On Wednesday, May 25th, to celebrate World Tarot Day, I led a workshop entitled ‘Demystifying the Tarot’ at a natural food store in Erin called Treehaven. The small turnout caused a ‘rethink’ of the structure of this workshop. So, three Tarot peeps… me, a woman who had been part of our bi-monthly Tarot study group and another who I had met through the Guelph Occult Meetup group proceeded to spend 2 hours just talking Tarot. I must say, despite my initial disappointment at the turn out, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
We began by simply talking, about our favourite decks, cards we see often in our Tarot work, our past experience with the Tarot and how we work with it. The three of us asked each other questions. We moved to an unstructured comparative look at cards from different decks, looking at the differing symbols and meanings in front of us.
We then moved to a storytelling activity. I can’t give direct credit as to where I got the idea from but I won’t claim it as my own. I know Rachel Pollack does a significant amount of story-based work in the Tarot. Maybe I read it in one of her works. I was also inspired by the teacher-librarian at my school who had shared a storytelling deck with me that she was using in one of our classrooms. Regardless, I’m sure it’s an adaptation of someone else’s idea.
To prepare for this workshop, I had previously divided the decks I brought into 3 sections: the pips, the courts and the majors. I suggested we use these 3 piles to tell a story. We selected the Thoth deck and randomly drew our cast of characters from the courts, our theme from the majors and began developing a plot with the pips. It was a great process. At first, we laughed a little at a suggestion that the story might become risqué. We then began the process. The deck shared our sense of humour and offered up the Empress, home of abundance, fertility, and sensuality, as our theme.
We continued the exercise by drawing the Queen of Cups as our protagonist (a supportive, but at times overemotional and menopausal mother), the Queen of Swords as a secondary character (her sharp-tongued adult daughter – although, upon reflection, maybe her equally sharp-tongued neighbour would have better suited the Queen but, for our purposes, the daughter worked fine) and then began constructing our story. Our starting plot points were the 6 of disks (success) and the 2 of swords (peace). I believe, had our time not expired, we would have created quite the story; we appeared to be in fine form 🙂
Try the activity. Divide your deck into three sections (pips, courts, majors). Shuffle them well. Begin by drawing a card from each. Remember that your major card will remain the overarching theme of your story. Draw just one. You drew ‘The Fool’? Your story could develop into an adventure story. ‘The Chariot’? A fast-paced story a la ‘Fast and the Furious’. ‘The Moon’? Could be a little twisted and scary, don’t you think?
You might find that, once you’ve drawn your characters, beginning your story with ‘Once upon a time, there was a …’ and then proceed to describe the character using your knowledge of the Tarot or the image presented on the card. Then make them go somewhere or do something by drawing cards from the pips. The 6 of swords might take them on a journey over water, the ace of wands might be the sign of a new song idea or the 5 of pentacles might indicate a struggle to make ends meet.
The three of us decided that at some point, we would take this concept further. If you decide to as well, please feel free to post about here.
When my grandies ask to learn the tarot, I let them pick a card and tell me its story. Thi was how I learned over 60 years ago, but I love the idea of using a sequence. How do you introduce the court cards?
First of all, thank you for sharing your experience. I wish I had used the Tarot with my own children to tell them story. It might have eased the burden on my imagination 🙂
I might just suggest it to my daughter, who currently places many of her creative writing pieces on her blog. She may find it useful.
As far as introducing the courts into the story, I draw them first. As important as the theme, plot or setting of a story are, it requires characters. To describe the characteristics of the courts, for simplicity’s sake, I begin with an elemental link that kind of borrows Susan Miller’s planetary actors analogy. I draw a card and then, regardless of the naming system for the courts, I give the first level (page, child, princess, etc…) a child-like quality, the second a youth-like quality, the third a mother-like quality and the fourth a father-like quality. To recognize the suit of the card, I would ‘wrap’ the actor in their ‘elemental robe’.
An example might help explain it better.
If I drew the Page of Cups as the main character of the story, I would first look at general ‘child-like’ qualities: young and immature, not yet independent, etc… I would then ‘wrap’ the actor in the water-like robe of cups. The character may then begin to take on the characteristics of an emotionally immature child whose prone to temper tantrums or she/he may provide love to those around them in an unconditional way. He/She may have a naive amount of trust for others or could be in the throws of a puppy love-like relationship. She/He might have soft water-like facial feature… and so on.
As a creative tool, there really are no rules other than having the card present to assist in the creative process.
Thanks for visiting. Hope to see you again.
That makes sense – I might try this next time they come around, extending their knowledge and teaching them to link the cards. Thank you – great idea. Best to you and your lady.