It’s the dead days at the end of the year. I’d been tempted to use them for necromancy, burn some parsley, open up the Green Velvet Bible that sits on my altar, next to a daugerrotype of the man who once owned it, and see how far we get. But its also very cold in this house with a wind that rattles under the door no matter what we do, and the days are over before they begin. I’m tired. Sometimes its easier to hide from the world and write ghost stories, rather than act them out.
The Portico Library in Manchester very kindly asked me to run a small series of workshops on storytelling and Tarot, for their Fun & Games exhibition, which I will be running online on the 20th and 27th of January.
It’s not the occult properties of Tarot that we’re concerning ourselves with, but how the images lend themselves to form the most basic blocks of a story—characters, places, events. If you’re interested as a Tarot card reader, I hope I can get the images to move for you, slip from the white-edged cards. The Queen of Cups puts down her chalice, picks up a sword and flings herself into the backseat of the Chariot. Why? Maybe she’s running late for a hairdressers appointment, maybe she’s going to kill her husband.
If you’re a writer, the Tarot can be a great experiement; a visual language to play with; a kind of outside structure. You can re-tell stories through the Tarot, like Italo Calvino, where Zeus’ various animal transformations are hidden in the animals on The World card, or the Ace of Cups becomes the Grail. Or, you can ask where a character goes next. The Tower or Justice? To disaster or to discussion? A tall cliff or to court?
We’ll be exploring the ways in which Tarot can be used as a meaningful tool in storytelling, with no experience of either required. You don’t even need a Tarot deck of your own.
One will be provided!
If you’re interested in Tarot and storytelling, here’s a quick exercise for either a short story or a piece of flash fiction:
Make a list of five memories. They don’t have to be particularly significant. They can be the last time you met a friend for coffee, a walk you went on, you agonising over a particular decision, etc., Once you’ve got one of these memories, choose one and select at random three Tarot cards. You can either use your own deck or take a screenshot and see what it lands on.
Write an account of this memory using those Tarot cards to make the experience stranger. The first card is the beginning of the memory, the second is the middle, the last one is the ending:
If I choose meeting a friend for coffee, and get Judgement, the Moon, and the Wheel of Fortune, then an Angel meets me for coffee instead, bringing with it news so we head to the riverbank at the edge of the city. It’s not a city I recognise. The moon spins in the sky like a wheel. My friend puts down their coffee cup.