Tarot Writing Challenges

A writing challenge is a foolproof way for a writer to practice the discipline of writing on a daily basis. A Tarot Writing Challenge provides a list of words and encourages you to shuffle, let a random card/ cards appear from a deck and then write spontaneously. Initial writing can be edited and be used to write poetry, fiction, drama or whatever takes your fancy.

These are just two examples of challenges that I have engaged in that have been featured for August 2022. My responses varied but I found myself having the most fun using a combination of an Oracle, Tarot Deck and Storytelling Card Deck. This was completed in stages and is rapidly becoming a work in progress.

Murder of Crows Tarot

Word Prompts – Tell – Live – Ancestral AnimismMysterious RuinLost Memories

She followed the birds through a wasteland, trusting that they would lead her to crystalline waters where could quench her thirst for something more.

It felt like she had been journeying forever. She was old and tired of this life now. She yearned to know where her spirit would go, if she could return to the old world and fly with her flock again, if she could live a truly wild life

She called upon the reflective water to tell the complete truth

and was gratified when an awe inspiring magician appeared before her. Could this really be true? Was this really she who had grown so weary? Did she have the power to manifest the change she had been been yearning for.

She held the Raven wand as tightly as she could in her gnarled, arthritic hands and cast a spell she had read in in an old alchemists book of secrets.

Everything went black and when she gained focus

she found herself being guided by a Ferryman who ferried her across the lake where intelligent crustaceans live out their full 140 years and more.

At the shore she was met by a Raven who had clearly feasted on the skull of a predator. The Raven simply said “You can hoard your breath. You can breathe in after you have breathed out. It is really as simple as that” and pointed to a path.

The path wound through a darkened forest, full of mysterious ruins. As she walked, firmly holding her treasured, carved stick, she shuddered, was more than a little unsettled by the breathless panting of a ghost, rambling about not being able to find her lost memories.

to be continued.

Marking Sahmain – Southern Hemisphere

“In ancient times, Winter Solstice festivals were the last celebrations held before the deep, hard winter began. There was plenty of food and wine, for now, – and hopes that all would survive the coming famine months until spring arrived again.”

On May 1 it is Sahmain in the Southern Hemisphere. It is not Winter Solstice but ‘Winter is Coming’.  As the days shorten our thoughts turn to life and death, to the past and the future, to what we’ve lost, what we’ve gained and what we are yet to do with our one wild and beautiful life. It felt like the right time to spend a few moments in quiet reflection in a cemetery.

Take the time to pick up the energy of the Cemetery you choose to visit. Find the grave that calls to you. Shuffle and lay out some cards and then spend quiet reflective time journaling.

Busting Creative Block

The Art Oracles: Creative and Life Inspiration features 50 artists with corresponding oracular messages inspired by each artist’s point of view. The deck was created by Katya Tylevich and Mikkel Sommer Christensen and published by Laurence King Publishing.

Are you suffering from creative block? Struggling to make a difficult life decision? Find out what Picasso, Pollock, Kahlo and other great artists would have done. Simply select an artist’s card from the Artist Oracle pack and take in the oracle’s advice on life, work or inspiration and any obstacle becomes surmountable.

In writing classes I suggest that participants draw a random card and then spend some time researching this artist, hunting for clues about how they have been able to combat creative blocks.

Any one who suggests that when authority says to be quiet, get a loud speaker, has my attention. Go online and find out more about this amazing artist.

Voices May Be Heart At Pennyweight

Some 200 children were buried at Pennyweight Flat Children’s Cemetery between 1852 and 1857, during the height of the Australian gold rush, and not much has happened here since. There have been no more burials. There’s no garden to tend to. No fresh flowers. But you will find small offerings from children who leave toys on the graves.

In a post Tania Braukamper notes that “Aside from those few with markings, the babies and children buried here are voiceless, nameless; nothing but soft bones and dust crushed beneath anonymity and piles of arid earth. The tiny mounds are even sadder because they are mute: the dead are always silent, but the unmarked dead are the quietest of all.”

Skeleton Stan and I doubted that these children remain voiceless, agreeing that it is just a matter of listening.

Stan, being a dead dude, is the perfect conduit to communicate with the tiny residents of this place so he and I agreed to go and try listening.

This remarkable 320 page book & 78 full-color tarot card set is a perfect gift item for someone you love, including yourself! The book . . is a small masterpiece in itself.” “The art on these cards places this deck in a class by itself compared to other decks. The scenes are simple yet highly evocative and magical.

We took some Inner Child Cards out with us and visited an unmarked grave. We waited quietly to see if the resident had any message for us.

It was very moving when the card that emerged told the story of Peter Pan.

The story of Peter Pan begins in the nursery of the Darling household in London, where Wendy, John, and Michael are going to bed when they are surprised by the arrival of Peter Pan and the fairy Tinker Bell. Peter is a little boy who lives in the faraway world of Never Never Land who has come to retrieve his shadow, which he had previously lost there. Peter reveals that he lives in the Never Land as captain of the Lost Boys, children who fell out of their baby carriages when their nurses were looking the other way.

As a young mischievous boy with the power to fly, Peter Pan sweeps Wendy into his world and takes her to the promised Never Land. It is there that the pair encounters friends and foes alike, ranging from the loyal Tinker Bell to the antagonistic Captain Hook.

Neither Stan or I felt a shadow emerge from the grave but we both heard voices calling us to come again but we agreed that if these children are residing in a place like Never Never Land, telling stories, having adventures and living in a big hollow tree, this is a comforting thought.

Tarot Storytelling

As this article points out there are many advantages to telling stories using Tarot.

  • You really get into the picture of the card and observe the details of that image. 
  • You can really internalize each and every aspect of the card’s picture.
  • You can get creative and let your imagination run wild while writing the story.
  • Imagination and Intuition mix really well together – you never know which aspect of the story will suddenly appear like an intuitive notion while you do your reading (and you’ll be surprised at how accurate you are!)

Let Me Show You

Once upon a time, only yesterday, there was a Crow who was the familiar of a Hermit who lived in the a long abandoned Travellers Inn deep within the Hollow Woods ….

Over to you! You might continue the story or get out some of your decks and play with them.

In this case I have pulled out my Writers Emergency pack for some additional ideas to keep the whole thing going. I will set a timer for 20 minutes and just keep writing whatever comes into my mind.

Decks Used

Note that I am not an affiliate for any of these sites.

Hepburn Graves Ghostly Tale

Hepburn Graves is the historical private cemetery of the Hepburn family of Smeaton Hill Run. Located near the original homestead, Smeaton House, the cemetery has been excised from the surrounding private land and is now managed by the National Trust of Australia.

The grave site has been used for burials by the Hepburn family since 1859. When the family sold the property in 1904 they excised the grave site and access road from the main title. After the death of the last family trustee the land with the graves was acquired by the National Trust of Australia (Victoria). The site is cared for by the Ballarat Branch of the National Trust and the owners of Smeaton House. 

The headstones commemorate:

  1. John Stuart Hepburn, Eliza Hepburn, Thomas Hepburn, Alice May Butterworth.
  2. Alice Hepburn Murray, her husband Charles J.B. Murray and daughter Eliza Marion Murton.
  3. Harriet Frances Hepburn, Alice Ella Purey-Cust, George Stuart Hepburn, John Stuart Hepburn, George Stanley Hepburn, Elaine May Hepburn, May Ina Hepburn MacGeorge.
  4. Henry Hepburn 1842 – 1874 (died at sea).
  5. Benjamin Hepburn
  6. John Stevens – long time gardener at Smeaton House. No headstone – his grave is marked by white stones. 

Statement of Significance

Hepburn Graves is the private family cemetery established by pastoralist, Captain William Hepburn near his homestead, ‘Smeaton House’. Hepburn (died 1860), his wife, family and relatives are buried in the cemetery withone retainer. The cemetery is fenced and plantings enhance the graves.
Hepburn Graves are important as an intact private cemetery, representative of a number of such cemeteries associated with Pastoral Holdings. The graves have historical associations with the Hepburn family and are an excellent example of the arrangement, elements and plantings of a small nineteenth century cemetery. Captain Hepburn’s grave is a notable example of a tombstone of the period.
Classified: 21/05/1964.
File Note: See B1114, Smeaton House

The still beauty of this resting place took my breath away. As I sat on a bench, taking in this private cemetery I drew cards from the Macabre Tarot and the Ghosts and Spirits Tarot by Lisa Hunt. I figured that the place might have a ghostly story that they wanted to share with me.

I cannot say that I was surprised when the Magician appeared again. The Macabre Tarot is leaving me in no doubt that it is excited about this whole project.

The Ghostly story that emerged told of a dyke builder named Hauke Haien who built his masterwork, but refused to follow the time honoured tradition of sacrificing a living creature by burying it alive in the dyke. The villagers were very unhappy about this and it all ended in tears when the dyke broke and Haien’s family were washed away and he came to grief.

Interestingly enough, when, despite protestations Captain Hepburn allowed a loyal faithful Chinese employee to be buried in the Hepburn family cemetery, he became the first white Victorian settler to allow a ‘non-European’ person to be buried with other members of his family, as an equal.

Sometimes we simply need to break away from tradition no matter the outcome.

DEATH OF Capt. JOHN HEPBURN, ESQ., J.P.

In our last report we announced the serious illness of Captain Hepburn, and expressed a hope that he might be soon restored to health, but that hope was doomed to disappointment, for after several alternations of the disease, and in spite of the utmost medical skill, the silver chord was loosed and the scythe of death laid low one whose very name has become almost a household word from Creswick to Castlemaine. (Creswick Advertiser, August 10th 1860)

To read more about Capt. John Hepburn, Esq., J.P. check the Smeaton Independent News and to click the link to learn more about Captain Hepburn’s residence, ‘Smeaton House’ on the old Hepburn estate.

Pennyweight Children’s Cemetery Reading

Life on the goldfields was particularly harsh on children. They were often used as a source of labour and could earn small amounts of money for errands. Their young immune systems were still developing and children were highly susceptible to diseases that sometimes ran through mining communities. However, even the young were drawn to the lure of gold and could also be found panning along the rivers.

In 1852, on a barren piece of land that was of no use to gold miners or fossickers, a cemetery for the deceased children of the Castlemaine goldfields was set aside. Located within the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park is Pennyweight Flat Children’s Cemetery. A pennyweight is a very small measure of gold.

The graveyard is little more than a bee-stung patch of ground, small swellings rising up here and there where the earth’s surface was long ago prickled by rough shovels. Some of the mounds have their perimeters acknowledged by rows of stones, no more sophisticated than those you might set up around a campfire; others are marked only by a single jutting rock, or nothing at all. Looking out from Pennyweight Flat Children’s Cemetery, the Australian scenery is beautiful.

Surrounded by grey box gums in a tranquil setting, the Children’s Cemetery tells a silent story about some realities of the goldfields during the 1850s. Many families travelled to the Castlemaine diggings in the early 1850s as word spread about alluvial (surface) gold to be found.

The Pennyweight Flat Children’s Cemetery in Moonlight Flat is a heartbreaking result of the awful living conditions in the diggings during the gold rush of the 1850s. Around 200 shallow graves, mostly children and babies, are scattered amongst the trees.

Aside from the associated danger of children wandering off and getting lost, the poor and inadequate drainage of the early settlements caused much discomfort not only for everyone’s olfactory nerves but on the community’s health problems. A lack of clean drinking water along with accidents and diseases were the main causes of death for children living on the goldfields. The first recorded deaths on the Mount Alexander Diggings were of two small children, who perished of dysentery in November 1851.

Many graves are simply marked by stone arrangements, but there are a few which have headstones with readable engravings. There have also been memorial plaques added to some graves in recent years.

Pennyweight is one of my favorite places to visit with my dogs. For me it is the equivalent of going to church and spending time with the divine. It is also a popular destination for families. No doubt inspired by stories such as the one about Nannie, children leave small toys on many of the graves. I have considered taking children’s books out to this beautifully tranquil place, sitting and reading to the children. Meanwhile I am sure they have enjoyed the visits of my dogs.

Today I took my Macabre Tarot with me and was delighted when the Magician fell out of the pack, demanding to be featured.

The appearance of the Magician tells me more than I will publish. It lets me know that I am on the right path with my new project that involves revisiting historic cemeteries, accompanied by my dog and a Tarot deck. I have the tools I need and it is time to barrel ahead, get guidance from the dead and excavate some local history

A Small Fool’s Guidance

Mouse symbolism is centered on the idea of having the ability to accomplish anything in life regardless of your size. It is a spirit present in many tales and myths and has various positive and negative meanings.

Wary of the Deviant Moon Fool, unsure about following such a renegade, I turned to the Northern Animal Tarot. I figured I might get the best guidance from an animal. I didn’t need to do a spread to decide whether to accept a date with this young fellow.

Mouse reminds me to go slow and to tend to the smaller details. Mouse spirit signifies a time when you need to take a closer look at your life and scrutinize the details that you may have missed. As a big picture person this advice seems very timely. I am guilty of overlooking detail.

I pull two more cards to guide me, to help me see what I may have overlooked as I embark on this project. I realize that the seed I have is going to need to be nurtured if it is to flourish and that while I have a rich bounty already there are many more cups to fill along the way.

But I am tired now. The negative noise that has permeated everything for the past two years feels overwhelming. It is ridiculous to imagine that anything really changes on the last day of a year, that everything will be transformed at the dawn of a New Year, but the prospect of more of this is relentless stress is daunting. Earth feels like a very crazy place to be at the moment and I wonder what is going on out there in the galaxy.

Mouse looks through his contacts in the deck and suggests that I really need to find the Knight of Swords.

When I come upon this fellow, striding forward, wielding his sword, his ferocious energy is daunting. I am just plain weary and my intellect feels blunted. I recall my High School Principal telling me that “worry is rust on the blade” and I am sure Marcus Aurelius would have some sage advice. Obviously I have always taken things way too seriously and this has blunted my sword.

I choose to simply watch as this energetic warrior struts his stuff, hoping for some of his enthusiasm to be infectious.

Dating the Deviant Moon Fool

The Deviant Moon Tarot has surreal, very unique, and sometimes disturbing moonlit artwork. It’s inspired by (and incorporates) images of cemeteries and mental asylums, and designed to illuminate deeper parts of the subconscious. The talented illustrator is also a tarot student, and the deck is the result of three years of artistic work.

Some find the Deviant Moon Fool menacing but as I watch him dancing I find myself recalling time spent in Venice, drawn to all the Venetian masks, mannequins and puppets.

In his richly illustrated book Patrick Valenza says that the Fool “begins his journey with a delirious dance. With maniacal laughter he heads out into the unknown still clothed in his sleepwear”.

There is certainly a dreamlike quality about this character and his bizarre appearance makes me hesitant to approach him.

However, I am mesmerized by his invitation to abandon all inhibitions, take the plunge and create my own unique path. Having said this, it feels like I have been taking leaps of faith ever since I walked away from my former life and reinvented myself in the town I moved to. It feels like I am getting a bit old to be letting go of more inhibitions.

Perhaps it is old age that makes me more cautious about the motives of this Fool.Rather than take the plunge on a whim, I pause to read what Valenza has to say about his Fool and decide to tackle a spread to help me determine how a date with this fellow might turn out.

The initial energy of the Seven of Swords confirms my suspicion that I may be taking an incredible risk to engage with this Fool, however briefly. The presence of swords pierced in the ground imply that this Harlequin performers act has not only, not been a raging success, but that the performer has risked life and limb in his endeavor to perform a unique act. Add the Death card and I cannot deny that I seriously question the advisability of hanging about for long.

The truth is I am not much of a risk taker. I have been known to crumple at almost any height and recall clinging like a leech to the wall of a lighthouse that my late husband insisted we climb. He never gave credence to my fear and thought it was something I should get over. However I let him climb the arduous steps at the Vatican and capture the view of Rome all by himself. While he was gone I sat in St Peter’s Square taking in the passing parade.

Tiny Tea with The Fool

What about addressing the difficult topic over tea and biscuits? If tea’s not your drink, do a little online search for alternatives. Lots of cultures have versions of hot beverages to try. Try them! Go on a tea/coffee break adventure and create space for sharing.

I invited the very youthful Anna K Fool to take a moment, before leaping off that cliff face, to have a cup of my tiny tea. Despite being in a hurry to go wherever she was going she agreed to take a few moments to talk to me.

As we sipped tea, and ate some of the Christmas shortbread, I remarked that my daily life has come to feel like a rubber band, that despite wanting to start afresh, I slip back into old ways of doing and being.

“This is not how it has to be! Your spirit is every bit as young as mine” proffered the Fool.

I all but choked on my tea and spluttered as I considered this. The saying that we are only as young as we feel went through the replay screen in my brain and I conceded that she might just be a very old soul in a young body.

“What about I lay down a couple of cards” suggested the Fool. “I am sure there will be a message for you”.

We contemplated the cards together. I suggested that I might position myself at the top of the wheel and dance joyfully like the figure shown there.

“Rather than hanging on to an established pattern of thinking about the ending before you begin” said the Fool “what about you focus on climbing up from the hub? The project you have so publicly been talking about will not materialize overnight. It will quite literally take a significant amount of time to wrangle. It will be awhile before you can really celebrate.”

With that the Fool drained her cup, put her swag back over her shoulder and leapt into some new world leaving me to ponder whether, at my age, after having responded so often to the call, if I have the energy to do it again.

Consider what might happen if you:

For more than 25 years Noriko Morishita studied and practised the intricate ceremonies of the famous Way of Tea, attempting to learn its complexities and achieve a perfection of movement and mood that few can master. In The Wisdom of Tea Noriko describes her gradual discovery of freedom and insight within the very rules that once seemed so constricting. Looking back across her life, Noriko illuminates the real teachings of the Way of Tea: to live absolutely in the moment, to notice and delight in the smallest of details, to embrace the vital skills of patience and perseverance, and to allow yourself to be.

  • made tea and sat chatting with one of the Major Arcana
  • added tea to a meeting with a client,
  • poured a cup of tea and brought it to a disheartened friend,
  • set up a tea service for an imaginary friend on your back deck.
  • bought yourself a child’s tea service and made tea for the nature spirits in your garden
  • called in and had tea with an isolated elderly or disabled person and encouraged them to share stories about their life.