Talking to the Stones

The Philosophers Stone consists of 40 square cards, each depicting a painting by artist De Es Schwertberger, along with a particular quality or condition. Schwertberger’s preferred subjects seem to consist entirely of stones with human faces, stone figures, and stones over plain backgrounds. The artist seems to have applied an enormous talent to an extremely narrow subject matter.

You can dig very deep with these images, it’s almost like looking into a persons’ soul. These cards are ideal for prompting ideas, especially when combined with another deck.

To get a feel for this 1970’s deck begin by watching this walk through by the Tarot Alchemist. Stop and pause the video and meditate upon some of the images.

Get out your journal and see where these cards lead you. Here are some starter activities.

Write a stream of consciousness piece based on how our need to belong, connect and complement one another is being compromised during this 2020 pandemic. Given the current crisis it might be a bit full on to read The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe but right now it does seem to resonate. Here are some exercises I have used after reading the opening of this story.

Card 28 Portrays Existence and when I viewed this image my thoughts turned to Sisyphus who was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill only for it to roll down every time it neared the top, repeating this action for eternity.

Your thoughts may go else where. Perhaps you might take the time to interview this figure and write the dialogue that emerges.

More Ideas

This stone, lying in an old goldfields park has witnessed enormous change in the world.

Take a walk sometime, watch for a stone that seems to grab your attention… pick it up, turn it over a few times and look for images on it’s surface. Allow those images to relay words to your mind. Those words will be the message from the stone – for you. This a simple form of stone divination, looking and listening within – to dive in – “divine” an answer to a question.

Quietly enter the world of Stonehenge. Stand in the centre of these famous stones – one of the wonders of the world and the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe – and dialogue with these ancient stones.

Remember that while the mysteriously arranged structure of Stonehenge is one of the world’s greatest wonders these odd stone arrangements can be found throughout the world in many shapes and sizes. Known as megaliths, these giant stones formed prehistoric structures in amazing (and perplexing!) feats of construction. The purpose of these sites may be shrouded in mystery, but their remains add character and ancient beauty to landscapes across the globe, from the cold mountains of Russia to the balmy Mediterranean. Take the time to visit 7 ancient megaliths.

Deck Interviews

The interview spread is a really neat way to introduce yourself to a new tarot deck and allow it to introduce itself to you. Essentially, it’s a conversation about your potential working relationship, where you can discuss the deck’s strengths and limits and discover the best way to approach and use these cards.

Interview with the Tarot of the Witches by the Tarot Midwife.

Back in December 2019, after having worked with Tarot in my writing classes, I resolved to learn about the wisdom of Tarot and to identify the alchemical impact of Tarot on creativity.

Since we have been locked indoors because of the Corona Virus there is no doubt that ‘the noise’ generated from the media reports has impacted on me and reduced my capacity to concentrate.

A break through came when I decided establish an Instagram account and spend time taking photos. Now I have decided to spend time interviewing some of the decks in my collection to identify which decks could provide support at this time.

There is an ample supply of deck interviews templates online. This one is provided by Katey Flowers.

Singing Over the Bones – Graveside Chats

You only have to watch Ricky Gervais’s dark comedy, ‘After Life’, to know that many people spend time at gravesites chatting to a beloved who has died. Many mothers have  gone to children’s graves seeking peace.  However gone are the days when families picnicked in the grounds of cemeteries  Now most historic cemeteries lie quietly with barely a visitor these days. I love to visit with my picnic basket and a deck of Tarot cards to have a graveside chat. There is much to learn from those who are resting in these  fading spaces.

Annie (8 years) and Henry Clifton (6 years) were burnt to death at Spring Gully in 1827. The Totem of Bowls, Dolphin, The Swimmers appeared from the Medicine Woman Tarot deck. The message from these children reminds me that I am not only here to console but to give to others the tools with which they can lift themselves up.

There is an unlikely drawcard between the old gold cities of Ballarat and Bendigo and yet it would be all too easy to pass by and not notice it. The Sandon Cemetery is a must visit for the slow travelling cemetery explorer.

Each year hundreds of Catholic pilgrims pause here on their 90 kilometre walk between the cathedrals at Ballarat and Bendigo to rest their weary soles and too sing. I have passed the parade on the Creswick to Newstead road and wondered what it was all about. It was only recently that a Sandon local told me about the pilgrimage and how the pilgrims sing at the gravesites. This gives a whole new meaning to the Clarissa Pinkola Estes story about singing over bones.

Sandon Cemetery is a special place for the cemetery explorer. This place shares one of the regions great landscapes. When you stand amongst the weather beaten headstones you can look through white-trunked eucalyptus trees towards the rising Sandon basalt ridge. No wonder a community of Swiss-Italian migrants chose this part of Central Victoria as home.

I have visited regularly but it was only on my recent visit that I decided that rather than sing to the bones (no self respecting bones would enjoy the rasping sound from my vocal chords) I would talk to the bones and ask them to share a message about their life and how I should live.

The result is that I have a whole new hobby and interest, revisiting historic cemeteries to have graveside chats.

Conversing With Tarot Cards

“The writer of any first person work must decide two obvious questions: what to put in and what to leave out.” — Annie Dillard

I found out about the Medicine Woman Tarot after watching a YouTube video by Cosmic Creeper

I have been a ‘gleaner’ online since 2000 and I have fond memories of early  blogs that quite literally shared things that could be found online. We tapped on one another’s doors and celebrated the brave new world we had discovered.

Over a ten year period I worked the Soul Food Cafe and created a vibrant communal space in the blogosphere where there was a free exchange of ideas. It has been said that I wove technology, community, and writing together long before blogging was a verb. At the time I was creating and managing this site  it was not all about turning a dollar and filling our pages with advertising. It was about more simple things like sharing ideas with a community of likeminded spirits, being inspired by others and having a readership for our work.

Life circumstances took me away from the world of Soul Food and online communities. When I finally emerged from the fog of compounding loss and grief I found a very different online landscape to the one I had been so familiar with. Having had my day as an ‘influencer’, long before that term came into everyday language, I am very happy to take a back seat now. I am not interested in writing the book everyone tells me I should write either. There are plenty of books out there about the craft of writing and I am not inclined to add to them either.

For now I am happy to forage, find treasure and share what I find.  Here are two recent finds in the  Tarot Community. They are about conversational Tarot Reading and having conversations with your Tarot Cards.

Fire of Transformation shares her Conversational Tarot Reading, a technique I also use when I am working with writers

Victor Pitisci has a video about how you can have conversations with your Tarot cards and bring out a personality to each of the cards not seen before.

 

 

Fiction Inspired by Tarot

For something so universally recognizable, most people know little about the tarot outside of its supposed ability, with the help of a skilled reader, to foretell the future. Tarot cards are very rich in symbolism and occult significance. With their mysterious illustrations and buried meanings so open to interpretation, it’s hardly surprising that a number of sci-fi and fantasy books have incorporated the Tarot into their world building. If anything, it’s surprising there aren’t more of them: staring into the Tarot is like staring into a ominous mirror-world.
Source: Barnes and Noble

A review of the Creative Tarot by Two Sides Tarot.

A cursory glance online reveals that figures in the literary world are recognising, what many of us know. Tarot can make a significant contribution to the craft of writing.

“The Creative Tarot: A Modern Guide to an Inspired Life” by Jesse Crispin is a manual intended to show that the tarot deck, primarily regarded as belonging to the domain of the esoteric, can be useful for anyone engaged in creative pursuits.

Like Crispin, at the risk of being deemed a “weirdo mystic”, I am prepared to publicly come out of the spiritual closet and promote the benefits of turning to a deck of cards for inspiration for fiction and art. Aside from the fact that I have seen the benefit of using cards in writing classes, I am in esteemed company. Many respected writers have made use of the tarot: Yeats, Italo Calvino, Salvador Dali, and even Charles Williams, a novelist and theologian who belonged to the Inklings literary circle, have drawn on the cards for inspiration.

Given that many Tarot cards actually depicted imagery of Medieval Dramas that took place in Italy it is not surprising that the cards, which feature characters from those plays, offer a springboard for aspiring wordsmiths.  In a post entitled Tarot Fairy Stories I presented a case for using the Cosmic Tarot to help generate a fairy story set in a fantasy world. Needless to say there is a lot more that can be done.

When I found Tribu Arcane, a set of playing cards, in a second hand book shop I couldn’t help adding it to my collection. This deck features a different, traditional image on each card. 

In a writing session I laid out the suit of hearts and we spent time considering what story is being revealed. We discussed what ideas might be researched and to kick start discussion I suggested that we could write something about a vibrant dancing troupe who travel, presenting spontaneous performances under sprawling Marula Trees. It is always inspiring to hear other ideas that come forward from the group.

Pull out a deck and experiment! Feel free to share any ideas in the comment section!

Tarot Inspired Sketching


I am trying to motivate myself to get back to my drawing. For now I am just messing around enhancing using Photoshop.

This is the Fool with the Hierophant! Hardly a traditional interpretation but since when did I follow the party line? I particularly enjoyed having the Hierophant let his hair down and have fun with the Fool and his companion Raven.

Will You Follow The Lead?

When you trust the process and allow yourself to step outside the square your imagination is kick started and you can take off in amazingly diverse directions.

Maybe you do not have a young calf to read too but there are plenty of alternatives that will lead to rich journal entries.

Last year I took along a whole lot of children’s picture story books to my Writing for Wellness class and asked the participants to go outside and read a story to a tree and then write about how the tree responded. Perhaps surprisingly no one resisted.

Upon his relatively quick return I asked James if he had actually read ‘Harry the Dirty Dog’ to a tree. “Of course” he said. As we waited for others to return our conversation led to me asking him what he had done before retiring. ” I taught Professional Writing at a TAFE” he said without blinking an eye. Needless to say I fell about laughing and said he must have found this class to be a ‘bit different’.  He smiled his charming smile and told me that he had found it all quite challenging – then went on to write the most stunning piece in the allocated fifteen minutes.

In my capacity as the Tarot Midwife I have taken to revisiting historic cemeteries in my region to test run some ideas about communicating with inanimate objects for upcoming courses.

Recently, on one of my expeditions, I found the grave of David Jenkin Davies, who came to Australia from Glamorganshire South Wales and was accidentally killed at the Brunswick Mine in 1870. He was just 27 years old when he died. I kneeled by his grave, placed a white cockatoo feather on his grave and asked if he would communicate a message through my Tarot Deck. I shuffled the cards and The Devil emerged.

Obviously one could interpret this message in many ways. I did not take it to mean that he had gone to some kind of hell. There are many ways you can interpret the Devil card. Indeed, I took it to mean that he was dancing for joy that he had been given the opportunity to let me know that his death had all been out of his control; that he had mourned a life cut short due to the negligence of greedy gold seeking devils who had no regard for the well being of others, whose negligence led to his untimely death.

Will you follow the lead, test run an idea and share it with me in the comment box?