Tarot Shadow Work: Using the Dark Symbols to Heal
Tarot Shadow Work presents Tarot as a tool for dealing with the shadow, or unconscious, sides of the psyche.
By Christine Jette
Book - Published by Llewellyn
Review by Bonnie Cehovet
Even if one had no clue what shadow work was, the entrancing cover of this book would certainly draw attention. It embodies a combined sense of mystery, elegance and ancient knowing. It makes me feel protected and supported, and is comforting simply to sit and look at. The work within this book is of the same high quality - supportive, well researched, and well written. This is a professional offering in all respects, addressing a subject that concerns all of us. Within these pages is a journey that we will all take, each of us in our own ways, using whatever resources we have at hand.
Jette begins by defining "shadow" as our unresolved inner conflicts and unexpressed emotions. They are represented by universal archetypes, and can be seen as parts of ourselves that have been lost (usually through some form of repression). What this book really brought out for me is that while shadows can represent our fears, they can also represent talents and abilities that were either discouraged or not acknowledged.
Working with the archetypes of the Tarot is an excellent venue for doing person work, whether the nature of the work is spiritual growth or personal growth. The Tarot is a tool that is easily accessible by all who choose to work with it. As Jette points out, each of the archetypes has two points of focus - the upright interpretation, which in general shows light side, the forces that are working in our favor; and the reversed, or inverted interpretation, which deals with the dark side of the archetype, where the energies are expressed in a blocked, or unacknowledged or fashion.
Shadow work is the energy that we put into uncovering and understanding our personal shadows. For us to come to terms with our shadows, they need to be acknowledged and integrated into our psyche. What we decide to do is our personal choice. We can ignore our shadow selves, in which case our lives will continue to be out of harmony, and generally filled with anxiety and fear. Or we can choose to explore our shadow selves, come to understand and accept them, knowing that whether we like it or not, they are a part of us.
When we choose to address our shadow selves, we begin to heal. We bring back to us those lost parts that are holding back our lives, that personify our fears and anxieties. Tarot Shadow Work grew out of Jette's own work with her personal shadows. In sharing some of the shadows that she had to work through she lets the reader know that they are not alone - that everyone walks the path of shadows if they choose to lead a full and empowered life.
The emphasis here is on shadow work as a journey of discovery, not shadow work as a destination in itself. Jette warns that this is a long journey - a journey that perhaps covers a lifetime. She recommends reading the book all the way through, and then going back and beginning the exercises. The work in this book - whether Tarot based or other (meditations, visualizations and affirmations) - is meant to be done in sequence. There is also a word of caution about proceeding with the work if you feel that you are not able to handle it on your own. This is a wise caution - we can do great damage to ourselves by working with a tool that is bound to open areas of our psyche that are filled with fears, anxieties, ghosts and personal pain. Jette shares excellent resources for those that know that they want to take the journey, but are uneasy, for any reason, about taking it alone.
Some of the initial work in this book includes creating sacred space for the actual work, casting a circle of protection, and creating a shadow alter (one that is left up and worked with on a continuous basis). From there the work moves on to include a specific layout, called The Star, using the Tarot cards. At this point other methods of shadow work are also introduced, including journaling, meditation, story writing, poetry, music, art and dance.
The Star spread is then taken to the next level, which will allow you to take an in-depth look into your personal shadow. From here, Jette takes the reader through recognizing and understanding common defense mechanisms, working with dreams and beginning the process of self-acceptance. Here is where the reader begins to connect with their inner ability to heal. Another specific version of the Star spread is used to identify areas where change is needed. An integral part of this section is setting realistic goals for change.
In work of this nature, forgiveness of ourselves and others, plays an integral role. Jette presents this work from the point of view of forgiving through compassion. Creative visualization techniques are presented that allow the reader to begin to release old wounds and move on. A Mourning Rite is presented to help bring closure through release.
Jette has done an excellent job of researching her material, as well as presenting it. She works with multiple modalities that not only act to support each other, but that give the reader a choice of how to work through their personal shadow issues. Her choice of using one basic spread, and reworking it to grow with each step on the journey to me shows a highly enlightened approach.
At the end of the book, she includes a section on the gifts and the shadows for each card; a wide range of resources that support people working through their issues; and an in-depth recommended reading list. Tarot Shadow Work has a place in the library of anyone who wants to work on their own shadows, or who includes shadow work in their services to their clients.
As a final word, and as an excellent example of the gifts and shadows of each card. From the book (pp154-155):
The Fool (0) Mistrust Versus Trust
The Fool's Shadow (challenges, when the shadow is unconscious):
- not listening to your inner voice
- fearing or doubting the future
- remaining psychologically stuck
- having a blind navet (immaturity or foolishness) which allows others to take advantage of you
- refusing to try the new
- lacking playfulness (being too solemn)
The Shadow Gifts of the Fool (opportunities to grow when the shadow is made conscious and healing energy is released)
- having an openness to divine guidance based on trust
- being willing to take a leap of faith into the unknown
- having a belief that the universe will provide you with what you need at the time you need it
- psychological growth
- having spontaneity and a sense of playfulness
- listening to your inner child
- willing to take risks and try something new without knowing the outcome because you trust the process
- abandoning old ways of thinking
© Bonnie Cehovet
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.