Death is Hard, Don’t Water it Down

Death URWS

Rider Waite Smith Tarot

The Death card is one of the most concerning cards in the tarot deck for a lot of people, especially folks unfamiliar with its many non-mortal interpretations. Because of this there has been a trend of late that involves softening the Death card’s meaning and some new decks have altered the art and the title to make it less threatening. While I understand the importance of not scaring one’s self or one’s client, or causing unnecessary fear or paranoia, I feel like this watering down of the Death card is doing a disservice to readers and clients alike. Yes, rebirth follows death. Yes, it is important to remember that new beginnings follow endings, but it’s equally important not to bypass that ending by only focusing on the positive.

The Good Tarot

When the Death card shows up, it’s saying that things aren’t going to be the same afterwards. It’s saying that something is over or irrevocably altered, and that it is likely going to be difficult, even painful to accept and move forward. I believe that it’s important to spend time to process the challenging emotions that come up in these types of circumstances. You have to go through the experience of the Death card before you can get to the rebirth and the new beginning. The jump to find a “positive spin” on the Death card means that we aren’t spending time acknowledging and processing the challenges and the hurt of what is occurring; we aren’t making our way through “Death” to get to the rebirth, we’re trying to skip the hard part, we’re trying to bypass the work. I believe that we need to make space to honor our feelings and the feelings of our clients when the Death card appears, or else those feelings can go unacknowledged and unresolved. We all need to get more comfortable with discomfort and difficult emotions so that we can become more emotionally intelligent, emotionally healthy people.

Elemental Character Spread

Surprise, surprise it’s another creative writing spread. Oh, you don’t find that surprising? 😉 Anyway, this one is designed to help you explore your characters and it’s based on the elements: spirit, air, fire, water and earth. See the layout with descriptions below.

Elemental Character Spread

#1 - Spirit - This card looks at the character’s essential self or their core personality. You could also look at this as their highest potential, so the person they will grow into by the end of the story. Another way to interpret this card is the character’s destiny or calling.

#2 - Air - This card  shows the character’s mental state, what is on their mind or what they are worried about. It can also reveal character traits like sharp wittedness or cunning or anything related to what is going on inside their head.

#3 - Fire - This card will tell you how this character acts. Their relationship with action or their general mode of operation. Some questions you can ask when reading this position include how motivated are they? Are they moving or inert? Do they act emotionally, rationally, impulsively, with wisdom? Do they tend to lead or follow?

#4 - Water - The card of water will show you the emotional state of your character, what they are feeling, how they interact with their emotions or what role their emotions play in their experience. This card can also speak about their internal experience, what they hold in, what about them is unseen by others.

#5 - Earth - Here is where you can suss out logistical aspects of your character, job, appearance, their position in the physical world, their day to day experience. It also looks at the environment that they exist in or the social/societal constructs they have to navigate.

Spread Variation:
Feel free to use more than one card for each element. If you like to work with pairs of cards or sets of three, you can draw 2 or 3 cards per elemental position. This can also give you a bit of a timeline in terms of how the character grows and how their relationship with the elements change as the story progresses. I would perhaps only use one card for the Spirit position because as “essential self” or “destiny,” this is unlikely to change…but that’s just how I would do it. As always, you do what seems most right for you.

Before I let you go to scribble your creative hearts out, I wanted to let you know that I am teaching a tarot and writing workshop on April 25 from 7-9p. Here is the link to the event: Using Tarot to Prompt & Plot. If you are local or visiting the Portland area, I would love to see you there.

For the time being this is an in-person class, but I may adapt it to an online workshop in the future if there is enough interest, so please let me know if that is something you would like to see so I can gauge interest.

Enjoy the spread and have a great weekend y’all.

Creating Boundaries Means More Than Just Defending Your Perimeter

Seven of Wands tarot card

Smith-Waite Tarot, Tarot of the Magical Forest, Antiquarian Tarot

The topic of boundaries comes up frequently in tarot readings. Many people have difficulty feeling entitled to their boundaries and also mustering the courage to defend their boundaries. These days, with social media and the internet allowing so much access, I think it makes the conversation about boundaries even more important.

When you think about the topic of boundaries and the correlating cards in tarot you may immediately think about cards like the Seven of Wands or the Nine of Wands. The figure has established their perimeter, and they are defending it.

For me, a discussion about boundaries reaches beyond that definition. Defending a boundary that you have established is part of the equation certainly, but what about when a boundary changes?

Dealing with what to do when your boundaries shift is a lot more complicated than defending an already established one. People can be more resistant to it, because for some reason we aren’t allowed to change our minds. But why wouldn’t we change our minds? Why wouldn’t our boundaries shift? Everything else in life changes. Right?

I recently discovered that one of my own personal challenges in life was that once I granted someone a certain level of access to me, I didn’t feel I was empowered to retract that access. This made me wary of allowing anyone any access ever, because I felt like I couldn’t take it back if it felt wrong after-the-fact. The predictable result was being very lonely, because I wouldn’t allow anyone to get too close. This applied to things as seemingly benign as accepting friends on Facebook to as serious as choices of partners.

My point is, the ability to relocate your defensive line is essential. It’s important to be able to continue communicating and defending your boundaries, once you realize they need to be moved. Or perhaps firstly, it’s important to be mindful enough to know they need to be moved. The worst thing that you can do is try to gut-it-out in hopes that your boundary needs will return to where they were. They might, but there is no guarantee of that.

the devil magical forest tarot

Don’t become a prisoner of your own boundaries.

As you change and as your needs change, so to will your boundaries. Sometimes they may be contracting, sometimes they may be expanding. Sometimes the changes will be permanent, sometimes they will be temporary, and sometimes you won’t know whether they are going to be permanent or temporary until they are in place.

However your boundaries may change, however often they may change, they are still valid and you are still entitled to have them respected. Feel free to tweet that. 😉

The best way that I have found to deal with these types of shifts is to communicate with people and be as honest as you feel comfortable being (make it about you, this is your need.). Easier said than done I know, but better than feeling constantly violated because folks aren’t aware that your boundaries have shifted and that they are now crossing them unknowingly. The people who hem and haw and tell you that you are “flaky” or “wishy-washy”they aren’t a positive presence in your life anyway, so don’t worry about them.

I would love to hear what you think of this topic, it’s one that is near and dear to my heart, so feel free to comment.

Have a great week all,


Get in the Flow With This Tarot Writing Exercise

writing with tarot

I use tarot in conjunction with writing a lot, as in all the time. One practice that I really enjoy is this simple stream of consciousness exercise. I came up with it last year in preparation for NaNoWriMo. You can use it for personal journaling or creative writing, fiction, non-fiction, whatever you like. It’s also great with morning pages if you follow that practice.

Begin by setting a goal for yourself, 20 minutes, 3 pages, 1000 words, however you would like to measure it. I usually go for 3 pages, but I encourage you to pick the parameters which sound best to you.

Now as I said, this is a stream of consciousness exercise, so the plan is to write and not stop until you hit your goal, whether it’s in minutes, pages or words. To start the exercise you draw a card from a freshly shuffled deck. Use the image in that card as inspiration to get your writing started.

Here are a couple ways you can use your card to inspire you:

  • Describe the scene and don’t scrimp on the details
  • Write about what might happen next
  • Give one of the figures in the card something to say
  • Write some commentary about what appears to be going on.
  • Zoom in on a small detail in the card and write about that
  • Take on the persona of a character in the image and write from their perspective.

For personal journaling you can equate the image to something that is currently on your mind or something that you are struggling with. You might consider what about the card image you find inspiring or bothersome.

Obviously these are just a few of endless possibilities. The important thing is to get that pen moving or to make those computer keys dance. 🙂

tarot card reading for creative writing

Write until you feel yourself beginning to slow down or get stuck, then you draw the next card from the deck and use that as fresh inspirational fuel so that you can keep writing. Continue doing this, whenever you start to loose steam, pull another card, until you reach your goal.

It’s interesting because sometimes when I write my 3 pages I end up only drawing 1 card. I feel inspired and I never run out of things to jot down. Other times I’ve needed 3 or 4 cards just to get through 3 pages. It’s actually more fun when I need 3 or 4 cards, which brings me to an alternative possibility for how you could do this exercise…

Instead of pulling a new card when you start to loose your momentum, you can plan when to pull the next card. For example, you could draw one at the beginning of every new page, or at 5 minute intervals, or every 500 words. You’re still writing continuously, that’s the whole point, but you’re regularly adding a new bit of inspiration. It’s like building up a fire. You add a new log regularly to get it burning nice and steady.

That’s it, pretty simple, but very effective.

I hope you enjoy the exercise and if you try it out I would love to hear how it goes. Write on!


Interested in other ways to use tarot with writing? Check out all my creative writing posts here.

Read For Yourself Like You are Your Own Client

tarot card reading

I’ve been spending a lot of time this week going through all my old computer files, organizing things, archiving things, resurrecting old writing projects that I had forgotten about.

In the midst of all this chaos I came across a reading that I did for myself a couple months ago. Usually I write my personal readings in my tarot journal, but this one I had typed it up in my reading template, like I do for client readings.

It was a lot of fun and a little surreal to go back over that reading, because I had very much approached it as if I was my own client. I wrote it in the third person and I included a picture of my cards and everything.

A snapshot of the reading I did for myself.

I think at the time my intention was to try out my template and create a “sample” reading, but what I realized is that by approaching my own reading in the same way as I approached those readings that I gave to others, I was able to provide myself with something that was particularly insightful.

One reason that the reading came off so well was that I was able to be more objective. I didn’t fall prey to my own agenda as much because using the third person gave me the distance I needed to get the messages I needed, not the ones my ego would have gotten attached to. It felt like I was giving the reading to someone else, someone I knew very well, but someone else all the same.

Also, as the person receiving the reading, I am was able to take the reading more seriously because I received it in the third person. I bypassed a lot of second guessing and self doubt because when I was reading back over it, it felt like I was receiving the messages from another reader, instead of myself.

My take-away, treating yourself as your own client (or as a friend or family member if you don’t read professionally) is valuable and really makes a noticeable difference in your ability to read for yourself. You are creating the space and setting the intention that allows for a greater depth of insight. You are putting yourself in a mindset that allows for more objectivity.

steampunk tarot card backs

Next, I think I’ll try giving myself readings out loud, perhaps in the third person as well. That would be pretty amusing I think. I can imagine someone coming home and thinking that I’ve lost my marbles, because I’m talking to myself, but oh well. 🙂