Are you wondering how to use tarot for shadow work? I've got my friend Dany from Italy to tell us everything you need to know using tarot for shadow work:
Shadow work is a wonderful practice for you to get to know yourself in a deeper way. There are many ways to do your shadow work but my absolute favorite is a shadow work tarot! Here is all you need to know about using tarot for shadow work and my personal experiences with it!
What is Shadow Work Tarot?
Shadow work tarot is doing shadow work using tarot cards as a tool to explore your inner shadow.
What’s this shadow? This concept comes from Carl Gustav Jung. According to the famous psychiatrist the Shadow is close to man and hides what is considered unacceptable; the Shadow.
A figure projected on the wall, which chases the individual even when he moves away. It's the same in shape but opposite in movement and direction.
Shadow is something that exists only in the presence of light. Since a body immersed in darkness has no dark parts, it has no Shadow. Light and Shadow are therefore considered as metaphors of Good and Evil, Positive and Negative.
In a book he tells one of his dreams, very simple and at the same time evocative. He was along a path, walking against the wind, holding a lantern to illuminate the road. He knew that behind him his Shadow followed him, the dark, unknown, wild side.
Wanting to read this dream with the Tarot cards, the first that immediately comes to mind is the Hermit. With his lantern he illuminates the steps of his path, shedding light on everything he does not know, which is still mysterious.
What keeps the lantern burning? Maybe a star? Or is it the light of his intuition, the reason for the research itself?
The shadow that follows Jung could be the Devil, his ancestral part, dangerous, unconscious but also vital and without patterns. Or, we could associate the Moon card with the shadow, which is a symbol of something still unclear, uncertain, irrational.
It is interesting to note that Jung's life was then masterfully summarized in this dream of his. With his work he shed light on many internal dynamics, linked to the unconscious and to dreams.
What is a Shadow Work Tarot Reading?
The Shadow work tarot reading is therefore all that creative, intuitive and magical work that you can do on your dreams.
It is a useful process to explore one's own unconscious parts. Your individual depth, to integrate it into everyday life. To accept it and to learn how to use the resources it can offer you.
It is useful when:
- recognize in yourself behaviors that you want to change, repetitive and not constructive
- you want to fight bad habits, or work on some form of addiction
- if you don't remember your dreams, and you need to intuitively unlock
- or you remember your dreams, and want to know more about their messages
- if you want to develop your creative potential, through figures, images, archetypes
and in all other cases where you feel the need to work with your most intimate aspects!
Understanding the relationship between dream symbols and everyday life gives you full awareness of what is happening to you; as in the symbol of yin and yang.
In the light there is always a part of darkness and vice versa. Only thanks to the integration of these two aspects is it possible to find true balance.
The Shadow work also includes markers, glue, cutouts, glitter, stickers, and all that (wonderful) creative material to help unleash your creativity. In Shadow work a journal is often kept in which to note dreams, synchronicities, intuitions, and so on.
Try to analyze some dreams you had with the Tarot. Ask yourself "who embodies the characters of the dream?", "what are the settings or the forces at play?".
Tarot Decks for Shadow Work
There are many different tarot deck out there. Some of them are even claimed to be the best ones for shadow work.
But, the truth is, it doesn’t matter what people might consider a deck amazing for shadow work as long as it seems amazing to you!
For example, one of the most used tarot deck is the Wild Unknown Tarot Deck by Kim Krans. Why? It’s dark, it’s connected with nature and it’s very complex when it comes to getting the meaning of each card.
I firmly believe that, when it comes to choosing the right tarot deck for your shadow work you have to follow your instinct. Find the tarot deck that resonates the most with you and your practice!
If you are new to tarot, it might be a nice call to rely on a traditional Waiter-Raide tarot deck. Since it’s the best one for beginners. But if you don’t feel connected with that deck and you want to try something more spiritually-oriented and more oniric, you could choose a Starchild tarot deck by Danielle Noel.
But again, these are only a few ideas! Choose a deck that, first of all, you truly like as you are going to spend some time with it. Then keep in mind that having a first good connection is important for effective and powerful shadow work!
Tarot Spreads for Shadow Work
To do shadow work using tarot cards you have basically two methods.
One with spreads and one with a shadow card (I am going to explain this down below!).
But for now, let’s see which are the best tarot spreads for shadow work!
Ps. For these readings you are going to use the whole deck with both minor and major arcana. As you are going to have a deep insight into both your life path, but also the struggles and the situations of your mundane life, that are put into action when it comes to your shadow side!
1 question, 3 cards
This is so good if you are a complete beginner! Simply ask, what do I need to know about my shadow self? Do this while shuffling the deck and then pick 3 cards. Those 3 cards can give you some messages for you to start exploring your shadow self.
3 cards shadow work spread
This spread is super easy and great if you are new to the world of tarot! You would have only three cards to work so it’s not too confusing nor overwhelming!
- What part of my I am repressing?
- Why I am doing this?
- How can I accept this?
4 Cards spread
Use this to know what is the right direction for you to take to accept your shadow self!
- Who I am for real?
- What’s my most hidden desires?
- What am I scared the most?
- How can I accept myself as a whole?
6 cards spread
This is a wonderful spread you can use when you feel like you’ve been holding onto something. Something that is spreading negativity and pressure around and within yourself!
- How can I get into my subconscious?
- What have I been holding on to?
- What is the part of me I am not seeing?
- Why do I feel so negative?
- How can I express my shadow self?
- A message from my shadow
Tarot Cards for Shadow Work
The central point of these wonderful cards is to process unconscious knowledge and, as you already know, the unconscious is also conveniently the realm of the shadow self.
Is it possible to communicate directly with your shadow self through the tarot and oracle cards? Yes, as long as you have a clear intention and focus.
For this type of work you can use decks of cards with a darker theme.
To get started, consider creating a section in your journal dedicated specifically to your shadow work with tarot cards.
(You could also consider the idea of dedicating an entire diary since the work of shadows with tarot cards can process a lot of intriguing content, believe me.)
There are many tarot cards you can draw inspiration from, but it's best to start simple. Think about some questions or topics you would like to explore.
I am going to share some useful prompts down below but you can totally bring up yours!
What is a Shadow Card in Tarot?
Those who follow a path of personal growth know well that there come moments in life when we find ourselves having to face our own Shadow, or those darker parts of ourselves that we keep hidden in the depths of our psyche and mistakenly try to ignore.
In fact, by accepting our Shadow as part of us we can reach our full potential.
For this reason, the Shadow Card is useful precisely to give us a hand in making us understand which are the parts of ourselves with which we have difficulty and that need to heal to allow us to shine in the world.
How to calculate your Shadow Card
Calculating your Shadow card is very simple: you divide your date of birth into 4 groups of 2 digits which are then added together.
Eg) if the date of birth is 20.05.1985 then it is divided as follows: 20 + 05 + 19 + 85 = 129
Then add the first number of the result or the first two numbers to the third, like this: 12 + 9 = 21
So in this case the Shadow card is card 21 or the World.
In the example given, therefore, having come out the World as a Shadow card, it could indicate that the person may find himself in difficulty with the idea of success, personal fulfillment or wealth because perhaps he grew up believing that he could not do it or in a castrating environment.
Consequently, his challenge will be to regain his personal power and understand that he deserves the success he is afraid of.
Knowing your Shadow card is a very great gift. In fact, knowing a Shadow aspect of ourselves will help us to welcome it and integrate it within us, transforming it into its light aspect.
Each Shadow Tarot must be experienced as a challenge of our personal and spiritual evolution, to be faced and won.
Below I give you some meaning for each Shadow Tarot accept it as a precious information to reflect on. For this shadow work we are going to use Major Arcana only as they are the cards related to our life journey.
Meanings of the Shadow Tarot
0 The Fool: the great challenge launched by this shadow card is to live in art, without rules, without thoughts. In short, completely carefree.
1 Magician: who has Magician, also often called Magician, as a shadow card could have problems of insecurity that make it difficult to find stability and make things concrete in life.
2 High Priestess: if this wonderful Arcana is your Shadow card, prepare yourself for great challenges in the spiritual field. You will struggle to accept your gifts and your wisdom, you will tend to question them rather than be grateful for them.
3 Empress: your shadow card is this one when the part that you will struggle to welcome will be your feminine side, your beauty, your energy and this will make you struggle even on the economic level.
4 Emperor: when the shadow card is the Emperor then it is appropriate to say that you will risk being rigid people, who find it hard to let go and will have tendencies to judge and feel judged.
5 Hierophant: when your Shadow card is the Hierophant you have to be careful not to be too conventional, almost bigoted, you risk not being open to changes that can be scary instead of opportunities.
6 Lovers: if your Shadow Card is the Lovers, your big challenges will be in knowing how to choose. You may find yourself in trouble and get stuck when you find yourself having to decide.
7 The Chariot: Do you find it difficult to accept success in your life? Can you feel like a successful person? Probably not if the Chariot is your Shadow Tarot, don't be afraid to come out and win.
8 Justice: you suffer from a sense of injustice, you can feel a victim of events and life and you are very sensitive when you see injustice towards the weakest, animals and Mother Earth this happens if your shadow card is Justice.
9 Hermit: if this card is your shadow card then it means that a part of you is terrified of being alone, it is perhaps one of your greatest fears for this you accept in your life, both in terms of love and friendships, even people who sometimes don't deserve it.
10 Wheel of fortune: do not oppose destiny and do not try to control it, your big challenge will be to let yourself go and flow with Life, this is the message of the Wheel as a Shadow card
11 Strength: an eternal arm wrestling inside you will only bring you stress, confusion and insecurity, your challenge is to recognize your inner strength
12 Hanged Man: if the Hanging is your shadow card you will have to learn that changing your mind is a symptom of intelligence and maturity. And even if it will cost you a lot to admit you were wrong, you will have to learn to apologize
13 Death: if this blade is sometimes called the nameless Arcana, your Shadow card means that you are afraid of the end of things. Let them be relationships, experience. You will have to learn that everything has a beginning and an end.
14 Temperance: when you have temperance as your Shadow card you can have self-esteem problems, moreover the big challenge will be to learn to recognize your personal worth and your abilities.
15 Devil: that of the devil is a challenge of independence. This Shadow card can put you to a severe test both on emotional, love and economic independence.
16 Tower: the Shadow hidden by this card is the terror that things change suddenly and you don't know how to manage them. The great challenge is to face life's trials head on.
17 Stars: This shadow card involves a lack of trust. The great challenge of this arcanum is to reopen to trust in life, in oneself and in other people.
18 Moon: having the Moon as shadow card implies that the person is afraid of everything he does not know. The great test is that of welcoming the mystery and thus being able to access the deepest part of oneself.
19 Sun: having the sun as shadow card can lead you not to see the wonderful light you emanate. Indeed, your challenge is precisely to be able to look at yourself with the eyes of love.
20 Judgment: who has judgment as shadow card can be a conservative and nostalgic person who does not like change and who has difficulty transforming himself and could also find himself entangled (even without his fault) in legal problems.
21 World: this shadow card indicates the difficulty of opening up to the world, perhaps it tends to feel uncomfortable in open spaces and feels safer at home, in the home. His great challenge is to enjoy life and all the wonderful things it has to give.
What does a shadow symbolize in tarot?
In tarot cards a shadow symbolizes something you don’t want to see or something you are not ready to accept just yet! It can be a trauma, a dream, a desire, a struggle, etc.
Tarot becomes a tool to unveil it so you can acknowledge it, accept it and embrace it so you can finally feel comfortable in your own skin and balanced in both your light side and your dark side!
Examples of Shadow Work Prompts
Here come a few examples of shadow work prompts. Don’t forget that you can totally create and ask your own questions.
To do it, simply spend a few time meditating on what you truly would like to know and ask your questions to the cards with intention! Let’s see the examples now!
- What is my main blind spot right now?
- What hidden reasons lie behind [insert habit, goal or desire here]?
- How is my relationship with sexuality?
- What about my relationship with power?
- How is my relationship with other people?
- What truth am I currently avoiding?
- Honestly, what am I currently holding on to?
- What is my biggest fear?
- What's holding me back that I don't want to face?
- What shadows am I casting on others?
I could go on and on, but these questions will give you a good starting point. After drawing a card or two, write down the cards you have consulted and your reflections.
Notice if anger, disgust, shame, or fear arises within you.
If so, this is a clear sign that you have touched the shadow material. Now is the time to introspect! Journal a little bit about how you feel!
Recommended Tarot Shadow Work Books
If you want to learn more about tarot for shadow work you might be consider buying a nice book! Educating yourself on these topics is so important to have the right approach!
A great tarot shadow work book is Tarot Shadow Work: Using the Dark Symbols to Heal by Christine Jette as it’s a great guide for those who want to know more about the best spreads, the tarot shadow card meanings and so on but in an easy practical way!
Besides that book you can consider buying some useful tool like a shadow journal so you can start your introspective journey along with the readings! A great journal is this one but of course you can create your own!
My experience with shadow work using tarot cards
I use tarot cards on a daily basis to have some guidance, explore my inner realm and of course, I often use it for shadow work as well!
All my life I’ve been repressing some past wounds and some desires to please others and to look like an invincible warrior but, over time, I realized I had to deal with my shadows to truly become an authentic and better person.
I was quite rejecting those parts of myself that had to be accepted to feel complete and comfortable in my own skin.
As a start I used the first spread I mentioned before, 1 question – 3 cards as I wanted to keep things easy! That’s what I found out:
Basically I had to accept the choices I made (judgement) , I had to accept the loving part of my soul and let go of any doubts about my partner and our relationship (the lovers) and I have to accept the blessings I have as I deserve that (six of pentacles)!
From that reading I get that I kinda repressed myself and all the good things happening to me as I felt like I didn’t deserve that!
That’s because in my past my family and friends always made me feel not enough, not worthy. I never thought about this in this perspective until I used tarot cards for shadow work!
Before the reading I felt like crap all the time, always driven by doubts and negativity around any good thing happening to me in my life but now that I know where the roots of this negativity are coming from I am so much more aware and stronger than before and ready to accept everything, even those wounds from the past. I’ve been journaling a lot about it and that helped me so much!
I truly think that tart cards for shadow work can be so good for you and your life!
As you might have noticed there are different ways to use tarot for shadow work. Simply choose the one method resonating with you the most!
Give it a try, with an open mind and get ready to explore yourself to a whole new level! You won’t regret it!
Check out the Shadow Work Course here.