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!

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 ;).