Storytelling with the Tarot

Thoth EmpressOn 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.

Thoth Queen of CupsWe 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.

‘Demystifying the Tarot’ workshop in Erin

On Wednesday, May 25th, from 6:30 – 8:30, I will be leading a 2-hour workshop entitled ‘Demystifying the Tarot’ at Treehaven Natural Foods in downtown Erin. This introductory workshop will provide attendees with a brief overview of the ‘histories’ of the Tarot, its structure, its meanings and its uses.  Its intent is to shed a little light on this ‘mysterious’ little deck. The cost of the workshop is $15 which also includes light refreshments. The cost for the workshop is payable in advance at Treehaven or at the door. Space is limited so please R.S.V.P. at whitesagetarot@gmail.com,  by calling me at 519-217-7243 or by contacting Treehaven at 519-833-9006.

I will also be available for in-person Tarot consultations on Saturday, May 28th and Saturday, June 25th at Treehaven Natural Foods from 12:00 – 6:00 p.m.  To book your consultation in advance, please use the same contact information stated above.

Finding a voice and clearing a block

It’s not that the desire to write hasn’t been there. I’ve sat down several times at my computer but no concrete idea has come to fruition. And time has seemed to be at a premium lately. I do have a list, divided by topic, of Tarot writing ideas thumb-tacked above my work space. I placed the list there to remind me of the major topics I’ve committed myself to writing about. It is also there to help spark new ideas. But ideas seem to be fleeting.

I was quite focused this morning. The house was quiet. I made myself a cup of coffee.  I clicked on the fireplace (clearly not as powerful as putting a log on and starting a fire but it’s all I have to work with). I sat on the floor of our pagan room for several moments and cleared my mind.  I went back to the familiar and grabbed my RWS deck, its images familiar to me for over 25 years.  The questions were struggling to form but two main ideas were clearly surfacing: the idea of a lost writer’s voice and the concept of writer’s block. So I went with the following:

Where should I focus my writing voice?

What first step should I take towards clearing my block?

And drew two cards.                                                             

The card related to the first question was The Moon (FYI: capitals for the card; lower case for the celestial body). Now those who know me ‘esoterically’ know I am drawn to the moon. Most rooms in our house have a sun/moon motif. I find the moon in the sky mysterious. I always take few moments to soak in a full moon. My children know anything with a moon on it is always a safe gift for Dad.  

I also find myself equally drawn to The Moon.  Of all the major cards in the deck, The Moon is the one I approach with equal parts apprehension and fascination. It’s symbolism seems a little more hidden to me than most. I like to explore it but, at times, am also frustrated by its secretive nature.

The second card was the Eight of Pentacles, reversed. It’s appearance brought the following conversation to mind:

 “Hi Dr. Tarot. I’m a little worried. I haven’t been able to post a blog for almost two months. I think I have writer’s block.  How do I clear it?”

“Hmmm. Let me see what we have here. Let me think for a moment… Indeed, Peter, you have writer’s block.”

“That was helpful. Thanks, doctor.”

“Don’t mention it.”

At first, the presence of the eight of pentacles reversed seem to only identify the problem as opposed to help work towards a solution. Further reflection (the Moon) brought further insight.

The diagnosis then:  🙂

RWS - XVIII The Moon
RWS - XVIII The Moon

Where should I focus my writing voice? The Moon.  A card of reflection and light. But not a primary light source. The Moon reflects insight and mystery back at us. It is the world’s largest mirror. It helps us as an alternate light source, when our main source of enlightenment is temporarily unavailable. It helps us reflect.  The Moon brought me back the original intent of my blog when I started it almost two years ago. A draft post entitled “The First Musing” never made it ‘to print’ but contains the following quote: “A Magician’s Musings is a place where the Tarot and everyday life come together. As my blog grows, you will find everything from reflections on cards to ‘musings’ on how and where the Tarot creeps in to our daily lives.”  And that’s where my voice should be. In the nooks, crannies and mysteries of everyday life where both the moonlight and the Tarot hide.

RWS - Eight of Pentacles reversed
RWS - Eight of Pentacles reversed

How do I go about clearing my block? Eight of Pentacles, reversed. Since this card reversed could symbolize an obstacle towards rewarding work, this is the card that helps affirm the nature of the problem. I need to recognize it. Name it. I have writer’s block.

I also need to recognize that, in my work with the Tarot, my writing is something I cherish. It is ‘fulfilling work’. The presence of this card reminds me that my block is something I created. And, as my daughter reminded me in a previous post, I can turn the card over and release the block. If I value the act of writing (and I do, I do!!!) then I must both make and take the time to do it. I have a laptop and a desktop at home and no less then than four portables means of recording my writing while mobile. I can find the time to do other less meaningful tasks. There are no excuses, even if I like making them.  Looks like our next meeting will be sooner rather than later ;).

What I can see in tea

Tea Leaf reading
Tea Leaf reading

On Wednesday, July 21st, 2010, I attended a divination workshop at The Reiki Centre in Alliston, Ontario. It was led by Angel Lanthier, a local Raising Energy practitioner. She led an engaging workshop on different forms of divination. But more importantly, she gave us an opportunity to explore with Tarot cards, pendulums and tea leaves. Although I always enjoy Tarot activities regardless of the audience they’re geared towards, I really found the opportunity to play with tea leaf reading fascinating. As Angel explained it (and I am paraphrasing here), tea leaf reading explores the symbols that show up at the bottom of a tea cup after it has been drunk. It is helpful  to have the ‘imbiber’ focus with intent on a pressing question or issue.

And I find this to be the key.  Symbolism combined with intentional focus is also the key to working successfully with the Tarot.  I find time and again that symbols, wherever they may be, emerge when and where we need them. The images in the remnants of tea are not meaningful by themselves but, when they draw on the symbolic knowledge locked away in our subconscious, they can be quite powerful.  Symbols draw on our existing knowledge, be it individual or collective. Why did that bird at the bottom of a tea cup, in a cloud just over the horizon, in the folds and crevises of a crumpled piece of paper or in the background of the Rider-Waite-Smith Star card jump out at you today yet you missed it yesterday? Did you see it as a dove? Or perhaps a sparrow, an eagle, a pigeon or a vulture? Each of these birds brings significantly different associations to mind. Or why not just a meaningless smudge of tea at the bottom of a cup, wisps of water vapour against a clear blue backdrop or an insignificant image on the background of a printed card?

Food for thought: In what symbols can you find meaning today? When you see one, whether it’s the man who crossed your path who bears a striking resemblance to your late father, the way the dust bunnies you’re about to sweep up look a lot like an olive tree or the shape that colourful spilt liquid forms at the bottom of the Tarot card you just drew , take three breaths and ask yourself, ‘How can what I truly see in this moment be of assistance today? What is it that I need to know from what I’m seeing right now?’

I am hosting a Free Tarot Talk on Thursday, August 19th, from 7:00 – 8:30. It will be an open discussion. I will share some activities I learned at the Readers’ Studio 2010, talk briefly about my upcoming article but mostly give people a chance to play (so, as always, bring your deck if you have one) and ask/answer questions. Please RSVP at whitesagetarot@gmail.com or at 519-217-7243 if you have any questions or are planning on attending. Tea, coffee and snacks are provided. Although not required, a small donation to help cover the costs of refreshments is always appreciated.

World Tarot Day – May 25th

I am now in Sydney, Australia and available for in-person consultations from Tuesday, May 25th until Friday, June 4th, 2010. Contact me at whitesagetarot@gmail.com for  more information.

As I wrote this post on the morning of Monday, May 24th (and realize it is still Sunday, the 23rd at home), I did so in honour of World Tarot Day. I was also visited by a cockatoo as I woke to greet the day. That doesn’t happen in Canada:) 

World Tarot Day is on May 25th and was created almost 10 years ago, in a means of promoting the Tarot and its uses worldwide. As I do most m0rnings, I drew a card. The two decks I brought with me were the DruidCraft deck and the RWS commemorative Pamela Coleman Smith deck. This morning, I used the former (since I think I’ll save the latter for my upcoming client work). I didn’t ask a particular question but hoped that the one-card draw would bring forth a question or two.

Today’s draw was the six of pentacles. It shows an older man, staff in hand, with alms for the outstretched hands below. His surroundings are both vibrant, as in the image of a majestic green tree, and sparse, as in the image of the hibernating branch.

The questions this brings to mind are: What can the Tarot offer in times of abundance and vibrancy? What can the Tarot offer up in times of scarcity and hibernation? How can the Tarot demonstrate it generosity? How can we help share it with others?

If your curious, google World Tarot Day. You’re bound to find all sorts of interesting articles, blogs and musings.