Predictive Storytelling: Using Tarot, Astrology, and Intuitive Aids as Creative Writing Tools
There’s an astrology app on my phone that uses date and time of birth to give me detailed, intricate observations about my day. Sometimes, when it seems to hit the nail on the head, I’m all for it, and other times, often mood-dependent, I feel called out by its negativity. And then there are times when I feel like this app can’t possible know me at all, when I realize that… it probably doesn’t. It’s an app, and I’m a complicated human, predestined (or not) by infinitely more than the sun’s position in July, 40-ish years ago.
And yet, here I go, another 24 hours later, clicking on the app, the smallest part of me hoping to find a nugget of truth or clarity. I may not always use that nugget to guide my daily choices. Rather, I've used the suggestive power of astrology, tarot, or the gentle nudge of the universe to guide my creativity.
“Do you believe in magic?” I recently asked a friend. I wasn’t sure what I sought as the answer, but I knew that the question wasn’t about wielding some massive unlocking force that resembled “alohomora.”
“Yes, sort of. I believe in a force of the universe, if you want to call it magic.”
“I believe that we don’t know everything." That included, at times, what and how to create.
Last summer, I was the recipient of a pack of Intuiti Creative Cards. The cards are small and resemble a set of playing cards; or, more specifically, a set of tarot cards. With colorful images, the cards "propose pointed suggestions, obtained from the analysis of classic tarots, that are a rich collection of archetypes." Unlike tarot, each card relates to a cultural concept that can help inspire creative motion. They're fun, and I've used the cards more than once to prompt breakthroughs in my writing and flash fiction pieces in their entirety. But, they're also straightforward, in that they do what they're meant to do.
So, let's go deeper into the unknown; the magic, if you will.
Clear your mind.
Pick up a tarot deck. Shuffle it three times. Knock on it. Spread the deck, and focus on the question at hand.
Wait. Focus harder.
Okay. Pick your card. What did you pull?
The tower card? Interesting. Let's take a deeper look at its symbolism. Or, let's look at the art on the card. Actually, it doesn't matter. Whatever it is about the card that drives you, intrigues you, or sparks you in your art, writing, or creativity is what we're aiming for here. Maybe your character sees a tower in the distance. Maybe lightning crashes. Someone hears a scream. Or, someone or something is headed toward unexpected upheaval or change. It's all there, in the tower.
Maybe The Tower wasn't your card. Did you pull The Magician? Consider the number on the card. It’s labeled the "one" in the deck. Now, dig into a numerology website and see what "one" symbolizes and how it might relate to character.
Next, flip your card upside-down. Reverse tarot tells a very different story than the upright card, and can set your work on an opposite trajectory. In that vein, flip your painting, your image, your sculpture, your plot. Reverse your poem. The interpretation does not have to be literal, but can prompt something on a visceral level.
I once structured a novel with tarot headings. It sort of worked. If I had spent more time to consider the weave of the universal implication into the story, I may have had more success. But, it does lead to another consideration. With a character in mind, you can build a three, five, seven, or even 12-card tarot spread to tell an entire story! Walk an imaginary person through the cards, and let the symbolism lead the character's adventure.
Don't have a character? No problem. I‘ve got a fix for that, too.
Maybe today's astrology reading isn't spot on, but can be used to build a character archetype. Here's a chance to think outside the box in using pre-built characteristics. Pick and choose. Combine a cancer and a libra. The universe is (literally) your oyster.
If all else fails, I've got one last approach to using predictive aids in your creative process. This one involves opening a fortune-telling site on your internet browser. When all else fails, ask it the one question that's been plaguing humanity for decades...
...Metallica or Megadeath?
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