Magical tools for magical writing


While I use the tarot for a number of reasons, some personal and some professional, what I want to write about today is using the tarot to write.


The tarot is essentially a deck of playing cards that have been given symbols and meanings that can be used for divination. There are twenty-two major arcana cards (otherwise known as trump cards) that are considered to have hold more profound, spiritually oriented, karmic, and unconscious meanings. There are fifty-six minor arcana cards that are divided into four suits; pentacles/earth, swords/air, cups/water and, wands/fire. Each suit has ten numbered cards and four court cards. The minor arcana are linked to how the more esoteric messages of the major arcana may be manifest in the material world. For example while the major arcana card ‘The Star’ speaks about hope and healing, the nine of swords indicates the querent is probably in a time where they are feeling overwhelmed and caught up in their own head leading to sleep problems even nightmares. As you can see, the latter has a much more concrete, concise, and direct meaning.


Ms Tchoron by Nadia Turner


There is no consensus on when and where the tarot first came from. There are numerous tarot decks. The most famous and well-known deck is probably the Rider-Waite deck. There are also numerous other divinatory card systems including but not limited to oracle decks, lenormand, and Romany just to name a few.


I often view tarot through a Jungian perspective but particularly when writing. Jung based a lot of his work around the theory of archetypes. Jung believed there was a collective unconscious – “part of the psyche served as a form of psychological inheritance. It contains all of the knowledge and experiences we share as a species.” The collective unconscious used archetypes as one way of understanding the world. So, in much the same way as a child is born with an innate disposition to rapidly develop a fear of spiders (even before the child necessarily has an understanding of what a spider is), Jung believed that humans were born with access to a collective unconscious that holds a system for understanding the world through archetypes. An example of an archetype might be ‘Mother Earth’, ‘The Hero’, or ‘The Trickster’. There can even be archetypal events such as birth and death. All of these archetypes are found within the tarot. Because archetypes are universal they are found throughout history and across cultures.


I also use tarot cards in what some people term a ‘Shamanic’ way. That is, getting lost in whatever stands out on a card at any particular one time e.g., the colour yellow, the red flowers, the old man etc., and then meditating on that and just seeing where my mind takes me.


Eight of cups, Patricia Ariel


When I have writer’s block I often pull a tarot card or do a tarot spread focused on my writing problem. Using the systems above I use the cards to provide a different perspective on my writing and different ways I could go. I often find this works best when I feel the most resistance to a card. For example, I may be writing about my dark and dangerous hero when I pull the Empress card (motherly figure). I might storm around not wanting to view my handsome vampire from this perspective – who wants a soft, gentle, mothering vampire, right?! But what if I looked at how his maker (read: mother) might have influenced him in this situation? What would happen if a softer emotion emerged now? Or, what is going to nourish him at this point in the plot? The Empress can also be about fertility so I can ask myself, what seeds am I planting in this scene or, have I planted to get to this scene? What has come to fruition in this scene or, what can come to fruition? In short, tarot offers me the opportunity to stand back from my plot and my characters and view them from different perspectives. Through asking questions that wouldn’t immediately come to mind I feel like I can flesh out my characters more.


Often I get the feeling my unconscious knew the answer to my writer’s block all along. The actual ‘block’ was that I hadn’t found a way of communicating with my unconscious hence, the importance of magical tools for my creative process. Through allowing my mind to fall into the colour red or, the image of a hawthorn bush I may find the answer to my question or, the medicine to my writers block.


As this blog is still in it’s infancy I am going to close with the tarot card ‘The Fool’. Although he is called the fool many readers consider him the wisest person in the deck. He is just beginning of his journey, he carries very little baggage, and he knows he knows nothing. He is innocent and trusting. He has a loyal animal at his side and is ready for adventure. He has the courage and curiosity to step out into the world and the unknown. He will ask whatever questions need to be asked. Often in the tarot the fool is depicted as stepping off a cliff. While some might see this as foolish… that judgment itself is foolish. It is a preconceived belief he will surely fall and not fly. The fool is willing to risk it all in a quest to become his authentic self.


As with many journeys – the journey of the tarot is circular. Just as you finish one journey or, master one lesson there is always a new adventure just around the corner. How brilliant is that? To travel onwards with a thirst for life beyond that of any other card in the deck knowing all roads lead back to the same place – the beginning… the essential, raw, courageous self with a thirst for new adventures through new eyes. I don’t think it becomes much wiser than that, especially as a writer.


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