A bestiary is a compendium of beasts. Originating in the ancient world, bestiaries were made popular in the Middle Ages in illustrated volumes that described various animals and even rocks. The natural history and illustration of each beast was usually accompanied by a moral lesson
Dante’s Kiln is a storytelling project inspired by drawing and Tarot, Oracle, Lenormand and playing cards
Lisk, a feared dictator who committed heinous crimes against humanity was always destined to end up in Dante’s Kiln to be repurposed. He was pretty smug when he was shaped into a Baslisk, a feared Serpent King who could cause death with a single glance.
The smug look was quickly wiped off his horrible face when he learned that the one thing that could kill him was the crowing of a rooster and that there were a host of roosters in an adjoining pen.
You do not need to be Einstein to figure out what happens each day as he wakes, hears the roosters and dies again, only to be repurposed all over again. Such a Westworld kind of fate!
“Everyone has a story,” renowned anthropologist Barbara Myerhoff stated, and these stories “told to oneself and others can transform the world.” The name Story Aperture is inspired by Barbara Myerhoff, who described the way a personal story can provide an opening to understand not only one person’s life, but larger truths about the human experience.
Aperture stories are stories which come when we put the light on symbols to be found within Tarot, Oracle, Lenormand or Playing cards. When we focus like on what the symbol is telling us, we are find deeper meanings which enable us to adapt and adjust our narrative. When we work with an aperture we see well beyond overt meanings and tap into important healing structures.
When we work intuitively with Lenormand, Tarot and Oracle cards we hold micro art galleries in our hand and we have access to insights that have been drawn from the collective unconsious.
When we use a camera it is the depth of field that will determine:
where your viewer’s eye is drawn in a photograph, and
whether or not the photograph is telling a story.
If we keep the camera lens in mind as we examine the cards that have emerged more light is shone on particular features. Often it is the understructure which reveals an entirely fresh model for telling a story. When we work intensively with an image it can help us face a difficult situation or deal with and heal trauma.
I have found it inspirational to sit with another person, over a Devonshire tea (Coffee), to sling cards, work intuitively and to listen to the stories that rise up. In the process of working out what the understructure is telling us, at a particular moment in time, we are telling aperture stories.
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.
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.
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.
The upaguru is anyone who teaches us something, which, when we are truly open to recognizing the good in all, is literally every one.
So upaguru can mean both assistant teacher, or a teacher who is next to you
This video involves communicating with the ant. In this instance the ant is an example of a small teacher. At the end we hear the plea! It is plaintive really! The narrator doesn’t want to turn to dust knowing nothing at all. If someone would please tell him, what is all this for?
What! No answer! Perhaps we can get more sense from another Upaguru, one of my Tarot decks! Perhaps Tarot can come marching in on a Chariot, come to the rescue.
So, as I shuffle I go all quiet and ask very politely, very seriously – “So what is it all for?”
And guess who emerges? You got it! None other than the Devil!
I am not sure how much sense I am going to get out of this guy! He doesn’t get a very good wrap! This guy is all about illusions, bondage, addiction, opposition and personal demons.
But, perhaps something can be salvaged. The Devil might just come good and shed some light on how to overcome personal demons or even direct us to the costume joint he got that cool purple number from!!!!
“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.”
“Creative thinking – in terms of idea creativity – is not a mystical talent. It is a skill that can be practiced and nurtured.”
Edward de Bono
Over the centuries people have struggled to explain why Tarot Cards work and, quite frankly, the vast number of people, often influenced by church leaders, dismiss them as being the tool of the devil.
Over the past eighteen months I have found it illuminating to discover the power of Tarot and Oracle cards. I have been amazed at the imaginative ways in which these cards can be used.
Vincent Pitisci claims to have cracked the mystery of how Tarot Cards work and quite frankly I agree with him completely. I have found that Tarot cards are an indispensable tool when I am wanting to lead creative thinking activities in a group session. Tarot cards facilitate conceptual blending, a technique used by heads of creative departments all over the world.
So, these days I stand on the shoulders of someone like Edward De Bono and I have created a Blue Hat Thinking spread to use with participants at the beginning of a course. I do this because it generates such lively dialogue and everyone is amazed by what emerges.
Here is an abbreviated example of how I use the Blue Hat Card Spread. I emphasise that this is not a predictive exercise. I do not believe the cards are capable of predicting anything. I believe they simply stimulate our thinking process and encourage us to use our imagination. When we work with a spread like this we are critically analysing, reflecting and gaining insight into what we are really seeking to achieve. It helps us clarify our goals.
In this instance I am using Monicka Clio Sakki’s Tarot and Companion Book because when she created all of this she directed her energy towards facilitating the creative journey. The four questions we examine as we seek clarity and direction are:
I am fully prepared to ‘unknow’ – to take advantage of a moment of blankness and be prepared to receive what the deck has to tell me.
Here are the cards I shuffled and laid out from left to right.
So let us look at them! Where have I been? I turn over the first card and reflect upon where I have been in my creative journey.
The Seven of Coins draws out memories of what my creative life looked like and how I worked for many years. I affectionately remember the wild garden I spent so many years creating. It involved an incredible amount of time spent online and saw the rise and success of the Soul Food Cafe, a site, which in its hey day drew thousands of visitors and featured the work of an eclectic group of writers and artists. However, with the rise of Facebook, when the landscape of the internet changed and my life hit a ‘Tower’ phase I laid down the hoe and stopped working Soul Food. I needed to have a break and hope that a whole picture would eventually emerge.
Where am I now? I turn over the second card and reflect upon where I am now.
A muscly figure is guiding a chariot pulled by brightly coloured dragons. The driver does appear to be in control as he drives the dragons but if he is going to maintain this control he is going to need to stay alert and focused. Keeping dragons like this together is quite a challenge. I confess I do feel like the chariot driver as I embark on a new phase and begin a project that I am expecting to devote ten years to. Frankly it has been decidedly overwhelming as I gather all my resources and see just how complex this whole field is.
Where do I want to be? I turn over the third card and reflect upon where I want to be.
I want to be the Alchemist who combines things that do not usually go together. Temperance implies moderation in action, thought and feeling. I want to be seen as someone whose mastery of mixed elements seems absolutely effortless
How do I get there? I turn over the fourth card and reflect upon how to get to where I want to be.
I do not have to think too hard about this. I AM the Queen of Swords. I am independent and exercise both physical and mental freedom. I am interesting and interested and I have very high ideals. My perception, logic and creativity is hard to match. I am honest and can be very witty – and of course, I am very humble :-). Although I communicate well I need a lot of time alone to invest in my creative pursuits. I have the time and can think clearly enough to get to where I want to be.
Edvard Munch was one of Modernism’s most significant artists. He was active throughout more than sixty years; from the time he made his debut in the 1880s, right up to his death in 1944. Munch was part of the Symbolist movement in the 1890s, and a pioneer of expressionist art from the beginning of the 1900s onward. His tenacious experimentation within painting, graphic art, drawing, sculpture, photo and film has given him a unique position in Norwegian as well as international art history.
As I sit at a shady table in the beautiful gardens with pen and paper at the ready I am looking for inspiration. The well seems to have dried up so in order to reinvigorate my mushy brain I resolve that a change of scenery may be the answer.
The gardens are alive in Spring, giving us their final flush of color before the onslaught of the long hot summers. The caretakers have done a wonderful job through the autumn and winter primping, pruning and plumping up their offerings. They have designed various new garden rooms. These are a new addition to the old garden structure but they certainly work in this environment. Under a huge Oak tree there are three brightly colored deck chairs and two doggy beanbags! They look as though they belong to someone but they are actually a gift from the caretakers to the day to day occupants of the gardens – how lovely. Having only been in the area for a short time I marvel at the fact they are still in place after two weeks as I know that would not be so in the big smoke. They would have been acquired for some private garden within the first twenty four hours but this is the country and I am reminded things are different.
As I sit staring at my writing implements strategically placed within arms reach on the table I know my arms do not seem to be taking the hint to participate in this exercise. As I look around, I am aware of a man sitting on a bench not far from me who seems to be constantly staring in my direction. So, I force my arms to take up the writing implements hoping to divert his gaze and pretend I am not vaguely interested. I commence writing – who knows what – and hope that this will allay my fears. After some time, as my pen continues to ramble over the paper, I aware of a movement out of the corner of my eye and look up under my sunglasses to see the man walking towards me. I am spooked – perhaps I am overthinking this situation. Continuing to write, head bowed, suddenly I hear a rasping cough. I look up into a very intense face gazing down at me. I am uncomfortable being in a seated position with him standing over me. Not close enough to be in my space but close enough for me to be uptight.
I shuffle my feet, wriggle in my seat, nervously rub my eye and am aware that my mouth has become quite dry. Trying to reassure myself this is a huge over reaction I decide in the moment to change my tactic and instigate fight mode. Brazenly looking into his eyes whilst gathering my strength and at the same time licking my lips to irrigate my mouth I look straight into his eyes and state what a lovely day it is to be in the park.
He does not seem alarmed at all and by the casual look on his face I can tell this is not going to be a brief conversation. He is of medium height with angular features, piercing brown eyes and freckled, pale skin. His tweed peaked cap sits jauntily to the right and his hands are not the hands of a manual laborer. He is not dressed in the normal attire of locals. He is different and interesting Having completed my initial body scan I know I have enough information to provide the police with a clear description of my assailant if required. I raise my right eyebrow as a cue for him to speak next. In an accent that I cannot recognize he crisply introduces himself as Edward Munch the artist who finds himself in the park to find inspiration.
How funny, we are both there for the same reason! Whilst this introduction means little to me he is obviously aware of his own importance. As he sits at the table opposite me I begin to feel a little more relaxed in his presence until his next statement. He has found his inspiration and asks if he can do a sketch of my anxiety posing for me as it will help him and maybe enable me to release some of my tension and allow my pen to skip over the paper. Without any more discussion, I find myself in the park, being sketched by a stranger as my pen races across the parchment paper. We sit in silence while he completes what may be his next masterpiece.
Alison and I have had a regular appointment. We meet at a local coffee shop to touch base and talk about our creative projects. Alison is about to begin a Masters of Dance. It will be a big year for her as she explores how to weave material she has gathered about an ancestor into her work. Today, after we had chatted for awhile, we slung some Royal Mischief Playing Cards. The macabre nature of this deck, a deck that seemed to insist I take it out today, really resonated for Alison as she explores a divergent pathway.
The Morgan Tarot is a brilliant graphics-based, pocket sized essay on the 1970’s blending of Eastern and Western mystical traditions. It is more in tune with modern sensibilities than a traditional Tarot deck, but fully capable of delivering the same oblique gestalt, the same intensity of insight, the same connection with a larger tradition. Vastly superior to any other modern cue-card level tool (such as an angel deck or an affirmation-a-day deck) this deck provides both belly-laughs and thoughtful interior review. I consider it one of the crown-jewels of any Tarot deck collection. If I could have only three decks, this would be one of them.
Source: Amazon Review by C. Olmstead