Saturday, 23 January 2016

Meet your dark self: shadow work with tarot

I recently bumped into an interesting concept of working with tarot to explore your shadow self: deeply held insecurities and skewed perceptions about yourself, as well as emotional baggage or harmful behaviour patterns learnt through the course of life.

I am by no means experienced in this particular area in terms of all the psychology involved, but I do love self-exploration spreads and self-development, so why not give it a go!

Obviously any sort of shadow work requires the same objectiveness and open mind than tarot in general: whatever comes up, be willing to face it as it is, don't try to sugar coat, ignore, nor see it in a worse light than necessary! Crystal clear objectivity is the goal here.

Shadow work, obviously, is not just poking at open wounds, it's about recognising areas that need healing: what needs to be released, forgiven and/or immersed into one's person but as a positive force instead of negative, through learning from it.

This reading, borrowed from Over the Moon - blog, is merely a scratch of what shadow work could mean, but it proved very insightful nevertheless. A spread like this can be quite heavy, so only do it if you feel strong enough to not blame yourself or feel ashamed of what's inside; and if you feel prepared to explore and heal it.

Because I like conciseness, I drew only one, max, two cards depending on how I felt while asking the question (will one be enough or not), but this could be done by drawing three cards for each question consistently.

Your Shadow Self - reading

What piece of your past you still dwell in you need to let go?

This card shows a young maiden placing her hand into the mouth of a lion. It's about taming the instincts and having inner strength, trusting your own power. Reversed, the lion is on top, more powerful than the maiden. I knew immediately what this means. It stems from my childhood, feeling powerless because of another person (of a sign of Leo, coincidentally!). I've grown up to be a self-confident self-starter, but these lingering doubts, fear and inability to show my vulnerability and be unapologetically myself still shadow me.

What is the hypothetical conversation or topic you mull over and over in your head?

The Moon talks about confusion, lack of clarity, intuition and instinctive fears. For me in this position it means topics of the otherworld, the unseen and  unknown, in particular fears. At one stage I used to get almost paralysing fits of fear of death - anxiety attacks. I've gone past the paralysing part, but I do still ponder life after death (or possible lack thereof) quite a bit, but at least from a calmer mindset. I'm hugely interested in spiritual matters, including paranormal, but at the same time I dismiss it (not provable scientifically) yet I'm afraid by it (what if I experience something scary?).

What type of a disaster you secretly wish you'd experience and survive? What need does it serve?

This Ace is a tangible opportunity and a start, the first seed. Two of Pentacles is about split focus and successful juggling of many things at once. This tells that I secretly desire to start everything from a scratch, with nothing in my pockets but a chance to find an opportunity. This satisfies my need to have a flexible, adaptable mindset and prove myself that I can overcome any obstacle by being nimble and resourceful, think on my feet in a dire situation. I've actually deliberately put myself into this situation more than once by moving countries with nothing else but a backpack and some savings, and working my way up - I still dream of doing this again. Now I  know why.

What are you afraid of revealing to others?

The card of obligations and burdens, and the card of seeking and receiving help. I don't want to reveal that I can become overwhelmed and need help. I pride myself for being resourceful, energetic achiever; but this apparently comes with a disclaimer. I need to learn that giving up is not shameful. Sometimes it's better to realise early that something won't work, or I've taken on too much: I'm not a superhuman and I need someone to support me, encourage me, help me out.

What false armour have you crafted for yourself' to protect you from pain?
DEVIL, clarified by the EMPRESS

This card was actually the most difficult for me to interpret in this spread. I read the Devil as unhealthy attachments (such as obsessions or pestering negative thoughts and emotions), as well as feeling oppressed or driven by something negative (fears, negativity, jealousy, etc.). However, I can't recognise suffering from any of these, besides some lingering residual fears I'm still working on. I read this combo to mean that I don't have a false armour as such, but I do have fears that I allow to limit me. If I work them out and release myself, I'll experience life in its beautiful fullness.

Into what stereotype you unwittingly fit?

The Sun, the card of joy of life and clarity, doesn't seem too dramatic or negative stereotype, as I tend to read Sun reversed as a milder, clouded version of the merrily shining, easygoing sun. However, there are a couple of less flattering options. Either I'm seen as an attention seeker (someone wanting to take the centre of the stage and others revolve around her/him) or I'm seen as someone who can't have fun and enjoy life - a party pooper. I tend to be the responsible one and never go overboard with frivolity (= recklessness). On the other hand, I'm not bothered by fitting a stereotype - people tend to categorise anyway and if I'm being categorised among everything and everyone else, can't help it :)

What thought keeps you awake at night?

Thinking about and assessing my progress, waiting for results? This is not the most obvious "nighthawk", a pestering night thought. I usually don't suffer from sleeplessness, so I really can't think of a thought I expected to come up with this card. I guess this is about me measuring what I've achieved so far: I have plenty of plans on the go at all times and some of them work, some don't. This could also relate to my fear that I won't achieve everything I want to achieve, I won't be able to live up to my full potential.

Where do you need to broaden your perspective?

Children playing and the most motherly Queen of the deck spell out the obvious: family life and motherhood. I'm not a mother, and my perspective about motherhood is probably very narrow: I tend to see it as around-the-clock work with no breaks, taking care of someone else's every need and disregarding my own due to lack of time and energy - hence, it sounds quite draining, undesirable and even scary! I'm sure there's much more to it which I'll probably only learn through my own family, if I get past my apprehensiveness first :D

Best of luck with exploring your own dark corners and cobwebbed nooks of the soul!

What lays in the shadows of your persona and only comes out after dark? Photo via Freenaturestock


  1. I tried it out and it actually helped. I recommend dis for any tarot learner doing some self searching ^^ My insides felt refreshingly "open" like a nice fresh breeze from the ace of cups had swooped in. This fabulous breeze seems to be fading with time tho, and with negative emotions I feel like a wall settles in... Do you recommend any spreads to try and keep this open feeling?

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  2. Hi Kaisa, thank you for commenting! For uplifting and refreshing feeling, these two can help: My life's not too bad, if you haven't tried it yet; and where to find joy, discussed here:

    This is also an interesting soul searching spread I'm planning to write a blog post about soon:

    Given that these are all about self-discovery and there's no point to repeat them often, I find variants of the Serenity spread useful for uplifting messages. Try for example:
    1 What I can/should change in my life?
    2 What should I accept as it is in my life?
    3 How to recognise the positives I have overlooked?
    Hope these help!

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  4. will be trying these out and ur new post about strange jewels, really intriguing. And I like the serenity spread. Thank you! :)

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  6. Your blog provide a very important details about the Online tarot reading in cards and i really appreciate it. I love how you focus on clarity and change, rather than prediction. tarot cards.


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