I don’t read books in order. In fact, I almost never read a book from front to back. Instead, I start by reading the cover and the dust jacket, if there is one. Then I read the table of contents, thoroughly, followed by a few pages in the front, a few pages in the middle, and finally, the entire last chapter. Once I’ve surveyed the whole book, I’ll usually go back to page one and read it straight through. Some people get angry when I tell them how I read books. “But you ruin the surprise!” they exclaim, as though they are protecting their favorite writers from an upstart reader. “You’re cheating!” Maybe so.
But I read books the way I do because I’m fascinated by structure. I like to see how a book is put together, just as much as I like reading the book itself. I like discovering how other writers think—and I like watching how talented writers manage to unveil their thoughts, one by one, page by page, subtly revealing every angle of a story. Once they’re through, it seems, the best writers always manage to conclude by coming full circle, leading us all right back to the place where they began. In many ways, I think good writing is like a good tarot card reading, in which our own stories are revealed, card-by-card, until we finally conclude at the place we began: right here, right now, and in the present moment.
I thought about structure a lot before I started writing Tarot Journaling. As I made my first few notes for an outline, I realized that the process of reading tarot cards and the process of journaling were practically identical. In fact, the issues that most people bring to a tarot reader’s table are the same issues they bring to their journals: concerns about the past, questions about the present, and hopes and fears for the future.
In the same way, I realized that tarot cards and journals are both magical tools. Whether we’re reading tarot cards or writing about our lives, both cards and journals can spark our creativity, help us develop our intuition, and clarify our visions, hopes, and dreams. Tarot cards and journals can both help us integrate our past experiences, live fully, in the present moment and prepare for the future.
In fact, people who read tarot cards and people who keep journals are both participating in a creative process. Tarot readers and writers alike are engaged in acts of creation, of storytelling. They are actively searching for details and themes, putting their own stories into context, and weaving together the fabric of past, present, and future. Suddenly, I knew how to structure the book: I would pattern the whole thing after a tarot spread so the book would unfold in a reader’s hands just as a tarot card reading unfolds on a table. And the spread I chose? The Celtic Cross, a century-old spread that has been a framework for countless tarot readings since Arthur Edward Waite first introduced it in 1910.
Each chapter of Tarot Journaling is based on a position in a Celtic Cross spread. One of the first chapters, for example, is called “Significant Decisions.” Just as the first card in a Celtic Cross represents—or signifies—the person the reading is for, chapter one describes techniques you can use to find a journal that will best suit your needs. The next chapter, based on the covering card, offers tips, tricks, and time-saving techniques that will cover your situation. After that, a chapter on the crossing card describes ways to overcome writer’s block and other obstacles that might cross your journaling path. Ultimately, each chapter in Tarot Journaling parallels a position in the Celtic Cross, just as tarot reading and tarot journaling parallel each other in real life.
Tarot journaling, of course, isn’t a new concept. For years, tarot teachers and experts have said that a tarot journal is an essential tool for any serious student of the cards. Until now, however, those students have had to figure out how to keep a tarot journal all on their own. Tarot Journaling solves that problem by offering step-by-step instructions and advice to help you start—and keep—the tarot journal of your dreams.
But Tarot Journaling isn’t only for tarot readers and students. That’s because the tarot is a ready-made system for anyone who wants to reflect on his or her life in a journal. In fact, when you incorporate tarot cards in the journaling process, you have a pre-designed template for self-discovery. As every tarot reader knows, the cards make it easy to see yourself as you really are—and to envision the person you would like to become. When you combine the use of the tarot with a journal, you create a powerful vehicle for growth and change. Adding tarot cards to a journaling routine can help you recognize obstacles, overcome barriers, and make the most of your gifts and talents. The tarot is an ideal tool for exploring your inner world, and the tarot journal is an ideal vehicle to house your record of your travels.
You don’t need to be a serious student of the tarot to use Tarot Journaling, and you don’t need to be a master of the Celtic Cross. You just need a notebook, a pen, a tarot deck, and a sense of adventure. In fact, when you read Tarot Journaling, you don’t even need to start at the beginning. You have my full permission to skip around—and you are completely free to read the last chapter first. I would.
This article was originally published in the Llewellyn Journal.
I offer tarot and astrology readings online and in person at my Haunted Antique Shop in DeLand, Florida. To schedule a reading, click here.