Ask anybody in the online Tarot community, and they will undoubtedly extol the benefits of keeping a trusty Tarot Journal. In many cases, this is the very second thing to be recommended to the Tarot newbie, only after the Tarot deck itself.
If this isn’t your first rodeo, chances are you’ve already got a notebook (or several) set aside for your own Tarot musings, and if not, it’s probably because you just can’t seem to keep up the habit of a journal, and not because it just never occurred to you. Judging from the books and forum threads and blogs I’ve read, it’s a fairly widespread practice.
Is journaling really all it’s cracked up to be?
Well, I can’t deny that it helped me when I was learning what the cards mean. It makes sense. Writing helps to reinforce what you’ve learned, which is why we take notes during a class. It also gives you a hard copy of what you’ve learned, so you can go back over it later on and further reinforce your memory.
Writing in general is a helpful way to organize your thoughts, work them out, and put them into words, which is something many people actually struggle with more than they’d probably admit (or perhaps even realize). Again, you also have the added benefit of being able to go back over what you’ve written afterwards, allowing for editing and revision to make sure everything’s coherent. I am a huge proponent of the written word as means of communication.
Yes, the ability to write is something we can blissfully take for granted in this day and age, and when it comes to something as complex and abstract as the Tarot, writing your thoughts down can be all the difference between an ever-deepening understanding of the cards and a stagnant repertoire of cookie-cutter definitions.
I remember when I first embarked on the quest to learn the Tarot (really not all that long ago). I was armed with only my Radiant Rider-Waite deck, its accompanying instructions booklet, and my copy of S.L.M. Mathers’ treatise on the cards. Little did I know what I was getting into at the time.
I was content to just wing it for a while, but as I started to really begin to understand what I was doing, it dawned on me that it was going to be tough to keep things straight in my mind. I used a small Moleskine notebook a relative had given me, and began to copy down the meanings of each card. It really did not take long at all until this little notebook was filled up with meanings, thoughts, spreads, and various other little tidbits of personalized Tarot stuff; before I knew it, my collection of both books and cards had expanded and I needed a new place to write my thoughts down, preferably one a bit larger than the Moleskine.
So I started over with a much larger (and cheaper than Moleskine) notebook. That one remains largely empty, however, and it’s only occasionally that I’ll add to it.
So that’s it? All this in favor of journals, and I don’t even keep up with my own?
Yes, and no. For one thing, I must admit that I am horrible at keeping journals. I love writing, but my journals rarely seem to stick. I’ve got many more partially full notebooks than I’ve got totally full ones. But in this particular instance, I stopped regularly writing in the notebook in favor of writing here. This site is my Tarot journal now, and it has been for a year.
I get far fewer hand cramps this way.
But even though I no longer keep a physical notebook as a repository for my musings, I do keep a couple of Tarot notebooks on hand that serve different purposes.
The one I use the most regularly is very similar to a typical journal in that I date the entries, but instead of recording my nebulous thoughts, I record my readings. I write the spread name, deck used, question asked, and any other relevant preliminary information (such as a runecast or helpful ritual), and then proceed to copy down the cards as they appeared in the spread, as well as any particular insights I have at the time. This allows me to go back and revisit readings I’ve done in the past. If I’m traveling with a Tarot deck, this is the notebook that will accompany me.
I also keep a notebook in which I copy down spreads that I’ve come across in my studies and liked. Most come from books, but some come from Tarot forums or other blogs, and I’ve got a couple in there that were made up by myself or my friends. Spreads are the only things that are written in this journal, and it sits on my shelf as a personalized index for me to peruse when I want to do a reading, but am not sure exactly which spread I feel like using.
Finally, I also keep a Tarot calendar, upon which I expounded in a previous post. This notebook is specific to only a couple decks, and works more as a home-made reference tool than as a journal, but I keep it with the others and so figured I’d mention it here, too.
I do think a journal is a valuable tool to the Tarot-er, beginner or otherwise, and if I never started this blog, I’d surely have gone a long way in filling up that second notebook by now. I wrote this post because I think that this topic is an important component of my Tarot practice, right next to the books I read and the cards I use. It’s not a subject that warrants regular updates, but for the sake of completeness, I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to share a little about how I approach Tarot journaling.
Do you keep a Tarot journal? More than one? Is it really as widespread as books and blogs and forums would have the novice believe? Do you agree that it is a good habit to get into? Let me know with a comment, if you feel so inclined.