A Journey Tarot Spread

A Journey is featured in the Shadowscapes Tarot Companion Book and was inspired by the 8 of Cups and the Hermit for their themes of journeying, moving on or looking for something that is missing.

This immediately had me thinking about the shamanic practice of soul retrieval, which I’d read about earlier this year. Sandra Ingerman describes soul retrieval the following way:

“It is believed that whenever we suffer an emotional or physical trauma a part of our soul flees the body in order to survive the experience.”

Sandra Ingerman

You can imagine how my mind went into overdrive piecing all this information together.

At just seven years old I was involved in an horrific accident. At the time of impact my frightened little soul got out of there to protect itself and some pieces of it never came back. Along with it went my memory. A whole section of my childhood is missing to me, only brought to life by family photographs and gatherings that recall ‘the good old days’. I cannot trust a single memory of my childhood to be my own. Is it mine or a reconstruction? I do not know. But I do know memory loss continues to plague me. It is perhaps a default now of my brain or my psyche to block memories or bury them so deeply I simply cannot recall them. It works when I think about the painful times in my life but it’s a damn nuisance when it comes to learning anything new.

This made so much sense to me when I read about the fragmented soul. It was describing me, my life – everything. It struck a chord so deeply with me I am making plans to undergo soul retrieval during the course of this year, but until then, all of the things I think I want to do, and what I’ve been planning for the next stage of my life – will all go on hold until I go through a soul retrieval.

Exploring the Soul Through Tarot

I have used the Soul Journey Tarot Spread many times. I love this spread. Where does my soul go when I sleep? What does she do? What does she bring back? Not my missing pieces but certainly messages of hope, messages from elders – comfort, encouragement and direction. it is perhaps the tarot spread that I journal about the most. Fabulous as it is, it’s just not designed to locate and retrieve the missing pieces of our souls.

Just this week I found the Soul Retrieval Spread by Kelly-Ann Maddox and I was delighted. But having spoken to a shamanic practitioner, it would seem that this is not a process you should do for yourself, or even try. And I should point out that Kelly-Ann doesn’t advocate this either. I did think that perhaps Kelly-Ann’s spread might help me with locating those missing pieces, and I think it could be really helpful for a lot of people and I remain one of them… However, having decided to undergo the actual process of soul retrieval by a shaman, it seemed to me that I should await.

So when I saw this spread, A Journey, I knew I would have to try it. It doesn’t specify the type of journey you can or ought to take with this spread; in fact, it leaves it open for the reader to determine the nature of the journey. The spread positions cleverly have a nice balance of specificity and ambiguity.

You could easily use this spread about moving jobs, leaving home, your partner, a club. Anything really that requires leaving, moving or seeking.

But as you might have guessed, my question for this tarot spread was about that all important soul retrieval.

A Journey Tarot Spread Positions

  • 1-3 – What are you leaving behind?
  • 4 – Why are you being called to embark on this journey?
  • 5 – Your guiding Star
  • 6 – A challenge you will face
  • 7 – The destination you are moving toward
A Journey Tarot Spread

So you can see this spread doesn’t interfere with the process of soul retrieval but gives you an outline of the motives, the road ahead and where you are headed and even if it’s right for you.

You may try this spread and then want to progress onto Kelly-Ann’s spread for more specific details about your lost soul fragments, what caused the loss and where the missing pieces are, if you feel able to do so. There’s a lot to think about with this.

For me though, this spread spoke loud and clear and gave me enough confirmation that going through the soul retrieval process with a shamanic practitioner is the right move for me.

The cards that I drew were:

Shamanic journey tarot reading

Not all of my tarot decks have reversed cards in them. Stephanie’s definitions for her cards do not detail reversals and so I’ve always kept this deck upright. However, I think if the journey you are seeking to undertake is a very personal one, it wouldn’t hurt to also read the reversed aspects of the leaving cards. I would recommend Joanna Powell Colbert’s Gaian Tarot for this as Joanna writes as beautifully as Stephanie and they are a good match in this respect. Joanna also calls reversed cards, the shadow side, which is more in keeping with (Jungian) psychology and the self.

This reading is immensely private and I will not be sharing my personal insights into the cards that I drew. You will be able to draw your own conclusions without the finer details.

I will point out though that it is interesting that the reading begins with the Queen of Cups and ends with the King of Cups. The Why card – the Chariot, is also important because to me at least, it is the motivation behind the seeking and Stephanie describes it as if it were written just for me.

To see how you can glean more details from your tarot readings, be sure to apply the card ratio.

Using the Tarot Card Counting Technique

If we lay these seven tarot cards out in a straight line, we can use the tarot card counting technique to garner further information or obtain clarification.

Beginning with the Queen of Cups, count four to the right and we land on the Chariot. Counting twelve (to the right) from the Chariot takes us straight back to the queen and so the counting ends.

Tarot card counting shamanic journey tarot reading

We can apply directional dignities here to see if we can lengthen the count. The Chariot is facing the queen and so if we change direction when we land on it, and count twelve to the left, we land on the King of Cups – the destination. Continuing in the same direction, we count four to the left and land back on the Chariot and so ending the count.

What did this show us? That the key card in this reading is the Chariot. In tarot, the Chariot is associated with zodiac sign Cancer, which is ruled by the Moon. It is not a stretch to suggest that the Why is to retrieve the fragments of my soul from the depths of the Moon’s dark, and murky unknown using the power, energy and tenacity of the Chariot.

This is not a time for the fainthearted and I’m reassured that my Guide is represented by the 9 of Wands. The light of the Hermit’s lamp will be held by a strong and capable shaman.

I talked a little about the Moon card when I explored my sun sign birth cards in Virgo Through the Eyes of Tarot. It now makes lots of sense to me why the Moon card held such intrigue all these years and why in one sense, it was one of the cards I understood the least. There has always been a feeling of emptiness with it and perhaps that is part of its nature, to remain unknown.

Many years ago I took a course on the Thoth Tarot by Emma Sunerton-Burl. In this course she provided each of us with a guided mediation in which we were to journey into a tarot card of our choosing. I chose the Moon card with the specific thought in my mind to see if I could restore my childhood memory, believing it to be buried somewhere that had been inaccessible to me. In this meditation you are guided to a table where you are to find a gift that is unique to you in relation to your chosen tarot card. I found a key and when entering one of the towers in the moon landscape was presented with a wall of safety deposit boxes. I thought this key would open the box where my missing memory was located but upon opening the box I’d chosen, it was empty.

I never found my missing childhood memory, but now I have hope that I may recover it, along with the missing pieces of my fragmented soul. The connection and timing between the trauma, the memory loss and soul loss is unquestionable. It is my hope and belief that the process of soul retrieval will not just help restore what I have lost, but also create Kintsugi from the pieces.


Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn 2010.

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