Tarot for Writers: What Does it Mean to Journal on a Tarot Card?

I talk a lot about Tarot. And one of my favorite practices is to tell people to journal. The combination of that often results in telling people to journal on a Tarot card.

What does that mean?

The Importance of Journaling

There are many gurus, teachers, therapists, and writers out there who will tell you that journaling is essential and important to keeping a healthy mind. Yet it’s easy to get hung up on what that means.

For many of us, when we were in school, we would be given writing prompts to get us to think about what we had learned. “What was the significance of living eternally in Tuck Everlasting?” “Would you want to live forever? Why or why not?”

I used to hate them. Truly.

Now I love them. I love the idea of delving into what I think about something. This is essentially what journal prompts serve to do. They invite a person to collect their thoughts and put them onto paper, or into audio.

The Benefits of Journaling

One way that journaling is effective is that it’s like putting your thoughts into a funnel. You have everything floating around in your head, but as soon as you have to put them into words, your brain has to organize them. It’s like untangling a knot into something manageable.

While this is an excellent reason to journal, the best understanding of the importance and therapeutic method of journaling has come from Julia Cameron in her book, The Right to Write.

She writes that journaling is allowing you the space to witness yourself. Often times we need to be witnessed, but so much of what we feel or what we think is shrouded in fear or shame. We’re afraid of what people will think of us if they knew we had x thought, or y belief, or felt a particular way.

When we journal, we are giving ourselves space to express what’s inside of us, and we are bearing our own witness.

I think this is truly beautiful, and essential for everyone to experience.

Journaling on a Tarot Card

So what does it mean to journal on a Tarot card?

This is a great practice when you’re learning to do Tarot or to read an oracle deck, and there are many ways to do this. There is no one right way. However, here are some offerings.

Note: I should mention, these are exercises designed mostly for Rider-Waite-Colman-Smith- and/or Thoth-based decks. While some of these exercises can be used for Tarot de Marseille decks, they don’t translate as easily. Oracle decks can also be used in this manner as well.

1. Describe What You See

Even if you know all the card meanings, describing what you see in a card can help you get to what you need to know about a card. It shows you what’s catching your eye first. Pay attention to that, and examine what that image, color, number, symbol, glyph, etc. might mean to you.

When you write this out, or record it out loud, you’re giving yourself the space to explore a card beyond the keyword meanings you might have memorized.

If you’re new to getting to know the Tarot, this is an opportunity for you to discover more about the picture in front of you.

2. Describe What You Feel

Writing the emotions or thoughts that come up immediately when you look at a card can help you get to the heart and energy behind a card. If you flip over the 3 of Cups and you feel panicked, then there’s a chance that you should pay attention to how you feel about social situations. If you turn over the 10 of Swords and feel relieved, then the chances are you should examine how you can move out of your particular situation and go toward that new dawn on the horizon.

Write out how you feel, and then ask yourself why you feel the way you do. Ask yourself “why?” several times, or “what can I learn from this?” several times before you move on. This is how you get in deep to your psyche.

3. Define the Card

Write out your definition of the card. If you know the card, or even if you don’t know the card, write out what it means to you. What is the image telling you? What story can you get from the picture in front of you?

Now, how does that story or definition relate to the position of the card, and to your life right now? Write it all out. Allow yourself to organize your thoughts in this way, and see what unfolds before you.

Ways to Journal

There is no right way to journal. Whether you’re doing it for a writing project, for school, or to get to know the tarot, there is no one way that is correct. What is correct is what works for you and serves you the best.

There are some things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t judge yourself for what you express through journaling. You are making space for yourself. You are allowing yourself a safe place to explore and examine ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
  • Don’t think too hard. Try to let it flow
  • Have compassion for yourself.

Here are some ways to journal

Longhand

While of course you can type out your journal entries, writing by hand, or by some measure other than pressing buttons, helps you to connect better with your thoughts and with the exercise.

When you write longhand, you can write your journal entry like you’re talking to someone, in pros, in poem form, however you want so long as the pen is moving or the voice keeps speaking, until you’re done.

Audio

Personally, I suffer from a hand injury a few years ago. When I write too much, my wrist and hand ache and it’s useless for a while. This is just one reason why someone might not be able to, or might not want to journal by hand.

Creating an audio recording is a helpful way to get around this. So long as you can find a space to yourself and can access some form of recording perhaps on your phone, on your computer, or into an old Home Alone Voice Recorder, then you’re good.

I do want to note that while yes, you can absolutely dictate your journaling to the computer, I wouldn’t recommend dictation as your writing practice. The reason I say this is that when you dictate, you need to tell the computer or dictation software to put in commas, periods, line breaks, etc. This can interrupt the flow of thought, and might create a barrier to achieve what you’re looking to achieve through your journaling.

Bullet Journaling

Bullet Journaling is a combination of art and journaling. It allows you to think and mull and gnaw on your thoughts while you doodle and color, and then bullet point your key thoughts.

Furthermore, not everyone can express themselves fully through writing. Words aren’t their medium, and there is nothing wrong with that. Using bullet journaling allows for the journaler to use color, lines, and images to give a broader range of expression.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what any of the images mean to anyone else, only the person expressing themselves. The journal is for you and only you.

Combining Tarot & Journaling

It’s no secret that I see the Tarot as an excellent tool for writers. Learning to journal on a Tarot card is a great way to help a writer sink into the scene in a card and use it to help them write their story.

For example, a two-card reading process I like to use is Situation & Problem. The first card acts as the situation I’m starting from, then the card that crosses it is the Problem. From there, I begin writing.

If I turn over the 5 of Wands, then my situation could be competition. If my second card is the Lovers, then the Problem is either a choice that has to be made, or perhaps a competing love interest, depending on where I want to go with this this card.

When I journal on the situation, and what the card looks like, the colors expressed, what the images mean to me, I’m starting my brain along the path of how I could apply this to a story. This is my jumping off point for my story, whether it’s a piece of flash fiction, a novel, or a short story.

Likewise, when I begin to journal on the Lovers and what it means to me or how I might apply it in terms of the first card, then I’m beginning to develop a plot. I’m exploring how what I know, what I feel, what I see in this prompt can be the thing to interrupt the first card.

This is just one way out of hundreds that I can benefit from journaling around or about a Tarot card.

Celtic Cross Spread for Writers Workbook

If you want to take a truly deep dive into your writing practice and discover more about yourself as a writer, I have something just for you:

The Celtic Cross Spread for Writers Workbook

This workbook has over 65 pages of journaling exercises to help you plunge into the depths of what makes you, you, of what your writing habits are, what is supporting you, and what is holding you back.

Through using the classic Celtic Cross Tarot spread, I walk you through

  • Getting real with your current situation
  • Begin looking at your writing life through the lens of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water
  • What’s getting in your way
  • Uncovering your biases that might be holding you back
  • Looking at what’s supporting or hindering you internally and externally
  • How to develop your actionable steps to make necessary changes
  • And more

The best part about this workbook? It’s completely free.

Fill out the form below to get your workbook and begin learning how Tarot and your journaling practice can serve you as a writer!