Writers in the Storm

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January 23, 2019

Courting the Modern Muse – with Tarot

By Anne Pisacano

When I met Lori Henriksen, award-winning author of The Winter Loon, at the WFWA Writer's retreat in September this year, she had mentioned that she was using tarot cards as a plot development tool for her current work-in-progress. I felt her fascinating story might be of interest to share. I contacted her, and she agreed to visit with me about her process.

How did this unusual idea first come to you?

Lori: When I attended the Golden Crown Literary Society writing conference, where my book was a finalist in two categories, one of the fascinating breakout workshops was led by Kimberly Cooper Griffin and Aurora Rey on Character Development.

During the workshop we broke into groups of two and were asked to analyze our character(s) using Tarot cards. They provided each group a deck of tarot cards, and the corresponding booklet that explained the imagery and symbolism. My partner and I were vaguely familiar with Tarot, but really not, in any sense, very knowledgeable.

We did a three-card spread:

First Card

  • Mind
  • Physical State
  • Subconscious
    • Option 1
      • What I think

Second Card

  • Body
  • Emotional State
  • Conscious
    • Option 2
      • What I feel

Third Card

  • Spirit
  • Spiritual State
  • Super consciousness
    • Option 3
      • What I do

How do you use your tarot cards in your own process?

Lori : I did a three-card spread reading for my main character, Lucy.

My process is, first, setting a sacred space as I would for meditation.

I shuffle the cards, cut them three times, and chose three cards. Along with the information from the Tattoo Tarot booklet, and a book called  Tarot Reversals—which has great explanation of symbolism—I also trusted my intuition to do the reading, just as though I knew what I was doing.

Three notes I have from the workshop:

  • You’re learning what is already in your head
  • The cards tell you something you need to know—that you already know
  • You are tapping into your insight/your gut feelings

How are they affecting your writing?

Lori : I feel I have insight into my characters’ psyche and also have a tool that if I’m stuck, e.g. wondering now what would Lucy do in this situation, I can pick a card and do a quick reading, or if it’s a major block, I can do another reading. It’s a learning process to develop my intuition.

Here is my three-card spread with my interpretation for my main character, Lucy.

First card. Mind – What she thinks

Three of Swords: Mental stress is too much to bear. A heart pierced by 3 swords suggests jealousy, heartbreak and rupture. Threes respond to creativity and integration, but swords bring disharmony and sorrow.

This card brought these questions about her main character to mind for Lori:

  • Does her heart want something her mind says she cannot have?
  • Is there a love triangle, failed affair, or separation?
  • The pain of loss and betrayal hits hard, a sword through the heart.
  • Is she blinded by the pain of her heartache?
  • A flower blooms in front of her pierced heart and a flame burns above, reminding us pain is temporary.
  • Her situation is fragile and so are the people around her.

Second card. Body – What she feels

Major Arcana – The Moon: Mysterious and not always what it seems. Has the power to pull the tides or illuminate the forest to show monsters that may not exist.

The second card allowed these questions and thoughts to be considered:

  • What fears and illusions beset her on her journey to unknown landscapes?
  • What delusions, deeply submerged fears or even terror are calling her survival instincts?
  • Something is at the edge of her consciousness that she can't quite grasp.
  • She may find herself swamped by emotions, misunderstandings, and secrets.
  • She feels herself drawn toward some undefined purpose.
  • Like the crayfish on the card, she may be cleansing the waters of unconscious habits by digesting debris from her past, and walking bravely between the needs of instinct and the domestication that dogs her.
  • Hard to tell fact from fiction when the moon lights your path.

Third card.  Spirit –What she does

Seven of Wands - Seven reminds her to stand tall and fight for what she wants, holding her ground and prevailing over the odds.

Here are the questions that came to mind from the interpretation of this card.

  • What obstacles will test her mettle?
  • Can she stand up to the passion of her heart in the face of adversity?
  • Be careful of unsure footing.
  • Don't give up in light of confrontation.
  • She must protect her passions.

Helpful resources

Tarot Card Meanings

Artist and creator of Lori’s Tarot Deck: Lana Zellner of Eight Coins

Thanks so much for sharing your interesting muse with us, Lori! Your story about tarot cards is as enchanting as I thought it would be.

What do you think?
Would you try tarot to learn more about your characters?

About Anne

Originally from New York,Anne Pisacano has lived in northern Arizona for over 20 years. From the city to the country, sidewalks to mountains, concrete to bare earth, night lights to starlight—she misses the beaches and her friends, but after more than two decades she now considers Arizona home. When not reading or reviewing other people’s books, Anne can be found editing a novel she’s co-written and plotting out her next book. Anne Pisacano writes contemporary Women’s Fiction with humorous, and strong romantic elements, because life is just too short to take it all so seriously. Oh, and she likes to add a touch of magic too. She is a grateful member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

You can learn more about Anne on her at http://annepisacano.com, or she loves to connect on Facebook  or Twitter.

14 comments on “Courting the Modern Muse – with Tarot”

  1. I started using my tarot cards for writing in November during NANO.The cards really help me get out of my own way and think differently about stories and characters. I recently took an online class about it too!

  2. Hi Tammy, I love that you're experimenting with this approach. I'm hoping to try it myself soon!

  3. I've been studying tarot and using it for plot and character development. I'm using Corinne Kenner's book Tarot for Writers. Great reference.

  4. Using Tarot really was an eye opener for me. As I learn more about writing in deep point of view, the more I know about my characters makes it easier it is to get out of the way and let the characters move the story. Delving into their psyches with Tarot gives me a glimpse into their emotional state and how they make sense of the world. Thank you Anne. Your interview encouraged me to look deeper into why I am drawn to using Tarot.

  5. Hi Lori! Thanks for stopping by! I was fascinated from the moment you shared this with me, and I'm so happy you were willing to be interviewed.

  6. What a cool idea! I've never thought of this --though recently had a stranger sit beside me on an airplane (a long flight) and pull out Tarot cards to do readings. Thanks, Anne and Lori, for this creative idea - definitely makes me want to learn more!

  7. This is an interesting post because STAR is doing a Tarot for Writers workshop using the Robin Wood Deck. It's interesting. I haven't focused too much on the characters, yet..

  8. Good morning, C. K. Thanks for mentioning the workshop. The first topic is choosing a deck. So much to learn!

  9. Interesting concept! Creative minds can come up with some valuable resources, and one of them is bound to be the perfect avenue.

    Unique twist on character development. Lovely interview, Anne.

    Susan Haught

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