ROW 80 and the Tarot

The Fool–beginning of all journeys.

I’ve got another update for Round of Words in 80 Days–but it’s a small one. Unfortunately, I haven’t made a whole lot of progress since Sunday; not in terms of words written, anyway. Maybe around 300.

But, I haven’t been idle. I’ve been researching, and that’s something I’d like to talk about today.

My Tapestry project, as I’ve explained before, is structured into three phases. What I haven’t revealed yet is that the entire project is based on a larger overall structure–the Tarot. For those who may not know, the Tarot is a card-based system of divination* that’s been around for several hundred (some say thousands, though that’s a tenuous claim) years. I won’t go into the history of the Tarot here, though there’s a great book about the subject.

A bit of backstory: I’ve been reading Tarot for nearly a decade, but I’ve always had trouble memorizing the meanings of each card. When I did readings, I usually did them with a book in hand–which doesn’t make for a very confident result. Nevertheless, people seemed to enjoy my readings, so I continued.

About a year ago, I realized that the reason I was having trouble figuring out the meanings of the cards was because I was researching them too much. Everyone has a different way to interpret the cards, and it gets confusing if you’re trying to decide amongst several different interpretations, all of which claim they’re more accurate. I realized that Tarot isn’t about hard and fast meanings–it’s about intuition. When I stopped “learning” about the cards, I quite suddenly found myself able to give accurate readings without a reference book.

What does this have to do with Tapestry? This project is, in part, a way to familiarize myself with the deeper structure of the Tarot.

There are three phases of the project, and each corresponds (roughly) to a part of the Tarot. Phase one follows the ideas behind the Court cards; phase two will follow the pips (or minor arcana,) and phase three–the big one–is structured after the Major Arcana. This final bit of the project was actually the part that started me off; I’ve always wanted to write an allegorical “hero’s journey” type book patterned on the Major Arcana, which is essentially a story of spiritual development from Fool to Enlightenment.

Anyway. Right now my research is focusing on the court cards. I know, I said above that research isn’t getting me anywhere in understanding the Tarot–but this is different. By comparing the accepted meanings from several different sources, studying the actual cards from various decks I use, and intuitively learning to understand the archetypes behind them, I’m beginning to get a general sense of each card. Each chapter in phase one will center around a particular character, and my research will help guide the development of that character.

Now, I should stress that I’m not turning the Tarot into a story. I don’t have sixteen characters (the number of court cards) in phase one. Ohmel, introduced as the Knight in the Court of Sand, also appears as the Knight in the other three courts. My main villain, Alkut, appears as the Page of Sand as well as the King of Rain, and possibly the Knight of Tinder. The characters are still my own, and won’t be held fast to the archetypes I discover in the tarot; instead, I like to think of them as being “coloured by the cards.”

So this week has been spend researching and thinking about the Court of Rain. In this part of the story the Queen of the Toral and her retinue deal with the fallout of the Ozym’s trade proposal–understanding that it is very likely a prelude to war. This is a suit interested in intuition and feeling, so it promises to be an emotionally charged entry, which I hope will pull the reader in, and help them make strong connections to the characters. Next up is Court of Slyphs.

You’ll notice that I’m not titling my stories directly after the Tarot; that’s because the story isn’t about the Tarot, just inspired by it. Breifly, here are the correlations:

  • Court of Sand = Suit of Pentacles (or Coins), which deals with Earthly, practical matters.
  • Court of Rain = Suit of Cups, as explained above.
  • Court of Slyphs = Suit of Swords, dealing with thought and logic.
  • Court of Tinder = Suit of Wands, which is about action and movement.

And there we are! How’s everyone else doing with ROW80 this week?

*I want to clarify that I don’t believe the Tarot can actually tell the future. Rather, I consider it an Oracle that can help give advice by revealing things we may already know, but aren’t paying attention to.

Image by snowqueen1426, c/o Flikr.