Tarot Shadow Work
From "Tarot Shadow Work: Using the Dark Symbols to Heal" by Christine Jette
Posted by: DailyOM
The Shadow Knows
There is a shadow lurking in every person's inner life, a psychic darkness sheltering our inner conflicts and unexpressed emotions. It takes its shape from a menagerie of archetypes, each recognizable throughout time and around the worldtroubling characters who thrive within our persona. The shadow is the saboteur, martyr, victim, addict, sadist, masochist, or tyrant, all the dark figures that prey on the lighter qualities of the human personality.
The shadow also represents those latent talents and positive traits that were banished from us at some time along our life path: artistic, musical, athletic, or creative talents. An undeveloped ability, a dream that has gone unexpressed, a fantasy of what might have beenthese, too, make up the personal shadow, the lost parts of ourselves.
To channel the negative characters in our personality, we first must bring them into our waking consciousness. Tarot Shadow Work will help you come to terms with life's dualities, show you how to embrace the darkness, and teach you how to balance the light with the shadow in your own life. The entire world of the human psyche can be mapped out using the twenty-two cards of the tarot's major ajrcana, with each card tapping into a different quality of our psychology.
Accepting that we are made of both light and darkness, life will start to make sense. When we accept our dual natures, we stop sabotaging our own efforts and learn to be compassionate with others and with ourselves.
I was raised on a large Ohio farm in a traditional family structuremother, father, older sister. I met my first dark shadow at the age of fourteen. Its name was anorexia nervosa. Despite the illness, I was valedictorian of my high school class. Graduation day was a happy time. I could not predict the descent into darkness that lay before me.
While in college, I met two more shadows. Their names were alcoholism and drug addiction. Not yet conscious of their power, I was swept into a downward spiral of self-destruction. I found myself in a physically abusive first marriage and here I met the fourth shadowmy willingness to be a victim. I felt controlled by nameless, powerful forces. My life was a frightening place.
After my divorce, I spiraled deeper and was taken to a psychiatric hospital by my family. It was 1983 and I was thirty years old. While hospitalized, I was introduced to psychotherapy and the concept of shadow. The horrible things happening to me had names and I had a personal responsibility to acquaint myself with them. It was up to me to take charge of my own recovery. After years of struggling, I was informed I had a choice. I could choose to live . . . or not. There was no way over, under, or around the shadow. The only path to freedom was through the darkness.
It was slow, painful work, but I discovered the shadow had a purpose. It carried messages about my personal growth. It pointed me to where I had been hurt and what I needed to examine. My life started making sense.
In this book, I define "shadow" as a person's unresolved inner conflicts and unexpressed emotions. Drawing on the experience of my own losses, I began to develop the idea of shadow work using tarot cards.
Tarot Shadow Work is a culmination of that endeavor; using the methods found here, inner conflicts can find resolution, unexpressed emotions can find a voice. Change occurs because of the power of choice. Choice leads to healing and the gift of healing is creative freedom.
The goal of this workbook is acceptance and integration of the shadow, not its rejection. What are the messages carried by your shadow? What is the shadow trying to convey to you about your personal growth? By understanding your own humanity you can extend that insight to others and know compassion.
I hope Tarot Shadow Work opens a new chapter in the story of your life. May it bring peace and healing to all souls in pain.
© Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd.
When I finished the manuscript for Tarot Shadow Work in 1999, I didn’t believe I could write one more thing about tarot and the shadow. I was wrong. Time has passed and I am able to revisit the book with a more objective viewpoint. I originally wrote that I used only the 22 cards of the Major Arcana because shadow work is a spiritual endeavor. While this is true, it’s time for writer honesty: the concept of using 78 cards eluded me in the beginning. Four years later, I know how to use an entire tarot deck when doing shadow work and the Llewellyn Journal is the perfect place to share my expanded ideas on it.
Taking my cue from astrology, the Major Arcana cards represent the WHAT of shadow work, a description of the shadow and what its challenges and gifts entail. The Court Cards are the HOW and WHO of shadow work—how the shadow presents itself in personality development and whom we draw to us for our life lessons. The Minor Arcana depict the WHERE of shadow work, or in what department of life the shadow is operating.
The Major Arcana (Numbers 0-21), The Fool through the World, speak to you of both life lessons and life wisdom: those qualities being tested and developed, your gifts and challenges, karma and the reasons you are here. The twenty-two cards symbolize spiritual development and help you understand your place in the world. The "Greater Secrets" will point to the higher overview of life and give you insights into the "big picture." They will also hint at your healing potential and what lies in the shadows. (See the appendix in Tarot Shadow Work for more information.)
The Minor Arcana, or "lesser secrets," offer information along the planes of existence: Wands, spiritual creativity in everyday life; Cups, emotions and feelings; Swords, psychological well being/the mind; and,Pentacles, physical reality and the body. When the different suits shows up in a reading, ask yourself: What action can I take? (Wands) What am I feeling or dreaming about? (Cups) What am I thinking or what decision needs to be made? (Swords) Because Pentacles explore issues of food, housing, money, work, the body, and physical health, ask yourself: What do I value?
In life, there is no separation between body, emotion, mind, and spirit. It is impossible for something to happen to us without all four levels of existence being affected. It is likewise impossible to change without attending to these same four levels of being. Life does not fall neatly into categories. Because stress or concerns at any level affect all levels, the lines sometimes blur.
No other cards in the tarot deck have more interpretations than the Court Cards. Just pick up any three tarot books and compare. It’s mind-boggling. We all have qualities that are traditionally associated with masculine and feminine ways of being. For instance, a woman can be competitive and a man can be nurturing. Be aware that the King and Knight can represent a woman and the Queen can symbolize a man. The gender or "occupation" of the court card is less important than the qualities it describes.
Pages can represent a child, but they also introduce the element of their suit, the willingness to change, risk, or learn something new. Pages can symbolize the catalyst needed for change and the child within us all. Pages also carry messages related to their suit: Telephone calls or significant e-mail (Page of Wands); important dreams (Page of Cups); written warnings (Page of Swords); and messages from your body, especially in the form of illness: What is your body trying to tell you (Page of Pentacles)?
Knights represent young adults or someone starting over, focusing on a specific task through their suit, be it creative (Wands), emotional (Cups), psychological (Swords) or physical (Pentacles). Our "knightly" qualities include being energetic, daring, headstrong and goal oriented. Knights show movement and action through their suits.
Queens are mature. They take their understanding of life inward and use this life wisdom to nurture others and encourage self-development through their specific suit. For example, the Queen of Cups nurtures the emotions. Because they are the embodiment of the feminine tradition of healing, Queens often represent healing in relationship to their suit. An example of this is the Queen of Pentacles symbolizing a natural healer. Our "queenly" qualities include sensitivity, fullness of expression, empathy, and personal, inner control.
Kings are also mature, but they project their maturity outward in the form of leadership through their suit. They take charge and give advice: Creative or spiritual advice (King of Wands); emotional advice (King of Cups); psychological or intellectual advice (King of Swords); and, practical advice about the everyday world (King of Pentacles, especially in the area of finances or work.) Our "kingly" qualities include being capable and in control, with an air of authority, leadership, and worldliness.
So how do you use the entire deck in shadow work? It’s simple. Separate your deck into three stacks: the 22 Majors, 40 Minors and 16 Court Cards. Do a star layout, or any other activity in Tarot Shadow Workusing Majors only, as described in the book. Look at your shadow layout or activity and select one card that puzzles or bothers you, or one that you especially like. Pull that card out of the layout.
Now think of the Minor and Court Cards as the cards to use for more information. Shuffle your Minor Card stack. As you shuffle, concentrate on WHERE, or what department of life, this particular Major card is operating. For example, you have chosen The Fool from the shadow layout because you know you allow others to take advantage of you and have decided that now this needs the most work. The minor card that turns up is the Ten of Wands.
You first decide if the Ten of Wands describes the challenge of the shadow or the gift of the shadow. In other words, does the card feel negative or positive? Hint: If you like the card, it probably represents a gift of shadow work, something to keep and nurture. If it feels negative, for instance being reversed, it means it is a lesson to be learned, something to improve or work on. You realize that it depicts the challenge of the shadow: others take advantage of you because you are unable to say no and you take on too much responsibility as a result.
As you shuffle the Court Card stack, concentrate on HOW the shadow presents itself in your personality. You can also think about the people in your life and why they might be there. Remember, the Court Cards are always a reflection of you—you draw the people to you that you need for your life wisdom. So it doesn’t matter if the Court Card describes someone else. The card is still about you and your need to have those qualities in your life for good or ill. Randomly select one Court Card. First decide if it represents the shadow’s challenge or the shadow’s gift. Does it feel negative or positive to you?
Continuing with our example, you have drawn the Queen of Pentacles. At first you think, oh, great, the smothering mother card. After some thought, you decide she symbolizes the shadow’s gift after all: Yes, you have been taken advantage of because of your need to nurture (rescue) others; but the answer is still in the Queen of Pentacles—if you start saying no and allow others to learn self-responsibility. Then they are able to find their own way, and you are free of the martyr’s shadow.
You can use the Minor and Court Cards for more information on any shadow star layout, single card in a layout, or any tarot activity in the book. Using the entire deck helps pinpoint both strengths and challenges of doing shadow work. Think of it as your magnifying mirror for a better reflection of you. And for goodness sake, trust your intuition when deciding if a card feels negative or positive. Only you can know that. To review, ask the following questions when doing shadow work with the entire deck:
* For Major Arcana cards: WHAT shadow is this card describing? Does this card symbolize the challenge of shadow work or the reward for facing the shadow, the gift of shadow work?
* For Minor Arcana Cards: WHERE or in what department of life is this card operating? (Physical, financial, emotional, psychological, legal, creative or spiritual pursuits, etc., according to its suit.) Is this card a challenge (something that needs work) or something to keep and nurture—my strength or talent?
* For Court Cards: HOW does the shadow present itself in my personality development? HOW do other people see me? HOW do I see myself? WHO have I drawn into my life for soul development? Does this card describe the shadow’s challenge or gift?
For me, shadow work and its resultant soul development are meaningless if not viewed through the lens of everyday living. Divinity lies in the details of life. The magic of shadow work doesn’t come from the tarot cards—the magic comes from our willingness to change. If we ascribe to the philosophy of "as above, so below," then who we are and what we do is spirituality in action—not "out there" somewhere, but in us, here and now. May you find joy in the shadows.
Tarot Shadow Work: Using the Dark Symbols to Heal
Tarot Shadow Work presents Tarot as a tool for dealing with the shadow, or unconscious, sides of the psyche.
By Christine JetteBook - Published by Llewellyn
Review by Bonnie Cehovet
Even if one had no clue what shadow work was, the entrancing cover of this book would certainly draw attention. It embodies a combined sense of mystery, elegance and ancient knowing. It makes me feel protected and supported, and is comforting simply to sit and look at. The work within this book is of the same high quality - supportive, well researched, and well written. This is a professional offering in all respects, addressing a subject that concerns all of us. Within these pages is a journey that we will all take, each of us in our own ways, using whatever resources we have at hand.
Jette begins by defining "shadow" as our unresolved inner conflicts and unexpressed emotions. They are represented by universal archetypes, and can be seen as parts of ourselves that have been lost (usually through some form of repression). What this book really brought out for me is that while shadows can represent our fears, they can also represent talents and abilities that were either discouraged or not acknowledged.
Working with the archetypes of the Tarot is an excellent venue for doing person work, whether the nature of the work is spiritual growth or personal growth. The Tarot is a tool that is easily accessible by all who choose to work with it. As Jette points out, each of the archetypes has two points of focus - the upright interpretation, which in general shows light side, the forces that are working in our favor; and the reversed, or inverted interpretation, which deals with the dark side of the archetype, where the energies are expressed in a blocked, or unacknowledged or fashion.
Shadow work is the energy that we put into uncovering and understanding our personal shadows. For us to come to terms with our shadows, they need to be acknowledged and integrated into our psyche. What we decide to do is our personal choice. We can ignore our shadow selves, in which case our lives will continue to be out of harmony, and generally filled with anxiety and fear. Or we can choose to explore our shadow selves, come to understand and accept them, knowing that whether we like it or not, they are a part of us.
When we choose to address our shadow selves, we begin to heal. We bring back to us those lost parts that are holding back our lives, that personify our fears and anxieties. Tarot Shadow Work grew out of Jette's own work with her personal shadows. In sharing some of the shadows that she had to work through she lets the reader know that they are not alone - that everyone walks the path of shadows if they choose to lead a full and empowered life.
The emphasis here is on shadow work as a journey of discovery, not shadow work as a destination in itself. Jette warns that this is a long journey - a journey that perhaps covers a lifetime. She recommends reading the book all the way through, and then going back and beginning the exercises. The work in this book - whether Tarot based or other (meditations, visualizations and affirmations) - is meant to be done in sequence. There is also a word of caution about proceeding with the work if you feel that you are not able to handle it on your own. This is a wise caution - we can do great damage to ourselves by working with a tool that is bound to open areas of our psyche that are filled with fears, anxieties, ghosts and personal pain. Jette shares excellent resources for those that know that they want to take the journey, but are uneasy, for any reason, about taking it alone.
Some of the initial work in this book includes creating sacred space for the actual work, casting a circle of protection, and creating a shadow alter (one that is left up and worked with on a continuous basis). From there the work moves on to include a specific layout, called The Star, using the Tarot cards. At this point other methods of shadow work are also introduced, including journaling, meditation, story writing, poetry, music, art and dance.
The Star spread is then taken to the next level, which will allow you to take an in-depth look into your personal shadow. From here, Jette takes the reader through recognizing and understanding common defense mechanisms, working with dreams and beginning the process of self-acceptance. Here is where the reader begins to connect with their inner ability to heal. Another specific version of the Star spread is used to identify areas where change is needed. An integral part of this section is setting realistic goals for change.
In work of this nature, forgiveness of ourselves and others, plays an integral role. Jette presents this work from the point of view of forgiving through compassion. Creative visualization techniques are presented that allow the reader to begin to release old wounds and move on. A Mourning Rite is presented to help bring closure through release.
Jette has done an excellent job of researching her material, as well as presenting it. She works with multiple modalities that not only act to support each other, but that give the reader a choice of how to work through their personal shadow issues. Her choice of using one basic spread, and reworking it to grow with each step on the journey to me shows a highly enlightened approach.
At the end of the book, she includes a section on the gifts and the shadows for each card; a wide range of resources that support people working through their issues; and an in-depth recommended reading list. Tarot Shadow Work has a place in the library of anyone who wants to work on their own shadows, or who includes shadow work in their services to their clients.
As a final word, and as an excellent example of the gifts and shadows of each card. From the book (pp154-155):
© Bonnie Cehovet
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.