A Tarot Based Play

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 Play

Whether you are an experienced Tarot reader or a beginner there is no doubt that lovers of cards love to play with their cards. This Advent Calendar is primarily about spending time with and playing as though you are playing with a good friend.

Hudson explores, in some detail, the history of Mystery and Morality Plays

As early as the 14th century artists were painting the heroes of Miracle, Mystery and Morality plays on to cards. In his book, Mystical Origins of the Tarot, Paul Hudson explores the ancient roots that lie within these plays.

Typically, Morality plays, for example, tried to teach through a theatrical point of view. These plays were allegorical dramas that personified the moral values and abstract ideas to teach moral lessons. The plays were used to educate the masses on Christianity.

A unique dance production featuring the deck of 22 cards, in their traditional order, is just an example of how artists make use of the Tarot.

Here is a setting for a Medieval Style Play using a Magnetic Theater my daughter had as a child.

Imagine you are writing for a Medieval Theatre Troupe. What cards would you choose to use for a play set in a Royal Court or conversely for a Chaucer, Canterbury Tales style character like the Wife of Bath? Check the link to be reminded of the characters that peopled Chaucers work.

What will your play be about?

Experiment! Be creative!

Connecting with Your Deck – Tell A Tarot Tale

Bonding with your tarot deck is a great practice you can use, along with cleansing your cards, to attune to your new, or old, deck’s vibe for more powerful and accurate readings. Search online and you will find plenty of suggestions about how to connect with your deck. Here is just another fun suggestion.

In this instance I have used the Cosmic Tarot, and chosen the Princess of Cups to be the primary protagonist.

One way to build up your connection with Tarot decks is to use the suits and court cards to tell spontaneous stories.

There are many advantages of using the storytelling process to connect with your Tarot cards.

  • You really get into the picture of the cards and observe the details of the imagery.
  • You can really internalize each and every aspect of the card’s pictures.
  • You can get creative and let your imagination run wild while writing the story.
  • its an opportunity to let imagination and Intuition mix really well together

Lay out a full suit from your Tarot deck and choose one of the Court Cards to take the role of primary protagonist.

Set a timer for twenty minutes and just write.

Here is an example of a tale, written in twenty minutes, using the Cosmic Tarot for inspiration.

After having been through a trying time, having emerged from a sustained period of loss and grief, Sonia, a young Princess in the House of Cups, visited a local Gypsy tarot reader. The Gypsy told Sonia that her cup was actually overflowing with potential and suggested that she might try to find delight in life by observing simple things. She told the Princess that this would sweeten her life and open her up to positive experiences.

Sonia took the Gypsies advice to heart and began to take more notice of her environment. In no time she began to see the world of the palace in a different light. She watched her mother, Queen Isobella working tirelessly in the Court gardens. Sonia decided that instead of sitting by her window, waiting for yet another, disappointing, entitled, narcissist prince to come, she would take her art supplies and slip into the Enchanted wood that she had loved as a child.

As the days passed her demeanor transformed and her parents and brother noted her flushed cheeks and the transformation that had taken place. Sonia suggested that it was all due to the fresh air and her passion for her artistic endeavours. What she did not reveal, over the formal evening dinners, was that while she was in the woods she had met a very handsome huntsman and that each day she was making sure to set up her easel where he would find her.

Dressed as a maiden, the huntsman was oblivious to her true identity. He began to court her, finding small gifts to give her each day. Gradually she filled her box of wonder with delightful fragments, stones, gum nuts, flowers, feathers and crystals. Each piece had a story to tell and the fairy folk of the woods unashamedly supported their affair and shielded their passionate love making from prying eyes.

Alas, one day, courtiers, at the behest of the King, followed her and witnessed her meeting and walking off with the huntsman. After Sonia had returned to the court, flushed after her encounter, the courtiers returned to the woods and revealed Sonia’s identity to the huntsman. They threatened him and made him understand that he best make himself scarce for he was not eligible to marry her.

The huntsman, knowing their lives were in danger disappeared and Sonia fell into despair when he failed to meet their rendezvous. In desperation she went back to the Gypsy, seeking more advice.

The Gypsy, upon seeing the empty cups in the spread, pointed instead to the ten of cups and reassured Sonia that happiness could still be hers.

Being a determined young woman Sonia sought help from the Fae folk and was taken to the Huntsman’s cottage deep within the woods. They talked for hours, imagining the life they could share if she was prepared to relinquish her royal life and live with him in this idyllic woodland setting.

He was shattered when she made it clear that this was not possible, that her family, the courtiers would literally hunt them down and kill him for his insolence.

It seemed that all was lost until her mother, with a group of her Ladies in Waiting appeared before them. The Queen recognized the huntsman as the youngest son of her brother, the King of the House of Swords. King Eric had sent the lad into the woods to learn about life, to learn to honour all living things and he had been gone so long he had quite forgotten who he was.

Needless to say, sensing that Sonia was already with child, Queen Isobella wholeheartedly blessed the union, even although they were cousins.

To celebrate their marriage Sonia commissioned an artist to paint a portrait of herself. Everyone was taken aback when they saw that she had posed naked in the woods, surrounded by Fae folk and overflowing cups to celebrate that her cup runneth over – at least for now.

Reconnecting With A Deck

All Tarot and Oracle Deck collectors will have at least a couple of decks that they have disconnected from. Yule is the time when many people reconnect with friends and family. If we think of a deck as a person who we have a relationship with it might just be time to reconnect. It may sound slightly crazy but you can take the time to hold the deck and explain why you’ve been out of touch. You might briefly describe what has been going on with you if you must explain your disappearance, but don’t put yourself down. No mea culpa about how bad or shameful you are. Just reconnect — don’t try and solve all the relationship issues of the past.

Engaging in the challenges that appear in the Instagram Community is a great way to reconnect, build a relationship with your deck and develop your tarot reading skills all at the same time. There are a vast number of challenges to choose from and most can be done at your own pace.

Two that have caught my eye this month are Deckember 21, which encourages participants to showcase their favourite Majors and Inner Landscape of the Dark which provides a way to mine your inner landscape.

Personally I love to work with Josephine Hardiman’s Challenges. She consistently posts thought provoking work which you commit to doing every second day. Her latest is the Goodbye to 2021, which is very appropriate for December.

Over to You

The Lions Gateway Tarot by Jessica Henry who has a new edition available.

The Lions Gateway Tarot is a beautiful Indi deck which I ordered in 2020 before the cost of postage spiraled out of control. I was very excited to get it but it has languished as, like a Wattle Bird I have taken off the feed on what has appeared to be juicier nectar.

I am not in to making New Year resolutions but I am prepared to adopt a different view with the decks I have in my collection and commit to building a closer relationship with them.

Identify a deck you are prepared to reconnect with and spend some time completing a challenge with this one deck.

Captured and Imprisoned – Meeting a Major

The King and Queen of Hearts were seated on their throne when they arrived, with a great crowd assembled about them—all sorts of little birds and beasts, as well as the whole pack of cards; the knave was standing before them, in chains, with a soldier on each side to guard him; and near the king was the white rabbit, with a trumpet in one hand and a scroll of parchment in the other.
Alice in Wonderland

As the Moon rose, casting its light on the world of the Weasels Pond there was a sudden noise behind us. A small infantry, comprising of all sorts of wildlife, surrounded me, demanding to see my passport. When I couldn’t produce one I was unceremoniously marched off to the Royal Palace and chained up in a dank cell. I remembered Gulliver, who was imprisoned by the Lilliputians when he first reached the island because they were frightened by his massive size. I hoped things here could be quickly resolved. However, the Weasel, who was supposed to help me squeeze out of sticky situations, had been charged with being an accomplice, was no where to be seen.

Bereft I sobbed and wailed at the indignity of it all, at my stupidity. What fool encouraged me to clamber into this alien world? I could be tucked up in the safety of my home, but no, I had decided to join what was promoted as an adventure. Shivering and shaking in a dank prison is certainly not my idea of an adventure!

The Hanged Beast from the Northern Animal Tarot

Suddenly the silence was broken by a gruff voice who literally yelled out demanding that I get a grip and shut the horrible wailing noise.

Startled I looked around to identify who was reprimanding me so harshly. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I spied a beast hanging upside down in a corner.

Now some folk would stain their underwear when finding themselves confined with a Hanged Beast, but not me! I was relieved to find I have a companion, even if that companion was decidedly gruff.

I thought of the Guided Tarot imagery that I sometimes listen to and I decided that I could interview this creature and glean some advice. A Hanged Beast was sure to have some timely suggestions for me about what kind of energy, what kind of action is needed to extricate myself from this prickly situation.

As the Hanged Beast took in my overtures he barely moved. He seemed completely at ease hanging upside down.

“Why don’t you use that new deck, the Archeo, to determine what kind of energy you actually have that you need to manifest” he dryly suggested.

I was confused! This deck was back at home in my work space there.

The Hanged Beast smiled a knowing smile. “This is a magical place. We can beam it up for you” And with that I found the Archeo sitting next to me.

I drew a card! It was none other than the Sage who reminded me to pause and quietly meditate upon my situation.

Over to You

Christopher Vogler has written in depth about the stages of the Hero’s Journey, which is what we have probably embarked on. Every traveler is invariably confronted with a number of challenges. Tarot decks take us on these archetypal journeys and have become invaluable tools for writers and artists alike. Then, of course there are some outstanding Archetype decks like Archeo by Nick Bantock and Archetype Cards by Carolyn Myss.

Choose a deck from your collection. Enter it and wander for awhile.

What challenge are you faced with?

Which Major or Archetype helps you shift your perspective and move forward?

Drink in the Vista

Unhurt, Alice gets up and catches sight of the White Rabbit as he vanishes around a corner. Alice approaches a long corridor lined by doors. The doors are all locked, so Alice tests them with a key that she finds on a glass table. After searching around, Alice discovers a small door behind a curtain”.

Within moments of deciding to join this Yule Expedition, seeking the creative grail or elixir of creativity, you pass through a special portal and enter an imaginary world.

Back in 2006 pilgrims who joined me on an Advent Calendar Grand Tour, documented their first impressions of the world beyond the portal.

The door opens and a vista spreads before you.

As you step into this new world you are greeted by a figure who gives you a special bag filled with talismans for your journey. In your bag you will find a packet of dream seeds, spectacles, a candlestick, a tiny anchor, a medallion with the imprint of the Unicorn and a set of wings. Each bag contains something that has been chosen specifically for each recipient.

Do not misplace this bag or let anyone take it from you. Keep it with you at all times.

Establishing Your Personal Setting

Most of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe takes place in the fantastic land of Narnia, which Lucy and her siblings reach through—you got it—a magical wardrobe.

Narnia is everything we’ve come to expect from a fantasy novel. It’s a vaguely medieval place in which people live close to the land, fight using bows and arrows and swords, and are ruled by kings and queens who live in palaces. Mythical creatures populate it – not only the stock characters of today’s fantasy world like centaurs and dwarves, but more Greco-Roman-feeling characters too, like minotaurs and dryads.

A master class writing website explains that as a writer, you might be tempted to dive right into your plot and start giving detailed character description of the figure who gave you the bag of talismans. Such a character and this story “needs a space in which to exist—that space is the setting. Taking the time to properly describe your setting will give your book more vibrancy and keep your readers engaged”.

So many of the tarot and oracle decks that we love provide us with rich setting. I look at the pile I have bought with me and I know that I can apply path working, meditation or guided imagery techniques with either the exquisite Arboridium Oracle or Tarot of the Sweet Twilight. I know that these decks will ignite my imagination and help me describe the world I have entered.

Choose a pictorial deck to spend some quality time with. You literally wander inside the image and drink in as much detail as possible.

Using scrap paper get down as many ideas about the environment you find you in as possible. Keep it simple, don’t set unrealistic expectations, include sketches and experiment with using all your senses.

Make this world come alive through writing or your favorite artistic medium. Share with us what you see, hear, smell, sense, taste, feel or simply make a card depicting the world you are entering.

You have permission to do whatever you like.

What Others See

When I stepped through the portal I found myself in a Gypsy encampment (Gypsy Palace Tarot) and was greeted by some very colorful characters.

I stopped to listen to a poets reading.

Like you, I can remember other days,
The early morning air so fresh and clean,
Caravans as bright as popinjays,
Moving through a world forever green.
They called us vagrants in those days, my friend,
And what were we but entertainers,
Travellers on a road that has no end.

Like you, from crossroad dance to county fair,
I followed the road wherever it might lead,
From country byways to the city square,
From lake to shore, and always we were free.
They called us vagabonds and rogues, my friend,
And what were we but entertainers,
Drifting in an ocean without end.

That’s why we thought we knew each other well,
Even though we’ve never met before;
What you and I know only we can tell,
Of days of freedom lost in gypsy lore.
The world may change, but we do not, my friend,
For what are we but entertainers,
Voices in a song that has no end.

In the distance you hear the sound of their laughter,
Of tales told and of drink and of dance,
It lures, entices and enchants you
In to the heart of the gypsy’s night camp.

Far away from the crowd are hung blankets
a small fire burns bright on its own
Shadows of a woman are seen clear in the night
As she holds herself and she dances alone

She steps toward the light of the fire,
To reveal such a haunting, pained face
How sad is this woman called Sadie
Dancing alone in her black satin and lace

In her tent she reads cards for the strangers
As the candles burn dim on the shelf
Black Sadie sees into their futures,
She helps others but can’t save herself

The pain buried so deeply inside her
Makes her live in a world all her own
Where she feeds it and nurtures it lovingly,
She can heal it, but won’t leave it alone

She falls to the ground crying into the night
For the girl who once danced not alone,
For what she once was, before pain touched her heart
For the man, and the life she had known

Her silenced soul screams at the tools of her trade
Telling fortunes, for her, hold no place
The crystals and tarot are just symbols of fate,
Not the real, not the pain she must face

She backs once again into the shadows
Where no one can reach her dark place
She hides in the folds of her dresses
And tears soak her black satin and lace.

by Bobbi Fetterly
© 2005

Trick for LearningTarot

Far too many people worry about reading tarot cards the “right” way. There are actually far more helpful reading techniques, depending on the situation. It is also believed that when reading for others the reader must do what the client expects. This all too often means to predict the future and tell people how to obtain their desires. Is the job of a foot doctor to cure lung cancer? As readers we have a right, even an obligation, to discover what we do best and to offer that in readings both for ourselves and for others. The task becomes learning what we do best and offering that with clarity and confidence.

One of the tricks I have found to be very successful is to regularly complete challenges and by using the cards to kick start story telling.

Recently I have been working on a project helping Aussie Wildlife learn about tarot and I have found that drawing Australian wildlife in tarot settings has helped refine my knowledge of the cards

Big Red is the King of Wands

For example, in response to the Tarot Storytelling Spread I drew the Big Red Kangaroo as the King of Wands.

Kangaroo’s are herbivorous. They reside throughout Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea. Kangaroos have powerful, long hind legs and feet for leaping and jumping with. Their long tails thicken at the base to help them balance. Each of their hind feet has 4 toes, this number represents foundations.

This big Red Kangaroo, proudly wearing his crown of authority, has the power to create a safe and secure environment for his mob. The Red Kangaroo has an innate capacity to adapt to new situations and environments. Kangaroos are extremely focused beings, with their energy fields tightly woven around them with no room for distractions. 

If hunted by a Dingo, human or a rare Tasmanian tiger, the Big Reds are very fast and hop effortlessly to safety without a moments thought about where they are going. They use their strong instincts to guide them.

For us humans, there is a great lesson to be learned from this – instead of thinking about every single, most minute step we take we must let our instincts guide us.

Pandemic Free Writing Zone

When Victoria went into its fifth lockdown last week, classes that I had offered in a couple of Library settings were cancelled. This is disappointing for everyone and adds to the cocktail of negative noise that we have all been dealing with. 

As Nitchke explains “the human brain has the capacity to imagine all the worst things that could happen. And the more uncertainty there is — especially if that uncertainty is coupled with gloomy hypotheticals — the more likely the brain is to conjure up and fixate on the worst-case scenarios.

I wish it were otherwise but we are going to be faced with uncertainty for quite some time! So I decided that one way of providing a tiny bit of certainty is to offer regular writing/art sessions in a Zoom setting. 

Participants will have a regular meeting time and projects (lockdown friendly if the need arises) to occupy themselves before meeting again.

The cost is $15 per a one and a half hour session.

If you are interested in joining a group of a maximum of 5 participants, for a block of 6 weeks, on a Tuesday evening at 8 pm AET simply email heatherblakey at fastmail dot fm. Other times can be made available depending on interest.

Writing for Wellness

Pens, crayons, pencils and IV tubes may not seem to have much in common but the arts are increasingly touted as a form of healing that can be as relevant to a patients wellbeing as medication. A developing body of research shows that expressive writing helps calm the mind and emotions, and increases feelings of happiness and wellbeing.

In this course we will use guided writing activities as a gentle approach to personal wellbeing. You will be offered tools which you can take away and use in your daily writing and art practice.

The enjoyable and easy-to-do activities will help you:

  • reunite with your most creative self
  • dip into Mnemosynes Well of Memory using simple lists as stepping stones
  • apply guided imageries and visual imagery as a kick starter to daily writing
  • alter your perspective by communicating with fragments of nature
  • experience the catharsis that comes with writing letters to past and future selves
  • create detailed portraitures
  • explore a range of emotions

About Heather Blakey

Heather Blakey has had over thirty years experience as a secondary school teacher in Melbourne’s Northern suburbs and she has recently graduated as a Master of Social Work at Monash University.

Between 2000 and 2010 she built and managed the critically acclaimed Soul Food Cafe a site which was acknowledged by Writers Digest and authors such as Sark and Jean Houston. While she no longer runs this labyrinthine website Soul Food informs how she works and has influenced writing courses that she runs regularly.

​Heather describes herself as a purveyor of stimuli and an artistic midwife. She has worked as a specialist teacher of writing with people of all ages and believes that the expressive arts, and writing in particular, not only promotes wellness in those who trust the process and engage but helps people identify and value their unique voice.

The Spirit of the Fungi

I pause to commune with the serene spirit of the Fungi. She may live in darkened places but her light shines brightly and she is full of wisdom. 

“For millennia, western thinking has been dominated by the idea that we are separate from, and superior to, the rest of nature. Plants and fungi are seen as dumb, mechanical processes that we can plunder for materials and chemicals without considering how we relate to them. Other cultures see other lifeforms as peers. They are viewed as creatures deserving of respect and from whom we might be able to learn something. 

From our human-centered perspective, fungi seem rather inert and unimpressive. They don’t move much and seem to be uninteresting passive objects rather than intelligent beings. Just because they don’t move, however, doesn’t mean they don’t have behavior”. 

Life as we know it would not exist without fungi. They are the critical link in the biological cycle of life and death. 

Fungi are the great recyclers. They play a major part, with prokaryotes such as bacteria, in breaking down organic matter. Without them we would soon be up to our ears in dead plant matter and animal carcasses. Worse still, we would be surrounded by mountains of dung that would not rot. 

Plants would soon run out of fresh nutrients. Animals in turn would go hungry. 

There would be no forests. Few people realize that trees rely on networks of fungi working in partnership with their roots. Without fungi to make nutrients available, trees would be unable to survive. Consider the many roles trees play in supporting life on earth and you’ll realize the importance of this union. 

Reference: The Fungus Amongst Us

A Fools Journey

Once upon a time, long before there was once upon a time, an old crone decided that she needed to make one final creative journey and add another star to the constellation in the skies that shone within her private universe. She was not in the least surprised when a Raven and a Donkey insisted on coming along, for they had travelled with her before.

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What did startle her was the arrival of a flamboyant, charismatic Sulphur Crested Cockatoo named Bonnie. She suspected that Bonnie was one of the flocks that had raided her beloved Ornamental Pistachio Tree each year because she was quite sure that she had seen and photographed a bird, with attitude, who looked just like her.

Duncan the Donkey made it clear that he was getting too old to carry heavy loads and while the Crone agreed that it would be good to travel lightly she did ask Duncan to carry some of her art supplies and made sure to tuck a few of her Tarot and Oracle cards into her bag. She had relied on them during the long ‘lockdowns’ and wasn’t about to go anywhere without her most trusted ones.

Bonnie’s sharp eye caught a glimpse of these boxed treasures and, because she is such an inquisitive bird, wanted to know more about them. The Crone began to explain the Major Arcana to her and was surprised to discover that Bonnie was more fascinated than any of her human friends had been.

“Perhaps you will teach me about these Majors as we travel” said Bonnie.

“What a good idea” said the Crone. “There is so much that I am yet to learn and we could always learn together”.

A Fools Journey

Brand Bonnie

From the Crone’s Diary

Other material of interest

Interested in Mythic Journey’s? Check out the work of Christopher Vogler and his book The Writers Journey

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.