Telling Tarot Stories

Great Tarot readers, like writers, know how to weave the story between the Tarot cards to create highly engaging and meaningful Tarot readings for their clients. They see patterns between the cards and combine these intuitive messages into a beautiful story that is unique to the client and their situation. This exercise is good for writers looking to warm their hand by practicing on a daily basis. It is also a good practice for a tarot reader to strengthen their spontaneous story telling skills

Every Tarot card contains its own unique story and each story can be expanded by using more than one card. Every card in a Tarot deck is connected by an invisible thread.

As writers looking to maintain a daily practice Tarot cards are a wonderful source of inspiration.

Over a cup of tea or coffee one way to start the day is to quietly shuffle a pictorial deck and draw some cards. In this instance I chose the Tarot of the Durer which is an art deck compiled by taking scenes from some of Durer’s famous work. I opted to choose just two cards.

Lay out your cards as I have done here.

  • Carefully look at the pictures. Make sure to take in as much detail as possible. It is important to look very closely. For example, did you notice that the eagle is chained and that there is an ominous raven shaped cloud above the old man in the 10 of Pentacles? What is your impression of Temperance’s mood? How is she relating to the cow? What is her connection to the elderly man in the 10 of Pentacles?
  • What are the different elements? Plants? Buildings? Flowers? Animals? What is the landscape? Are there people in the card? What is the person in the picture doing? What objects do you see? Why do you think they are there? What’s in the background? What’s in the foreground? How do all of these different elements come together into a coherent story?
  • Notice every small and large detail and make a note of it. Absorb the entire card into your mind.
  • Now set your timer for 20 minutes. And start writing and sketching, remembering that you are not in a writing or art competition.
  • Make up a story as you go along. Use the elements from the picture in your story. You can be as creative as you like – just let yourself go wild. Write down a story in the 20 minutes you’ve set aside.

Warming the Hand – Honing One’s Knowledge of Pentacles

I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.
Haruki Murakami

Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.
Steinbeck

When I run writing classes I always promote the benefit of writing on a daily basis to keep the ‘hand warm’ so to speak.

In this instance I have chosen a character, the Hermit, from the Major Arcana and placed him alongside the court cards of the suit of Pentacles. Then I laid out the 10 cards to represent his journey back into the outside world.

To begin I have decided that the Hermit has been living in isolation in Cappadocia for many years. Word has reached him about the dramatic changes that have taken in the outside world and he has decided to venture out again.

I will make notes about his journey as he moves through this suit.

Of course, working in this way is also a good way to sharpen your knowledge of the cards in a new deck and refine your readings.

Story Starter Using Raincoast Tarot

Writing has tremendous energy. If you find a reason for it, any reason, it seems that rather than negate the act of writing, it makes you burn deeper and glow clearer on the page. Ask yourself, “Why do I write?” or “Why do I want to write?” but don’t think about it. Take pen and paper and answer it with clear, assertive statements. Every statement doesn’t have to be one hundred percent true and each line can contradict the others. Even lie if you need to, to get going. If you don’t know why you write, answer it as though you do know why.

— Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

When I am running writing classes I like to offer speed stream of consciousness writing activities to ‘warm the hand’.

This spread by @radiantunknown is the perfect spread to generate some writing, preferably on scrap paper. I encourage people to begin by sketching, posing some questions and making lists of things that come to mind.

Natalie Goldberg provides this idea which I have seen used by teachers training actors

I suggest that you place your primary character on a page and then make use of the following format to create your own character.

No cheating. Do not simply fill in the blanks by describing yourself or someone you know. Instead, fill in the blanks describing someone you’d find it interesting to know. Then, remembering that conflict is the essence of all dramatic writing, repeat the process by imagining a character whose value, attitudes, etc. would likely put them in opposition to the first character you invented.

Full Name:
Nicknames:
Sex:
Age:
Height:
Weight:
Hair:
Eyes:
Skin:
Posture:
Appearance:
Health:
Birthmark:
Abnormalities:
Heritage:
Where born:
Where live:
Favorite food:
Favorite subject in school:
Favorite game as child:
Best memory:
Worst memory:
Smoke/Drink/Drugs Profile:
Favorite section of newspaper:
Favorite type of music:
Last book read:
Last movie seen:
Morning or night person:
Introvert/Extrovert:
Indoor or outdoor person:
Greatest fear:
Closest friend:
Dearest possession:
Favorite season:
Class:
Occupation:
Education:
Family:
Home Life:
IQ:
Religion:
Community:
Political Affiliation:
Amusements/Hobbies:
Reading Interests:
Sex Life:
Morality:
Ambition:
Frustration:
Temperament:
Attitude:
Psychological Complexes:
Superstitions:
Imagination

Then we set a timer and write for twenty minutes without thinking or worrying about grammar.

As a follow on you can put your character in the centre of this spread and begin building on their story using the cards that emerge.

Everything Has A Story

Like Sleeping Beauty I am waking up – woken by the voices of all the things I have never thought to stop and listen to, that are eager for me to tell their story. As I listen I have some Tarot Cards with me because they help ‘translate’ the message from an item like a traffic sign or the windmill that has stood out in the weather for decades
The Tarot Midwife November 9 2020

My loyal companion, Archie, a Finnish Lappie, and I headed out to the Muckleford Railway Station armed with a copy of the Little Red Engine. We had been there the day before and decided that we would go back and read this story to the carriages that are lined up on the side tracks.

We found a place to sit and began reading this delightful old children’s book, that once belonged to my children, to the old railway carriages. We didn’t get right through the story because we were both suddenly aware that these so called inanimate carriages and Aunty Jack, the old engine that pulled them on long hauls, were getting quite emotional.

To check what had upset everyone I pulled a card from the Tarot of the Sweet Twilight and out popped the Three of Swords.

It all became very obvious. These loyal, hardworking, heavy duty carriages were devastated to have found themselves abandoned on side tracks here, while Betsy, a light weight steam train blew its whistle and gloated as it skipped past, filled with passengers, city slickers, enjoying a journey down memory lane.

When things calmed they said that they did appreciate hearing the story and that if I would come back they would tell me of some of the places they passed when they were carrying goods and animals back in the day when the railway was the main means of transport.

Aunty Jack the old engine who pulled huge loads through Central Victoria.

Aunty Jack, the Empress, the powerful engine who pulled these carriages for years, brightened at the prospect of having someone listen. I told her about my Great Grandfather who worked as an engineer and oversaw the laying of rails in the 1860’s and she was delighted to hear about his foresight and passion for rails. She suggested that when I come back I tell her more about his days building the railway that bought such change to colony.

Footnote: A delightful mechanic/engineer, who I sat enjoying a cup of coffee with at Dig in nearby Newstead, told me that railway men always give engines female names. He said that in his younger days the really strong ones, with a ton of personality, were invariably known as Aunty Jack. It was he who shared that some were known as Betsy and Val. I decided that the old Steam Train that travels between Castlemaine and Maldon, through the Muckleford Station, is known here as Betsy.

Joan of Arc Spread

Joan of Arc, a peasant girl living in medieval France, believed that God had chosen her to lead France to victory in its long-running war with England. With no military training, Joan convinced the embattled crown prince Charles of Valois to allow her to lead a French army to the besieged city of Orléans, where it achieved a momentous victory over the English and their French allies, the Burgundians. After seeing the prince crowned King Charles VII, Joan was captured by Anglo-Burgundian forces, tried for witchcraft and heresy and burned at the stake in 1431, at the age of 19. By the time she was officially canonized in 1920, the Maid of Orléans (as she was known) had long been considered one of history’s greatest saints, and an enduring symbol of French unity and nationalism.
Source: History 

It has been almost 600 years since the trial and execution of Joan of Arc, and her memory hasn’t faded. From Martyr, saint and military leader Joan of Arc, acting under divine guidance, led the French army to victory over the English during the Hundred Years’ War.

Joan of Arc played an important role in medieval society. She helped to structure women’s right, such as fighting in war and asking to lead an army. During the medieval society, women had no rights to fight with an army, nor did they lead an army to fight for their country.

Much has been written about Joan d’Arc. This spread encourages us to examine the qualities that we identify ourselves as having. I have used the Tarot of the Sweet Twilight. I began by laying out my birth cards and then shuffled and drew three cards. Given how much that is revealed in these cards, I plan to journal in more detail.

The Land of Delights

When it looked as if Christianity was taking hold in her native Campania in southern Italy, the Sibyl left her labyrinth of caves in Cumae below the temple of Apollo She had pronounced her oracles there for hundreds of years, but she was now taking to the hills, to make one of the last stands of paganism on the highestridge of the Apennines, still called the Monti Sibillini in her honour.
From The Beast to the Blonde by Marion Warner

This collection of repurposed cards, collaged with images from fantasy magazines and assorted old books records a healing inner journey into the world of the Sibyl in her labyrinth of caves in Cumae.

The imagery used in this collection of repurposed cards is from magazines like Juxtapoz which was founded by Robert Williams.

Postcards from the Land of Delights may be found featured in a Wild Inner Garden.

Meet Anastasia Riversleigh

Anastasia Riversleigh is just one of my alter egos. She is a member of the Skull Clan who is currently working, primarily, with the Tarot of the Vampyres. Given that she is taking this opportunity to do important shadow work she will be leaning on numerous decks and other resources.

Visit her and you will find a detailed journal which records her newest adventure, in residence, living and playing with many interesting internal characters at Shadwell Manor and on the old Ghostly Spanish Galleon that sails the seven seas.

Tarot Travelling

“I don’t believe in things like that – fairies or brownies or magic or anything. It’s old-fashioned.’
‘Well, we must be jolly old-fashioned then,’ said Bessie. ‘Because we not only believe in the Faraway Tree and love our funny friends there, but we go to see them too – and we visit the lands at the top of the Tree as well!”
― Enid Blyton, The Folk of the Faraway Tree

Whenever the world is getting all a bit too much I seek out alternate realities. There is a Fey Guide waiting in this tree, ready to take me on another adventure. I have packed a suitcase, I have my tarot deck and I am ready to go.

I cannot say that I was a devotee of Alice in Wonderland. Instead it was Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree series that captured my imagination as a child growing up in the 1950’s.

The Faraway Tree is best described as a slow, gentle series of adventures that take place in a magical tree and the lands it connects to in the clouds. Originally published in 1939, the language is lyrical and playful — a slide is called a slippery slip — and young readers will probably dream about how the kids are left to play in the woods for an entire day by themselves.

I loved, still love these stories for their loveable characters, magical lands, silliness ( the Saucepan Man’s songs and forgetfulness had me giggling every time) and the exciting cliffhangers that kept me enthusiastically reading chapter after chapter. Not so long ago, during our blistering hot summer, I listened to audio book adaptions and fell in love with the series all over again. Silky and Moonface have not lost any of their appeal and I still adore the angry pixie.

Of course, some point to the pretty standard gender roles but it was 1939 and the fact that the roles are decidedly out of place in 2020 will not diminish the joy I feel when I read the books.

The truth is that the Magic Faraway Tree, combined with the influence of Archie Hair, an elderly prospector whose home in the bush was a place I loved visiting as a child, filled me with wonder and have each contributed to me having a rich inner life, an inner life that has sustained me through some very difficult periods. Perhaps not surprisingly, thanks to such influences, when I ran the Soul Food Cafe between 2000 and 2010 I took countless travellers through a portal into the fantasy world of Lemuria and preserved the journeys in annual advent calendar features.

Fast forward to 2020 and I now find myself in world put into hibernation by a new pandemic. It has been over seven weeks since we went into lockdown in Australia and there have been many reports indicating that social isolation and being ‘confined to barracks’ is having a detrimental impact on people’s mental wellbeing.

Thank goodness for my passion for Tarot. In this situation I have found it self soothing to pack my bag, slip through a portal and Travel Within A Tarot Deck.

Not surprisingly I chose the Path Through the Enchanted Forest, a magical deck which conjures some of the charm of the Faraway Tree. When I work with this deck I not only drift back in time but find that my imagination is fired. After shuffling my deck I found myself standing in a forest, alongside a gingerbread house and I was, quite frankly stunned by how the cards continued to fall.

Invariably others, inspired by this idea, have gone in different directions but the feedback I am getting suggests that, at a time when flights are cancelled and borders are closed, this is one kind of travel that can fire up our creative juices.

Will you join in? I am thinking of setting up a flight centre, a ‘Travel Agency’ where those who read about the travels of others will be inspired you to join in the fun. Considering there are no charges and all you have to do is pull out a much loved Tarot Deck, even Ryan or Tiger Air will not be able to beat this offer. And just think of the travel brochures we could conjure up! So much potential!

For starters, check out these two videos! Both Elaine and Kate make reference to their approach to travelling inside a deck. Plus @Anastasia-gyspysoul is working with two decks as she travels inside the Wheel of the Year Tarot.

Talking Tarot Part 2

This is the second part of a series where I follow the lead of Tracy @becoming_temperance who also makes videos about Tarot on YouTube. In this video she responds to a series of questions about her passion and since I am not into making videos I have decided to respond using WordPress, the internet medium I am most familiar with.

Show us your recent deck, Tarot, Oracle and Crystal.

Between December 2019 and February 2020 I went on a bit of a buying spree and bought a range of decks that I felt I simply had to have. I purchased the most recent, the Lions Gateway Tarot, by Jessica Henry, after seeing a walk through on Tracy’s Video Channel.

The most recent Oracle Deck that I acquired was the Sacred Sites Oracle. I confess that I have not worked with it much but it is a very interesting deck that will enable me to travel at a time when the pandemic is restricting all travel.

Since February I have stopped buying because I have enough decks for the moment and I need to take the time to work more closely with the ones that I have.

If you could share a tip with someone learning Tarot for the first time what would it be?

I am only interested in reading Tarot for myself and using it as an activator in the writing classes I run so I decided that I was not going to try to ‘learn’ Tarot or rely on standard interpretations.

When I stumbled upon The Art of Intuitive Tarot, a course that Gina Spriggs offers on Daily Om, I decided that this was a good place to being my journey. This course involved working with one deck and I used the Cosmic Tarot to complete the exercises she suggested.

Aside from this course it was venturing into the world of the Tarot Tuber Community that really spurred my interest. I found the deck and Tarot resource recommendations that these YouTube videos provided to be really fantastic. It is a great place to become familiar with what Tarot has to offer.

Above all I adhere to the notion of simply having fun and being playful with Tarot.

The first Tarot Tuber who I followed.

The first Tarot Tuber I followed was Simon Harrison. He describes himself as a professional Tarot Consultant based in Nottingham with over 30 years experience of reading the tarot.

He believes (through lived experience) that the tarot is a tool that can help provide us with insights and clarity to identify areas for improvement, find solutions to difficult decisions and arm us with additional information so that we are able to make more informed choices in various aspects of our lives.

There are a host of Tarot Tubers in the Tarot Tube Community. Another early favourite was Kasia at Tarot Map.

What was life before Tarot for you? Where did you come from?

I am an Australian who grew up in Gippsland, Victoria, Australia. If you put Heather Blakey – Daily Writing into Google you will learn more than you need about my online history as a Web Publisher, artistic midwife and purveyor of creative stimuli. Working with Tarot feels like a natural extension of my work with creative stimuli.

I ran the Soul Food Cafe for over ten years but stopped working it after compounding losses silenced me and took a toll on my capacity to be creative. I walked away from my former life, moved to regional Victoria from Melbourne and reinvented myself. Soul Food is now well archived in the Way Back Machine.

Favourite go to spread

My favourite go to spread is one that I use when I meet for an appointment to write. It is based on three cards. The first card identifies the issue we want to explore, the second sheds light on what may not help and the third offers a way forward.

For myself I like a deck to offer one message for the day.

From the Cosmic Tarot.

Most anticipated deck of 2020

I eagerly anticipated the arrival of a number of decks and Tarot books early in 2020. One that I really looked forward to coming was the Sakki Sakki Tarot. I ordered it late in December and it seemed to take ages to come. I was thrilled when it, along with the companion book ‘Playing With Symbols’ arrived. This deck is now out of print. I regret not ordering the colouring book as well because I would photocopy some archetypes for participants in my classes.

What is on your Tarot Wishlist?

It is not surprising that Raecine (Owlmoon), a Tarot Community Tuber, has a huge following. She has an amazing collection of videos and her professionalism is outstanding. I trust her recommendations. She frequently makes reference to the Tarot of the Vampires and the dark imagery not only appeals but provides a contrast to decks I have in my collection.

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.