The Tarot Activity Book by Andy Matzner was first published in 2013 but has recently resurfaced in a surge of popularity. I speculate that it might be attributed to the recent rise in interest for the intersection of tarot and psychology and use of tarot in life coaching. That particular facet of tarot practice is on trend right now, so perhaps that’s why there’s this collective revisit of Matzner’s treasure trove of a book.
Matzner is a psychotherapist, licensed clinical social worker, life coach, adjunct professor, and published author. His other works include Male Bodies, Women’s Souls: Personal Narratives of Thailand’s Transgendered Youth and The Buddha Diet: A Guide for Creating a Positive Relationship with Food and Eating. You can read Matzner’s full biography and background here.
By the way, I also came across the podcast interview of Matzner on psychology, self-care, and the tarot. The theme of the podcast is centered on the intersection of tarot and psychology. You can listen to it here, on The Hermit’s Lamp podcast.
The Tarot Activity Book is an indispensable resource to be included on any tarot enthusiast’s bookshelf and I maintain this stance for several reasons. The prompts in the book help you to build relationships, not just a relationship with yourself, relationship with others if you work through the exercises collaboratively in a group setting, but also your relationship with any particular tarot deck.
One of my favorite uses for this book is to follow a handful of the exercises with a newly acquired tarot (or even oracle) deck that I want to connect with better. Although maybe not shadow work per se, many of these prompts are incredible for personal reflection and rumination, so they’re great to incorporate into your private journaling, especially if you’re trying to wrap your head space around a particular situation.
I want to show you a sampling of the exercises in this book, so you can see why I’m enthusiastic about it as a companion resource for anyone into the tarot (or oracle cards– can’t stress enough– you can absolutely follow these exercises with an oracle deck). Let’s start with the above prompt: Follow the Leader. There are two ways you can approach this prompt.
You can approach it as divination, where each question is a card position in a spread. Present that first bullet point question to your tarot deck, shuffle, and pull a card. See what divinatory coaching your trusty tarot deck provides you with. Then present the second question, shuffle, and pull a card, and so on. Log your impressions in your tarot journal.
The above photograph is essentially a snapshot of a tarot reading I did for myself using those four questions as four card positions in a spread, and I’d draw a card for each inquiry at random, with the intention of divinatory coaching. This is my tarot deck counseling me on the answers to those questions.
Alternatively, you can sift through the 78 cards, looking at each card image to see which card in the deck connects with you immediately as your own answer to the question presented. Take the first bullet point, for instance: Which card will lead you to happiness? Go through each card in the deck, studying the imagery and symbolism, and identify the one card in the deck that best represents what you visualize as your path to happiness. Do this for the four questions.
The above photograph is a snapshot of me pulling the cards out intentionally from the deck, so me answering the questions on my own, but providing those answers in the form of tarot cards. This alternative approach is in fact the recommended approach per Matzner. I also find it to be a great way to connect with a new deck and build a close relationship with your cards.
If you’re a tarot deck aficionado who is always acquiring new decks, then I highly recommend that you get this book. It’s an easy, go-to, effortless way to connect with your new decks.
Let’s take a look at another sample exercise.
The above Pain Management prompt is categorized under the section “Conversation Starters” in the book. With tarot counseling, this would be a great prompt to use during a client session, though perhaps giving the client an easy-to-read oracle deck with captions might be better, since not every client is going to feel comfortable identifying cards out of a tarot deck.
To illustrate, I’m using an oracle deck, noted above. For myself, I chose Bloodstone and the card represents both my pain and my relief. Physical health complications are my main point of stress these days and detoxifying represents the relief.
Here’s a fun one, especially with the tarot deck, though below I’ll be demonstrating with an oracle deck. You’re hosting a party. Who, in the tarot deck, would you invite to your party?
I imagined throwing a dinner party at my house. My dining room table can sit about ten comfortably, so that’s eight guests plus Hubby and me. Who would those guests be? Well, from the Sacred Awakening oracle deck, it’d be Soul Glimpse, Authenticity, Magical Mystery, Doubts, Resistance, Truth, Starchild, and Wounded Warrior. Talk about a night of interesting conversations.
The prompts get progressively more intense. You learn how to curate talismans from the tarot for manifestation and personal growth. You use the tarot to reflect on spirituality and religion. Along the way you’ll come across beautiful, poignant quotes from Proust, Buddha, Rumi, Robert Frost, Lao Tzu, and so many more.
Here you are starting to see just what a deep-dive this book is when it comes to inner reflection and using your tarot cards for personal growth and development. We began with rather fun, thought-provoking prompts. Now we get to using tarot to help you make sense of your personal spirituality, how you connect to a sense of a higher power, and even help you process how you feel about the meaning of life.
There are also art projects and assignments. One prompt asks you to create ten different versions of the same tarot card. That’s great art therapy but it also compels you to think about the same card through at least ten different perspectives. There are plenty of exercises in here for helping you remove artist’s block and writer’s block, which I’m going to bookmark and use in future times.
The book also contains many craft activities with tarot cards, such as cutting up cards to create a collage, or tarot display art inside a mason jar. Personally, I’m not crafty and do not find cutting and gluing magazine pages together into a vision board to be fulfilling or self-healing. If I’m not going to do that with magazine pages, then I am most certainly not going to do it with a deck of tarot cards. Many of the activities involve destroying tarot cards (like placing a tarot card in a jar filled with oil, or gluing cards together, or gluing tarot cards to a box), which is–and this is totally subjective–not something I feel comfortable doing. That said, if arts and crafts with a tarot deck is your thing, then there is no better book for it than this one. Loads of therapeutic tarot art projects to work on.
I hope I’ve managed to whet your appetite for this book. I’ll leave you with a bit of a cliffhanger. The above photograph shows you a glimpse of perhaps the most provocative and interesting exercise in the book. It is exactly what it says it is: one of the most “powerful, ritualistic” activities you can do with tarot cards.
The objective: to gain clarity about an issue. You can use this prompt over and over as a form of personal self-help any time you seek clarity on an issue and would like to tap into your own intuitive-creativity with the tarot.
I won’t show you the actual activity. You’ll have to get the book to read it. And I promise you it’s not like those times back in the 90s when you bought an entire music album for $15 just to listen to one track and the rest of it is crap, oh no. You’re going to get the professional acuity, experience, and wisdom of a psychotherapist, psychological counselor, and life coach with this book in hand and a deck of cards.
The Tarot Activity Book is a hands-on user manual for working with your tarot or oracle deck in ways that support self-healing. I envision a gathering of tarot enthusiasts and the hosting of a tarot party. The host reads an exercise from Matzner’s book and the group takes out their tarot deck of choice to do the exercise, then share their insights and reflections with the group. Tea and lemon meringue cookies is served. In fact, many of these tarot activities would be ideal team-building exercises in a corporate setting. I absolutely see an HR director with a creative streak in her thumbing through this book, looking for something the employees of a company can do together on a Friday afternoon. I’m now kind of wondering why tarot conferences don’t pull from Matzner’s book to curate fun tarot activities.
Buy the Book: Amazon.com
FTC Disclosure: In accordance with Title 16 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Part 255, “Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” I received The Tarot Activity Book from the author for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion of the book.