If I were to ask you what parts of yourself you were ashamed of, embarrassed of, or even afraid of, could you answer honestly? The fact is, it can be really, really, difficult to confront our traits that we are less than proud of.
As a result, many of us push down and repress these parts of ourself. According to psychologist Carl Jung, who coined this the “Shadow Self,” in order to be free from the negative affects of one’s shadow, they must confront it and learn to integrate it into a more holistic self-image.
That’s where tarot comes in— tarot can help you go more in depth in learning about your shadow and uncover a path forward with your shadow self.
In this post, I’ve include 5 tarot spreads and exercises for shadow work.
First, I’ll cover some of the basics on shadow work, tarot, and spirituality. Or, you can skip to the tarot.
What is Shadow Work?
Shadow work is the process of understanding and working with our shadow side— the side of us that we suppress from others and sometimes even ourselves.
This shadow side is born from our childhood wounds. As children, we are all much more sensitive and impressionable to the opinions of our loved ones, peers, and society. So, if your childhood self ever felt unwanted or unloveable, it’s likely that you built up a wall to protect yourself from those feelings.
These walls can carry with us into adulthood, without us even being aware of them.
The thing is, the more we can try to push down and suppress parts of ourselves, the more of a negative affect those parts of us actually have on our lives.
Shadow work was founded by Carl Jung, who argued that in order to be free from our shadow selves, we must understand them and integrate into a more holistic view of ourselves.
“Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions.” -Carl Jung
What is Shadow Work in Spirituality?
Shadow work actually has its roots in psychology, but it is essential to a meaningful spiritual journey as well. In order live your most fulfilling life, it’s important to look within to the darkest corners of who you are.
There are many ways you can practice shadow work— meditation, shadow work journaling, therapy, etc.
If you’re a spiritual person, Tarot spreads for shadow work can be an excellent tool to uncover and integrate your shadow self.
Tarot for Shadow Work
Tarot can be a great way to explore your shadow and overcome any blockages you might be experiencing when doing so. In this posts, I’ve laid out 5 shadow work tarot spreads & exercises to help in your shadow work.
Tarot Spread 1: Past, Present, and Future Shadow Work Tarot Spread
This 3 card tarot spread is a basic one that you can use to help uncover your shadow, understand its origin, and move past it.
- What am I repressing?
- What wound caused this?
- Advice to work with my shadow and grow.
Tarot Spread 2: Introspective Shadow Work Tarot Spread
You can use this tarot spread to go a little bit more in depth on your shadow work. Make sure to spend some time with each card, really introspecting on what it means for you. You can always draw another card for clarity.
- Identify a shadow trait
- Why I have held onto my shadow trait
- Hard truth about my shadow trait
- Practical application
- How to care for myself during shadow work
Tarot Spread 3: What, Why, How, and When Shadow Work Tarot Spread
This tarot spread can help you understand your shadow side from all of it’s angles. It also helps you explore how to move forward with shadow work and what an ideal outcome is.
- Representation of your shadow
- What: What are you ignoring?
- Why: How does ignoring this protect you?
- Advice for exploring & integrating your shadow
- How: What examples do you have of how you suppress this part of yourself?
- When: When did you start feeling like you needed to suppress this?
- Ideal outcome of shadow work
Tarot Spread 4: Jungian Whole Self Spread
Did you know that the shadow self is actually just one component of Carl Jung’s work in psychology? If you want to go beyond shadow work, this spread can help you explore a few other aspects of who you are. This can be so helpful in integrating your shadow self into a more holistic view of yourself.
- Persona: The version of yourself you present to the world
- Shadow: The parts of yourself you conceal & hide
- Anima: Your feminine traits
- Animus: Your masculine traits
- Self: Your whole self
Tarot Exercise 5: Meet your Shadow Card
For this exercise, we’re going to do something a bit different than a traditional tarot spread for shadow work.
Instead, I invite you to look through your deck, pay attention to how each card makes you feel, and identify which card you like the least.
It’s common to have your favorite cards picked out, but less likely you’ve considered your least favorite.
If it’s helpful, you can refer to a site like biddy tarot to read through some card interpretations as well.
Once you’ve identified your least favorite card, your shadow card, spend some time reflecting:
- How does this card make me feel?
- Have I seen this card in any recent readings?
- In what ways can I relate to this card?
- How can I see this card in a positive light?
It might be helpful to spend some time journaling on these questions. It should help you uncover a little more about your shadow self and make progress toward a more complete self-image.
You can repeat this exercise to unveil different aspects or traits or your shadow self, or to gain clarity.
Save & Pin these Tarot Spreads
Shadow work is never complete. It’s important to frequently acknowledge and work with your shadow, even once you’ve made progress. Becoming your whole self requires continuous mindfulness about who you are, including your shadow.
That said, it’s a good idea to save these tarot exercises and refer back to them whenever you’re feeling like a refresh, or digging in further.
Shadow work is hard work! It can be a lot to process when you find out things about yourself you may not have known before. Make sure to practice self care, and have empathy for yourself along your shadow work journey.