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.

BIT and the Guelph Occult Society

Recently, I have joined up with a wonderful and eclectic group of people that meet once a month to discuss all things esoteric. Although I thoroughly enjoy all of the various discussions we have, I am very pleased that several of us are Tarot enthusiasts. There was discussion about exploring the Back in Time Tarot method at an upcoming meeting. Since both my son and my partner are celebrating birthday’s today, I have to miss the February meet-up. I thought I would provide my contribution to the discussion by exploring my recent experience with the Guelph Occult Society using Janet Boyer’s BIT.

Discovery of the group: Ace of Fire – Gaian Tarot: Of all the cards in the Gaian Tarot deck, this one expressed the most potential for me. It symbolizes the passion of a new opportunity and the readiness to send one’s energy out into the world. When I discovered this Meetup group, I was initially filled with creative potential, hoping that this group could be the start of something new.

Apprehension of meeting new people: 5 of Wands – RWS: When two or more people meet, there is always the potential for tension and conflict. When one ventures into a new situation, one often wonders: How will it go? Who will I get  along with? Who will I conflict with? What should I share about myself? What should I not? This five makes me think about wandering out into a new world, regardless of the potential for inner or outer conflict. It underlines the ‘you’ll never know until you try’ mentality.

Can I make it fit into my schedule: 10 of Wands – RWS: Let’s face it, the life of a school principal is hectic enough. And, like everybody else, I have family, friends, loved ones, hobbies and passions that are all deserving of my time. Is there a risk that this once-a-month commitment will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back?  

Excited about ‘New’: Child of Water – Gaian Tarot: Despite the apprehension of meeting new people and the worries about a new time commitment, I find myself like the child in this card, ankle-deep by the shore, eyes fixed on safety yet preparing to explore new waters. Like the ebb and flow of the cool tides at my feet, it is exhilarating!

Community of people in celebration: Three of Cups – RWS: There is a celebratory nature to the 3 of Cups that I have difficulty overlooking. Three women raise their glasses in an unknown toast regardless of differences.  Here’s to the potential for new knowledge, new beginnings and new friendships.

Exploring the mysterious side of life – The Moon – RWS: Rachel Pollack states, in her book “Tarot Wisdomthat our society “has moved… from a solar to a lunar consciousness, from an emphasis on rationalism, clarity and masculine forcefulness to intuition, mystery and subtlety.” Based on the description of the intent of this group, I believe this adequately sums up what I’m looking to explore in our get-togethers.

Enjoying sharing my passion about the Tarot: 6 of Fire – Gaian Tarot: Perhaps because it is a little self-indulgent, I saved this one for the end. I am passionate about the Tarot. In the mainstream, this may be considered as ‘dancing to the beat of my own drummer.’  So be it. Like some, I used to hide my passion for the Tarot in a closed room. Now, I will happily discuss and share all things tarot with anyone open to the idea (and to more than a few people who are not) 🙂  There appears to be a large percentage of people, myself included, interested in learning about the Tarot. That makes this place a safe one to sing my song at the top of my lungs.

Have a wonderful meet-up (whether your there in person or spirit) and feel free to use a new experience as your own BIT exercise. And, if you do, please share!

The Big Question

At a Ministry of Education workshop for “Schools in the Middle” earlier this month, I was reminded of the pedagogy of planning based on the “Big Idea”. This is the notion of using overarching concepts such as social justice, fairness, or inclusion or values and traits such as integrity, courage and honesty during lesson planning to add relevance to lessons for students and include lessons of life in the lessons of school. This led me to think about the idea of the “Big Question” and how it could apply to the Tarot.

This concept isn’t new. Rachel Pollack explores it thoroughly in her book, “The Forest of Souls”. She asks several questions including “What is soul?” and “Did the Tarot exist before creation?”  James Ricklef’s book, “Tarot Tells the Tale”, explores the three-card reading by using fictional characters from film, literature and mythology. The characters ask big questions of relevance to their fictional lives. I’m attending a workshop in early March led by James Wells entitled “Tarot Beyond Ourselves” that, and this is my own assumption based on the description of the workshop, may be exploring the idea of the “Big Question”.

I thought about having a bit of fun with the concept. As an amateur musician (who does have one hell of a home studio set-up, mind you), I was drawn the questions musicians often ask in their work. So I thought, what about using the Tarot to answer some of those questions? Why not answer the Beatles “Do You Want to Know a Secret?” or Five for Fighting’s “What Kind of World Do You Want?” with a Tarot reading.

As a self-proclaimed, life-long learner, I also thought this would be a great way to hone my own Tarot skills in my practice. There are tons of timeless questions asked via the music that enriches our lives every day.  As an exercise, I’ll be exploring these every so often. I might even post them from time to time. If you have any musical questions that are you are dying to see answered :), feel free to share.

Spring and the Empress – part 2

First thing Friday morning, I set up my space, grabbed my RWS deck from its place of honour on my Tarot shelf, and prepared myself to complete my “Spring Spread”, which used the theme of renewal so prevalent at the vernal equinox. The layout I created is pictured here and originated in a previous blog entry. I placed card 1 in the centre of the three first cards, card 2 to its right and card three to its left. I turned two cards on the right side of the spread to represent two aspects of my life that require renewal. I balanced the final card above the first three cards, since it signifies the area where I need to balance light and dark.




I looked at the entire spread first and noted that half of the cards were majors and all were upright. Renewal will be a major focus in the near future, will be all-encompassing and have a certain spiritual element to it. Six upright cards could signify that renewal will be unhindered or that the process of renewal will proceed with an uninterrupted flow and may be more of an external process.


Card 1: How will I renew myself? The Hierophant – upright.


The Hierophant in this position signifies a renewal that will focus on structure, doctrine and ritual. It is a reminder that those important daily things that I do to connect with divinity are important and need to become part of my everyday routine. I would state that the strength of this statement is amplified because of the larger proportion of major cards in this six-card spread.


Card 2: How can I bring this sense of renewal to others? 3 of Cups – upright.


I must remind others of the importance of joy and celebration during this special season of awakening.  When we stop and take the time to notice this season of renewal, we are reminded of the importance of this natural cycle that will continue,  with us or without us.  This card signifies to me that I must, to quote Rachel Pollack, instill in others the importance of “sharing the wonder of life.” (78 Degrees of Wisdom)


Card 3: What will I do to celebrate the arrival of the “New Day”? King of Wands – upright.


Fire is movement, initiative and action. It is about that important first step. The king masters this concept with strong will, direction and optimism. My celebration of the arrival of this “New Day” will be a celebration of action, of doing things.


Cards 4 & 5: What aspects of my life require renewal? The Lovers / The King of Cups – upright.


The Lovers is a reminder that my current relationship requires renewal. It is still in its early stages and has that sense of newness and passion that we all feel when in love. It is a spectacular place to be. It makes everything around you seem more vibrant and alive. But maintaining that sense of awe and wonder requires effort and the Lovers in this position sends that message. A previous marriage ended because it had lost its sense of renewal. It had grown stale and felt more like a business partnership than an intimate relationship.  This is not uncommon. I have spoken with many others who have had similar experiences. The Lovers is a reminder to all of us that for two to be truly one, that sense of ‘romantic spring’, of freshness and passion, requires renewal. It is a lesson that I intend to keep close by.

The King of Cups is in control of his emotions. But, when combined with the Lovers and its position in the spread (thanks, James Wells, for re-reminding me of the importance of spread position), it becomes an indication that emotions cannot remain bottled up and that, for love to grow, the Gemini in the Lovers needs to emerge and the lines of communication around how we feel need to remain open.


Card 6: Where will I need to balance light and dark? The Wheel of Fortune – upright.


I found it quite interesting that the Wheel of Fortune showed up in a position that speaks of balance. This card is a reminder to me that life goes on, often in spite of our actions. I need to embrace the balance between those things I can control and those I can’t.


The overall concepts of optimism, celebration and ritual seemed to permeate my spread. To move the cards on the table into action (a very important part of a reading for me), I took a walk in the beautiful spring air (a little crisp at -3C here in the Great White North, but lovely nonetheless) and used my senses to feel the new arrival of the Empress. I immediately noticed blackbirds, blue jays and sparrows in morning song. I saw the buds on the trees gently pressing against their winter shells. I watered our house plants and filled the new bird feeder that we placed outside last week for our fine feathered friends.  Dear Empress, the sights and sounds of this season, only hours old, remind me that this is a time of renewal for all.