Almost every human being will at some point or another experience what has been termed a ‘Dark Night of the Soul.’ The term ‘Dark Night of the Soul‘ is the title of a poem by the Christian mystic St John of the Cross, written circa 1578. The Dark Night of the Soul is the spiritual, existential crisis we must go through to surrender all to the Divine. It is an initiatory process of ego mortification and reunion with God. In the Tarot, we catch glimpses of this process in many of the cards, both in the Minor and Major arcana. Below are the top 10 Tarot cards that show you are going through your own Dark Night of the Soul.
These cards are not presented in a particular order. The Dark Night of the Soul is not a linear journey, nor is it a journey with a definite ending until we depart our earthly existence. When two of the Major Arcana cards from this list show up together, it could indicate that you are in or moving into a Dark Night of the Soul. When a combination of a Major and any two of the Minors show up, or all three Minors from this list show up in a reading, you also need to consider the possibility.
The Tower can represent an event that takes away the safety blanket of routine or even some of our basic needs. It could be some cataclysmic event that becomes the catalyst for spiritual growth. The journey within often starts with such an event. At the end of our lives, we can hopefully look back at events like that with deep gratitude, even though they were extremely painful at the time.
The Moon represents the subconscious mind. In the Dark Night of the Soul, when deep calls unto deep, what we have repressed will surface. This means that we must face our demons and our deepest, darkest fears. The Moon also represents an awakening of our psychic powers. This can be absolutely terrifying if we are ignorant and in denial about our true nature. Nobody escapes this part of the spiritual journey but many attempt spiritual bypass.
The Devil plays an important role in the Dark Night of the Soul. If we never believed in an evil force or entity before this journey within began, it now becomes easy to see that the devil is no mere fairytale or piece of fiction. There is a force within us that resists the pull toward God.
This force is sneaky and will do all it takes to distract us with temptations and addictions. It does everything it can to stay in control of the soul and has legions of entities (demons) at its behest. In the Bible, we can see that not long after the Holy Spirit descended over Christ, he was called out into the desert for a 40-day fast.
When we fast, we always encounter the devil in one form or another, just like Jesus did. Fasting is a tool in our tool kit when we go through the Dark Night of the soul in awareness.
Death is perhaps the most obvious choice to signify the Dark Night of the Soul since the process is one of ego mortification. However, it is important to be mindful of the fact that we cannot obliterate the ego completely without physically dying. We may think that we have but even thinking about it is a sign of attachment to an outcome. All forms of attachment come from the ego. The death that we die during the Dark Night of the Soul becomes a lifelong process of surrender.
The Hanged Man
The Hanged Man is that reminder to keep surrendering and allowing the Divine to flood our mind with a new perspective, free from ego attachment. This is how we are able to comprehend the divine gifts of forgiveness and compassion. Because ego resists both of these gifts, it is only through surrender to the grace of God that we can embrace them.
The Hanged Man also represents that feeling of being in limbo that accompanies the Dark Night of the Soul. There is nothing we can do except breathe and keep surrendering. It may not feel like it at the time but it’s such a good place to be, away from the constant gratification of doing and being rewarded for doing.
Judgement signifies a spiritual wake-up call. If it comes together with the Tower, you can almost guarantee that a Dark Night of the Soul will follow. Judgement represents the fire that burns away everything that prevents us from aligning fully with the will of the Divine. However, it never takes away our freedom to choose. Hence, when Judgement shows up we must choose… and if we make the wrong choice we must experience what it feels like to burn.
8 of Cups
Before we hear the trumpet blast of the Angel of Judgement, we often begin to feel stirrings of ‘divine discontent.’ The kinds of things that normally bring us pleasure cease to gratify. A feeling of emptiness makes us realise it’s time to move on, even if we are not quite sure of where to yet.
The 8 of Cups is a sign that it is time to move forward on our spiritual journey through life. If we have that feeling that it’s time to move forward but no idea where we are heading, we could very well be heading into a Dark Night of the Soul.
10 of Swords
The 10 of Swords depicts what it feels like when you’re mental energy is in overdrive. You’re running around in circles in your mind and can’t see a way out. It’s comforting to know that this is a normal state of mind during the Dark Night of the Soul. It happens so that you can accept the gift of grace and become liberated from identifying with your mind. Prayer, reading ancient wisdom literature, daily meditation, and contemplation are the cure. So yes, we still have to use our minds to conquer our minds – that’s the beautiful paradox of this Gemini energy card.
3 of Swords
The 3 of Swords often signifies disappointment in love. Break-up, divorce, or the loss of a loved one. All of these can act as catalysts for the Dark Night of the Soul. All human love relationships are fingers pointing to the love between the psyche (soul) and Spirit (the Divine).
In the end, ‘deep calls unto deep,’ because of love – a love so deep that we cannot begin to comprehend it with our conscious awareness. The love of God is the only love that can fully heal the human heart and open it wide to compassion.
The High Priestess
The High Priestess represents the psyche and the divine feminine. She is both the redeemed and the redeemer when we go through the Dark Night of the Soul. Without her innate wisdom, we wouldn’t be able to navigate the darkness of this inner journey. Learning to trust her whispers over the constant chatter of the soul is what enables us to open up to the love and grace of God. She represents our will to surrender and reunite with God. She is the ‘deep’ that the Deep seeks.
What the Dark Night of the Soul Feels Like
The Dark Night of the Soul is a silent process. It is very difficult to put words on it. Various spiritual teachers through the ages testify to a feeling of being cut off from Spirit. Even the spiritual discipline that used to bring comfort ceases to do so. It’s a process of peeling away layers of false identity and ego attachment. It’s unique to each individual.
What It’s Like on the Other Side of the Dark Night of the Soul
In the Tarot, we need to look no further than the cards that follow Death, The Moon and Judgement to get a glimpse of the kinds of states of heightened awareness that typically follow a Dark Night of the Soul.
After Death, we find Temperance, an increase in visionary ability, and a better understanding of how to be in harmony with the world. After The Moon, we have The Sun, where we truly discover our ability to radiate our essence into the world and to give without expecting anything in return. Finally, after Judgement, we are liberated from the duality of all judgment and transcend to fully embody the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.