Tarot and Journaling go hand-in-hand. New insights, observations, intuitive hits, and questions should always be recorded to encourage continued development. A daily draw practice is a great way for new students to get to know the cards. You can start at the beginning with The Fool, or randomly select a card a day, but all 78 cards should eventually have an entry in your journal. To get you started with a journaling practice, I’ve created journal templates to assist with daily studies. You can choose between a plain background waiting for your magical creative touch, or you might prefer the ornamental backgrounds which will require a colour printer. A sample of the journal page can be seen in the photo on the left, but if you already have your own preferred method, use that! The downloads can be found at the end of this page.
Where to begin
How to organise your journal is a big subject. After years of journaling, I’ve now settled on my preferred setup; an A5 journal with rings so I can easily swap around or add in pages. I started out with an A4 spiral bound notepad. I had one page for each card, with an image of each card glued in at the top of the page. Below it, I detailed the traditional meanings, symbolism, correspondences and so on. It didn’t take long for the pages to fill up, and I ended up taping on pages to fold out and down so I could continue my notes for each card. In another section, I detailed spreads and suit meanings. If I could turn back time, I’d go with a ring binder so all those additions could have been easily slotted in. I still refer to this notepad, and regularly stick in new notes.
Last year, I considered transferring it to digital files, but cutting out that tactile pen and paper aspect didn’t work for me at all. I quickly realised that being creative with my journal is really important to me, so I ditched the digital trial and returned to old school methods. The notepad remains as it is, bursting at the seams, but chock full of tarot goodness.
Work with a journal process that resonates with you!
Today, I don’t require that 78 card segment, but my current tarot journal does have a daily journal section where I unpack my thoughts and note my daily or weekly draws. Because I don’t want to carry around three of four journals/diaries/notebooks, my journal is a one-stop shop for my day. I have my to-do section, calendar, daily journal, spreads, dream journal, plus other miscellaneous sections for different bits and pieces. This somewhat busy setup works for me, but you might prefer something more streamlined.
Have a good think about what you’d like your journal to contain. For now, it might be enough to just focus on the 78 cards. You might prefer to keep your to-dos and calendars completely separate. (If you’re happy to dive down a rabbit hole, search ‘Tarot Journaling’ on YouTube. There’s endless inspiration and ideas to be found there.) Overall, what’s most important is how your journal resonates with you. You’ll be carrying this around for a long time to come, so make sure its robust and has enough space to fit all your notes.
Should I follow a certain order?
I'd recommend you journal in the same order as the deck; Major Arcana first, followed by each suit in turn. If you'd rather draw randomly, you might like to set up the journal in deck order so you can flip over and back between the pages for each card. I worked with the deck in order to experience The Fool’s journey day-by-day. Once I reached the suits, it was interesting to see how the energy built from Aces to King. I also liked having that two-week block with each suit and felt that period of musing over the suit’s energy helped the info stick. I also found it useful to have the Smith Rider Waite images on each page as it helped me memorise the cards. Some students buy a second deck so they can make notes on the actual card itself as they study. Work with whatever process feels good for you; there’s no right or wrong.
Your starter deck
At this point, I want to mention your starter deck. One of the most famous and familiar decks out there is the Smith Rider Waite whose imagery is used as a basis for hundreds, if not thousands, of decks. It’s the deck I began with, and still use today. It’s the deck I always recommend, simply because of the depth of its symbols, colours and imagery. You’ll find a lot of tarot books use it for illustrative purposes, too, and because it continues to influence so many new decks, a good grasp of the SRW allows you to try out new decks without feeling like you might have to start from scratch. I would avoid using decks with abstract images if you’re new to tarot. For example, The Wild Unknown Tarot is a beautiful deck, but using it as your starter deck could present challenges. Many tarot schools and teachers insist on the SRW, and for a good reason. Once you’ve established a good grounding in your studies, you can move to working with whichever decks you like.
So, with your deck and journal in hand, it’s time to begin!
At the start of your day, take a moment to ground and centre. Draw your card. As I mentioned, it can be a random draw, or a deliberate journey through the deck. Take a moment to study the image. Note the posture of figures, their clothes and shoes. What’s your initial feeling about them? What does their expression say? Now look at the background. Where are they? What’s the weather? Are there animals, plants, buildings? If so, what do these elements suggest to you? What’s the overall vibe of the card? Is it positive or negative?
Using this study and the keywords, note down your initial understanding of this card in the Current Perception section. Consider how this energy might impact your day. Where could you envisage it manifesting? Note any queries you may have surrounding symbolism in the card.
Tuck the day's card in your journal or somewhere safe and carry it with you so any new insights can be noted.
When you’re ready, return to your journal in the evening and take a moment to think back on your day. Did the energy of the card manifest in any way? Perhaps a book, or a TV show mirrored the card’s message. What about your interactions with people—did the card reflect in any of these? Detail your findings in the Today’s Experience section. If nothing showed up for you, that’s okay. Record what you learned, however big or small.
In the New Insights section, record if your impression of the card has changed. Did you gain any new insights? You can add your own new keywords if you like. Did questions pop up about the card, or any of its imagery? If so, look online or in your tarot books for guidance, but don’t ignore your own perceptions either; it’s just as valuable. If your understanding of the card remains the same, record that too. You may find that your perception of some cards evolves slower than others. If at any time you discover a new insight to a card you’ve already journaled, simply jump back and add it to your notes. Remember; the study of tarot is an ever-evolving lesson.
A fun exercise you might like to try is matching a card with a person, song, event, or character. I always think of the Eagles song ‘Witchy Woman’ when I see the Queen of Wands, while the Queen of Swords makes me think of Meryl Streep’s character Miranda Priestly from the Devil Wears Prada. As you work your way through the deck, see if you can find instances where familiar people, songs or events are reflected in the cards. This personal connection will help to deepen your understanding.
As you move through the weeks and your knowledge builds, you might like to flick back through the cards already studied every now and then. Not only will it help to keep your notes fresh in your mind, but you’ll see how your confidence and astuteness is growing. I also want to mention at this point how no-one should feel pressure to draw a card every day. Some days are more manic than others and the last thing you’ll have time for is journaling. If you need to slow down, or take a break, do so. Learning tarot shouldn’t be a chore. Always feel for what sits right with you personally. Don’t compare yourself to others either; we’re all on a different journey at different paces and levels. If you find yourself growing bored or irritated with your studies, identify what aspect has affected your interest and make the necessary changes.
In my humble opinion, the study and understanding of tarot never ends. Years on from that moment I first peered at The Fool, I continue to discover new aspects within the cards. Tarot has proved a gateway for me, leading me into astrology, reiki and numerology, to name just a few. Where you want to journey with tarot is entirely up to you, but the point is to have fun along the way!