Meditations on the creative process

Feb 7 2017 tarot reading.jpeg

It’s pretty appropriate that these cards showed up for my reading today, given that I’ve been doing a lot of work on novel revisions this month.

I decided to pull three cards from the Nigel Jackson Medieval Enchantment deck, one that I’ve had for a while now but haven’t used all that much, in some ways because of the swapping of the elements for swords and wands. (You can see it pretty clearly in the first two cards, above.)  The cards’ images are important but I like the assurance of knowing that elements and numbers come into play as well, and when things get swapped around it can sometimes make you second-guess your reading.

In any case, I didn’t really have a particular query today, so I was pretty open to anything, and it looks like the cards have highlighted the way I feel about creative work.

In the first card we see a stiff breeze filling three masts’ worth of sails. There are three arrows being drawn to a singular point. This card speaks to me about focus, as well as structure, and the way a strong framework can make the most of high energy. The three fish in the sea tell me tales about the unknown, and how we can never really know the whole picture before we set sail on our projects. I like that they can represent those creative surprises that we have to stay open to experiencing.

The seven of swords, and the fox who is rapidly moving off-card, makes me think of ulterior motives; of the benefits of taking the indirect route, of not ploughing forward via what seems the easy route. Some days you need to tack, when the wind slows or you need to change direction. It could speak of the lessening of energy as the day winds down.

The final card, the Popess, shows the close of the day. It’s night, and the moon has risen. I see our Popess as representing the returning to one’s underlying dream, or vision of the work. I see her referring back to the sacred texts at the end of the day; retouching the divine before the work is again “sullied” by the act of bringing it out into the light of day.

The creative process works like this too, I think. It’s a constant shift between active creation and revision; tension and release. But also important is the return to one’s driving ideals, the secret heart of the project.

Equally important however is not to dwell in this place of “perfection;” the Plato’s cave where everything is just right because you’ve not tried to put a name or a shape to it. While the Popess is in touch with this sacred text she is also fixed; she is bound by the book’s rules, while the act of creation brings ideas out into the sun to see how they play when one applies pressure to them.


Nigel Jackson’s Medieval Enchantment
 By Nigel Jackson
 Copyright ©2004 Llewellyn
 ISBN: 978-0738705811

Looking back at old readings

Tarot is a funny sort of thing, isn’t it. Seemingly innocuous pictures on bits of card (of varying quality) are spread out on a surface somewhere, and meaning is inferred from the pictures, symbols, colours, numbers, and the rest. It’s a lot like reading a book, really, and I’m by no means the first person who has likened a deck of tarot cards to a book. But instead of looking at them linearly (like we might a book), they’re more like a giant esoteric card catalogue, where everything references something else, and those things in turn reference yet something further – and if you think about it, it’s really not all that surprising that we are able to glean information that relates to every one of us in the cards, because as we look at the pictures we see parts of ourselves in them.

…except for those days when we look and we think, “HUH?” Continue reading

The coming week

Wow, so many decks, so little time. I can’t believe I haven’t written about the Haindl yet! The Haindl, created by Hermann Haindl with his amazing and Germanically-freaky artwork, with symbolism that incorporates (quoting the box here) “many esoteric and religious traditions, particularly Native American, the Holy Grail, the I Ching, Kabbalah and the Runes.”

Rachel Pollack wrote two books about this deck. Two. I have read them, and I don’t doubt that there are immense riches to be gained from referring back to her books every two seconds, but I don’t have the time or the patience to do so these days.

Fortunately if you have a little bit of an imagination there is still a great deal you can get from these cards. And I sincerely do feel that once you are able to “speak the language” of tarot, it really is your prerogative to read the cards any way you choose.

But I digress.

I didn’t have much time really today to dedicate to a reading (the bubba has been sick and putting her down for naps has been an exercise in frustration most days this week). But in any case I grabbed my handy Haindl, gave a quick shuffle, and asked: “what’s in store for me over the next week?”

I drew three cards:

Haindl - three card draw

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Busy with readings

For quite a while now, I’ve wanted to start reading for more people. Not just friends and myself, but strangers, people whose backgrounds and stories are unknown to me. I was thinking about this the other day (why do I actually want to read for others?), and the answer I came back with was a surprise but deep down, it’s not really. I want to do it because I enjoy helping people. Because I enjoy breaking out of my circle of friends and acquaintances and have good conversations with strangers. I want to talk about life. Make connections. Put myself out into the world, with my love and abilities and experience, and see what happens. Get out of my comfort zone!

So as part of this, a few days ago I took a deep breath, and offered some free readings to a Facebook group I belong to, a new mothers support group that lately has seen quite a few members putting up “Pay it Forward” posts, offering everything from frozen homemade baby food to homemade body scrubs, etc. It seemed a good time, and in keeping with what else was going on. So I put up my post, held my breath… at first there were just a couple of people who said they’d be interested, but then HEAPS more came, in a mini-landslide, with some even expressing an interest in a face-to-face reading! (I’m feeling a bit nervous about that, but excited too.)

So over the past couple of days I’ve been getting everything ready: hooking up my scanner so I can include some good-quality images of the cards I draw, setting up a OneNote notebook to include my readings, a Dropbox folder to sync all my files, and even a spreadsheet where I’m keeping track of who has requested a reading, their questions, year cycle info, email addresses, and a link to the pdf that I wind up creating from the OneNote page.

Here’s the setup:

the study

I’ve done two readings so far, and have another ten to go, with one of those taking place at someone’s house (she lives nearby). I’m excited and nervous at the same time. It’s all happening in a rush, and it’s wonderful.

One day down the line I’ll have to think about whether I offer readings for koha or bartering (I’d much prefer to barter with other people than to take money) or, gulp, actually charge. I’m not approaching tarot as a business I want to develop, so the money aspect isn’t anything to do with that. Rather: everything I have heard from people who are much wiser and experienced than I am, says that when someone has to pay for something they often place a greater value on it. They pay more attention, take things on board. And you are less likely to get people trying to abuse what you’re offering (you know: people who ask the same question to five different readers; people who think they need to withhold information or trick you somehow to see if you are “the real deal”).

I hope I don’t come across situations like this, because from the start I’ve always tried to be clear that I’m not the one with the answers. The cards don’t have the answers either. The answers come from that magic space between the tabletop and your brain. The same “magic” that happens when you read a book or look at a Matisse landscape. It’s all inside you.

The One Deck Wonder

So I’ve decided to sign up for the One Deck Wonder “thing” going on at AT, using the International Icon Tarot for three months, and the Flornoy Dodal for three months. That means the Mountain Dream and Sacred Sites decks that I’ve been oogling lately have been put away for now.

You may well wonder, why would I do such a thing? Well, there are all sorts of reasons (some of which have been listed, and linked to, in the One Deck Wonder thread, above). For me, the appeal is:

  • In limiting myself to one basic deck, I allow myself to go deeper into the images, and not be distracted by specific artwork or theme.
  • I like the idea of spending time with just one deck, getting to know it intimately – the way I once did with the Connolly. Over time, as my excitement of acquiring new decks surpassed my enjoyment of using them, I lost touch with the wonderful feeling of having a battered old deck that you carry around everywhere, with cards you know intimately because you’ve experienced them in many situations, many times. I want to reconnect with that feeling again.
  • I do have too many decks. My collection is not large by any stretch – at least, compared to a lot of people on the AT forums. But I’ve reached a point where it feels too much. But I’m hard-pressed to think of which decks I would want to keep and which I’d want to get rid of. I’m too close to them all. I need to cleanse my tarot palate for a while, and then come back to them all with new eyes. There are some decks, like the Mary-El, that people absolutely adore, but that I found too “outside” the framework I want to work in. I think in order to keep things clean, to keep them clear, I want to stay with pure tarot, not with something that requires extra knowledge or understanding in order to “get”.

In celebration of all these things, I knitted a new case for the International Icon:

Knitted case

The cards, all wrapped up safe and sound inside…

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Why tarot?

I thought as a bit of an introduction to myself and this blog, I’d take a bit of time and explain why I enjoy working with Tarot so much, and perhaps dispel a few misconceptions along the way!

I was first drawn to the cards as a sort-of-angsty teenager, probably more interested in the “fortune telling” cliche than anything else. I was (and still am) immensely drawn to mystery and magic, and rather liked the idea of getting answers to all my questions from some unknowable but wise source. Granted, my concerns in those days were pretty limited to romance, and what I was going to study at university, but there was also something else that drew me in. The tactile quality of shuffling a deck of cards, perhaps, or the intriguing symbolism I didn’t yet understand. Perhaps it wasn’t any of those things, and I was just a teenager, bored in a small town, and drawn to the little new age store with its incense, obligatory crystals, silver jewelry and posters of wise sayings from Native American Indians.

I remember looking through the decks on the shelf, and noticing that one, the Connolly deck, had a set of accompanying texts: Tarot for the Apprentice, the Journeyman, and the Master. I was rather intrigued, and thought the stained glass artwork was interesting enough. I bought the deck and the Apprentice book (I had an after school job at the Warehouse), and took them home.

Now I’m older and have met a community of tarot enthusiasts online, I know that most people tend to slag the Connolly deck. The images are derivative, many say. Others don’t like the deck because some cards, like Death and the Devil, had been changed to Materialism and Transition:

The Connolly Tarot

The Connolly Tarot

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