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.

Intentional Mindfulness With Tarot

We all yearn to have time for personal needs and creative dreams — after all, this is our life to make the most of. And we all know how hard it is to remember what really matters. With distractions from jobs, aging parents, and children — not to mention women’s perennial fear of being labeled “selfish” — following our own desires and dreams can become ever more elusive. The Life Organizer aims to help you shift your focus, augmenting traditional goal setting with the ease that comes from steady inner listening and mindfulness. It will become your trusted companion — and maybe the most important book you’ll ever own.

I  agree with Davy and Tracy that “Tarot is a fantastic tool to use for personal development and daily mindfulness practice. The imagery on most tarot decks are wonderful prompts for journaling and meditation.

Tarot helps to focus your mind, and engages your intuition and sub-conscious, aiding in your ability to facilitate connections and explore different ways of thinking about any aspect of your life or circumstances”.

Three weeks ago I pulled out this book by Jennifer Louden, that had been resting on my shelves for many years, and decided that, while there are many spreads and challenges that help us to adapt our thinking, I would apply Louden’s 52 weeks of Mindful Living and draw cards in response to the questions she puts forward each week.

For example the first week posed the following:

  1. What experience or feeling do you yearn for today?
  2. How might my shadow or time monsters block me from trusting myself or exploring the yearning I have named?
  3. What would help my body feel listened to and loved?
  4. How have I been talking to myself lately?

Initially I worked with the Mary El Tarot and these are just three of the cards I meditated upon in response to the questions posed for the first week. Then I worked with the material that emerged in my journal.

Personally I am not in to reinventing the wheel so do check out Davy and Tracy’s page about how they use Tarot for personal development and mindfulness. What I have found is that this can also be done in a group situation or with a partner. The dialogue that emerges is invariably very stimulating.

Tarot Based Memoir

Choose a pictorial deck and lay out a complete minor arcana. You might, for example lay out a suit that is alignment with your zodiac sign. For example, I am a Virgo and I might choose to use the earth based pentacles.

Use the cards to tell write a narrative about your life. Think of the first 3 cards being the beginning of the story, the second set of three cards being the middle of the story and the last three cards being the end.

 

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.

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!

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?

Seeking Strength

Strength is a Major Arcana Tarot card, and is numbered either XI or VIII, depending on the deck.

Strength predicts the triumphant conclusion to a major life problem, situation or temptation through strength of character. It is a very happy card if you are fighting illness, recovering from injury or trying to recover from a trauma. It suggests you will prevail.


Everyone on the planet has been well aware that this has been a particularly torrid summer in Australia. It began months ago and it seemed that the whole country was on fire. Horrific images of people huddled on beaches with a searing red sky and a blanket of smoke, deaths of firefighters and civilians, loss of property and images of whole towns razed circulated around the world.

Away from the fire fronts we knew that there by the grace of Mother Nature it could have been us. Perhaps because the drought had not been as intense in this part of Victoria we dodged a bullet but felt helpless in the face of it all.

Now everyone is on alert and going more than slightly crazy because of a virus that, along with the thousands of travellers who zig zag across the world, will freely enter countries. Today we woke to news that people are emptying supermarket shelves and it feels like the world really gone quite mad.

One of the therapeutic benefits of the Tarot is that you can seek solace at a time like this. The Cosmic Tarot Strength card featured here is particularly beautiful. A mysterious woman, purported to be the film icon, Hedy Lamar, holds a magic cloth which mirrors a lion. Lamar is a good choice for the Strength card. Lamarr once insisted, “Any girl can be glamorous; all you have to do is stand still and look stupid.” That she herself was anything but stupid was unequivocally proved during World War II when, in collaboration with the avant-garde composer George Antheil, she invented an electronic device that minimized the jamming of radio signals. Though it was never used in wartime, this device is a component of present-day satellite and cellular phone technology.

Seeking to meditate upon the archetypal qualities of strength, courage, and fortitude, as reflected in this card, this guided visualization helped me to enhance these qualities, to connect to my own strength, and my own courage.  Rather than visualising meeting with the traditional lion I went into my safe place and sought out the faithful donkey who had accompanied me, at a very difficult time, on the inner journeys we led from the Soul Food Cafe. With his fortitude came a strength of mind that has enabled me to calmly set boundaries and refuse to engage in craziness such as emptying supermarket shelves of things like toilet paper and Panadol.

Try picking out the Strength card from your deck, take in some nature imagery and meditations and go inside the card for awhile. Trust me! You will feel refreshed after doing this.

Hedy Lamarr 

Hedy Lamarr was the daughter of a prosperous Viennese banker. Lamarr was privately tutored from age 4; by the time she was 10, she was a proficient pianist and dancer and could speak four languages. At age 16 she enrolled in Max Reinhardt’s Berlin-based dramatic school, and within a year she made her motion picture debut in Geld auf der Strasse (1930; Money on the Street). She achieved both stardom and notoriety in the Czech film Extase (1932; Ecstasy), in which she briefly but tastefully appeared in the nude. Her burgeoning career was halted by her 1933 marriage to Austrian munitions manufacturer Fritz Mandl, who not only prohibited her from further stage and screen appearances but also tried unsuccessfully to destroy all existing prints of Extase. After leaving the possessive Mandl, she went to Hollywood in 1937, where she appeared in her first English-language film, the classic romantic drama Algiers (1938). Lamarr became a U.S. citizen in 1953.

Tarot Fairy Stories

The unique designs in Norbert Losche’s Cosmic Tarot deck bring ancient knowledge to modern readers through simple yet beautifully drawn images that resemble familiar figures in our lives. Source: tarot.com

The creator and artistic designer of the Cosmic Tarot was born in 1951 and currently lives in Aachen, Germany. He is a self-taught artist. He originally began his professional life as a surveyor, then studied the history of art before taking up painting. It was an interest in the esoteric that led him to the tarot — an interest which found the perfect means of expression in the creation of the Cosmic Tarot.

When I want to become familiar with a suit in a deck I like to lay out the Court Cards at the top and then lay out the ten cards so that I can formulate a story. In this instance we set the task of writing a fairy story.

I cannot remember when I acquired the Cosmic Tarot. I suspect it was way back in the day when I did a Jungian course at Monash University in Melbourne. Whatever! Having pulled this deck back out of the cupboard, I realised just what a compelling deck it is. The Cosmic Tarot features symbols and icons gathered from diverse eras and influences, including astrological, Qabalistic, and Golden Dawn attributions. For my purposes, the pictorial nature of the Cosmic Tarot makes it an ideal deck to work with in my writing groups.

In this instance, using the technique of stream of consciousness writing, I wrote a fairy story about Prince Gustav whose father, King Harold, insisted that the indulged Prince make his own way by living amongst the common folk, in disguise for an extended period.

I used the sequence of the cards to develop Gustav’s character arc over a twenty year period, culminating in his celebrated reunion with his parents.

Perhaps you will try this exercise and share a link to your work in the comment section.

About the Deck

Cosmic Tarot
Image Source: Astrology Angel Medium

When interviewed Norbert Losche said that “in creating this tarot, my intention is to make the old knowledge accessible and understandable to everyone by using a few secret symbols as possible. In our times, the search for transcendent meaning and self redemption has replaced the old mystical religions of a distant god. The tarot’s age-old knowledge is always quiet and reserved, yet it welcomes the seeker like an old friend. The tarot, with its dynamic concept of constant change, offers a doctrine for the New Age and thus becomes a reliable guide in this chaotic world of shifting social values.” (quoted by Jean Huets, Cosmic Tarot, US Games Systems, Inc, 1996, pg 6).

Perhaps you are interested in acquiring this deck. To learn more about the Cosmic Tarot visit Learning the Cosmic Tarot. This site is very comprehensive and is especially good if you pick up a second hand deck without the LWB (Little White Book). The Zen Witch has recently put out a great video where she flips through and provides a comprehensive review of the deck. Astrology Angel Medium also provides a good review.