal that is both beautiful and functional.
When I’m journaling, I make certain each entry includes these four main things:
- The date
- The name of the card
- The name of the deck it’s from
- The basic meanings, or keywords, for that card in both the upright and reversed position
These are all important to me because it’s all relevant information. If you look back at your older journals as time passes, it will become obvious to you why knowing these details can be helpful.
Now, where to start with the deck.
Some people like to pull a single “card of the day” and journal about that card.
Some people like to start at the beginning with the Major Arcana and work their way through the deck in order.
Personally, I did both. I’d perform daily readings for myself, even if it was a single card draw, and I’d write about that card, while I was simultaneously working my way through my deck from the beginning.
Some days I wrote about a single card, other days I might write about two or three. Sometimes you may find that you need to come back at a later time and add more details or things that come to you out of the blue about a particular card. I’ve even woken up in the middle of the night with a great insight and have gotten up to write it down.
I’ve also had times when a particular quote seems to fit with a certain card, so I’ll jot that down as well. For example, one of my favorite quotes is from Emily Dickinson, “I am out with lanterns looking for myself.” That quote could tie in with The Hermit. I will jot it down and sometimes expand on why I feel like that quote is illustrated in that particular card.
As I look at a card, I think about what I see in the image and what each of those things might mean. Things in the card that really jump out at you like colors, surroundings, minute details, etc are important to consider. Just begin writing what you see and what those things seem to convey to you. You can even write this out like you’re writing a story about what’s portrayed in the card.
All of these things are setting the stage for how you begin to create your own meanings and personal vocabulary surrounding the cards when they’re viewed in a particular context relative to your own life experiences.
What Does All of This Look Like When You Put it Together?
Here’s an example of an entry straight out of one of my old journals:
February 1, 2016
The Chariot – from The Llewellyn Tarot
Upright meanings: Triumph. Victory parade. Success of a multifaceted endeavor. Leadership, competence, and maturity. Conquest. An evolved personality. Courage. Being centered and secure. Moral, ethical progress and conduct. A high-minded, honorable approach to life. Balance and integration. Harmony of opposite tensions. Equilibrium. Reconciling opposing forces or views. Uniting left and right brain functions. Control over inner conflicts. Harnessing wild energies. Life unfolding at an accelerated pace, yet maintaining direction. Finding one’s stride. Enjoying the thrill of the ride of life. Engaging in ambition or pursuit of a dream. Achievement. High energy. Promotion, honors, and reward. Overcoming opposition. May indicate a rescue, as in the arrival of the cavalry.
Reversed meanings: Breakdown of an enterprise due to scattered energies. Doubts undermine and erode commitment and morale. Not having the confidence of a team. Weakness. Impulsive, erratic behavior. Immaturity. Loss of focus. Being led astray. Loose cannon. Danger to come from too much power and speed.
“Move, but don’t move the way fear makes you move.” ~ Rumi
The person in this card is bold, self-assured, and knows where he is headed…. or does he? Could “Fake it til you make it!” apply here?
His chariot is pulled by two opposing forces in two different directions – Dark vs. Light, Wrong vs. Right, Just vs. Unjust, Left vs. Right.
In this way, The Chariot is a reminder not only to be the master of our own ship but to make choices wisely and to follow the path that leads to our highest good.
In the card, the waters are rising around the chariot, but the driver appears unfazed – forging ahead with his head held high and his eye on his goal.
One horse pulls above the waves, the other attempts to dive into them. Which will the driver follow, or will he bring the opposing forces into harmony in order to move ahead?
I draw from what I already know about a card based on the basic “book” meanings of that card, and add my own insights based on how I might see this card in the context of my own life experiences.
In the photo below, you can see The Chariot card from The Llewellyn Tarot.
What do you see in the card? Are your observations different than mine? What might you write in your journal about it?
Okay, let’s do one more:
May 18, 2016
The Magician – from The Llewellyn Tarot
Upright meanings: Talent and intelligence. A higher-comprehending mind. Purpose and skill. Independent thinker. Self-rule. Freedom. A person who is a force of art and creativity. Intuition. Eloquence and persuasion. Charm, confidence, and control. Talent that carries responsibility and casts one in an otherworldly light. Leadership and influence. This card is an ambiguous one, as the Magician is also a trickster. The unevolved Magician character is a creature of appetite, impulse, and manipulation. Disregard of others self-aggrandizing behavior…. think of a rock star or celebrity gone down the path of self-destruction.
Reversed meanings: Deception. Gimmicks and tricks. A showoff and profiteer. Unscrupulous liar and cheat. The hijacking of an art for personal gain. Superiority complex. Shapeshifter. Falsehood. Fakery, like an imposter.
“Don’t drink at the water’s edge, throw yourself in. Become the water. Only then will your thirst be quenched.” ~ J. Berson
How does this quote apply to The Magician? For me, it’s about how we cannot fully manifest our desires in this life until we are willing to fully immerse ourself in the work of doing so.
A man clad in rich purple robes stands at a stone table atop stone stairs. Or is that a stone altar? An altar could imply sacred or magical work taking place.
His right hand holds a wand, his arm is raised and the wand points heavenward. His left index finger points at the ground.
“As above, so below.”
This is simple in phrase but profound in meaning.
It essentially means that physical laws apply to the rest of the Universe (above) the same as they do here on Earth (below).
“As within, so without.” That which we create inside of us, we can create outside of us.
What bearing might these ideas have in regard to manifestation, which is very much what The Magician is all about?
On the stone altar we see glimpses of his other tools: Sword, Cup, and what appears to be a golden Disk.
Each tool represents a suit in the Minor Arcana of the tarot, and each suit represents an element –
- Wand = suit of Wands, element of Fire.
- Sword = suit of Swords, element of Air.
- Cup = suit of Cups, element of Water.
- Disk = suit of Pentacles, element of Earth.
He is surrounded by a dense, ancient forest that is clothed in moss and brambles. A hint at the depth and wisdom in his work?
He appears confident in his task – manifestation.
What is he manifesting?
He appears to have all that he needs at his disposal to create the outcome he desires, as we all do if we just open our eyes to the possibilities and to our own power. Within each of us is the energy of The Magician and his power to manifest what he desires.
What are you manifesting?
Remember, the energy you send out is the energy you get back.
I’ve included a photo of The Magician card from the Llewellyn Tarot below.
What do you see in the card? Are your observations different than mine? What might you write in your journal about it?
How Else Can You Use Your Journal?
There are a number of other creative ways to work with your journal and the tarot.
Creative Writing ~ Draw a random card from your deck and write a story about the person you see in the card. Not about the meanings of that card itself, but about the PERSON in the card. Contemplate things like what kind of person they are, where are they from, what kind of friend would they be, how old are they, their challenges and struggles, etc.
Conversation Between Cards ~ Draw two cards randomly and imagine a conversation between the individuals in the cards. What kinds of interactions would those people have? What kinds of things would they say to each other? What kind of advice might they share with one another?
Tarot Dating Game ~ Separate the court cards from the rest of the deck and randomly pull two cards at a time.
Have one card ask the other card questions, like two people on a first date trying to get to know one another – write down the question and the answer you think the other card would give.
This can be a fun way to learn about the court cards, which tend to be the part of the deck most people struggle to understand. I think of them more as personalities than actual people, which makes applying them in readings much easier.
You can make this as straight-laced or as juicy as you want… oftentimes the juicy side of things is where you’ll really see the personality of the cards and even humor shine through.
Interview Your Deck ~ You should totally interview your deck. I’ve found that it helps me feel more connected to my deck, and sometimes I even get a good laugh at an answer to a question!
Thoroughly shuffle your deck first and then jump in. Jot your questions down in your journal, then add the card you drew and your interpretation of that card in the context of the question asked.
You can come up with your own questions for your deck, but I’ll add a few ideas to get you started:
♥ What would you like me to know about you?
♥ Which card in the deck sums up your personality?
♥ What message would you like to share with me about how we’ll work together?
♥ What kind of topics are your favorite to discuss?
♥ What kind of topics do you *not* want to discuss?
You Have all The Tools You Need... Channeling the Magician
Finally, I’ve tried to provide you with as much detail and guidance as I can in order to get you started down this magical path of tarot journaling.
If you devote yourself to this practice, I can promise you that you won’t regret it. In fact, if you’ve been reading the cards for awhile and have never started a journal, once you do you’ll wish you’d done it sooner.
We all hold the creative energy of the Magician within us, even if it’s difficult to find at first. I promise you that the further you get down this path, the easier it will be to tap into that creativity.
You have all the tools you need in your possession. The rest is up to you.
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