Truth be told, I started my tarot Instagram account, @emilytarot, because there were some cool tarot challenges coming up in October and I did not want to spam the people following my personal account with tarot stuff. One of those challenges is #shadowworkoctober hosted by @mnomquah. Those following along are supposed to be keeping journals, but mostly my Instagram account has been serving as the journal. I want to sum up my thoughts and insights here, 10 days into the challenge.
What is shadow work? The concept of the shadow originated with Carl Jung and although I’m sure in the psychoanalytic tradition it’s much more complex than this, the overall idea is that our shadow is what we disown and repress about ourselves. Usually, we project our shadow onto other people. That’s why we see a person criticize someone for doing something and then turn around and do it themselves! We all have shadow parts–parts of ourselves that we believe are unacceptable, so shadow work is discovering those parts and integrating them into ourselves in a healthy way. Interestingly, for me the overall theme of this month hasn’t been about uncovering a bunch of monsters in my closet as it has been about revealing ways that I’ve been limiting myself.
Because I’ve deleted several of the original pictures (I only have but so much storage space on my phone!), I’m going to start with links first. We began with a mandala representing ourselves. I’ve never drawn a mandala before, but this is what came out of the creative process. Those familiar with tarot will probably recognize the four elements and faculties here: (clockwise from top) air/intellect, with its ability to draw lines and put things into boxes; fire/spirituality, with its refracting, jewel-like energy; earth/materiality–the disks of coins, tree trunks, the earth–roundness, wholeness; and water/emotion–waves, change. These five are surrounded in purple by what is simultaneously shadow and spirit or consciousness–the thing that makes me greater than the sum of my parts. The purple also represents shadow, those qualities which are still part of me, but which I have tried to cast out.
Day two was the Hero’s Journey spread, and the results I got are here. Notice the reversed Queen of Wands and the King of Swords. Court cards have been coming up for me a LOT this month, and all my wands cards have been reversed. I don’t think this spread shows a triumphant journey, like the kind you’d see in a movie. I think it’s a move from depending on those outside of me to moving into a darker, internal place and giving up ruses and disguises in the process.
I think this movement into darkness is somehow mirrored by the source of my greatest fear, which is the Sun??? (I was a bit puzzled by that one.) And the way of releasing that fear is through the determination of the Two of Wands. These were days 3 and 4. For day 5, we chose a card, rather than drawing one at random: our least favorite card. Mine is the 5 of Swords, for reasons I think I explain pretty well on the page. I definitely see this as a shadow part of myself.
The next few days focus on questions: What do I need to forgive myself for? (Day 6) The Daughter of Wands, reversed. I think this is about the way that my life–not simply the pursuit of a PhD, but a lot of my life choices over the past decade have made me a happy, responsible person, but have sapped my creativity. I have felt a lot of sadness and shame about this, but I also need to forgive myself for not spending my 20s being an artist or a poet. I really do have a lot of creativity and vitality that I can put to use and that I can foster. It’s no surprise, then, that my inner truth (Day 7) is the Daughter of Pentacles, reversed. The Daughter of Pentacles is studious and dutiful. I have really embodied her over the past several years, but now that identity no longer serves me.
Day 8 was a bit of a detour from this theme, as we spoke about reclaiming the most negative Major Arcana card as a positive one. I chose the Heirophant and you can read what I have to say here.
Day 9, my greatest misperception about myself, was the Magician, reversed. I pulled two other cards along side him to see what commentary they had. The reversed Magician is about lacking power–I consistently underestimate myself and think I’m less versatile than I actually am. It’s funny because I don’t think that I do this, but when I get feedback from others, they point out that I have skills or talents or opportunities that I hadn’t even considered. Not surprisingly, the Daughter of Pentacles showed up reversed again, showing me that my studiousness is part of what’s sapping my Magician power. I think I’m trained to do one thing really well, but I’m actually pretty versatile. The Ten of Cups, appearing upright, suggested to me that the way to get my Magician mojo back is to follow my feelings. It’s funny, because although I feel things deeply, I don’t act on my emotions very much. This suggest that I need to get over that!
And lastly–and not surprisingly–today’s card was in response to the question: what do I need to let go of? The Father of Wands, reversed. Geez, all I need now is the Son of Wands reversed and I’ll have the whole set! Again, I need to let go of feeling like I need permission from the universe to undertake creative projects or do the kind of work I want to do. For this month’s challenge, I was expecting to get all of these messages about my foibles, but actually, the messages that I’m getting are about my strengths and how I am not living up to my potential. I think all the court cards are showing me the different personas and identities that I need to shed or take on in this process. It’s been a very interesting month with this challenge so far. Looking forward to the next 21 days!