Posted Under Tarot

3 Shadow Tools to Use with the Dark Wood Tarot

Dark Wood Tarot

Once upon a time, a girl walked into a tarot deck and found exactly what she'd been searching for…

The Dark Wood Tarot is a sensual and immersive tarot experience. It brings you deep into the shadowy heart of an enchanted forest. The Shadow Witch reflects you, the reader. Each archetype offers a discovery, a lesson, and a reflection of your deepest self. The Dark Wood is a shadow deck meant to push you out of your comfort zone in the best way possible.

I've always harbored an intense fascination with haunted, occult things. Power, mystery, and darkness are tantalizing and powerful. The supernatural reminds you of how very much alive you are. Gooseflesh erupts across your skin, your breath quickens, every ounce of you becomes alive and on heightened alert. Fear and erotic love are each two sides of the same coin. This is why thrillers and horror movies make for a great first date. Both fear and passion open us up to something new. They push us out of our comfort zone. It is the thrill of exploring the unknown.

Occult work is based on pushing the boundaries our "normal" senses. We all reach for the tarot deck in an effort to dive deep, to look between the lines of our normal, every day lives. We want to open the Book of Us. We want to finger the pages, maneuver around, and rewrite our destiny.

Tarot vision expands past our normal perceptions. We light a candle and cast shadows to uncover what's hiding there. It is inside occult, metaphysical, and yogic work that we become the Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones of our interior selves.

Terrifying stuff hangs out in these shadowy, cobweb-filled spaces. But just because something isn't familiar shouldn't automatically make it scary. And I've never been physically or emotionally hurt by something or someone that wasn't an actual human being.

Shadow Work is essential for those who desire self-actualization. We are multi-dimensional, holistic creatures who are ever shifting between polarities. We move between sleep and wakefulness, high and low energy, responsibility and pleasure, and of course, darkness and light. The moon doesn't exist without its dark side, and neither do you.

Shadow Work keeps tarot readings on point, especially when you are reading for yourself. Self-reads present a unique challenge. How do we know we are finding the truth of the cards or just telling ourselves what we want to hear? Few of us sit down, spread the cards, and intuit messages like, "The cards say I being am being a real jerk right now." Shadow Work is the medicine for self-justification because to do it, you are required to examine things about yourself you don't normally want to look at. And we all act like jerks sometimes.

We justify our behavior and actions all day long. This is why they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

"I didn't mean to be cruel to by best friend that time I left her at the mall, but I really wanted to leave."

"I didn't intend to be a rude to my husband, but I he just didn't understand how I felt."

"I didn't intend to yell at my daughter, but she interrupted me for the fourteenth time when I was trying to pay the bills."

You can't see your own awful behavior if you aren't willing to break out of your comfort zone. But, once you do, you can take responsibility for your actions. You acknowledge the behavior or desire. Then, you can make amends with yourself and others. This heals relationships, makes way for growth, and more than anything, it sets you free.

The Shadow is like a trash heap or giant basement where you throw everything you'd rather not deal with about yourself. It holds the parts of you you'd like to pretend aren't true or don't want to think about. The Shadow is where you place repressed instincts and impulses. This is where everything your mother or caregiver told you weren't allowed to do goes. It is where you place all the things "nice people" don't do. The shadow holds murderous, violent inclinations; selfish behavior; deviance; and everything society deems unacceptable. Talk about scary!

Talents, love, and magical qualities inhabit the Shadow, too. Remember that drama teacher who told you you couldn't sing? You threw that lovely voice into the shadow. Talents and curiosities you are afraid to display or explore are stored there.

Ever fallen head over heels in love with someone you weren't allowed to love or didn't think you deserved? Their warm beating heart and soft face is tucked away inside your shadow waiting for you, no matter how much you try to cover them up. Qualities, personal attributes, weirdness, anything you fear isn't good enough in comparison to others and want to silence gets crammed in the shadow. Original thinking, creativity, entire ways of being that are true to you can be deeply buried in your Shadow. Talk about rich!

Three Shadow Tools

  1. 5 Things Exercise
    5 things takes only a few moments. Write down five things you can't stand about other people. Five qualities that make you go crazy. Five things people do that fill you with a tasty, bitter bile of anger in your throat. It could be five qualities of a single person, or from many people. It could be something you observe in friends and family and/or something you see celebrities or media figures doing. List five qualities that make you hot under-the-collar.

    Now that you've listed five things (and don't worry, if you could only come up with three or four, that's okay, too). Circle the one thing on the list that bothers you the most before reading any further. Once you've circled it take a good hard look. THIS is the Shadow quality most dominant in your shadow self. This is the quality with which you have to come to terms.

    Maybe you circle inauthenticity because that pretentious friend of yours and her fake voice drives you up a wall. If inauthenticity is in your shadow, how are you being fake in your own life? What are you lying to yourself and others about? Why?

    Perhaps, you circle rude behavior. How are you rude to others? Maybe you see rudeness as insisting on putting yourself first? Do you know how to put yourself first when it counts?

    Our entire experience of life is a projection of ourselves. What captures our attention we see what we need to work through.

    Once you have identified the largest piece of your Shadow, pull a tarot card to request advice on what you can do to eliminate or integrate this behavior in your life.

  2. Diary of Dark Thoughts
    You know how it feels better to talk to your besties instead of keeping everything bottled up inside? Nothing helps exorcise inner demons as much as expressing them. The Diary of Dark Thoughts is a book dedicated exclusively to your lowest, meanest, most horrid thoughts and feelings. A Diary of Dark Thoughts is exactly what it sounds like, a repository where you are free to express anything not deemed "acceptable." Once you acknowledge your feelings, chances are, they vanish. If not, it might be time to seek professional help.

    If you want to start a Diary of Dark Thoughts but aren't sure how be begin, embark on some writing prompts:

    The darkest thing I think about other people is…
    The darkest thing I think about myself is…
    The worst thing I've ever done is…
    Something I would do if I knew I wouldn't get caught is…

    Once you've completed an entry, pull a tarot card to discover what space will open up inside yourself once you allow this darkness to move through you and disappear. Conversely, if you are still feeling riled up, pull a card asking about how you can exorcise these thoughts from your brain.

    A Diary of Dark Thoughts is especially helpful when you are caught up in an obsessive thought cycle, mental loop, head spin, or find yourself caught in a web of passive-aggressive behavior. The trick is to keep writing in a stream of consciousness format (without punctuation or spelling worries) until the thoughts have relaxed their grip.

  3. Tarot Shadow Reversals
    Shadow Reversals can take the place of any normal tarot card reversal technique. Remember, tarot cards are more than images printed on paper. They are a full and rich complete experience, like a calendar day of your life. You might look to the calendar hanging on your wall and observe Monday, the 22nd of June, as a flat square inside the grid of the month. Yet, your experience of that day was anything but flat. It was a colorful, voluminous, and nuanced. The same is true of a tarot card. No one in the world experiences the tarot the way you do.

    To Shadow Reverse a card, see the card in your mind's eye. To find its shadow, move to the polar opposite of what you first observed. For example, imagine a lovely tarot card such as the Empress. See her in your mind's eye. She streams creative energy and life-giving abundance and warm sunshine. Move to the Shadow by allowing clouds to cover the sunlight. Examine her by turning her into the darkest, cruelest, most selfish version of herself. Rather than nurture children, she destroys them. Rather then create art she crushes it. Move deeper. When was the last time you did this very thing? Even if you didn't mean it, when was the last time you hurt someone's feelings or didn't listen to them when they were talking?

    It can be fun to shadow reverse a card that is typically dark or scary. Consider the Five of Pentacles and bring the card to your mind's eye. Feel the snowflakes on your face, the blizzard wind on your cheeks. See the figures walking through the snow, bandaged and broken. Now, moving to the Shadow, stop the snow, let the sun rise. The characters are healed and happy. The trees and bushes bear money and resources. Everything they need is at their fingertips as the church crumbles and reveals all its treasures. When was the last time you shared joy with another? When was the last time you made it through a darkest of nights to find the light? It was worth it, wasn't it?

Shadow work offers tremendous rewards for those willing to explore themselves. Your body and psyche is a repository of deep magic. It only takes a questioning mind and a deck of cards to break possibility wide open.

Cast your cards well!


About Sasha Graham

Sasha Graham is the bestselling author of over ten books and tarot kits, including 365 Tarot Spreads, Llewellyn's Complete Book of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot, and Dark Wood Tarot. She teaches tarot classes and produces ...

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