I may not be the best person to write this sequence, but I’m sure going to try. My purpose is to look at the tarot as a type of story structure, from a writer’s point of view. If you’re looking for help with readings, and interpretations, you’ve come to the wrong place. Tarot is much more than I’m going to address, but I’m limiting this to writing.
Tarot is extremely old, and is one of the oldest story structures out there. It goes from a lump of clay all the way to an almost godlike being. This is too far for most contemporary novels. In many cases it starts too soon, and ends too late. There is still good information here, so bear with me.
I’ll try to get through all 22 of the major arcana cards in the month of April. This will require some grouping. Keep in mind also that thousands of tarot decks exist. Creators take some liberties, and the one I’m photographing changed some of the names. I’ll try to caption with the most popular names, even though the deck names appear in the photos.
This is the first card in the fool’s journey. He’s our main character, and I’ll try to call him the fool throughout, but he won’t remain a fool for long. He’s almost always depicted going on the first steps of a journey. He’s typically shown about to step off a cliff. Our characters make mistakes. He usually has a small dog that represents courage, and is barking a warning. Most decks have him holding a white rose to depict purity. Mine uses a bunch of mistletoe.
I see him as someone leaving home for the first time. He could be a graduate, or moving somewhere for his first job. He can also be a girl. He’s fresh, new, brave, and unafraid. At this stage he’s all about potential.
The fool soon meets and is influenced by the magician and the high priestess. These are opposites, but they both influence the fool.
The magician is all about willpower, design and planning, and a can do attitude. He usually has one hand toward heaven and one toward earth. Think of him like a work ethic.
The high priestess is a little more spiritual. She’s all about dreams, intuition, and imagination. She’s usually depicted with the moon, which was a spiritual symbol, and between two pillars as a framework for focus.
Together these two will inspire our fool to think imaginatively, and teach him to work to obtain his goal.
The next two influences are the emperor and empress. This is one of the places my deck differs. These are usually thought of as the fool’s parents. They have different influences upon their child.
The empress is about beauty and happiness. She depicts a world that is fertile and abundant. She is usually depicted with crops of some kind. She’s also pregnant to demonstrate her fertility. She’s kind of an encourager and enabler to the fool.
The emperor is all about fatherhood, stability, authority, boundaries, and discipline. He’s going to instill a desire to control certain things in our fool. These are still fairly simplistic, like controlling his own destiny for whatever reason, there is usually an eagle on this card somewhere. To me this means leadership. Our fool is a main character after all.
Together the emperor and empress usually depict nature in some form. I like to think of this as the basic needs in life. I also note the pregnancy as a warning that they’re here for our fool, but he isn’t their only responsibility.
I’m going to stop here today, but I want to summarize a bit. Some stories will start at the fool stage. Luke Skywalker is a reasonable example.
In any event, your main character should have some qualities reflecting each of these characters. They don’t have to be good qualities. Your fool may have learned willpower from the magician, and rejected the work ethic. Maybe he gets along better with his mother and is always in trouble with his father.
These early cards are worth considering when designing a character. Even when you aren’t ready to start your story here. Consider whether your fool has a work ethic or not, how much imagination does your character exhibit, is he more loving and nurturing, or more formal and rigid.
These cards can appear as characters themselves, or merely be influences upon your character. I like to start my stories a little bit further along, but these traits should be in there somewhere.
Feel free to tweet, reblog, and comment away. I’m not going to stick to a rigid schedule for this, but I’ll save it under the “writing” category for your convenience.