Seeking Inspiration – Mystery Tarot Tours

You might not think that a bunch of dead people would have much to say. However, a good graveyard can reveal a lot about the society that built it, from its history and its architecture to its superstitions. I have been to the original blockbuster cemetery, Pere Lachaise in Paris, Prague’s  Jewish cemeteries and the oldest Christian cemetery in Penang. Here at home I regularly visit small, beautifully serene, historic cemeteries in the Central Goldfields, Victoria, Australia. There are so many narratives to be found in these often abandoned places.

Recently I set out on my first Mystery Tarot Tour. Friends love it when I suggest that we go on one of Akari’s (my Mazda 3) mystery tours. Sometimes I take writers, seeking inspiration, to historic cemeteries. All those headstones have a story to tell.

I am not sure where the idea came from but a week or so back  I decided to revisit some of my favourite cemeteries to read some tarot cards with the long dead.  (I confess that visiting cemeteries, armed with Tarot decks, is a bit different even by my standards.) I set out  with my two companion animals, a picnic basket and a tarot deck.

At the Sandon Cemetery I stopped at an unmarked grave to ask about what kind of life the occupant had experienced. Not surprisingly, given the harshness of life on the early goldfields, the nine of rods spoke of a life filled with a lot of hard work.

Further on, at the Majorca cemetery, when I asked the Martell’s to share some wisdom out came the Fool from Monicka Clio Sakki’s Art Tarot Deck. I confess I was quite taken aback – stopped in my tracks long enough to take another photo that I could use as an avatar as I establish myself as a Tarot Midwife.

Perhaps I am on a Fool’s journey or maybe I am on to something quite profound. Time will tell!

The Deck I Used:

People who know my track record online know that I am not into reinventing the wheel. Asali Earthwork provide a great review of the Sakki Sakki Tarot deck. Personally I feel it is essential to have the companion book and I lashed out and acquired the colouring book as well. Perfect for my writing classes to choose an archetype and meditate while colouring it in. A stream of words always materialises.  Also, this flip through on YouTube shows you exactly what this deck is like. I always watch flip throughs before investing. Photo by The Tarot Midwife.

Warming the Hand

The Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot is a truly great deck for generating some writing. Lay out the cards and you will see that this deck has a story book quality about it. Moreover the companion book, full of interesting spells, is excellent for any would be J.K. Rowlings wanting to use magick as a part of their writing. The diversity, the fantasy world depicted in this deck, makes it a perfect companion in a writing session.

In my writing classes we often begin by ‘warming the hand’. To warm the hand is to undertake a 15 minute stream of consciousness exercise in response to some stimuli.

When I choose to use Tarot with a group I have enough decks to provide each participant with a deck.  When we did this exercise we were warming our hand and producing journal entries that could be used for memoir writing.

I began by asking the Modern Spellcasters Tarot deck to provide me with someone who would help me started.  It was the Tower which emerged from the deck. Anyone who knows me knows there have been a few tower moments in my life and so I could have very quickly run the hand across the page simply listing them.

Instead I asked the deck to offer me another card to guide me as to how I should begin. Out popped the 7 of Pentacles which called upon me to focus on my capacity to overcome adversity and acknowledge how I have pulled through by quite literally reinventing myself.

The Tower needed me to tell some of our story.

Who steps out of your deck to ensure that their voice is heard?

Playing with Tarot

Bibliomancy is the use of books in divination. The method of employing sacred books for ‘magical medicine’, for removing negative entities, or for divination is widespread in many religions of the world

Given my habit of snatching ideas and manipulating them to suit myself I randomly took a small passage from Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes and asked a character from the Your Path Through The Enchanted Forest Tarot deck to play and stimulate an idea for a quirky story.

The Keeper of Spells emerged. When asked how he would feel if some delinquent tot broke in and gobbled up all his breakfast the answer was unequivocal. The little brat should start running because the Keeper would transform into a giant and we all know that while some giants are friendly this one is unlikely to be. He has no time for thieving little wildlings who would be audacious enough to eat his tucker.

Try the exercise with something from your shelves and write your own adventure.

Blue Hat Thinking – Beginning a Writing Course

“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:

Where have we been?

Where are we now?

Where do we want to be?

How do we get there?

We begin by pausing and grounding. I like to use a stillness and silence meditation. There are many options online!

In this case I am doing the exercise for myself. I shuffle the deck many times. I use a variety of gentle shuffling methods. You do whatever works for you.

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.

Meeting A Creative Giant

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.

Art Oracles: This is a new card game that offers daily mantras from the world’s greatest artists. In our writing workshop we each drew a card with the view of discovering what insight an artist might offer about the creative process. Initially Lyn struggled when she drew Edvard Munch from the deck and tried to absorb the meaning of the mantras. The Norwegian painter, was simply not resonating for her. But then, when she went to the park with her journal everything changed. Her style of writing undertook a transformation. Now she has a piece of his work framed and communes with him regularly.

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.

Some Right Royal Mischief

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.

Alison’s ancestor was a missionary in the 1800’s who was killed and eaten by cannibals in Fiji. We went through Patrick Valenza’s Royal Mischief Playing Cards which are like an oracle deck and she found many resonated. These particular cards help to draw out material to tell the story of the chief who made the call to have her ancestor killed and the subsequent events which culminated in the villagers feeling they had been cursed by having eaten a ‘holy man’.

An Appointment to Write

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

When I make an appointment to write in a local cafe I always have a deck of cards with me. The deck used here is the Morgan Tarot which is actually more like an Oracle deck than a tarot deck. It is eclectic and humorous and reads really well.