Tarot Shadow Work

Tarot and Working With Your Shadows

We normally think of the Tarot as having upright and reversed meanings. Then there are those of us who do not use reversed meanings, but view the card we are interpreting in relation to the cards around it. When you really stop to think about it, there are 360 degrees of meaning – from the strongest positive to the strongest negative. Any of these meanings could represent a shadow within us – an issue, or a feeling that we fear, and that we do not want to acknowledge, much less address.

“To confront a person with his own shadow is to show him his own light.” Carl G. Jung.

A loose definition of shadow is that it is made up of all the things that we refuse to acknowledge, attempt to hide or forget. Whatever we do not want to face, whatever fears we have the power to act as shadows. These are exactly the things that are going to come out in a Tarot reading – whether we ask about them specifically or not.

The reasons that our shadows come out in a reading is that this is what is standing in the way of our success in life, our happiness, and our sense of inner peace and self-confidence. If we do not work to accept our shadows and integrate them, our outer world will continue to mirror our inner conflict.

The first step to doing this is to bring our shadows into our consciousness – which is exactly what a Tarot reading does. The next step is to look at the archetype involved, and see what qualities it represents, because these are the qualities that we are blocking, or not recognizing, in our own life.

We can learn just as much, if not more, from our shadow archetypes as we can from those archetypes that represent skills and abilities that are inherent within us. How do we begin the work on our shadows, after we have brought them to our consciousness? At the end of a reading, the archetype that represents what the Seeker needs to know, or needs to take from the reading, also represents the shadow that the Seeker is facing at the moment. Or, a reading can be specifically focused on shadows that need to be worked with. The archetype can be defined from the specific reading, drawn as a random car, or specifically chosen by the Seeker, with the cards face up.

The Seeker then works with the card that they have chosen (or that has appeared in their reading). Taking the card into meditation, journeying with it, journaling about it, working with affirmations – these are all way in which as Seekers we can work with our shadows.

Let’s take a look at one card, and see what its shadow might be. Let’s take a very positive card – The Star. We generally define the positive side of the Star as hope, and regaining our self-confidence. The energy of the Star carries with it the need to be authentic, to be one’s self, to answer only to one’s self.

As a shadow, we are looking at lack of self-worth, no sense of hope, the inability to recognize the resources that we have at our own command. The inner self and the outer reality of the Seeker are not in alignment. Understanding and accepting this energy, and integrating it into their persona, is the task that this Seeker face.

Work on shadows can be done as an individual, with a reader, or within a group of readers. The Seeker may be able to integrate the energy on their own, once they understand it. Or they may wish to call on another specific archetype to help them. In the case of drawing the Star as a shadow, I might call on the High Priestess or the Empress as helpful archetypal energy.

If you begin this work, and become unsettled by it, then either set it aside, or seek professional help (Tarot or otherwise). If you are working with someone that you can see is becoming unsettled, and you do not feel that you can help them, them make the suggestion to them that they seek out other professional help.

There is much to be gained by working with our shadows, but we need to recognize the power they can have in our lives, and deal with it accordingly.

(c) April 2010 Bonnie Cehovet

4 comments on “Tarot Shadow Work

  1. Akshay says:


  2. chergreen says:


    This is interesting. I will have to look further into this process. Thanks for sharing.

    Cher Green

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