The Tarot Journal

IMG_3255If you are new to your tarot studies and go on a search for some beginners advice, one tip you’ll receive from just about every source is ‘start a tarot journal’.

I believe that journaling can be an effective way to begin your tarot journey for one simple reason – its consistency.

There are those who will buy a tarot deck and book, begin enthusiastically, but lose interest when things get complicated or push it aside when something as equally interesting comes their way. How we begin to learn the tarot (or an oracle pack) is often overlooked. The more excited among us might want to learn it upside-down and back-to-front as best as they can in a week, read with the overwhelming Celtic Cross in a month, and turn pro a couple of weeks after that. While this might work for some, I cannot emphasise how important small steps are at the beginning of our tarot journey. They provide a good foundation for a tarot future. The consistency of something like journaling, when approached steadily, really assists learning and the gradual building up your own personal responses to the cards.

There will always be someone who takes to tarot like a duck to water, but I believe that it takes time to become a good reader. For a second, think about the art of watercolour painting. Does the artist chuck the lot on, mix it all about, and create an instant masterpiece in their first week of learning? It’s highly unlikely. These things take discipline and effort. a new artist practices sketching out their image, correcting it as they go along, while paying great attention to their subject. They learn how to add a wash to the background. Once that is dry, they’ll pick out the paler pigments and later, will build up the stronger colours and detail. As any watercolour artist will tell you, learning how to paint isn’t something you can do overnight. Like tarot, perfecting the basics and then your own style takes time and patience.

IMG_3257Like an artist’s sketchbook, a tarot journal allows for us to draw a card, respond to it, reflect on it, and sit with it, one at a time. We can return to our journal and add further insights throughout a day and when we feel we have built up the details of the said card during that session, we can move on to the next one. As we move through this process, we slowly create our own tarot masterpiece.

Journaling is not just for beginners though. There is always room for experienced readers to go back and revisit the basics or look at a card through a new lens. With this in mind, the journal is a great place to become acquainted with a new deck of cards. While I have been working with some old favourites in my own journal, I recently set up a separate one for the Mother Mary Oracle by Alana Fairchild. My parents bought me the set for Christmas and I was eager to dive right in, there and then. However, as I jumped towards her, Mother Mary side-stepped out-of-the-way. Not all decks react well to the full-on approach. Their wisdom needs to be coaxed out slowly.

I’d become frustrated with both Mother Mary and the deck. I’d felt as though Our Lady was standing in one corner of the room and I was in the other, neither knowing what to do next. I’d aggressively tried to break into the set a few times before starting my journal. Journaling was, in my mind, the last shot.

I’ve not been working with my Mother Mary journal for longer than a few weeks, but the cards are definitely opening up to the gentle seduction of journaling. Part of my personal journaling process is to sketch the card I’m working with. As much as this can make for an attractive journal and can be a lot of fun, a pretty picture on the page is not the greatest importance here. While sketching the image in my own way, I am spending a lot of time really looking at the card and engaging with its symbolism. I’m looking into Mother Mary’s eyes, noticing the colours used by the artist, recording what else is happening in the picture, and building up a relationship with the subject. It’s almost a meditative experience and I am aware of the words that spring into my mind and heart while doing it. Once it is finished, I write about my response to the card, noting down a few of Alana’s comments from her book which resonate. The journal has become the key to this deck. I’m not sure I’d have been able to get inside of it so successfully without it.

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Alana Fairchild’s book for the Mother Mary Oracle is packed to the rafters with her thoughts and feelings, making it a great resource for readers. However, there is an advantage to compiling your own and formulating your personal relationship with the cards. This is valuable with any deck, tarot or oracle. It takes courage, time, and effort.

Over the last month, I have received a handful of requests, asking me for journaling ideas, from people who want to know more about my own personal process , so here are a few of my top tips –

You don’t have to be Picasso to create a wonderful visual tarot journal!

I’m well aware that there are some amazing artists out there with skills superior to my own. One thing we must always remember when we create a project like this is that there will always be someone who draws better than we do … and likewise, there will be someone who doesn’t draw as well. How you draw is not the point of the process, but through journaling in this way, you will improve your skills. Copying how another artist (such as Julia Jeffrey, in my experience) uses shadow, light, and colour is a wonderful way to practice drawing or painting.

Drawing can help us to see details we might have initially missed. It bonds us with the card in question; and it can take us out of our world for the time we are journaling with it. While there are some people who will undoubtedly create amazing tarot-art-books through journaling , the real beauty of this process is in what we find along the way – sketching can help us to connect to the source of the card, meaning that we learn something new about our self while we are working with it.

Don’t let fear of failure or a comparison to others hold you back. Journaling can breathe new life into our relationship with a deck. Nobody else needs to see what you produce unless you care to share it, so remember that there is no need to worry about whether your pages are perfect or not. Many of my own journal drawings are not direct representations of the cards. The cards have provided a spring-board for my own creativity and intuition. As Christiana Gaudet so wisely announced in a recent video, “You don’t need to be perfect to be awesome”.

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Be consistent!

Whether you are a great writer or artist is not the point here. What is important is whether you continue to show up!

Good journaling requires time. This does not mean that you must sit down and journal for an hour every day but it does mean that you journal regularly. You will know what works best for you – whether it is an hour a week, fifteen minutes every evening, or half an hour every two or three days, good journalingpractice is built up steadily and consistently. If we try to do too much, it can become a chore. If we neglect it, it eventually gets pushed to the back of the queue and forgotten.

I like to journal in the evenings. I don’t journal every single day. I will draw a card, sketch it and then take some time to reflect on what the card could mean generally and at his time in my life. When I make the commitment to journal, I pull out my notebook, my pens, and coloured pencils and sit on my bed. If I am using my Mother Mary deck, I will hold my rosary quietly for a few minutes before drawing a card, asking that I receive what I need at this time. Once I have finished sketching, I will write down how I feel about the card and how it makes sense at this time. I will read through the guide-book afterwards and note anything that backs up my own impressions or which I might want to refer to at a later date.

Be authentic!

Remember that this is your journal. It is a record of your relationship with your deck (or decks). There really is no right or wrong way to do it … so do it your way!

Some will journal in a tatty old ringed notebook, while others will seek out a luxurious book for their tarot memoirs and art. Either will do the job. This is a time for you to express yourself but I do have one word of caution! I have many beautiful journals on my shelves and most of them have never been touched. When we purchase the journal-of-all-journals, expectation and a need to get it right can be high. If our artistic or written expectations are not met, we can become disappointed and this can end our relationship with journaling pretty quickly. Once you have discovered how you journal, you can buy that book that looks as though it’s just been dug up from an archeological goldmine, but until then, it will make it so much easier to use a simple pad or sketchbook. You will make mistakes because it is part of the process. Not every entry will be a revelation and not every sketch or design will work. I can tell you now that this WILL happen. Starting off in a humble book will prevent this from becoming a bigger deal than it should be.

Why not decorate your journal and make it your own. An inexpensive journal can be taken anywhere and remember that size does matter – if a book is too big to carry or is not big enough to take all of the information and illustrations you’d like it to, you might hit a problem straight away.

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You might have been expecting more than just three pretty obvious journaling tips, but these really are my three golden rules. If you start without too much expectation, journal regularly, and be yourself within your pages, you really cannot go wrong!  Allow your journal to become part of you. When you look back after a year, you may cringe at some of the things you’ve written or the drawings you’ve made, but they will have informed your journey like no other book on the subject. These entries will become the initial steps towards a wonderful tarot or oracle adventure.

If you have found this article inspiring or are already immersed in the world of tarot journaling, I’d love to hear about it! Why not let me know in the comments below.

Happy journaling

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20 thoughts on “The Tarot Journal

  1. Steve your journals are amazing. Your drawings are stunning. Copying the cards is an underestimated form of art. We don’t always have to be original to be authentic. 🙂
    You have inspired me to draw cards in my journal too. Thanks

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    • Thanks so much, Ellen! It’s wonderful to inspire and also become inspired by your work also. I really enjoyed seeing your page and hope to see more. It’s a wonderful way of working, I find. Very peaceful.

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  2. Oh yeah, people talk about some decks being too busy, or complicated, but journaling is the way to untangle and become best friends with any deck. Love your stuff, thank you.

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  3. This is my first visit to your blog and I loved this entry. It’s so sensible and helpful…and beautiful! How right you are that there’s always more to learn, deeper depths to plumb, no matter how long we’ve been keeping company with the tarot.

    Thanks you for being willing to share this private part of your intuitive/creative/spiritual process.

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    • Thank you so much. It is lovely to know you enjoyed being here and I hope you return.

      I’ve never been great at holding a journal together but this method of working really appeals to me. As you say, it can be useful at whatever place you are at on your journey.

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  4. Well, I still have my old tarot journals, done in loose-leaf paper in binders and they are wonderful to look back on. Packed with creativity and ideas that were not welcome in the general tarot community of the time.

    I write poetry, draw, write stories, make jewellery, all kinds of things using my cards. Now that I journal on the blog I still do all that stuff, but my written journals are like gold.

    I now do general written journals too in nice hardcover journals. It’s been a heartening thing and my cards opened it all up to me. I like to pick a random song or snippet of poetry and tie it into my card of the day.

    Like gold, man!

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    • They sound lovely, Judy. And I can only imagine how creative your journals must be. I wonder if they would gain a more creative and flexible ear in the larger community these days?

      Like gold, yes! They are the footprints of change.

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  5. Very inspiring! And how beautiful your journals are!! I am a novice in Tarot dealings, so am hoping to get more inspiration from your sphere.

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    • Even though you feel those entries are amateur, the more you do it, the more you’ll notice the progression. I also think there is such magic in those early dealings, which is great to return to in your journal. Remember, we’re all always learning, despite where we stand on the path. I post a lot on Facebook and Instagram, if you are on there. I’m Steven Bright on FB and Tiferet Tarot on IG. Some of my posts might be useful, you never know 🙂

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      • Thanks! Yes, you are right. The early dealings are enchanting, and a whole world is waiting to be explored, which gives me a thrill and makes me feel so ‘alive’— I’ll be happy to find you on Facebook.. I’ll send you a friend request. My name is Anna Lisa (for now, anyways.. I’m in touch with a numerologist who has adviced me to change it). 🙂

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