The idea of ‘shadow’ originates in the work of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung. In Jungian psychology, the ‘shadow’ refers to an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself, or it is a suppressed aspect of our nature. The shadow is roughly equivalent to the whole of the Freudian unconscious. Contrary to a Freudian definition of shadow, on the other hand, the Jungian shadow can include everything outside consciousness. It can be both positive or negative. According to Jung, the shadow personifies everything that the subject refuses to acknowledge about himself. The shadow represents features that we hide from ourselves and others and function as a reservoir for human darkness.
The shadow may appear in dreams and visions in various forms, typically as a person of the same sex as that of the dreamer. The shadow contains, besides the personal shadow, the shadow of society, respectively the collective unconscious. Interactions with the shadow in dreams may shed light on one’s state of mind. A conversation with the shadow may indicate that one is concerned with conflicting desires or intentions.
In Jungian psychology, individuation is a process of psychological integration. The integration of the shadow is the first step of initiation. It begins with bringing the unconscious to the surface.
Transposed to the Tarot, shadow work means to reveal the unconscious, uncover something hidden, bring to the light another level of information otherwise inaccessible.
In practice, bringing to the surface of the unconscious is possible by working with a secondary deck. I used to work with the Rider-Waite-Smith deck as primary and the Crowley’s Thoth as the secondary deck. One may use any two Tarot decks she or he prefers. However, keep in mind that different decks may use different esoteric systems to attribute specific meanings to the cards. For this demonstration reading, I used the Unified Esoteric Tarot Second and Black Editions.
For begin with, I recommend a simple three cards spread in which the first card represents the present, the second the past and the third the outcome, respectively the possible future.
Choose your question wisely. Tarot is a great tool to make predictions and help us make choices based on evaluating our options and possibilities at a particular moment. It is my opinion that the Taro is about us and us only, respectively our options in relation to our environment and others. Therefore, I prefer pragmatism over speculations. I recommend to ask questions such as “What can I do to enhance my chances of….” rather than ask “What my chances are…”
For this reading, I have chosen a general question: What do I need to understand about the current situation?
The procedure is simple. The two decks will be handled separately. Shuffle as usual, then draw three cards and place them face down on the table. Then repeat the same operation with the second deck and place the cards above the first set.
Turn the first set of cards one by one as read them.
1st card, representing the current situation: Two of Cups. The card signifies intimacy, a close and warm relationship, respectively harmonious partnership.
2nd card, the past – representing the root of the current situation: Ace of Swords reversed. The Ace of Swords is identified with the September Equinox. Swords representing Air generally refer to thoughts, to the mental level. While upright the cards indicate answers, solutions to possible problems, reversed, the card suggests unanswered questions and unsolved problems which causes stress.
3rd card, future – possible outcome: The Moon reversed. To some extent is the opposite of the first card, the Two of Cups. While the Moon suggests intimacy, reversed the card signifies distrust and false hopes.
In conclusion, while the current situation looks good, due to some unsolved issues from the past, the things may evolve in an unwanted direction.
At this point, one should bear in mind that the Tarot reveals only a possible outcome based on the currently available information and general tendencies. However, the very purpose of the Tarot is to gather information and based on these pieces of information make changes when the predicted outcome is unsatisfactory. Although we have the power to change the course of our own future, most of the time, people are too scared to step out of their comfort zone and take the necessary measures. People are predictable, and because of that, the future is also predictable.
The first deck of cards represent the conscious level. The things we know, respectively what is going on on the surface.
Using a second deck may reveal what’s going on beneath the surface at the unconscious, respectively subconscious level. It gives one further details, information which otherwise would not be accessible. Sometimes these ‘shadow’ related extra cards may bring to our attention those things we consciously or unconsciously denial, respectively we refuse to accept it as part of ‘our reality’.
4th card, additional information to the current situation: Five of Cups. While the card signifies pleasure, in addition to the Two of Cups, it suggests to enjoy the moment and enjoy the things we have. Sometimes people are unhappy because instead of enjoying the things they have, they are unhappy or unsatisfied because the things they don’t have.
5th card, additional information regarding the cause or roots of the current situation: Nine of Disks. Disks – or Pentacles – represents the element Earth and refer to practical and material issues. The Nine of Disks signifies perfectionism. In association with the Ace of Swords reversed, it means that we may want the things to be perfect – although nothing made by man can be ever perfect. Painters used to say that a painting is never finished; there is always something to improve on the work. However, sometimes one must call it a day and avoid to get lost in the details.
6th card, additional information regarding the future: Ace of Disk. The card represents the Winter Solstice. The Ace of Disks signifies materialisation, therefore prosperity. Considering that it represents the Winter Solstice, improvements may be aspected in mid-December, at the end of the calendar year. As a complementary card for The Moon reversed, the card means that we have to set up realistic expectations according to the current circumstances and future expected development.
As a general conclusion, we have to develop harmonious partnerships, and due to fruitful collaboration, it is possible to achieve positive results.
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