The information below is an excerpt from my Diploma course module ‘Tarot and Psychology’.
Here in this article I want to help you understand the Shadow a little and how to explore it using the Tarot cards. The Shadow is an important part of our psychological makeup and it strongly influences our daily thoughts and behaviors.
In order to explore the Shadow with Tarot, I first need to explain first a little bit of Jungian psychology. I will try to keep it simple.
Carl Gustav Jung was a psychiatrist from the last century. From him came Jungian Psychology.
When you hear words today like archetype, collective unconscious, introvert and shadow you are hearing concepts created by Jung to describe certain phenomenon.
Jung said that Tarot is….’…tarot cards were the descendants of the archetypes of transformation’. Jung saw in Tarot a powerful form of symbolism which spoke directly to a person and which could help activate their healing and transformation.
Tarot is not simply a tool for predicting the future. Tarot is a profound guide to help us heal ourselves.
Many Tarot readers today use Jungian concepts when they read Tarot.
So lets look at some of them….
MASK / PERSONA
This is the image we present to the world that we think is acceptable. We hide the parts of ourselves that we do not like in the Shadow.
The shadow is the MOST powerful archetype and we all have a shadow inside of ourselves. The Shadow contains everything we suppress about ourselves – good and bad. If we do not attend to and become friends with our Shadow, it can dominate our lives. The Shadow comes out in eating disorders, addictions and abuse. Jung claimed that if we do not meet and confront our Shadow we can become overwhelmed by it and even destroyed by it.
When we do not deal with our Shadow we do a thing called projection. We see in others behaviors that we hate or which pushes our buttons. We then get angry with those people. For example you see a woman being emotional and crying and you get angry or upset. You are obviously not dealing with your own vulnerability. It is VERY VERY important when we read Tarot for others that we see our own Shadow when it pops up (because it will) and that we do not project onto the people we are reading for.
This is a process a person goes through to meet their Shadow and heal it. To meet their Self and allow their life direction to become manifest. This is the process of coming to know who you really are.
The Self is the unifying force at the core of who we are that wants us to be whole and heal. The Self is our own inner wisdom which is connected to the wisdom of the universe and the collective unconscious.
This is an aspect of the unconscious shared by all human beings. All humans have stories of healing with monsters, witches, wise old women, kings and queens. These are symbols on a collective level. Tarot uses these collective images which are called Archetypes.
Archetypes are the name for the images that we find inside the collective unconscious. The Hero, the Food, the Damsel in Distress, the Hermit, the Devil etc. We play out archetypes in our lives all the time.
The feminine energy of caring, love, responsibility and relationships. Every man has within him, an ‘anima’.
The masculine energy of hierarchy, leadership and autonomy. Every woman has inside her, an ‘animus’.
To understand more about these concepts and how you can explore them with Tarot check out the reading list at the very end of this page. Some books are about Tarot and others about Jungian Psychology.
Now try out the exercise below to meet and understand your Shadow…
MEET YOUR SHADOW EXERCISE
Find a quiet time and space where you will not be interrupted. Turn off your phone or put it on silent. Make the room cosy with dim lighting. You do not want to see the cards 100% clearly.
To make this ritual/exercise more profound I suggest you do it at night time around the Dark Moon. To work out what phase the moon is in right now, CLICK HERE
Make sure you have the following ready:
A big cloth, preferably black
Your Tarot journal and pen
Art paper and art materials
Music that stirs your emotions
Incense or essential oils burning
Your favorite Tarot deck
Put a big cloth on the floor and sit down beside it.
Pick up your Tarot deck and shuffle it well.
Tell your higher consciousness quietly in your mind that you are now exploring your Shadow and want to find cards to represent it.
Turn the deck over in your hand and lay out the cards so all 78 cards are facing upright and you can see the pictures. Now stand up. Stand above the cards and say out loud –
‘Please reveal to me NOW, my Shadow within’
Look at the cards that jump out at you or that you are attracted to pull – bright or dark, Major or Minor. There may be cards that consciously you DO NOT want to pull but if you are drawn to them, please pick them up. Pick as many cards as you want.
When you have finished picking the cards, sit down and look at each one closely. Write the names of the cards in your Tarot Journal.
As you hold each card look closely at the picture and ask yourself the following questions:
When does this part of me reveal itself?
Why do I hide this part?
What would happen if I let this side of me reveal itself?
Is there anything good about this Shadow side aspect of me? Any gold or valuable lesson?
I would prefer not to explain much more and let you go with the whole experience and see what comes up. I have done this exercise in women’s groups and it can be very deep and profound. Many women like to do art during this exercise, journal writing or even movement and dance. See what you need to do. This is a simple but powerful exercise. You may find that doing it with a group of women that you trust can make it even more profound.
FURTHER READING FOR YOUR INTEREST
Christine Jette healed herself from her own destructive shadow and her book is a gem. I highly recommend it. Tarot Shadow Work shows you how to free yourself from the shackles of the shadow’s power. Through tarot work, journaling, meditation, creative visualization, and dream work, you will bring the shadow into the light. This book is ideal for those who are in recovery from a serious addiction or illness, as well as any person seeking a deeper understanding of his or her true self.
A book for Jung fans. Very in depth and deep. Not for the light-hearted but very profound. Each of the 22 Major Arcana cards are explored in all their aspects.
A book looking at symbols, correspondences and the path to enlightenment and individuation.
A fantastic book that works with archetypes and court cards. A must for your book shelf especially if you get confused by the court cards or they come up in your Shadow exercise.
The below books are on the concept of the Shadow but are not about Tarot. They are excellent books if you want to explore this part of yourself.