Michaeline: Writing with The Fool and The Magician

A court fool; a cat has dragged down his tights, and you can see the bottom of his buttocks.

The Fool (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

A bright, handsome magician at his table, ready for transformation.

The Magician (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

The first major rule of writing with tarot cards is: don’t believe everything that comes up will come to pass.

So silly really, and I must lead with the disclaimer that I don’t really believe in fortune-telling methods to predict the future. I do think these methods help us clarify our own thoughts about a situation, but nothing predicts the future.

So, when I gave my daughter a pack of cards and she wanted to read for me, it was extremely foolish to ask, “How will my current story affect my future?” Honestly, this sort of question really does nothing for a person – if the answer is positive, one can start to coast and not do the necessary work. If it is negative, well, then it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. And I have to say, the tarot is often not very kind about my writing aspirations.

But no. I thought, “This time, the tarot will love me. This time, it will tell me how good it’s going to be.” Really, anyone who has any acquaintance with Lady Luck knows how stupid that is.

New pack of cards; first reading. Never cleansed – but should that make a difference? I don’t think it should! My daughter spread the cards on the floor and mixed them around with both hands, then gathered them up and asked me to cut the cards. I did.

I don’t remember the exact details. I should have photographed the reading for scientific accuracy, but I do remember that the two, three and four of coins showed up, out of order, and at least two of them were reversed. Basically, what I took away from the reading was that the past had been disorganized, the present was ruled by conservatism, and the future – financial disarray. Why didn’t The Tower just show up and destroy me completely?

The lovely thing about the tarot is that it always provides you an out if you look hard enough. Maybe, since it was just about coins, it’s only showing me that I’ll never make money from my writing. Yeah! That’s it! And I never really thought I’d be financially successful at writing anyway. I just want adulation and a really good story.

I immediately turned to my phone tarot (which I had neglected for months and months, because, “I don’t really believe in tarot”), and it had some kind messages about childlike innocence and joy. It still took me three days to feel better about the whole thing.

So, don’t ask about your career. Only you can write the story you are writing, and while the tarot may offer some words of encouragement, it might also bite you on the butt – and you are going to take the meaning that you know in your heart to be “true”, so it’s all pointless.

A hybrid man-fish-lion-eagle bearing a cup; remarkably friendly-seeming for a monster

This is the Knight of Cups, which is not the same as the Messenger of Water — but oddly, essentially, is the same. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

However, the tarot is helpful in providing some random information that might boost you past a writing block. Tarot cards are filled with people doing stuff – Seven of Coins has a man who is laboring long and hard in his garden, and is about to enjoy a fruitful harvest. The Wheel of Fortune might suggest that it’s time to add a coincidence into your story. The Queen of Swords might suggest that you need to do more research – or you need to add a no-nonsense researcher with dark hair to your story – or that it’s time for your female villain to step up and goose the action in your story.

Last summer, I bought a beautiful set of tarot cards in the bookstore next to Sapporo Station, simply because the first card I picked (The Messenger of Water) reminded me so much of Nixie Voss, one of the characters I’ve been working with. “The Good Tarot” has gotten some unhappy reviews from traditionalists online. But for my purposes, it’s great. Instead of the traditional pentacles, swords, wands and cups, the suites are the four elements of fire, water, earth and air.

The pictures are gorgeous – almost cheesy in their lush depictions of fantasy. We’ve got unicorns and airships and even one with a panda and one with a laughing Buddha. They make my Girls in the Basement very happy, and my inner censor approves of the new and very random input that they can generate. If I need more information, I google the card in question and find out more from a hundred different sources, or from the depictions of a dozen different cardmakers.

And of course, if you don’t believe in tarot, you can reject anything that doesn’t sound right. Pick a new card, or put the cards away altogether and randomly surf the TV stations until the right input collides with your story and gives you an idea to continue with.

The major rule may be not to believe everything you see and hear. But the opposite rule is to believe. Believe in yourself, and transform that news into something gorgeous and entertaining. Guidance can feel very reassuring, but ultimately, only you can write your story. So, write it already.

A queen in a turban, overlooking a tight little picture of castles and a knight.

The World (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

4 thoughts on “Michaeline: Writing with The Fool and The Magician

  1. I don’t know much (that is, anything) about tarot, but it seems to me that anything that makes your brain hop off in a new direction can be useful. It can also be distracting, but I think all of us need an occasional fresh source of inspiration to keep creating.

    • There are a lot of different “input” processes that work kind of the same way. Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies is a set of things you can try to goose the creative process. For example, today is “Look at the order in which you do things.” (ha-ha! I’m doing internet first before writing because I need at least 30 minutes for writing, but I always think I can take a quick 15 minutes and catch up on my emails and the blog. I’m NEVER done in 15 minutes.)

      There’s the old open-the-book-and-touch-a-sentence method, too, which can work very well. But the thing is, it’s just words, not usually pictures. And also, a book can start to open up at the same place every time. I think the Bible is great for this because it’s full of archetypes and characters and twisty plot lines. Maybe bible verse flashcards with illustrations would be great input pieces?

      I think the pictures are really valuable, and I’m finding if I google the card, I get all sorts of different pictures to work with.

  2. I love that you have a beautiful set of tarot cards and that you pick one and google what it means. New ideas, fresh thoughts, can only fuel our imaginations. Have at it, Michaeline!

    • LOL, high tech meets old entertainment technology. Just surfing the net can work fine, too, but there’s SO MUCH out there. At least with a tarot card, things are restricted to four or five aspects or triggers, and only a few of those triggers will be relevant to my problem. It can help me direct my search for new information that leads to new story.

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