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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 three, Character Circle
Part four, Character Creation
Part five, The Hero’s Journey
Part six, Creating a World

Part 7, In other words, Tarot for the Layman

Celtic Tarot The Lover Card

I’m going to kick it off with a quote from Christopher Vogler (you can read the rest of his comment on the The Hero’s Journey post):

I saw it as an ancient book, perhaps Egyptian, that had its covers torn off so that its pages could be arranged in any order, sort of like post-modern life and our web-like experience of the Internet.

I LOVE that image. It appeals to me as both an avid reader and an aspiring author.

During the course of this series some questions came up which prompted the addition of this post to the series. I also added a Tarot section to the sidebar to further assist you.

When I do a spread I like to lay it out on a black cloth. Certainly not a must but I find it helps the images to stand out better, clearer. Some people will say you should be grounded before working with the cards, be on the ground floor, in a quiet space, etc. Not going to happen in my house, LOL. The most important thing is to approach Tarot with an open mind and take notes.

My friend Maria Zannini posed these questions:

So how much of Tarot do you have to know ahead of time?

I knew nothing when I started. I’d never held a deck or even had a reading done. (Still haven’t had a reading done for that matter.) All I had was a vague unease about Tarot. (Minister’s daughter, what can I say.)

I’ve been working with the Tarot for a year now, all self taught. So you don’t have to be an expert with Tarot to use it creatively 🙂

Is there a meaning to each card or is it more an intuitive interpretation by the person reading the cards?

I think it’s a little of both. To expand my original answer, Tarot can be used as springboard for your ideas and impressions, allowing your intuition to tell you stories. Much like Mr. Vogler’s comment above. Each deck usually comes with a little booklet which will give the basics, the meanings that deck creator put to the cards. You can also look up meanings on any number of websites and in books. With a little basic study of the symbolism on the cards you can add in your own interpretations. Read the name of the card. Does it spark anything for you? Look at the number, it can tell you if you are at the beginning, middle, or end of a progression of events. Does one symbol stand out to you? And if you have a deck with images you can work with just that, taking your inspiration from what you see in the images. Describe or free write what you see in the image. If you were inside the picture, what would you hear or smell, feel or taste? When you look at the color scheme does a certain mood come to mind?

I have found a combination of noting meanings and my visual impressions works best for most spreads. One tool I like to use with Tarot is mind-mapping which I talked about in the Character Circle post.

I found this Tarot Card Worksheet from Tarot Studies really helpful when I first started working with the cards.

And as I’ve mentioned throughout this series you really should invest in Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner.

My first reader, and best friend, asked these questions:

RWS High Priestess Card

What is the best deck for writing related stuff?

The principles of Tarot work pretty much the same no matter what deck you use (I recommend using a deck with images on all the cards) but you’ll find that most books talk about the Rider-Waite deck or one of its clones. I don’t own it myself though I suspect I will at some point. I’ve included links to three of the versions:

The Original Rider Waite Tarot Pack

Rider-Waite Tarot Deck

Radiant Rider-Waite Tarot Deck

Do you have a question in your mind ahead of time or do the cards lead you?

Well, both.

As my friend Joely Sue Burkhart talked about in her post, Writing with Tarot, Jenna Reynolds has taught her several tricks to use Tarot for inspiration. Recently, Joely was struggling with the theme of a piece. She started out by writing down her concerns then pulling a card at random and thought about what it could mean.

Most of the spreads I did within this series fall under the second part of this question, letting the cards direct me.

How do you know how many cards to lay down and/or turn over for a complete answer?

The simplified answer is you lay out however many cards you need for the designated spread.

The beauty of Tarot is that you can lay out as many or few cards as you need. You can do a simple Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How reading of a single card. (Example: 5 W’s & an H Card Exercise) Lay out three cards for a simple Goal, Motivation, and Conflict reading for your character and/or story. (First card=Goal, Second card=Motivation, and Third card=Conflict) Or lay out (ten) eleven cards for a classic Celtic Cross spread whether you’re outlining a story or creating a character. (Basic spread: The Celtic Cross — I refer you back to Tarot for Writers for the writing version.)

And you can always add a qualifying card to clarify any card you already laid down.

Now, if you’re interested in learning Tarot in more detail and/or to do readings to apply to life you may want to check out the Learn Tarot website or buy the book Learning the Tarot: A Tarot Book for Beginners by Joan Bunning. This course is one of those things I’ve been meaning to do…and I will, someday 🙂

Additionally, I’ve seen this book Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Book of Tarot by Rachel Pollack recommended around the web and have added it to my list!

  • Do you have additional questions?
  • Do you have Tarot tips?
  • What has been your experience with Tarot?

You may also enjoy:

Tarot Journal for getting to know the cards.