Welcome to my series of Using Tarot in Writing based on Jenna Reynolds’ Tarot spreads. If you’re just joining the series, you may want to catch up on the earlier installments before continuing with this one.
Part one, Introduction
Part two, Plotting and Brainstorming
Part 3, Character Circle
Of Jenna Reynold’s spreads, this is probably the one I use the most. I’ll often set it up as a mind-map with the card name at the center of each point on the spread where I then write as many words or phrases as come to mind. This works great when you mind-map all your main characters on one sheet of paper and all the yin-yang start popping up. Like your hero’s goal is your heroine’s fear. Tension makes the story go ’round.
(Note: I’m using my Celtic Tarot deck.)
This time I’m using a spread I did for a heroine in a fantasy piece I’m toying with. I went in to this reading knowing a few things. The world is heavily seeped in elemental imagery and is a matriarchal society. I knew my heroine was of the Earth house and possibly in line for the throne, a process that hinged on conception and marrying her Triad (yep, I set myself up for a story centering around a foursome :head desk:). I’ve name her Gaea for now.
Here’s the freaky, or cool, depending on your point of view.
See that center card? It represents the character. Reverse 4 of Pentacles (or Disks) which is the element of Earth. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.
The center card represents the character. This can be as simple or complex as you need it to be. Do you just need a physical description? Look at the picture. Do you need core personality details? Look at the imagery and/or meanings of the card.
Starting at 12 o’clock you have the character’s Goal overlapped by the Basis behind that Goal. Continuing clockwise you have: Outer obstacles, Action taken to achieve the Goal, Fear overlapped by the Basis behind that Fear, Stakes, and Inner obstacles.
In my case, I already knew my character was female but knew nothing of her background, her goals, motivations, fears, or conflicts. So my first step was to write down anything and everything I could about the card. Some of the words/phrases are definitions and some are my take on the card’s image.
Character: Reversed 4 of Pentacle
Stability, Security, Gain, Fear of loss, Crown weighs heavy on shoulders, Alone, Holds what’s dear close, Worry
I already knew Gaea was from the Earth house and possibly in line for the throne. When I look at the picture I see someone clinging to what they hold dear, alone and afraid, and that one disk looks heavy upon his head. I knew going in that Gaea would have to connect with the other three houses (Fire, Air, Water) to rule and the simple fact this card was a four was huge to my development of Gaea.
Goal: 2 of Swords
Peace, Compromise, Begin analysis, Balance force, Contradictory characters of the same nature, Blinded, Alone, Ready to fight
Traditionally, the 2 of Swords means there’s a tough decision to be made. As a possible ruler, peace and compromise are important goals. However, I needed something more personal. Gaea wants to change some unjust laws. Laws that left her alone in a palace full of family.
Basis of Goal: Magician
Self-realization, Activity, Power, Impulse, Energy, Strong will, Back to basics, Hard work, Fruits of labor, Game of chess, Bondage (freedom?)
Gaea knows becoming queen is the best way to reach her goal. She wants to bring her brothers home. Brothers exiled from the palace just for being male and growing up.
Outer Obstacles: Reversed 7 of Wands
Courage, Fighting spirit, Facing hardships, Getting attacked, Overcoming Opposition, Standing alone against foes, Fire, Maintain (hill)
Gaea has to overcome generations of traditions to overturn the laws that banished her brothers.
Action Taken to Achieve Goal: Reversed World
Harmony, Completion, Chasing false ideas, On street to nowhere, Long journey, Map, Broken spear, Bird whispering in ear
Gaea must first be chosen to succeed the queen, completing against her cousins. She must then find harmony with her Triad.
Fear: 5 of Pentacles
Worry, Reconsider values, Destroys peace and security of the four, Unbalanced change, Managing in hard times, Breaking up stability of the four, Illness or injury, Crisis, Watched, Injured, Cold, Leaning on a friend, Outside looking in
Gaea has always felt alone, an outsider looking in. She fears what she must do to become queen and worries she will break up the stability of the four (Earth, Fire, Air, Water).
Basis of Fear: Reversed Hermit
Afraid of others or life, Bitterness, Running away, Retiring from life, Loneliness, Numbness, Introversion, Retreat, Hard work, Preparing for war, Naked, Alone
Gaea wants nothing more than to run away from the responsibility she’s placed on herself.
At Stake if Goal Not Achieved: Reversed Knight of Pentacles
Coldness, Growth, Dullness, Corruption, Stubbornness, Solidity, Alone, In flight for life, Chasing own tail, Turning over the crown, Remain on the outside looking in
If Gaea fails to become queen and change the laws she will remain on the outside looking in. She will not be able to find her brothers and will likely have to leave the palace, the only home she’s known.
Inner Obstacles: 3 of Cups
Conception, Fulfillment, Healing, Sensuality, Satisfaction, Synthesis and harmony (Triad), Good luck, Pleasure, Toasting good fortune, New day or beginning, Forest, Three sisters
When I saw conception as one of the keywords for this card I had a major ahh-ha moment. Gaea must overcome her fear of getting pregnant and giving birth. She must conceive to become queen, it’s one of the many tests she must go through, and her mother died in childbirth — one reason her brothers were exiled from the palace (that’s back story and world building stuff). Triad. She needs to find fulfillment and satisfaction with her Triad.
Now, I’m hoping to write this someday so I’m not going to go into any more detail but I think this helps you see some of the thought process (of which this was just the first run through).
- What ideas did those keywords/phrases spark for you?
- Pull out your own 4 of Pentacles card, what character do you see?
There’s been some interest in a Q&A and/or Tarot 101 post. What I’ll do is gather up all the questions y’all note in the comments on any of the Tarot posts and write up a post at the end of the series. Thank you for the interest and support of this series.