Sample Reading: Shadow Work

I wanted to highlight one of my favorite Common Concern readings, my Shadow Work reading. I've previously written about shadow work in broad terms, but in short it involves the integration of hidden aspects of ourselves into our conscious lives. As you can imagine, it doesn't happen over night or through one tarot reading. My Shadow Work reading is designed to start (or further) what will likely be a long process.

After the initial reading, monthly tarot readings will often be appropriate, while a week or even two weeks is probably not enough time to allow for the sort of growth from which I believe shadow work benefits. For those who purchase a Shadow Work reading, I am happy to continue the conversation through later readings (e.g., custom spreads, general readings, live readings), but many advanced tarot practitioners will be able to confidently continue this work for themselves if interested. After the initial reading and some preliminary check-ins, I'll be happy to provide tips at no additional cost to those who want to make shadow work a more regular part of their lives.

Please note that I think shadow work is something that each of us benefits from exploring. But it shouldn't be undertaken lightly or without appropriate supports in place. While many will be energized by recognizing a hidden aspect of themselves, others may find it to be draining or emotionally upsetting or to even be a trigger for past events, depending on the depth of the shadow uncovered. I'm a coach, advisor, and guide, but I'm not a licensed mental health practitioner, so I cannot provide the level of support that excavating particularly deep shadows might require. It is the querent's responsibility to find that sort of support if needed, and I strongly encourage it. A good therapist can be useful for just about anyone (and "good" means "good for your personal needs and situation").

Some people will come to the Shadow Work reading because they have been feeling lost or disconnected, and they know it’s on a deeply personal level, not passing external factors. Others will come to shadow work with a pretty clear understanding of what situations have led to their current emotional blockages or the undesired behaviors they’ve noticed. I recently did a Shadow Work reading for a querent who wasn’t sure why she was feeling so out of sorts and all-around just blech, but she knew there was something going on inside that she couldn’t make out and it wasn’t resolving on its own. Below is an excerpt from that reading. You can download the whole sample at the link below. (All information has been anonymized. But don’t worry that I’m the sort to spill even anonymized secrets. Permission was granted before I shared this reading.)

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From the Linestrider Tarot

What shadow lies at the root of Anon's feelings? 2 of Swords

What should Anon know about this shadow? The World

What is blocking her from understanding this shadow? The Tower (reversed)

What next steps can Anon take to begin to understand it? Queen of Wands (reversed)

How can she approach these next steps with the best chance for success? The Empress

What experiences will open up when this blockage begins to loosen? The High Priestess

How can Anon best prepare for those experiences ahead of time? 4 of Cups

Extra: What should I, as a reader, know about this situation? 8 of Cups

BONUS: What card would help remind Anon (in a positive way) of how far she has come toward incorporating this shadow, even when no longer thinking of this reading? 9 of Wands

Excerpt from the beginning of a recent Shadow Work reading


[There’s an introductory letter and then the reading begins]

To start with, I think it's important to note here that there are some big cards in this reading, which shows that we're drilling into something major about the way that you live your life. The good news is that this is probably exactly the sort of thing that you need right now to shake things up and get out of your current funk, but the bad news is that it will take a lot of work because these are deep-seated, possibly even karmic issues. But that's what we wanted to see in this reading, right? Let it be confirmation, not a surprise. 

Four of the seven cards are very strong women: three major arcana and a queen. The other three cards show one woman (a card I absolutely love) and then non-human or gender-agnostic characters. What that means to me is that even though you mentioned some romantic possibilities with a man, the real work to do here is internal and irrespective of your romantic or even external situations. Whether you start dating this man or not, this shadow will remain. The shadow won't prevent you from staying with someone new, but the shadow also won't go away just because you're dating. That said, the nature of the reading does seem to suggest that you will likely need to clear out some things or some people in your life, so this early relationship may fall prey to that clearing out, even though it's unlikely that he's an important part of a deep-rooted shadow.

I'll go into details for each card below, but in broad terms, what seems to be at the core of this issue—the Two of Swords—is a need you have developed to blind yourself to fully examining your surroundings, possibly even to limit your full potential in order to not upset the status quo you've achieved for yourself, largely because of a concern for other people. From some of what you've told me and what I see here, you've achieved something really special that probably looks good on paper or to outsiders. That aspect of outsiders comes up a few times in vague ways here, and I suspect that it's the case that your desire to not overturn the apple cart comes from a sense of responsibility to others. That's admirable, but shadow work is primarily about you, and this reading in particular asks you to turn inward with a realistic and assessing eye. Still, know that I can tell that you've done a lot of internal work already to get where you are today. That's probably true of anyone asking for a Shadow Work reading, but it's especially called out in the World, which shows the completion of the major arcana and a bit of self-completion/self-perfecting. The World is moving on to new things, much like the Eight of Cups, the card guiding my overall interpretation.


To read the whole thing, download the sample Shadow Work PDF reading here.

The cards pictured here are from the Linestrider Tarot by Siolo Thompson © 2016 Llewellyn Worldwide, 2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN. All rights reserved, used by permission. If you want to learn more about the deck, you can read my interview with the deck or see my synopsis on the Decks Available for Readings page.