“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.”
It's easy to throw a few Tarot cards down and superficially consider the meaning of the individual cards and overall spread, and THEN, simply go about your day without really contemplating, much less integrating any of the energy gifts presented.
I have done it. In fact, I probably do it more often than I would like to admit. But, I have found that I can go deeper with the energies presented in the cards by engaging in inner journeys.
I begin by choosing or creating a spread based on the area of my life that I am hoping to glean some insight. I shuffle and lay out the cards and then proceed to "read" the cards and overall layout. I notice themes and elements that compliment and contrast each other. I look for how the cards are "playing" or "dancing" together.
Once I have "read" the cards for myself, generally by relating the energies of the imagery to its place and theme in the spread*, I will take one card at a time to "journey" with. I typically work with one card per day, so if a spread has 5 cards, I will focus on this spread through inner journeys for a week, more or less.
*I always try to "read" for myself, before I read any book interpretations, if I open the book at all.
The Inner Journey
Every journey begins with a point of departure and the Inner Journey is no different. There are 2 ways to depart however. One is with a destination (of sorts) in mind, what we might call an intention. We might not know what the destination looks like, but we have an idea of what we want to accomplish. This is typically how shamanic journeys are done. The intention is set, and the journeyer sets off to the Upper World or Lower World in search of spirits, animals, and guides that can offer wisdom and healing.
The 2nd way is to begin with an image in mind and let the scenes of the journey develop for themselves, according to a theme. This type is what I like to call DayTime Dreaming, but it is simply another type of inner journey without the shamanic overtones. DayTime Dreaming can be done at any time, as it is a more conscious dreaming that involves the powers of will and choice, but is open to receiving spontaneous and emergent images. It is like a semi-directed improv between the conscious and subconscious, the left brain and the right brain.
Our minds are always flowing and the inner journey is a way to enter into the flow with the benefit of a boat and a paddle.
The inner journey can be done at any time, but I often do these Tarot spread journeys as I am in the twilight energy before sleep. I find that it is a great meditation to keep my mind from uninvited thoughts that can invade our bedtime moments and often inhibit sleep.
I generally work with the spread in the order of the draw, and based on the card an image or scene is predetermined. I enter into this imagery with the energy of the card placement and allow wisdom to come in the development and resolution of this inner landscape.
I will share an abridged version of a card draw and the subsequent journeys now.
Answer the Call Spread
(by Barbara Moore, in her book Tarot Spreads)
- Calling, the Nature of the Call. What is the heart of the matter?
My card: The Star
I am being called to embrace my destiny. The stars only align when I align myself to them.
- Spiritual Response. How am I to respond spiritually (beliefs, practice)?
My card: Strength
Trust in the value of your beliefs because they show their fruits in your experience and actions toward self and others. Show, don't just tell.
- Intellectual Response. How am I to respond intellectually (thinking, learning, communicating)?
My card: Offering
This is a card of letting go, exchange, sacrifice. Let go of limiting beliefs. Put your tendency to overthink and overintellectualize on the altar and receive the blessings of experiencing
- Emotional Response. How am I to respond emotionally (feelings, relationships)?
My card: Great Mother
Nurture yourself (and others) as you embrace your calling. It's scary to follow your heart but the Great Mother holds you and supports you. There is nothing to fear.
- Physical Response. How am I to respond physically (action)?
My card: Shaman
Do the work of the shaman. Even though your work isn't overtly shamanistic (in terminology), it is very much shamanic in practice. But, you must practice. You must do the work.
In "reading" the cards, I have relied on my prior knowledge of each of these tarot card themes as well as the title and imagery of the card. I did not consult the book, although I am not opposed to it for clarification of ideas, only opposed if it is a crutch.
I am being called to follow my star. Since I was little, I have been a seeker, but in my seeking I have been butting up against dogmatic ideas of others. My calling is to both seek my own sovereignty and inner wisdom and also encourage others to embrace their own sovereignty and inner wisdom. My heroine's journey is to bring back the treasures of my search and share them with those who are kindred in spirit. I needn't worry about sharing with those who are not aligned.
I notice the complimentary themes between cards 2 and 4 (allowing the positive emotional support of something greater to give me the spiritual strength to pursue my calling) and 3 and 5 (practice in place of pure intellectualizing, as I have had the tendency to do much study and less practice in my life).
With each journey, I find a quiet, comfortable place to recline where I won't be disturbed. I close my eyes and relax with some deep breaths, and then state my intention to invite the imagery in. (See also THIS PAGE for the 5 stages of DayTime Dreaming and an example to visit the House of Law) I use my inner senses to ground me and allow the imagery to expand.
The Star: my calling. Before I journey, I feast my eyes on the imagery of this card. There is much going on. A large star (a clarion call) among other stars, partially hidden by the trees. A naked young woman with horns (or is it just a crescent moon?), bathing alone in a natural pool under the dark of night. There are dragonflies flitting about, a fish in the water, and a bird on a branch. Small waterfalls dribble down the tree roots, hinting at a larger body of water above.
Intention: Take me to a timely place where I can experience the Star of my Calling.
Almost instantly, I am in the water with this Star Goddess. I feel the energy of the waterfalls flowing into the pool; this is a dynamic place, not static. The water is cool and I hear the sounds of the night. The Star Goddess teaches me to see (scry) on the surface of the water. She also teaches me to feel the deeper energies with my body. Even though I too am naked, it is not shameful but empowering. I feel connected to the water and to the earth, to all of nature. She points to the star, and tells me that while I anchor into the pool, the earth, as I go deeper, my focus is also to be on the star. I might hear scary or dissenting voices, but fear can never guide me. My guide is the light of the star, the light of my calling. I thank her and all the energies and complete the Inner Journey.
Expanded vision - I am reminded to ground myself in my own truths while also pursuing what is calling to me. Rumi says that what I am seeking is seeking me. Do I dare hide?
Strength: Spiritual Response. This card shows a young woman, presumably dressed in animal skins and leafy vines. While she is accompanied by many wild animals, she herself has the wings of a great bird, an eagle perhaps. She stands with a budding staff, feet firmly planted on the earth, in her own power, unafraid and supported.
Intention: Take me to a timely place where I can learn of Spiritual Strength to support my calling. I see myself crouched over a humble campfire, a simple pole-tent made of skins behind me. I smell wood burning and I see that I am cooking over the fire, and there are animals at the perimeter. I hear their hoots and purrs, and grunts and soft growls. Some approach to eat from my hand. Others are content to have me toss some nourishment their way. Others still maintain more distance. None are threatened nor threatening. We know that we rely on each other for life. There is a message of strength in service here. My calling is to serve, not to save. I like that. I thank the image, the animals, the Strength and I complete the inner journey.
Expanded vision - I can respond to my calling spiritually with the strength of service, my own to others, and theirs to me. Not everyone will come close, and that is ok.
Offering: Intellectual Response. This card shows a man crouched next to a budding young sapling, and he is pouring water onto the roots. There are feathers hanging from this small tree, like Tibetan prayer flags. There is an angel or nature (green) guardian watching, as a bird sits on a fern frond, and the water channels outward from the tree into what looks like a forest of leafless trees.
Intention: Take me to a timely place where I can learn how Offering is an intellectual response to my calling. Closing my eyes, I am in the forest. I approach the man at the small tree and I inquire about his focus on this tree. He shares with me a vision of himself out for a walk, entering into the forest with only his water bottle and feeling overwhelmed at all the trees that looked like they were undernourished and dying. He is blessed with the appearance of the nature guardian who brings him to a tiny plant barely breaching the surface of the earth. You cannot save all these trees, she says, but you can serve this one. Share of your water and your time, and every time you see a bird feather, tie it to one of the branches as a reminder that you are not alone in this endeavor. Also, know, that although you cannot see it, your gift overflows and is dispersed elsewhere. Trust.
Expanded vision - Intellectually, I can know that following my calling is about serving. I am seeing the pattern of service here. I can know, in my head and in my heart, that my offering does not go unnoticed or unappreciated. The tree will grow and the fruit will come.
Great Mother: Emotional Response. This card is so full of energy, again a woman accompanied by animals, a bear, a hare, and an owl. Strength, creation, wisdom. She is holding a baby to her breast, offering the sustenance that she is meant to provide. Waters of life are flowing forth from where she has given birth and poppies are blooming in those waters. (along with fish, an apple, wheat, and birds.) The earth is green behind her, the hill and mountain forming a belly and breasts.
Intention: Take me to a timely place where I can experience what nurturing and support of my calling feels like. As I close my eyes and breathe deeply, I find that I am walking across the countryside. I am looking for that place I have heard of only in legends or dreams. It is the place of the Mother's Mounds. I know that only when I see it, will I have arrived. I am pregnant and I am carrying a satchel of wheat and apples as an offering. Finally, after many long hours, I come over a ridge and see a rounded hill out in front of me. Just behind this hill are 2 larger pointed peaks. The belly and the breasts. I have arrived. I continue walking toward the hill until I happen upon a pool, surrounded by poppies. This is the place. I remove my clothing and sink my body into the water, feeling the strain in my belly and back easing. Still the contractions come. I grab my satchel from beside my clothes and empty the wheat and apples into the water before me. And I lay my head back, waiting for the baby to emerge.
I hear slight noises and I look up to see that I am being approached by a beautiful mother bear from one side and a large hare from the other. These are my midwives. An owl flies overhead, offering words of wisdom and encouragement. It will be a long night of birthing, that has followed months and months of preparation and growth, but I am not alone. Soon, I will have a baby at my breast as well.
Expanded vision - Responding to my calling emotionally can be intense and sometimes even painful. Sometimes there will be ecstatic pleasure and also ecstatic pain. I feel the emotional ups and downs but I also know that there will come a time when the pain will have been worth it. I am the Great Mother and I am capable of nurturing whatever I bring to life.
Shaman: Physical Response. The card shows a man, bald and bearded, snake tattoos on his arms, clothed in a beautiful tunic. He wears a blindfold and beats a large drum, surrounded by flitting birds, trees, and other foliage. The shamanic drum is used to induce a trance, or hypnotic dream state, so that the Shaman can travel to other dimensions for insight and healing.
Intention: Take me to a timely place where I can put the wisdom of the Shaman into action to support my calling. I close my eyes and I am transported to a place where I can join the shaman. There is a feeling of expectation, that I too, pick up a drum, and do my own work. I am blindfolded (for inner seeing) as someone places a drum and stick in my hands. As I drum I feel my body move in rhythm even though I feel a bit self-conscious and resist. I remember the child's attitude of "You can't see me because my eyes are closed," and decide to embrace it in spite of its irrationality. Perhaps its far more irrational to worry about what others might think of my dancing. As I drum, I recall what I know about the resurgence of shamanic practice, and the apparent focus on experience. While some might go to a shaman for healing and insight, most experiences (travel and workshops) are now geared to a personal experience of one's own power. I feel the power of the drumbeat in my heart, mind, and soul. As the drums die down, the shaman removes his blindfold, and I remove mine. He looks at me with knowing eyes, and acknowledges that I also know. I thank the shaman and the unseen helpers and conclude the inner journey.
Expanded vision - I know that I need to do more of my own inner work and curb the tendency to be in my head and in books. I need to integrate and synthesize the wisdom from other sources and make it my own, with my own authority and sovereignty. That is how my calling becomes my own, and not simply a regurgitation of someone else's calling.
Overall, I feel like I have a better handle on my calling. Of course, I can re-enter any of these inner journeys for more insight and development or combine them in an inner council meeting! The possibilities are endless.
As you can see, the Inner Journey provided me with an almost visceral experience that expanded my understanding of the card spread, collectively and individually. Over the course of a week, I have had the opportunity to integrate these energies and then harmonize those energies with how I meet the world.
These Inner Journeys can be done with Tarot and Oracle spreads of all kinds, or with individual cards. In fact, there are endless ways to use the imagination in this way to experience relaxation, illumination, and transformation.
Find out more by booking your complimentary Soul to Soul conversation. I'd love to help you get started on your own imagery-based spiritual practice.
What did you think of the process above? It might seem like a lot, but honestly it only took minutes a day to glean more information and inspiration toward my own calling. I'd love to hear your questions and comments.