By Cynthia Ray
The Tarot is a symbolical, archetypical, pictorial description of the way things work. It is both personal and universal. The Tarot also outlines the ins and outs of creating and writing a story, the experience of writing, and the required tools and competencies. There are 21 major trump and here I will briefly illustrate their connection to the creative process of the writer.
0. Writing a novel is a path that only a fool would begin, and only a fool could complete. The Fool is an androgynous figure setting out on the journey of creating a story and carries a bag of past experience to draw from. The dog represents the companion muse who will accompany this Fool on his/her journey, but the Fool has their attention upon the higher goal, not paying attention to the whopping big cliff s/he is about to step off of. Here we go!
- To begin anything, and especially a novel, one must have desire and will. Almost like magic, what one chooses to focus on and put attention upon, fueled by desire, is that which grows, represented by the Magicians garden of roses and lilies. Bringing focused attention and concentration to bear on the task is the gift of the Magician. The writers’ tools sit upon the table. The wand is will, the cup is imagination, the sword is action, while the coin represents the final form. It will take a strong will, fueled by imagination to take the necessary actions to bring ideas into a completed story that is perfect and beautifully formed.
- The High Priestess is the door to the great subconscious, both the personal and the collective, universal subconscious that Jung speaks of, from which all ideas and inspirations arise. The water from her gown flows through all the cards, ever present, and informs, shapes and nourishes every word that pours from the writers’ pen. The moons that crown her hair stand for the waxing and waning and rhythm of the creative process. Expect ups and downs.
- The pregnant Empress is the writers’ wonderful, weird, creative Imagination. She takes the tiny seeds planted by the Magician and brings forth a riot of form and ideas in her wild garden. The mind of the writer produces many various and sundry ideas for the novel, many complex characters with which to people it, and revels in the pure audacity of the potential and possibilities.
- The Emperor stand for reason, order and form. Here the writer begins to organize potential plots into an outline, and even writers who are outline adverse, must conceive of an orderly progression of the story that will lead to a satisfactory conclusion. The Emperor is associated with vision and sight, and every writer needs a coherent vision and line of sight to where the story is going, and how to get there. The Emperor is a visionary map maker.
- The Teacher is the writers own inner voice. The key to this step is finding and listening to that voice. Critique groups are helpful and necessary, advice from the well-known authors and craft books are a good foundation, and practice and study all lend themselves to mastery of the craft of writing, but the only true guide is the writers own unique VOICE that must come through the story, told in his or her own unique way. The path to finding that voice is trial and error and ever-vigilant practice of listening.
- The letter Zain associated with this card means sword, and here the writer must begin the process of cutting away anything that does not lead the story forward. This cutting away requires a willingness to remove, without regret, whatever does not serve the higher purpose of the story. The Lovers also stand for discrimination, which is related to the sense of smell. The writer must sniff out the true core and essential elements of the story, versus the “fluff’, sometimes referred to as the writers’ “darlings”, that must be jettisoned.
- The Chariot stands for Victory, and the conquest of illusion. The war a writer wages is an inner struggle, wrestling with inner demons and voices that tell the writer they are not good enough, that the story is valueless, and to surrender, to give up. The Charioteer is our inner Self, who hold the reins of mind and emotions and leads us over a rough and difficult road to triumph over those illusions-a victory that allows the writer to continue on the quest, tapping into the desire and will.
- Strength of Purpose. This lion is not a docile, submissive force, but a wild and powerful energy that must be tamed and harnessed, and its power is the writers’ potential creativity. This creativity must be channeled through the application of consistent, habitual effort. Just as the physical body builds strength by the habit of daily exercise, consistent patterns and writing practices are required to produce meaningful results. A strong writer is a consistent writer. This process is represented by the many leaves and roses draped around the neck of the lion. The infinity symbol shows that the work of writing is accomplished hour by hour, day by day, month by month, although ideas and inspirations arise outside of time.
- Writing is a solitary activity, and often feels like a solitary climb up a steep mountain. The writer must take time, and create space, to withdraw from the world and write. The Hermit stands alone on a dark mountain, showing the way, and represents all the writers that have gone before, accomplished a work, and all the wonderful stories that shine their light into the world. The stories that inspired the writer to add to the treasures that we turn to when we are lost, when we are grieving, when we are curious. The Hermit is also the writer her/himself at the end of every chapter, looking forward, looking back.
- The Wheel of Fortune is movement, rotation, involution and evolution. In this stage, the writer is fully engaged in the story as it evolves and changes and emerges from the mind of the writer. The novel is on its way to manifesting through its many phases. There are re-writes, and re-thinking of plot lines, and characters motivations.
- All the mistakes of plotting, character development, writing style will show up her to be judged and elements either found wanting, directed back for another spin of the wheel, or shown to be worthy. Another meaning of this card is action, and for each action there is always an equal reaction – it is cause and effect. Either the actions and descriptions and responses of the characters work or they don’t. Here the writer weighs her story on the scales, looking for wholeness in the way all of the parts fit together, assuring that the story is balanced, and that it draws the reader into its heart, and evokes response. There is no punishment or damnation this analytical weighing of the story and its parts. It is time once again to use the sword of discernment that we first took up in the Lovers card, only at a higher level.
- The state associated with the Hanged Man or Suspended Man is Silence. All previous ways of thinking are suspended in this quietness as we pause and leave judgement behind. In this suspension of judgement and everything the writer thought about the book before, there is clarity. Clarity of the deeper themes, purposes and connections that lift the writer up out of the words on the pages in order to see, feel, and know the soul of the book.
- The real meaning of Transition (Death) is change, motion and transformation. The end of one cycle is the beginning of another. The revelations, new connections and ideas that were revealed in the suspended state lead the writer to further transformation of the book. It might mean that the writer rearranges major parts of the novel, or even starts over but is ultimately able to bring their story to completion. With a completed first draft in hand, the writer has indeed accomplished much, which has brought him/her to bare bones of themselves, poured out into the chapters.
- Metal is tempered with fire and water, to make it stronger. Here, testing and trials prove the worth of the writers’ words and insights bring further refinements. There are many ways to test the and temper the book; beta readers, critique groups and the necessary and helpful editor.
- The Deceiver (Devil) is a form of self-doubt, and the inner voices which bedevil the writer with half-truths, deceptions and lies. The same inner demons and illusions were faced earlier, but they return as the writer begins to receive feedback from editors and readers. If the writer turns their attention and locus outward, instead of following their own inner compass they will find themselves lost and unable to move forward. The figures in the card have chains around their necks, but when they choose to, they can simply lift them off and walk away from their self-imposed bondage.
- The flash of lightening that strikes the Tower comes from the Hermits Lantern, bringing inspiration that topple old ideas and concepts. The toppled figures are also the inner demons of the previous card, which are vanquished by the flash of truth and dispelling of illusion. The card is associated with Awakening and exciting intelligence. The writer experiences the excitement of discovering a hidden theme, or a new way of expressing an idea, the discovery of a vein to mine in the book that was previously hidden, and heady freedom from the chains of the past.
- The Star is linked with Meditation and Revelation. At this point, after many iterations, the writer is working on a final draft of their book. The book is part of the writer’s consciousness and both the conscious and subconscious are working on it day and night. Even when the writer is not writing, the work continues to percolate, and in the rest, the in-between times, even in sleep, gifts of insight are given.
- The Moon represents Organization. Organization has been at play all along as the story unfolded, but now the final changes to the book are made. The Moon also represents rhythm and cycles, and the ups and downs that are always at play in the writing process. The final version of the book is nearly complete.
- The Sun shines it light upon the writer here. The intelligence associated with the Sun is Collective intelligence, which mean to bring together, to combine to unify and synthesize. It brings all the lessons of all the cards together in this final form. The writer experiences joy and satisfaction as the book is brought to conclusion. There should be dancing.
- Judgement implies completion, termination. Here the final edits are made in preparation for publication and all is made ready for the books release into the world.
- Publication! At last the book enters the World as a published book! The letter of this card means signature, and the story and its unique signature takes its place among all of the stories that have been told, to enter the mind and hearts of mankind. There may be tours and promotions and blogs, but eventually the journey begins again as the writer sets pen to the next volume.
For those interested in delving into the deeper meanings of the Tarot, you may be interested in my ongoing virtual classes on the topic. Find out more here:
This website is also a great resource for exploring more about the Tarot.