Monday, February 8, 2021

Tarot for Writers (Block)

by Katrina Monroe 

There isn’t much I won’t try when it comes to getting rid of writers’ block. Naked maypole dancing, eating pumpkin under the harvest moon, blood sacrifices to the gods of suspense and active voice… surprising it took me this long to turn to my tarot cards.

I’m no expert, but I’ve been reading tarot for a few years, mostly for fun at parties, sometimes to scare the new people my friends bring to those parties. The thing about tarot—it’s about telling a story. If you’re good at it, a really interesting story with unseen twists and high stakes. This is particularly true for three card spreads, which mimic a three-act structure: the beginning, the middle, and the end.

Below are three spreads, three cards each. In each spread the three cards represent three questions, or problems, for the cards (or, for us, the plot) to solve:

-          Where you (the character) stand now

-          What you (the character) aspire to

-          What is standing in your (the character’s) way

I’m using my Tarot del Toro deck, inspired by the movies and artwork of Guillermo del Toro (because why wouldn’t I?) Think of these as paint-by-numbers where the numbers are all a little fuzzy and I haven’t given you the right colors. Let your imagination run wild!


Spread 1:

Where you stand: The Moon

What you aspire to: The Star

What is standing in your way: The Three of Wands

The Moon, on its own, indicates passivity. A person separate from the rest of the world, watching it turn. Next to The Star though, it symbolizes potential. Maybe the character is an outlier at work or with their friends or in their relationship. Their internal world is a barren landscape, while The Star is bright and inviting. This character wants badly what she doesn’t believe she can have – belonging.

Wands symbolize fire, their power drawn from the supernatural, or the seemingly supernatural. The three of wands indicates the thing standing in the character’s way is the third element to the story, essentially, the solution, or what the character believes the solution to be. Perhaps the character meets a person who promises belonging, but the fire the character brings, the danger, may be too much for the character to handle.


Spread 2:

Where you stand: The Knight of Blades

What you aspire to: The Valet of Blades

What stands in your way: The Emperor

The Knight of Blades is represented by the element of air. It is without energy or conscious movement. A character ruled by the Knight of Blades seems to be very busy but without accomplishing anything – a stay at home mom with aspirations outside the family, a character with high-functioning anxiety, a traveler who never stops but has no direction. The Valet of Blades gives air direction. She represents the power of growth and self-development. In The Hero’s Journey, she would be the supernatural aid. The moment at the start of that bad-ass action sequence.

The Emperor represents authority. Not law, exactly, but social order. The Trunchbull in Matilda. Mr. Smith in the Matrix. The Emperor will do everything in his (limited) power to prevent the character from breaking social norms, not because it’s wrong, but because it is different.


Spread 3:

Where you stand: The Six of Disks

What you aspire to: The Seven of Goblets

What stands in your way: The Knight of Goblets

Disks in the Tarot del Toro are similar to Pentacles in the traditional tarot, and ruled by the earth and everything practical, like money. The number six symbolizes frustration, particularly over something that has just started. Perhaps the character has lost his job or received divorce papers. Maybe the Baron has taken back the land that was meant to belong to character. Maybe the house she purchased sight unseen is haunted, and the possibility of selling goes out the window. Goblets, like traditional tarot Cups, represent water, fluidity, and the feminine. Lucky number seven is a symbol of triumph. The character, in this spread, is obsessed with overcoming this new, seemingly practical issue. It shouldn’t be as hard as the character thinks it is.

The Knight of Goblets, in this spread, represents greater, more substantial change. While the character is obsessed with her immediate problem, the world seems to crumble around them. In order to succeed, the character will need to learn to acclimate to their new normal. Even if she sells the house or regains her lost land, if she demands her new world be the same as the old, she won’t hold onto her success for long.


Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

I know nothing about tarot but always wanted my cards read. I feel like this is a genius way to use it.

Katrina Monroe said...

Thanks! I love Tarot, mostly for the gorgeous art on different styles of cards.

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