How Can Tarot be Used for Creative Writing? An Introduction

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In this post, you will find out more about the ways in which tarot can be used for storytelling and crafting.

Each tarot card is a story...

If you look at the individual tarot cards, you will probably see that each tarot card has its own dynamic, its own setting, and its own characters depicted. You will see that each tarot card contains a "story" to be told, and each card is like scene in a novel or a movie.

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For example, the sixteenth card in the Major Arcana, The Tower, represents the total destruction or shift of a paradigm. The tower on the card is struck and destroyed by lightning, while the residents of the tower flail their arms helplessly as they fall out after this traumatic event. This destruction or shift of paradigm can be one's sense of self, one's way of living, or one's perception of the world. It can also be something else entirely depending on other factors, such as the question you have asked, or if you are grouping it with other tarot cards or not.

The process of this sudden and total shift represented by The Tower usually accompanies a spectrum of negative emotions, or downright trauma. An example of a "Tower" moment will be when Oedipus' learns of his true identity. As he finds out that he has accidentally murdered his father and married his mother, his reality is deeply shaken and shattered by this shocking discovery.

Another example will be when Luke Skywalker discovers that Darth Vader is actually his father. When Luke learns that the figure of darkness he has been struggling to overcome is actually the man who brought him into this universe, his identity as a Jedi is challenged by this unexpected blood tie.

The Tower can also represent a moment that is more literal and physical, such as the sacking of Troy with the wooden horse. As City of Troy is literally and physically attacked and conquered by the Greek army, its inhabitants experience both fear and panic as their sense of safety, home, and way of living is thwarted by the Greeks' military advances.

As dark and traumatic as The Tower may seem, however, the lesson of the Tower is actually about reconstruction and rejuvenation. Sometimes, old values and knowledge have to be torn down in order for us to build something new, something better. They need to be challenged, shaken, remodeled and redefined in order for us to transform and improve. This is why the seventeenth card, The Star--a card about resting, healing and being hopeful--ensues.

How can tarot be used for writing? 

Because tarot is so rich in meaning, filled with symbolic images, archetypes, and room for imagination and interpretation--it is indeed the perfect tool for writing, storycrafting, and character building. While stories and characters are fictional, the stories we create often fall within the spectrum of human experience that the tarot is able to capture. The motivation or purpose behind any tarot reading or any act of divination is to know, to gain more insight, to understand, and to search for meaning--just like the motivation or purpose behind any attempt to build a story, a character, or a world is to know, to gain more insight, to understand, and to search for meaning--in the story we are attempting to create.

Because of this, tarot is able to capture, clarify, and inspire the writing and crafting process. Each tarot card holds a story, and a tarot deck contains an abundance of stories that have yet to be told.

What are some of the things you can use tarot for when writing?

There are many uses and exercises you can do with a tarot deck, here are a few examples:

  • Performing daily-draws and using tarot as prompt

  • Brainstorming and establishing the major events that are going to occur in your novel

  • Developing and taming your plot bunnies (Nanowrimo, anyone?)

  • Adding spontaneity to your story by pulling tarot cards and introducing plot ninjas!

  • Exploring and building a character (e.g. figuring out a character's innermost fears, a character's strengths, flaws, and attitudes)

  • Exploring the relationships and dynamics between multiple characters

  • Exploring the relationships and dynamics between characters and setting/environment

  • Exploring cultural attitudes, and/or socio-political dynamics when world-building

  • Understanding who you are as a writer

  • Understanding your relationship with your work as a writer

  • Understanding the "bigger picture" or the purpose of your novel and what it means to you

  • Exploring the reasons for your writer's block and "unblocking" them!

The list can literally go on forever--there are so many creative ways to utilize a tarot deck to give your writing process a boost.

To close...

In this post, we have explored the connections between tarot and storytelling, and the various ways in which tarot can be used as a helpful tool during the process of writing and story crafting. In the next post, you will receive a series of tarot writing exercises that will help you get started on your tarot writing journey.