“If they weren't solidly real dragons... it wouldn't have been worth doing.”
Jo Walton

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Not Being On Speaking Terms With My Tarot Deck
Wed 2006-01-11 09:54:27 (in context)
  • 1,582 words (if poetry, lines) long

As you may or may not know, I like to get my Tarot deck involved in my writing. Sometimes I'm determined to create new material, but I have no idea what to write about. Sometimes I'm just stuck on a story. In any case, I shuffle a few times, draw, and start babbling onto a blank page about what I see.

Typically I use the Vertigo Tarot. At times I'll cross-reference the Rider-Waite deck, which I keep in numeric order specifically for that reason, but it's Dave McKean's imagery that speaks to me much more than Pamela Colman-Smiths; and even if I get a little impatient with Rachel Pollack's interpretations from time to time, I find them more comfortably Jungian and modern than Waite's.

Which is all to explain why I got the impression that my Tarot deck was being singularly uncooperative the other day.

In the "Trilobite" story, Selby Oldham is a psychometrist. That's someone who gets psychic impressions from touching objects. You've probably seen a TV drama or read a book concerning a psychic working for the police, right? He or she touches the murder weapon and objects at the scene of the crime and gets flashes of how the killing occurred? Right. Well, Selby's like that, only less of the crime forensics and more stuff like paleontology and anthropology. Fossils and ancient artefacts.

She has, by the time of the story, lost hope in her dreams. She's living an eventless, unfulfilling life, working as a curator's assistant in a natural science museum. By the end of the story, she will have found inspiration to pursue her ambitions again. Only trouble was, I had no idea what her ambitions actually were.

So, hello Tarot! Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, "What are Selby's dreams?" shuffleshuffle, shuffle. And I drew...

The Heirophant. Reversed.

Again, recall, Vertigo Tarot. Which DC/Vertigo character did they choose for that particular Major Arcana card? That's right. Dream of the Endless. The Sandman. Morpheus His-Own-Self. And I drew him reversed.

That's right. In answer to "What dreams did Selby give up on?" I got, "She gave up on her dreams."

Imagine you asked your friend, "What plans do you have for Friday?" and your friend said, "Yeah, Friday..." and wandered off. That's about the impression I got.

And this ain't the first time it's said that kind of thing to me, either.

Of course, consulting the Rider-Waite's more traditional Heirophant (not to mention consulting a friend who actually supplements her paycheck by reading Tarot during the summertime) helped put things in perspective. "Oh, yes, tradition and passed-down wisdom and heirarchy and such. Maybe Selby was trying to climb a corporate ladder, or pursue a traditional education at a university, and it wasn't right for her for some reason." But still.

There was once a time when I stopped doing my freewriting exercises for a long time. When I started up again months later, and I used the Tarot deck as a prompt, shuffling just as thoroughly as ever, it gave me the same darn card it had given me all that time ago. Ten of Pentacles, it was: it shows a face with ten pentacle-coins stacked neatly atop his head; the tenth coin completely blocks his mouth. (I suppose one could read that the face is actually speaking the pentacle, but I see it stopping up his mouth and silencing him. Especially considering I drew it reversed.) It's a card I personally associate with the kind of writer's block that comes of too much intellectualizing and perfection-seeking.

"You know, that thing you were working on last year? Right. Well, you never quite finished dealing with that."

Yeah. I know. Smart-ass cards.