Fool’s Journey: Starting A Tarot Journal And What The Heck To Put In It

Got yourself a brand new notebook just for Tarot School?

Let’s put something in it!

Unless you have the memory of an elephant and/or for some reason Don’t Like Journals (methinks you might be on the wrong website) then you’re gonna want to be recording your adventures as you learn and develop as a tarot reader.

Once you start to feel really confident with your cards, it’s really interesting to go back to your early readings, plus it’s just damn satisfying to keep notes of your explorations. Journalling also helps keep you motivated to keep on learning and finding new things to do with your cards. If you’re a diary-keeping type, you might also want to record your actual readings.

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The first question is, is your tarot journal gonna be a physical notebook, Dear Queer Diary style, or online like so many awesome tarot blogs? A journal is a beautiful thing to have and hold and can be filled with pictures and scraps, whilst a blog allows you to reach out and connect with others online, and is also easier to search back through when you want to reference old notes. Choose whichever will motivate you to write!

Also if you start/already write a blog, link us up in the comments so everyone can take a peek at your innermost secret tarot thoughts. And look, here’s a tarot Tumblr that Autostraddle reader Alison just started to inspire you!

Okay, so obviously you’re sold on journalling…now what the heck are you gonna write about?

Here’s a bunch of tarot exercises you can try out with your cards and write up in/on your journal:

Daily draw

This makes a really nice, simple morning routine which you can do over a cuppa. Pick a card each morning. Write about it! Look out for the card as you go through your day. Or pick a card in the evening – what might it mean, considering the day you’ve had?

In the Tarot School group, Elisabeth also suggested this cool exercise from the Aeclectic tarot forum.

Write up a reading

Right now, you might be doing crazy-ass Celtic Cross readings right left and centre, but are you writing them up?

You don’t need to record every damn reading you do — the beauty of tarot is that it exists and speaks purely in the moment, and sometimes it’s good to just take your message, put the cards away and move on. But when you’re learning, it’s helpful to spend extra time on a reading and really explore the deeper elements of your cards.

Set aside a whole hour to do this — maybe once a week — and create a really nice space for doing your personal readings. Make time to focus on you and how you’re reacting to what’s coming up in the cards. Are themes emerging, links back to previous readings?

So many tarot feelings

So many tarot feelings

Get to know the ‘fool’s journey’

The 22 major arcana cards are said to tell a story. The Fool – card 0 – sets out with only a knapsack and a little dog for company, and encounters all kinds or strange, scary, wonderful and thought-provoking experiences as she gradually moves towards card 21 – The World, representing complete fulfillment. Pull out all 22 cards and lay them in order, then follow the story through.

Here’s a useful post with more info about the major arcana.

Write your own fool’s journey!

Using the major cards, can you tell the story of your own life? You probably won’t use all the cards here — just try illustrating your life’s journey using the cards you best relate to, which seem to illustrate landmarks in your own life. Don’t worry if you don’t know the cards well yet, just go with what you’ve picked up so far, and your gut feelings about the cards and images.

Find your friends

Pull out the court cards (the pages, knights, kings and queens.) Now make a list of your friends/family/cats. Matching the traits of the cards with your friends’ personalities, find the court card that most suits each of them. Why is this? Who gets on with who?

My awesome girlfriend Emma is 100% Page of Wands material

My awesome girlfriend Emma is 100% Page of Wands material

Interpret someone else’s reading

Lots of bloggers post readings they’ve done online; for example Chloe McKracken does a short ‘body / mind / spirit’ reading every week, and readers of Biddy Tarot contribute their readings to her Tarot Circle column each month. Pick any reading, and read the cards for yourself. What advice would you give the querent?

Same cards, different deck

If you have more than one tarot deck, this can help you to find common threads between them, as well as highlight major differences and thus totally expand your understanding of individual cards. Pick any card from your first deck, then find the same card in another deck. What do they have in common? In what ways are their messages different? Are there symbols common to both/all cards? How would you deliver each card’s advice to a querent?

She's leaving, he's building, she's carrying, he's hiding...

She’s leaving, he’s building, she’s carrying, he’s hiding…

You could also try doing this with a larger reading. Do your reading as normal, and then find the same cards from another deck and lay them beside the first ones. What does the reading say now? Which messages have become confused? Would you give yourself different advice, or are any particular cards changing their message for you?

Read for someone

If you haven’t got it together to read for a friend yet, it’s time to bite the bullet. Never mind if you’ve only just got your first ever tarot deck. Make it something fun, tell your mate you’re just learning, get a bottle of wine in if it helps. They’ll have their own ideas about what the cards mean, and as you talk it over this will really help to personalise your understanding of the cards that come up.

Good cards, bad cards

Are there any cards you think are particularly ‘bad’? (For example, a lot of people might say The Tower, Death or the Ten of Swords.) Pull out all of the cards you have negative feelings about or which freak you out in readings. Then try to think of circumstances where this might be a good or helpful energy, or where the card’s message could seem like a positive one.

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Honestly, the outlook’s great

You could also do this in reverse – pull out the ‘good’ cards and think of reasons or circumstances where this card may be less than helpful, or be warning you about something.

Get a reading from a pro

Have a reading with a professional tarot reader (or you can order one online) and write about it. What do you make of the readers’ style — do they read intuitively or stick to straight-up book-type interpretations? Do they state the obvious or go off on crazy tangents? Do you like the way they communicated the cards to you? What did you make of their overall advice?

Tarot songs

So often, I’m listening to a song and suddenly think “OMG — this is totally the Three of Cups!” or “this is exactly what The Star feels like to me!”  Do any songs remind you of a particular tarot card or explain a card’s message?

In this video, I really feel that the song conveys the feeling of hopeless dependency, even addiction, that comes out in The Devil card. Which tarot card represents your favourite song?

Work on a tricky card

If there’s a card you’re really struggling with or which seems to have made literally no sense in a reading, don’t ignore it. It will just confuse you again next time it comes up! Spend some quality time with this card. What confuses you about it? Do you draw a total blank, or does it give you strange feelings? Look up different meanings online (try biddytarot.com or learntarot.com for starters) or in your favourite book. Study the card carefully. Look for symbols, expressions, colours, animals. Write whatever comes into your head about the card.

Create a tarot card

What’s your favourite tarot card? Is there one that means something special to you at the moment? The Lovers card which pops up ever time you read about her, the Three of Cups reminding you of fun times with your friends or the Queen of Swords telling you how strong you are, despite what you’ve been through? You do you, right? So how would you do this card? Maybe you want to make a collage, or sketch it out, or do some cool digital art – whatever floats your boat.

Or be super-creative and make one of these for a tarot card:

Choose your own adventure

Draw a card. This is the start of your story. Now draw another. This is what happens next! Carry on and write a little story! Plenty of authors use tarot to help with the writing process and this is almost definitely how Charlotte Bronte penned Jane Eyre.

Join the Tarot School Autostraddle group!

We’ve started a little ol’ group which a bunch of you have already joined, where you can share your thoughts, post readings to see what others make of them, ask questions and generally geek out about tarot. Join us here.

So there you go. Get scribblin’.

Anyone else got any cool journalling exercised to share? Did you try out any of these exercises? Let us know in the comments!


Want a reading?

Send your dilemma to the monthly tarot agony aunt column! Email beth@autostraddle.com

Rules and disclaimer-type thing:

  • In sending in your question, you’re allowing Autostraddle to publish your dilemma for five hundred thousand curious eyes to see if your question gets picked.
  • But don’t worry – we’ll keep you completely anonymous.
  • No third party stuff. This is all about you. That means no “does she love me?” and no “why is she doing this to me?” Sorry guys, but that shit ain’t cool.
  • This is entertainment. I am so not responsible for anything you do as a result of your reading and neither is Autostraddle. Dear reader, you are a full-grown person with a brain and you (not I) are 100% in charge of your own destiny. You wouldn’t want it any other way.

Beth Maiden is a tarot reader and writer based in Machynlleth, mid-Wales. She has two cats, a hot builder girlfriend, far too many tarot decks and not enough coffee cups. She's really into bread, the colour red, camping and brand new notebooks. She'd love to cut your hair, read your cards or hang out with you on her blog, Little Red Tarot!

Beth has written 111 articles for us.

27 Comments

  1. This whole post was awesome for me. I’m just starting to learn about tarot cards, and you gave me enough links to work through for a month!

    Also, the part about creating an adventure literally made my heart skip a beat. I write mainly non-fiction with the desire to write fiction in the future, so pulling a card to help tell a story sounds like an awesome creative venture.

  2. Awesome Beth, thanks! I’m really enjoying your posts. This one is packet with cool stuff!!!
    This week just for the fun of it I decided to do the same reading with two different decks. One deck seemed very optimistic, “proceed, all’s well, you’ll get everything you wish for”. The other was all “wait a second, you seriously need to reevaluate your priorities! If you proceed you’re going to turn your life inside out and break hearts.” At least, that’s how I read it anyway. Each deck really does have it’s own energy.
    Also, I love all your photos and I think I’m going to become a serious deck collector.

  3. Yay more tarot stuff!

    I just got back from a vacation and missed my tarot studies, so I’m super excited to dive back in.

    This post is filled to the brim with awesome ideas! I want to do all of them, I especially like the negative cards idea. So frequently I would rather shy away from negativity, to the point of even ignoring a card’s meaning! I’m sure facing up to them would give me a lot of insight and make me less afraid.

    • I feel like I could use some focusing more on the “negative” cards too. I feel like I get the energy of the usual “negative” cards like death but I have difficulties with some of the sword cards, particularly the ten, the five and seven of cups, and the five of pentacles. When these come up I’m often confused about their meaning. I can come up with meanings, possibly too many interpretations, but I sometimes have a hard time applying them to the situation. Actually, I also have difficulty when the Lovers shows up. Is it a blessed union, or choosing between right and wrong with a reference to the Justice card?

      • Swords used to be very difficult for me to deal with on a whole.
        When I look at the 5 of swords(rider waite, golden tarot) I see the farthest man with his head in his hands and he is just so dejected. It is like the picture of grief. I probably associate it with grief because I fixated on this card after a friend of mine died.

        I have always seen the lovers as “a blessed union” like you say. But it is probably more complex. I can never differentiate the meaning of the lovers from the meaning of 2 of cups or 4 of wands, so there must be something more nuanced.

        • I’m so sorry to hear about your friend.

          Re distinguishing major and minor cards which seem similar, one way I approach this is that each major arcana card has a minor arcana counterpart – so for example in this case I often see the Two of Cups as a more ‘everyday’ expression of The Lovers. Where the Two of Cups might be about two people falling in love, or beginning or renewing partnership, The Lovers is about something [even] bigger – the universal yearning of the soul, and the sensation of completion when partnership is found.

  4. Yeah the whole ‘negative cards’ thing is so easy to get caught up in. For years I had this thing that the King of Cups was a really negative energy, I really struggled to say anything nice about it when it turned up. I was all like ‘you are suppressing your emotions and hiding your truth!“… and then had a few life experiences and then was like “ah yeah, sometimes it’s good to keep a tight rein on your emotions!”

    Seeing the cards as ‘energies’ which can be good, bad, neutral, whatever, depending on context is a really important step in learning tarot.

  5. I had a powerful reading a couple of months ago where the Six of Swords (called “a good voyage” in my deck) came up as a very negative card to remind me to challenge myself — my life had too much smooth sailing and I was getting bored!

    I am excited to try these ideas!

  6. I want to do this, but usually when I’m reading tarot my teeth are purple from wine and I’m on the verge of tears because of HOW MEANINGFUL it all is and I wake up the next morning with blurry pictures of Celtic crosses and a bunch of !!!! texts to my sisters about SWORDS, MAN all over my phone.

  7. I don’t know anything about tarot, but I am all about journals in any and every form! The match-your-friends-with-cards idea sounds like a potentially fascinating endeavor.

  8. I love this column! I recently wrote a suite of poetry inspired by a bunch of the Major Arcana cards for a uni assignment. It was fun and really got me thinking about the meanings of each card.

  9. I’ve incorporated a one card reading into my morning pages every day, inspired by a comment somewhere on Autostraddle. Someone mentioned pulling a card in the morning to think about over breakfast and I liked the idea so much that I incorporated it into my morning routine.

    I actually stopped doing tarot for a long time because I freaked myself out pulling so many “bad” cards, or the same one over and over: The Tower showed up in almost every reading. It turns out that I should have listened instead of hiding it away.

  10. I very tentatively started reading learntarot.com and the author’s own blog when Tarot School started, as I’ve always been a big skeptic on these matters. I got hooked damn quickly, though! When I look at the tarot as a sort of Rorschach test (I’m a psychologist who doesn’t put much stock in projective tests for clinical use, but I have to admit they are fun) or a way to prompt new perspectives on situations, it becomes something that’s really intriguing and enjoyable.

    Anyway, I just ordered a journal a few days ago, so this post has been perfectly timed for me! I’ve mostly been recording and very briefly writing up my readings using the Anna K Tarot (which I completely, completely love). I’m liking this because it allows me to come back to a reading more easily later, after some additional thought.

    To give an example: The Tower came up for the first time for me in a reading a few days ago (right when the journal arrived). I felt like I kind of “got it,” but that there were things I was still missing – I sketched the reading out quickly in the journal so I could come back to it later if I wanted. The next day, while reading Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection, I was suddenly strongly reminded of the Tower – and I thought “Aha! That’s what it is for me, right now. That’s exactly it. It’s terrifying, but spot-on.” I came back to the journal and added my thoughts. I have a feeling I’ll continue to come back to that same reading a few more times, too, since many of the other cards also felt like they had a lot more to give.

    I’d like to start adding in some of these ideas for my journaling, too. I particularly like the good cards/bad cards, same cards/different decks, tricky card, and create a card ideas!

    • Another interesting way to look at the cards “skeptically,” especially if you’re using a non-traditional deck, is to think of it as having a conversation with the deck’s creator about whatever the subject may be. It can be like borrowing someone else’s perspective for an afternoon, which is often pretty enlightening!

  11. Oh man, a tarot mini-shrine… that sounds super fun. Next time I hang out with my sister I may have to insist we do that.

    I’m currently using both a regular paper journal and a online one, and it’s been an interesting combination. I tend to use my notebook like I always have, for sketching out spreads and jotting thoughts, sort of thinking out loud but with ink. The blog is becoming the place I put those thoughts after I’ve sat with them, in a more readable form. I’ve always gotten frustrated by how hard it is for me to find stuff in my physical journals, like when I pull a tricky card but can’t remember when I last journaled about it. Hopefully the blog can be an “official” supplement for my notebook, and a place to share my more polished thoughts with other people too.

    My blog is here, come help me figure shit out if you want!

    • You can totally do that Crystal! I’ve found that as I’ve accumulated decks over the years, my ‘general’ idea of each card has expanded, so the interpretations I use now do incorporate ideas from each different artist/deck.

      It’s also a good way to work out which deck to buy next… like if you have a deck in mind, look up yr favourite cards in the new deck, see how the artist has interpreted them.

  12. I’ve been reading Tarot cards for 15 years and this post was the best I’ve come across on Tarot journaling! Was Jane Eyre really written that way? In my first Tarot journal I did the daily card thing and meditating on each card helped. Look at the card like a snapshot of a scene with a before and after (or moving like a Harry Potter picture!)

    • Can I also ask a question? It doesn’t matter if it won’t be picked. My question: “I think that I am happy but I feel that there’s something not quite right , what is it that I’m missing?”
      Have a nice day. ^^

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