How Using Tarot Cards Can Help You Write Fiction

How Using Tarot Cards Can Help You Write Fiction

By Neal Martin/ August 26, 2018
Last Updated April 26, 2023

As someone who has come to develop a deep interest in esotericism and what might be called “ancient wisdom”—things of a higher nature, aspects of spirituality that have been forgotten and suppressed in this so-called modern age—I found myself a while ago inevitably taking an interest in the Tarot.

What Is The Tarot About?

If you don’t know what the Tarot is, it is simply a form of divination, in that it puts us in touch with our higher selfs (or what Michael Tsarion calls our “Inner Oracle”) through the use of highly symbolic images that go to make up the Tarot cards. There are 78 of these cards, and each one has its own image, symbolism and story. As Tarotist Brigit Esselmont says: 

Tarot is the story of our life, the mirror to our soul, and the key to our inner wisdom.

In the short time since I’ve been using Tarot cards, I have found those words to be true. Tarot cards are a great tool for looking deep into yourself, and for reflecting back what’s there. It can be helpful to know what is most on our mind–at least our unconscious mind–where all the important stuff happens anyway, the stuff that actually drives your existence.

What we think about on a conscious level rarely has any bearing on who we really are or what direction we are going in. The ego-dominated conscious mind is nothing but a huge distraction most of the time. It’s supposed to be a tool to be used to help steer us through life; it’s supposed to backup what our real mind—our unconscious mind, or higher mind—wants us to do. Instead, the conscious mind has become little more than a despot in most people, ruling via fear, running us in circles as it responds blindly to the need for external stimuli. All of this to the detriment of the Higher Self, the real self.

As hard as it is to believe, people of ancient times were not driven by their ego-consciousness. They existed on a completely different plane of existence that was driven by their Higher Selfs. But due to certain cataclysmic events in the world, that level of existence was lost and the ego-conciousness was born out of this deep psychic trauma, which soon took over.

Now we have built a vast architecture of control that expands the entire world, and which reaches deep into our unconscious minds, corrupting us from within.

And for the most part, we are happy to allow this corruption to happen, with the result being a world drenched in fear, war, poverty and needless death…including the death of the soul.

Tools such as Tarot cards, just like meditation and yoga, can help us cut through the inane chatter of the conscious mind so we can reach the depths of the unconscious mind within.

As Bill Hicks might have said, they squeegee your third eye.

As a writer, I know the importance of the unconscious mind. I probably make more use of it than most, as a lot of writers and artists do. Every time I sit down to write, I’m trusting my unconscious to spill the words into my conscious mind, which I then write down.

When I write fiction, I trust that my unconscious knows what direction to go in every time. I have total faith in my creative unconscious mind.

I have come to trust the creative process, my own at least, completely.

So to discover a tool that allows me to get in direct touch with that deeper part of myself—that wellspring of creativity—was exciting for me. Now I had a means to directly probe and even question that part of myself, to open up a channel of communication between my conscious and unconscious minds.

How Do Tarot Cards Help With Writing?

There are basically two ways that I use Tarot cards to help me as a writer.

The first way is for pure inspiration. Just looking at the beautiful art on some Tarot cards is enough to stir up inspiration and ideas in me. The first deck I bought was the Night Sun deck because I was so taken by the deliciously dark art, which you can see in the image below.

tarot fiction writing

The Night Sun deck is great deck, but may be a little dark for some. A lot of people stick with the oldest known deck, the Ryder Waite deck, which you can see below.

fiction writing

The Ryder Waite deck is probably the most well known deck. Even people who know nothing about the cards would recognize these from somewhere, and would probably associate them with shady fortune tellers. It’s true that some people try to profit from people’s ignorance when it comes to the cards, but that doesn’t lessen the value of the cards themselves. Like any tool, it’s how you use them that matters.

The other deck I have is the Thoth deck, created by the infamous Aleister Crowley, with exquisite art by Lady Frieda Harris, which you can see examples of below.

fiction writing

This deck is very direct and powerful, and the one often used by serious practitioners of the Tarot art.

As I said, just looking at the cards can sometimes be enough to throw something useful up in your mind, something you might use in your writing.

The second way I use the cards is to ask directly for guidance. While I shuffle the cards, I keep in mind a question, such as, “What direction do I need to take the story in?”, or, “What kind of person is character X?”

You get the idea. Ask open ended questions, as you’re not seeking yes or no answers here. We want guidance.

When you are ready, lay down one of the cards and begin to study it. What most strikes you about the imagery, the symbolism or potential meaning? What bearing does it have on what you want to know? If you want to go deeper, look up the meaning of the card online. Keep putting down cards until you get the guidance you seek.

All don’t forget to look at the spread of cards as a whole, which can often clarify things or paint a different picture.

Nearly always when I do this method of divination, I come away with fresh ideas, if not outright instructions on where to go next. 

At the very least, working with the cards in this way will always loosen your mind and put you in touch with your creative self. Sometimes the cards can be very direct, other times they drop subtle hints and suggestions. This is why you have to remain open-minded as you work with the Tarot cards.

Just like writing, using Tarot cards in this way is a process. One thing leads to another until you get a satisfactory answer to your question.

Again, I need to stress open-mindedness here. The more open you are, the more benefit you will get from all that imagery and symbolism. Your conscious mind might not understand most of it, but your unconscious mind understands it all on some level. This is why the cards are so powerful.

If you’re a writer, I suggest giving the Tarot cards a go. They might surprise you. In fact, I know they will 🙂

Let me know your experience of them in the comments below!

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