Tarot for shadow work is intended to help you dive deeper with your personal shadow work practice. Please note that shadow work can be very intense, so I always recommend working with a licensed mental health professional if things become overwhelming for you.
The shadow is the parts of ourselves that we try to hide away from others for fear of not being loved and accepted. The shadow includes the good/brilliant things about ourselves, as well as the ugly/bad/shameful parts.
What is your shadow?
The shadow is essentially a set of traits, beliefs and story we have about ourselves and others that we decided were unacceptable in some way. We deny, push down, or reject these aspects of ourselves in order to protect ourselves from rejection. But this rejection also prevents true connection.
So yeah, all have shadow and can all benefit from shadow work.
Our shadow can influence everything from the way we think about certain things, to the way we set up our lives, to the jobs we work and the relationships behaviors we engage in.
When we we realize that there’s a pattern in our lives that we’d like to change, looking to our shadow is a good place to dig in. Our shadow beliefs run deep (like unconscious behavior deep), but when we bring them into awareness, we can start to deconstruct and disrupt the patterns.
How do you identify your shadow?
We can identify our shadows in a few different ways:
- The things we judge others for. Often the things that really grate us about others are projections and reflections of some shadow. Example: Being annoyed by someone’s selfishness, laziness, or shamelessness.
- Words/adjectives that we would find particularly upsetting if we heard others describe us as such (identifying these words for yourself can really help you dig into your main shadows). Example: Words that sting, like cold, bitchy, weird, stupid, etc.
- In the ways we’re activated or triggered. If you notice an interaction bothering you or unusually persistent in your mind, it could be touching on some shadow. Example: Someone makes a comment to you at the grocery store and it gnaws at you for days.
Note: This isn’t to dismiss any trauma. Trauma can cause aspects of shadow to manifest, but should be worked through with extra care.
- Compliments you reject. Our shadow includes the good stuff about ourselves, too. When we’re unable to accept a compliment, or it makes us uncomfortable (as long as the complimenter isn’t a creep), there’s often some shadow there. Example: You’re beautiful. Spoiler: You are. But we’re often taught that believing you’re beautiful makes you vain or self-centered (more aspects of shadow!). Or that we don’t meet a conventional standard of beauty, so even if we feel beautiful, it’s somehow untrue. OR that we should be unaware of our beauty to be perceived as such. GUESS WHAT? That’s all some patriarchal-fueled shadow BS.
- Ways you don’t want to be perceived/shine too brightly. These are often positive things. Example: Being intuitive or artistic could have been a net negative in your linear-brained family, so you rejected those parts of yourself only to feel like there’s something missing/a need not met later in life.
What is shadow work?
The real power and potency of the shadow lies in bringing it to light, which is what shadow work is. Shadow work is the practice of becoming aware of and acknowledging our shadows, accepting them, and finding ways to work with (rather than against) them.
“What we resist, persists” would be the shadow’s motto. The shadow can inhibit behaviors that are in alignment with our full selves, because the shadow wants us to keep denying parts of ourselves to keep us safe. Learning to be unafraid of examining the tough stuff in order to be more fully ourselves is what shadow work is all about.
Our shadow is a part of us, just like the outer layer we usually show the world is. Once we start accepting it, we can start to feel more whole, free, and like ourselves out in the world and within ourselves.
Shadow can be a powerful point of connection, too. Like when you feel like you’re being dragged by a meme, or a horoscope, or a tarot reading… The best shadow work can be finding a mirror out in the world and realizing you’re not alone.
And when we can embrace, share, and even poke fun at our own shadows out in the world, we often find that it resonates deeply with others.
Shadow work isn’t easy, though. It usually brings up uncomfortable feelings and emotions that we’d rather not face. But when we do — when we bring these things to light — the shifts within ourselves are palpable.
How can you use tarot to help you do shadow work?
Shadow can be where we can find our truest gifts — because it’s where we feel deeply. We can use the tarot to help us identify and clarify what shadow aspects are coming up for us. And it can help show us how to mine the shadow for our gifts through a better understanding of ourselves and our experiences, and how we can ultimately connect better in our relationships.
All tarot can be thought of as shadow work because there are shadow aspects to all the energies in the deck (think reversals!). And we’re often examining what’s underneath a situation that’s driving it forward. But more specifically, we can start asking the right questions about the shadow to help us dig deeper.
Here are a few shadow work tarot spreads to get you started.
Finding the Gold in Your Shadow Tarot Spread
- What aspect of my shadow is asking for my attention?
- How can I work with it?
- What gifts are hidden in this shadow?
- How can I use these gifts?
- What does integrating this shadow look like?