As a beginner, I used to keep a “Tarot Journal.” I put that in quotes because, honestly, you’d have to be pretty generous with your definition of a Tarot Journal to count it as one. I’d had enough of relying solely on the “little white books” that came with my decks to interpret the cards’ meanings and wanted to memorize them for myself. Well, when we want to learn something in school, we are taught to take notes, so that’s what I did. I was just obligatorily doing what I thought beginners should do, but I didn’t get nearly as much out of it as I could have at the time because I was merely copying the meanings I collected straight out of the other tarot books into my own. More a list than a Journal, I suppose. And sure, there can be a bit of listing the traditionally accepted meanings in your Tarot book.
Mostly, a tarot journal should be a collection of your personal experiences working with your tarot cards. And that’s what I didn’t get. Later, as I became more comfortable with the meanings of the cards, I stopped writing them down altogether. I didn’t feel like a beginner anymore--at least I wasn’t scrambling for outside references whenever someone asked me for a reading.
Keeping a tarot journal is something a beginner should be doing, but it is an equally beneficial habit for the intermediate and even advanced reader!
Why should you keep a Tarot Journal?
Journaling consistently can be a difficult habit to maintain. I just began keeping a tarot journal again, and I am re-learning every day what an incredibly valuable tool it is, especially because I am now doing it the right way.
Writing your readings down makes what you learn from them a tangible source of reference and expands your understanding of how the card’s energy can manifest in reality.
Even the best of us remember only parts of any given tarot reading we do or receive. That’s just how the mind works. We may remember things that stick out to us as strange or important at the time, but everything else fades. Inevitably, you pull out your cards, ask your question, get your answer, and move on with your day.
When you write down your readings and initial thoughts right after a tarot reading, you can look back on your spread and interpretation after time passes and see (with the benefit of hindsight) how these energies ended up manifesting. Over time, this will change your relationship with certain cards. Because you won’t just remember a single card’s appearance, but also how it appeared in relation to all the other cards around it (and exactly which cards those were). When you look back on your reading, you may find that a seemingly unimportant 3 of Coins or 7 of Cups was the key to the entire interpretation and that you had completely overlooked it at the time because you were so focused on say, The Tower (he’s a hard energy to miss, I get it, we’ve all been there). Next time those cards come up and interact with a strong card, you’ll have a new and more in-depth understanding of what to expect. Soon you won’t just know the “generally accepted meanings” of the cards themselves, you’ll know what they mean together and you’ll know what they mean to you.
It’s the only way to check the accuracy of your initial interpretation, and this will boost your confidence as a tarot reader over time.
When you have an accurate reference to consult, instead of a vague feeling of “sounds good,” you’ll know what you got right…and what you missed. Looking back at past readings, you might be surprised how right on you were! But, if you look back on a collection of readings and find you are continually misinterpreting or shortchanging the scope of a certain card, you’ll realize that too. Eventually, you’ll come to appreciate that card in a whole new way. You’ll understand their nuance and not just their meanings. Over time this will give you the confidence you need to do readings for your friends or even strangers because your relationship to your audience won’t matter. You’ll trust in the relationship you have painstakingly built between you and your cards.
Writing down your conscious thoughts will distract your ego and give your subconscious mind time to generate more and better thoughts.
So, this one might sound crazy, but trust me, it’s a thing. Often, when I sit down to write my interpretations down in my tarot journal, I’ll start with the intention to say one thing and then, seemingly out of nowhere, a profound new idea will pop into existence. It could be a new interpretation of the card I was writing about, some clarification on how it connects to a card I’ve previously written about, how that energy might manifest differently due to deeply personal/physiological factors or influences in my life…the examples are endless and amazing. I’m not a licensed psychologist or anything, but here is my theory on why this happens and why it pretty much only happens when I write in my journal:
Our conscious mind is loud. Loud, and controlling, and it pretty much dominates our waking mind and conscious thoughts. It’s that little control freak inside our heads that narrows our focus to the goal at hand…but it can only focus on a few things at once. Writing is a completely conscious act, which means the conscious mind has to “sit over your shoulder” (so to speak) while you do it and make sure you dot your “i”s and cross your “t”s…and make sure what you’re writing is spelled correctly, and that you don’t start just marking your paper with nonsense squiggles that mean nothing.
Meanwhile, your subconscious mind is quiet and submissive. It floats around, looking at images and feeling emotions in the back of your mind while your ego calls the shots and shuts it out. The two don’t communicate all that well by nature, so when your conscious mind is around, your subconscious bides it’s time and waits for it to sleep so it can speak to you through dreams and nightmares.
When you write, your conscious self fixates on controlling the writing process, so your subconscious mind gets a chance to sneak in a whisper or two. When we experience our subconscious mind influencing our waking life, we call that intuition. You’ll notice that you are more intuitive when your conscious mind is shocked, stunned, or fixated on something else.
Through meditation or other spiritual means, we might eventually learn to hush our waking minds and listen to our intuition more directly. But tarot journaling can become a meditative process anyone can do to help with that!
So you’re sold? Tarot journals are great! But where do we start?
To start, you need to actually buy/make/get yourself a journal. Here is a tip: make sure you like looking at your tarot journal. It doesn’t matter what kind of binding or paper or cover it has as long as it resonates with your aesthetic and you like it. It may sound frivolous or insignificant, but this is really important. Nicer books can be expensive, but if it speaks to you, go for it! Your journal is an investment in your relationship with and understanding of the Tarot. If that’s important to you, then it’s okay to buy yourself something pretty. If you have less-expensive tastes to begin with, then that’s cool too. It doesn’t have to be solid gold or anything. It just needs to be something you love holding. If you like looking at it and holding it, then you’ll like using it. Every time you pick it up, you’ll feel like a witchy, creative pro, and that mindset is half the battle. It will help you do it often, and that will help actually turn you into a witchy creative, a pro!
What about digital journals? Some people say you can have a digital tarot journal or blog, and I’m not going to argue with that, because you can technically. But I don’t recommend it. If you use your computer for anything else (and chances are you do), your mind will associate it with all that other stuff you do, and you’ll have a harder time “getting in the tarot zone.” You’re also way more likely to get distracted with all the wonder of the internet and YouTube-cats at your fingertips, so I think it’s best to separate yourself from that temptation and make your Tarot journal something you use only for tarot related stuff.
I GOT THE BOOK. It’s cool, and I love it. BUT WHAT DO I PUT IN IT??
Tarot stuff. But I know sometimes that doesn’t seem like enough direction. Especially if we just got ourselves a fancy new book, it can be intimidating to mar the perfect blank pages with our dirty little pens. I struggle with this pretty much every time I get a new journal. The good news is, it’s like breaking a seal. Once you put something down, you can keep going from there, and then it becomes a walk in the park. Here are some tips on how to start.
A calendar is especially useful if you start your tarot journal at the beginning of a month. Just label your first page with the month, the year, and which deck you’ll be using for the exercise (I like to use the same deck for the entire month). Draw yourself a seven-day calendar and label each box with a date. Each morning, you’ll draw a card from your (shuffled) deck, and make a shorthand note about it in the box dedicated to that day. (For example, KcupR could mean “King of Cups, Reversed” and 6S could mean 6 of swords). You’ll then go about your day, keeping the card you drew in the back of your mind. When the day is done, you’ll take out your tarot journal, sit in a calm, distraction-free environment and dedicate a page or so to how you think that card manifested throughout your day, including any new insights you may have gained about it.
You do this every day, always marking the first page with shorthand indication of the card, and dating and titling your write up about it. At the end of the month, you’ll have roughly 30 pages about tarot- and you can go back and write a summary for that month as well: how many Majors you pulled, how many of each element/suit, how many reversals, and whatever else you feel is important!
You can pepper your other readings throughout your daily write-ups as well, or do the single card write up. Either way, you’ll form a tarot-habit, shore up your “traditional” understandings, and glean new insights along the way.
Monthly check-in readings
Another thing I do on the last day of each month is one large spread (one that uses ten cards or more) with the question of “what can I expect from this upcoming month?” I’ll draw out the spread diagram in my journal, list which placements mean what and what I pulled for them, and then jot down my initial interpretation of what the cards are forecasting for the month. At the end of that month, I’ll re-read my old interpretation and write about my reflections on my previous one with the benefit of hindsight- or what the cards actually meant Vs. what I took them to mean at the time. Where I was right, where I was wrong, and everything in between. This practice is nice because sometimes the energies we identify in a reading take more than a few days to manifest. A month is a solid chunk of time with set parameters, but it isn’t so long that we forget about our reading entirely, or don’t care about it anymore.
Readings you do for yourself
Any reading you do for yourself, you should put in your journal. You don’t have to do lengthy, in-depth interpretation/commentary on every single reading you do if you don’t want to, but try to write a little about it.
Readings you do for others
Same thing. Write them down! It might be harder to monitor for accuracy, but it is still beneficial. You never know when an epiphany about a reading will hit you and you’ll be glad you recorded it for posterity.
Make a note of fun spreads you discover and want to try later
Have you ever see a fun looking spread on Instagram and then the page refreshes and it disappears forever? Well, if you jot it down in your journal, you can go back to it whenever you want. You might even find you like some aspects, but want to modify others. This is a great way for you to start coming up with original tarot spreads.
Experiment with making spreads up for yourself
It’s really fun to ask questions for yourself, hone in on the different aspects of your query, design a pattern, and test a spread! You can record it and fine-tune the placement meanings based on your findings and how accurate or inaccurate it ended up being.
Tips, tricks, reminders
There are all kinds of fun notes, tips, and tricks you can find on Pinterest or invent yourself. Make notes about the elements, tarot correspondences, Tarot Astrology, whatever piques your interest!
Turn your tarot journal into a scrapbook and glue your artsy Instagram pictures of your readings in the pages next to your interpretations. The options are endless with this one.
So there you have it! There are a million different ways to do this, and these are just my suggestions. Ultimately, you have to do what you are comfortable with and what helps you grow. I hope you found my suggestions helpful! Now, get your tarot journal, and get started!