When I first heard about shadow work, I got quite confused. What were all these people talking about? Was it all exclusively about Christine Jette’s awesome book? Or was there some secret society I did not know about? One of my favourite Tarot deck reviewers on YouTube is owlmoon513 and she used to talk about nothing but shadow work.
But it was so hard for me to find any useful, in-depth resources about Tarot shadow work – that would be easily accessible, free and provide clear guidance. This is mainly why I decided to start with this blog series here.
To start with, let’s view these 8 truths about Tarot shadow work
There is only your way, no high way
Tarot shadow work is just a process of using Tarot as a tool to access parts/emotions/experiences of you which you don’t usually tap into, but which open up your “shadow self” – the part of you that drives your hidden emotions, suppressed addictions, candid fears and forgotten hopes. There is no “approved” way of doing shadow work – in fact, only reading this post and starting to think about your innermost hopes or fears can constitute as shadow work. It is all about the journey within – and very often only about that very first step!
Shadow work is not “evil”
Regardless of the fact that I don’t believe in the concept of good/evil in the first place, I think it is quite irresponsible to title shadow work “evil” or “dark” and frighten off many a good Tarotist who might be scared that this takes them to the “dark side”. It certainly is not pleasant for the most part, but I assure you, the only monster you will meet, is within you.
You don’t need a “dark” deck
Whenever I browse forums or groups that discuss shadow work, everyone seems to think you need at least a Dark Grimoire, otherwise there is no point in even trying to do shadow work. While I agree that some people connect with their “shadow” side better with a gloomy-looking deck rather than a happy, frilly one – I can assure you that you can achieve great results with whichever deck you choose. In fact, although my “deck of choice” tends to be Archeon Tarot or Tarot of Vampyres, some of the best results I have gotten have come from readings with Shadowscapes. The reason people tell you to get a “dark” deck is that some find you must be triggered by specific imagery to be able to tap certain emotions; I disagree – use whichever deck you like! Just be sure you connect with it well, and you can feel strong energy from it
Shadow work can help you heal
While its name indicates something dark and sinister, shadow work can be extremely beneficial when working with difficult topics or during difficult times. Break-ups, grief over the loss of a loved one, losing one’s job or other complex transitions can end up suppressing or blocking a lot of your feelings that you are not able or willing to deal with. Shadow work helps you to observe and experience these feelings and being a healing process.
No props needed
I still remember the urgent need for a bigger flat when I first started shadow work. An entirely separate altar? In a quiet, sacred space? With black calla lilies? In the Nordics in January? Not to mention the heeps of black diamonds and shrunken unicorn hearts necessary to plunge into your inner caveworks. None of that is actually necessary. When I do shadow work, I just use my Tarot rituals – sometimes lighting incense or sage, or lay the cards on a reading cloth. Or ring a Tibetan bell! And some of the best readings I have just had when I pulled out my deck just to draw a few cards – no ritual whatsoever. In the end, the power comes from within.
Let your interpretation run wild
This is not a trade fair divination, and noone is about to come from the local Tarot Office to check whether your interpretations are up to par. Interpreting shadow readings can be very difficult, because sometimes we are reluctant to see what is being shown – and sometimes we are just not yet ready. When you read your shadow cards, interpret them without external help first. See what they bring up. Which colours, smells? Do you remember some sounds, do they trigger a dream or a lost memory? Throw away the Little White Books for your first readings. Try to understand them on a deeper level – try to understand what you are trying to avoid as well.
Take your time
I know the titillating sense of first progress. Once you reach out to your inner self and discover the vulnerabilities, the fears, the suppression, the blockage – all you want to do is to run in and axe your way through. This is not the way to do it, though. Take time for every shadow reading. For longer blocks and challenges, work through a couple of questions at a time. What you learn from these cards is not the real progress – your internalization of them is. Take time to mull over each card, its position, its possible meanings. This is not an easy process, and definitely not a fast one. We are delving deep, touching the ocean floors of your soul sea. You wouldn’t want to tanker it.
Share your experience – the pain and the gain
All that withstanding, it is still a very painful process that can tear open several healed wounds (and open countless new ones). Try to share your progress with someone who can support you – or make sure you go through difficult patches or topics during a time when you don’t have to be alone or lonely.
If your thoughts become depressive or you feel an altered state of mind, seek professional help immediately. Tarot shadow work is not a medicinal tool or a medical remedy against psychological, neurological or other mental health issues.
In the end, all you need to step on this path is yourself!
What was your first experience of Tarot shadow work?