Alayna Williams is my next guest blogger. She’s here to show us how to use Tarot cards to analyze a character’s strengths and weaknesses. (I have to admit that Tarot cards fascinate me. I love the meaning behind them and the fact that each card is a small piece of art.) Welcome, Alayna!
Tarot cards are a fun and effective way to get past writer’s block. I wrote both DARK ORACLE and ROGUE ORACLE with a deck of cards at hand – much like my heroine, Tara Sheridan, a criminal profiler who uses Tarot cards to solves crimes. I was ready to immerse myself in the hero’s journey of Tarot – and the cards became an engrossing tool to help me visualize the story.
The cards are useful to draw at random to help build plots and sub-plots. Whenever I pull one, I free-associate a whole new set of paths for my characters to wander down. The images in the cards become settings, allies, and obstacles, and outcomes.
But my favorite way to use the cards is to profile my characters with them. And I’ll show you how to do a quick and dirty analysis of a character’s strengths and weaknesses.
Start with a deck of Tarot cards that you like. I’m using the classic Rider-Waite deck in this example, but you can use any deck that has symbolism that speaks to you. I do suggest using a deck that has pictures on the numbered Minor Arcana (pip) cards, rather than just numbers. Also, find a good book of Tarot card meanings. There are many out there – I’d suggest a separate book, because it will have more information than the short paragraphs usually contained in the small pamphlets that come with most Tarot decks.
Grab some paper and a pencil, too. All set?
Next, pick a significator for your character. In Tarot reading, a significator is chosen to represent the querant, to focus the reading and sometimes provide additional information about where a person is in life at the time. I know that my own significators have shifted over time as I’ve changed…and so have the ones for my characters. You can choose one at random, or select one that calls to you. I generally suggest choosing a card that has a person figuring prominently, like one of the twenty-two Major Arcana Tarot cards (the ones that show the Hero’s Journey) or one of the court cards (the Knights, Pages, Queens, and Kings). Many books have been written on the art of choosing a significator, and there are a lot of details for those who want to get deeply into the meanings of significators. But for now, just pick one that looks like your character or speaks to you in some way.
Here’s an example. I picked Strength to represent Tara Sheridan, the heroine of my story. The card shows a woman with flowers in her hair, wearing a long white dress. She has a calm, peaceful expression on her face as she leans down to close the jaws of a lion with only her hands. This isn’t a bloody battle of swords and fists. She’s accomplishing her goal with a certain amount of tenderness, a gentleness that we can almost see in her face as she looks upon the lion. The lion seems to submit to her willingly, without a struggle, in the face of her compassion.
Take a moment to free-associate about what you see in the card. Does the figure hold anything in her hands? What’s her expression? What does the landscape look like behind her? What do you suppose she’s thinking? Is she looking at something unseen off in the distance? You may wish to record your answers as they come to you.
Next, flip through your book of Tarot meanings to find your card. Read about the meanings and attributes of the card in the upright position. These will be your characters strengths or positive attributes. For Strength, the card symbolizes fortitude and control over our own animal instincts, discipline to accomplish one’s goals. It’s interesting to me that Strength subdues her opponent without bloodshed. By her pose, we can’t tell if she’s been holding the lion’s jaws for moments or hours. She is determined to achieve her goal, and she approaches it from a deep wellspring of courage and faith in her own power.
That sounds like Tara to me. I was accustomed to heroines who kicked down doors with guns blazing and asking questions later. But in creating Tara, I wanted her to be different. I wanted her to have the endurance to solve the cases she’s working, to be able to approach the lion in a thoughtful fashion. But I didn’t want her to face all of her problems with a gun. As I thought about this card, I wanted her to be powerful, and confident in her power.
But…all people have a dark side. They have weaknesses, challenges, and negative qualities about their personalities. To start to look into those aspects, take a look at your book of Tarot meanings. Search for the “Reversed” meaning for your card. Reversals in Tarot are usually read when a card appears upside down.. But reversals are also very helpful in exploring the shadow side of a character or situation.
In my example, I learn that Strength has some drawbacks. The reversed meaning of the card involves the inability to be in control, to harness one’s power or instincts. And this rings true for me…in ROGUE ORACLE, Tara’s powers with her cards are changing. The cards are coming to life in her dreams, and she’s wandering the surreal landscapes of the Tarot, encountering people she knows in the guise of the figures and symbols of the cards. This is a new development in her power, one that she’s struggling to control. She comes to question herself and her ability to put the pieces together. She second-guesses her instincts on the nuclear secret-smuggling case she’s working with and relationship with her sometime lover, federal investigator Harry Li.
Often, the cards open up more avenues for me to explore, make me wonder about the paths my characters are walking. Try it out sometime, and see where it takes you.
More About Rogue Oracle
The more you know about the future, the more there may be to fear.
Tara Sheridan is the best criminal profiler around – and the most unconventional. Trained as a forensic psychologist, Tara also specializes in Tarot card reading. But she doesn’t need her divination skills to realize that the new assignment from her friend and sometime lover, Agent Harry Li, is a dangerous proposition in every way.
Former Cold War operatives, all linked to a top-secret operation tracking the disposal of nuclear weapons in Russia, are disappearing. There are no bodies, and no clues to their whereabouts. Harry suspects a conspiracy to sell arms to the highest bidder. The cards – and Tara’s increasingly ominous dreams – suggest something darker. Even as Tara sorts through her feelings for Harry and her fractured relationships with the mysterious order known as Delphi’s Daughters, a killer is growing more ruthless by the day. And a nightmare that began decades ago in Chernobyl will reach a terrifying endgame that not even Tara could have foreseen…
Rogue Oracle is available at:
More About Alayna
Alayna Williams has an MA in sociology-criminology (research interests: fear of crime and victimology) and a BA in criminology. She has worked in and around criminal justice since 1997. Although she does read Tarot cards, she’s never used them in criminal profiling or to locate lost scientists. She recently took up astronomy, but for the most part her primary role in studying constellations and dark matter is to follow her amateur astronomer-husband around central Ohio toting the telescope tripod and various lenses. Like the Pythia in Dark Oracle, she’s been known to belly dance. Unlike the Pythia she’d never consider herself a professional.
Writing as Laura Bickle, she’s the author of EMBERS and SPARKS for Pocket – Juno Books. Writing as Alayna Williams, she’s the author of DARK ORACLE and ROGUE ORACLE.
Writers, have you ever used the Tarot to help you with your writing? If not, does Alayna’s post give you some inspiration? Readers, are you as fascinated by Tarot cards as I am? Have you ever had a Tarot card reading? Thanks for guest blogging today, Alayna!