A Story within a Story
As you know, one of the things I love most about the tarot is how it’s such a helpful tool for personal growth. I’m so passionate about that fact that I call the way I read “Self-Development Tarot.”
There are many facets of us, and let’s face it–they could ALL use some growth. But I highly believe one of the key foundations to all of it is our creative energy. Even logical thinking depends on creativity; the very definition of the word expresses that quite well.
One great way to use the tarot to tap into your creativity is to use it for writing. I work with writers to help them develop their characters and their stories with these enchanting cards–their pictures have an amazing way of helping you let go of your tightly wound way of thinky-thinking to let the more imaginative ideas loosen up and float to the top.
This is also true of tarot journaling. You can do this by randomly choosing a card and writing about what you see or picking a specific card that calls to you or your situation at that moment and write why, and all of this can be done with or without knowing what the action card may ‘mean.’
There is also a fun way to explore what the card means to you (which is actually more important than having a hard and fast definition, especially when we are talking about personal growth)–AND getting your own message out of it for self-exploration. And that’s getting down to some storytelling.
Most tarot cards have people in them (at least in the more conventional decks) and they seem to be a moment in time of that character’s life. What happened before this moment? What may happen after? Is this person you, or someone else entirely? Are there more people involved than those we are seeing in this snapshot? What does the landscape around the borders look like? Is this a ‘real’ moment in this character’s life, or a dream state? All of these things are so fun to explore, and how you do so can tell you so much about the tarot, but most importantly– yourself.
I did this with an often confusing (and potentially unsettling!) Major Arcana card when I was first learning, The Hanged Man. We all have cards that can trip us up, that just don’t come naturally in understanding–and of course which card can be different for everyone. The Hanged Man is one of those cards that doesn’t necessarily give you ‘happy’ or ‘scary’ vibes right away–it’s very mixed. I will always tell you that there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ cards, because there is light and dark in everything–but certain cards definitely carry a darker energy, no doubt about it.
While looking through old documents, I found this story I had written about the young man in The Hanged Man card, and I have to say, re-reading it now made me seem very wise even though back then, I felt like I had no clue. !!! Don’t you love it when you pleasantly surprise yourself??
I share this with you now to show you how I worked through it, hoping it inspires you to pull out your cards (or find pics of them on the internet!) and start playing around with storytelling. I will jump for joy if you do and share with me any of your aha-ha findings. Huzzah!
Once Upon a Time
there was a boy from a village who was about to come of age. He took this position very seriously and had spent many days asking his mother many questions. His father died when he was very young, so he had no male figure to give him any sense of what he thought being a man would be like. He was too embarrassed to ask other men, his friends’ fathers, or even his uncle. But whereas his friends seemed to see the coming of manhood as no big thing and treated it just like any other day, Robert thought about it day and night. His mother would get exasperated with his questions and tell him that he won’t feel any different, this day will feel like any other.
But Robert was not convinced. One day he went for a walk by himself, thinking until he felt his head would surely burst. He noticed a tree that he never had before, looking like it was split in two with two trunks going out to either side. It struck him as a highly magical tree, almost like it was placed there for his amusement and use. He suddenly got a crazy idea in his head and ran back home to get some rope.
He wrapped the rope around the tree and used it to take a couple of steps at a time. The tree had a lot of rough bark, so the rope did not slip. It was long hard work, but eventually, he got up to the top where he wanted to be.
Sitting in the center of the tree, he looked around to see if this new view would give him any kind of special insight. Slightly disappointed, nothing amazing or earth-shattering came to him as he looked around. Suddenly, a very large raven landed near him on the tree. He smiled and said, “Oh, hello!”
The raven cocked its head at him and seemed to wonder what a boy-human was doing in his territory. Most people would have been afraid of this giant bird, especially as it boldly hopped its way toward him, but the boy was so busy trying to find some kind of ‘sign’ that he didn’t think anything about it.
“Mr. Raven, I wonder if I turned my world upside down if my thoughts would turn as well, and I would have some kind of new idea!” he said aloud to the bird.
He wound one end of the rope around one branch, then around his right ankle, and then around the branch on the other side. Making sure they were good and tight, he let himself dangle upside down.
Feeling secure and very clever, he folded up his left leg and put his hands behind his back as though he were simply standing against this regal tree.
The crow had taken his previous place above and looked down at him questioningly. From under his wing, he pulled out a beautiful golden pentacle and left it on a knot in the tree. The boy did not notice at first, as he was looking at his world with this new perspective.
Suddenly the crow made a very loud “Caw!” and flew away, which startled the boy. He was about to pull himself up when a thought suddenly came to him.
“As above, so below. I do not need to change my identity when I become a man. I will still be the same boy with the same crazy ideas and curiousity. As I grow, only my perspective will change. I will start to see things differently as I change my viewpoints, and where I stand with different things through my experiences. Things change, but they also stay the same. I will still think and grow with my eyes and my brain, only better and wiser.”
Finally satisfied, he pulled himself back up to the crook of the tree. It was then that he noticed the beautiful gift that the crow had left him. Somehow, with his new perspective, he knew the raven was the spirit of his father and that he had left a sign to his son that he indeed had and always will have the magic within him.