Hydra Fountain

As a part of a Mythic May Drawing Challenge I am creating characters who are forged in Dante’s Kiln. What is Dante’s Kiln you may well ask?

Dante’s macabre world takes loose inspiration from the Divine Comedy. Beware mortal souls for if you have committed one or more of the seven deadly sins, upon death you may just find yourself unceremoniously deposited in Dante’s Kiln, ready to be repurposed and to lead a life commensurate with how you lived on earth. This cluster trampled over everyone to become big thieving fish and now they are learning all about being big fish in a very small, crowded pond.

Pull out some Tarot cards and use the Story Spread to develop a story line about the group who ended up decorating a fountain that either Peter or Catherine the Great might have included at one of their famous palaces.

Deciding to Play

I am in the process of manifesting a small, tight knit Patreon. It is still in the planning stage but one development is that I will be working, collaborating with Vlad of Vlad’s Mobile Art Studio (@vlads_mobileartstudio) to establish a creative playground. This is a post that may appear on the Patreon.

The Fool from the Everyday Witch is eager to join in the fun!

If there is one thing a writer knows it is fear and desire. Every time I begin a new writing class I am confronted with participants who have the look of a rabbit caught in the headlights. The fear and desire is palpable as they hold notebooks with clean white pages and pens that have spent far too long sitting, lazily, in caddies that sit upon  writing desks along with other tools of the trade.

Sadly, many of the people I have worked with are casualties of formal education. They have been damaged by teachers who have told them that they have not done something right, or who have diminished the value of their work. So many have never really been provided with unconditional support. I have found that when I produce my magic medicine first aid kit and discard all the so called ‘rule books’, those who trust the process and engage, are encouraged to be themselves. Everyone flourishes, produce extraordinarily creative work and we all end up clapping one another and celebrating.

One good way to start is to ask yourself “What would Vlad do?” This is a technique called Figure Storming! In figure storming, the group picks a well-known figure who is not in the room—it could be a boss, a fictional character, or a well-known public figure—and discuss how that person would approach the problem or think about this idea. What Vlad did do was throw in the illusions of the corporate world she had worked in. She bought an RV, Vesper bike and a tent to set up as a mobile art studio and hit the road.

In the book that accompanies her Tarot, Monicka Sakki Sakki explores just what a Fool, who has no idea of what to do with the pencil he is given, ends up doing with the pencil. Her Fool, as all good fools are prone to do, goes on a creative journey and meets each member of the Major Arcana, ultimately triumphing and naming himself ‘Artist’.

What if I gave you a piece of paper that identified what will be your ‘great work’? Would you scrunch it up or take few deep breaths, take the leap, play with the symbolism that surrounds us and just see what happens? Can you trust the process?

Perhaps begin by writing about taking a leap of faith or about what you have in that swag over your shoulder. Don’t worry about grammar, sentence structure or try to write anything profound. Literally just spew words onto the page.

See the words appearing on the page! See! You are no longer looking at a blank page!

Now was that really so hard?

Patreon Coming Soon

As the Tarot Midwife I support creatives as they conceive, gestate and deliver wild creative projects. Now I am trying to manifest a small, tight knit community on Patreon.

Staff in hand, setting out on another adventure

I am an experienced artistic midwife and qualified social worker who is in my element when I am working  with artists and writers. Between 2000 and 2010 I created and ran the internationally acclaimed Soul Food Cafe and published the work of those who patronized the site in regular features. 

For over thirty years I have helped people recover from their critics, reclaim their imagination and discover their unique voice. I remain passionate about providing nourishing creative prompts and helping people birth creative projects.

Will you consider setting out with me? Are you tempted to pack a creative medicine bag, slip through the portal into this creative playground, and join a band of artistic architects who love to travel within imaginary worlds and work with symbolism.

As you travel with this artistic troupe you will discover how playing with the symbolism of Tarot and Oracle has the capacity to ignite your creativity, enable you to design and build marvellous word castles and engage in many other wild creative projects.

HOW THE REWARDS OF PATREON WORK:

  • Under the rewards panel, click your favorite tier and sign up!!
  • On the 1st of every month, the subscription fee will be charged from your account. Patreon gives a 5-day window to make sure all charges are completed.
  • After the 5th, you will find new posts here and on Playing With Symbols, the private WordPress blog that you will have been given access to. These posts will include prompts, reviews and individual and group challenges. Those who are interested will be given author rights and will be able to publish their work on Playing With Symbols
  • Each month a Zoom session, designed to build relationships with other patrons, will be advertised. 
  • Members who sign up for the third tier will be entitled to personal mentoring by Zoom, telephone or email.

GOAL: To have 10 active patrons who form a creative choir.

If you are interested in helping me manifest this small community you can follow and reach me @tarotmidwife or via the contact page here.

Getting to Know You

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed me on Instagram that I do not profess to be a Tarot reader. I certainly do not claim to be familiar with the meanings of all the cards. My primary interest has been exploring the potential of these mini galleries of art to inspire the creative arts and support healing.

I began the process by listening to Julie Andrews sing Getting to Know You as I shuffled the Everyday Witch cards. It was the Six of Pentacles, a card all about giving and receiving that emerged. So clearly the Witch depicted in this card is prepared to help even the playing field and share some of her knowledge with me; teach me about the world of Tarot.

So when I was told by an experienced Tarot reader that she wished that the Everyday Witch had been available when she was learning 20 years ago, that she strongly recommends this deck to beginners I figured it was time to go beyond the interview process and actually get to know this deck, get to know Tarot better. Of course I have made resolutions like this before but I am not going to beat myself up because I am aware that PTSD issues and the nature of technology have impacted on my capacity to focus.

For now it is my intention to set up some Tiny Tea each day and work with some cards. I am hoping to study the Everyday Witch in detail and draw comparisons with cards in other decks that I have in my collection.

Tarot Play Time – Play Theatre

I think I am not the only one intrigued by the picturesque of early Tarot cards. What do they really represent? Who drew them? Who put all these icons together?

Then I saw Dario Fo, the great Italian comedian of Comedia dell Arte, play writer and Nobel Prize winner, acting on stage playing the hilarious figure of a barbarous Pope (I cannot recall who). and I thought that something of the medieval feasts, mysteries and banquets were radiating from the stage… from Origins of the Tarot Cards from Medieval Mystery Plays

I spied with my little eye the Magnetic Play Theatre that I obviously kept, which belonged to my daughter when she was little.

It only took a moment to find out about the connection between Tarot and Medieval Playhouses and for my inner child to point out that this would be a fun way to play with Tarot and write all at the same time.

So I set up my Rose and Swan Playhouse and called upon the Fiddler on the Roof Matchmaker to make me a match. The Lions Gateway Tarot by Jessica Henry was the obvious choice and I have to say it was love at first sight. These two may have quite the romance as they bounce off one another.

As I laid down the card that emerged from Henry’s beautiful deck I thought of fairy stories and the Canterbury Tales.  Given Tarots power to teach about morality, I might even be happy to  write a scene for a morality play.

Introducing A Major Tarot Writing Project

Some think Vlad is a figment of my imagination and simply the Fool in the Sakki Sakki Tarot. However, like Dorian Gray she is based on some reality. This has become a major writing project which is being featured on this website. I am excited to see where it goes.

Upon graduating from a prestigious University Vlad spent twenty years working as a Corporate Lawyer. She has travelled the world and some of her clients were amongst the wealthiest in the world. She believed she gave her clients the best value by gaining a deep understanding of their business including their objectives and challenges. She was a key member of an expert team who could guide a business to the most efficient and beneficial solution. Instead of Waiting for Godot to shed light on what she should do with the next phase of her life, she has walked away from this life in the fast lane. She plans to live in a van and revive her creative pulse. This is her new website

Vlad Takes Possession of Her Mobile Studio

It is possible for Mobile Studios to bring arts and culture programming to parks and street in under-served remote communities, helping residents, and elected officials re-imagine public spaces 

It had been awhile since I caught up with Vlad. Then she messaged me, all excited, because she had taken delivery of her stylish Winnebago and is ready to deck it out as a studio and hit the road. Since childhood, Vlad dreamed of teaching in a mobile art studio and sharing her love of art with budding artists. She had always been passionate about art and took a lot of art classes but was deterred from majoring in art by her parents who insisted that this was not a solid career path. Her parents pushed her to follow in her father’s footsteps and complete a law degree at the same university he had graduated from.

After years of being a Corporate Lawyer it is not surprising that Vlad is now unbelievably happy to have ditched all the references she relied on and, inspired by how others have set up mobile art studios, is stocking her van with art supplies, references and a substantial collection of Tarot, Oracle, Playing card and Lenormand decks. She is keen to start from scratch, learn and support creativity in remote communities.

Vlad tells me that wants me to keep in touch with me so that I can help her as she learns and test runs her ideas with people in the communities where she stops. I cannot deny that I, who profess not to do envy, feel that I am infected with a decent dose of jealousy. It feels like she is living out my dream. But, I know in my heart that I am not ready to leave the safety of my sanctuary, so for now I will be happy to check in with her and monitor her progress. I can live vicariously through her.

To celebrate we sat and pulled a card with a message from her spirit guide. Through the Nine of Coins Vlad’s spirit guide assures her that she has reached a point where she can look back and see how she developed, rose to success and reached a point where she could confidently reinvent herself. The spirit guide points out that the material wealth she gained from her work as a Corporate Lawyer actually supports this new creative direction. 

Aperture Stories

“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:

  1. where your viewer’s eye is drawn in a photograph, and
  2. 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.

Drawing On the Past

I cannot deny that I have found my time with Estragon, at his beach side cabin, a creatively stimulating place to be. I have enjoyed sitting with him, chatting under the awning, and I have basked in being able to trot down the path that leads down to the sea. It feels a bit like I am on the set of Death in Paradise. Estragon’s cabin is situated well away from day trippers, and is the kind of place celebrities, seeking quiet and peace, pay a fortune for at places like Byron Bay in NSW, Australia.

As we sat drinking champagne under the awning, I could literally feel myself shedding a snake skin of stress that I had been carrying. I was fascinated to hear more about Estragon’s work as a Cyber Security Manager for a well known film company. Perhaps it was the salt air but I was intrigued as he described the Pirates of Cyber Space who download and distribute copyrighted content. I could almost imagine them sailing into our quiet bay to pilfer our solitude.

“It so happens”, I said “that I found a mini Pirate Spread on the internet. How about you pour me another champagne and I will sling some cards for you”.

Estragon, who was now totally over my weirdness, agreed that this could be fun, especially because he planned to hang out here for awhile. It is no secret that he isn’t sure what he is supposed to do when he isn’t surfing or wandering the beach looking for treasure.

After ceremoniously waving my very magic raven wand, I shuffled the Gypsy Tarot Deck many times, impressing Estragon with my ability to riffle shuffle. Then I laid the cards out on the table.

Our eyes widened as we took in the cards that had emerged.

What Adventure Calls?

We simultaneously focused on the reddened sky in the background of the 7 of Pentacles and considered how this might be a sign to use the experience from his past to inform a new project and a micro adventure. We chuckled about the Pirates of the Caribbean and I snorted and suggested that since he had first hand experience and such good contacts in the film industry, he might write a script that featured some pirates of the seven cyber seas. Estragon gave me one of those WTF looks and I knew that he thought this might be a possibility.

Where must I travel?

It was pretty evident to both of us that the only travel Estragon planned to do was in his mind. As he took in the 2 of Swords he remarked that beyond that castle lay possibility. He reflected that he had been locked within a castle and that tackling a script would be one way of breaking out. As he was talking I thought of Stephen King who literally locked himself in the laundry and worked at a makeshift deck sandwiched between the washing machine and the dryer. It was in this laundry that he created Carrie, his first major hit novel. Estragon and I agreed that he did not need a fancy spot to write, that he had indeed, found a spot many would be envious of.

What buried treasure awaits? What am I going to do?

It was not lost on either of us that here, in this remote setting, Estragon could go within and pull out secrets, draw on the knowledge he has about those who ruthlessly pirate copyrighted materials. “I am going to do it” he said as we poured more champagne.

 

Discarding the Stilettos

During the 1970s, as women were fighting to enter the corporate world, the dress code for success became more about mimicking men as a means of capturing a little bit of their authority and gaining acceptance into the boys’ club. The ’80s and ’90s saw a shift towards a more fiercely feminine brand of power. The suits stayed, but now they had exaggerated shoulders, nipped-in waists, came in bold colors, and didn’t shy away from making a statement

When I met Vlad she reported that she had taken steps to make her dream of being a ‘traveller’, with no set destination, a reality. She told me that she was just waiting to take delivery of the second hand van that she had bought which had needed some restoration work done.

Then she showed me the poem, ‘Caged Bird’, by Maya Angelou that she had found so deeply moving. A friend who gifted her the book of poems by Angelou, had told her that, sometimes when Angelou wanted to write, she made an appointment to write by booking herself into a Hotel room and taking herself, her typewriter and a bottle of whiskey along.

Neither of us knew whether this was a true story but we were rather taken with the idea that Angelou should be a free enough bird to do this. Vlad clearly yearned to learn to fly free after having been in a Corporate cage for so long.

I suggested that we pull a card to glean a message, or some direction, from the Universe. As always we agreed that we would accept any message and that I would rely on her reactions to the card that emerged, rather than project any of my ideas.

As the Sun card emerged Vlad literally cried. When she composed herself she pointed to the high heel shoes that were discarded on the pavement. “These shoes say it all” she said. “Everything I read and witnessed amongst female colleagues led me to submit and wear clothing and accessories that would tell the world what I wanted and what I was capable of. Every day I took hours to groom myself and dress to impress. I had to wear stiletto heels like those shown here and believe me I am  very happy to have removed them and to have left them, discarded, on the pavement of an urban city”.

I pointed out that it is my understanding that the Sun card bathes us and our new pathway in light, offers possibilities and helps us to focus. The Sun makes us feel alive and fills us with optimism. Vlad smiled but I knew she was primarily focusing on just what the shoes represented.

Caged Bird
BY MAYA ANGELOU

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.