Someone from one of the Facebook Tarot groups I’m in shared that their friend or someone they knew had just published a book on tarot. There was a pictured shared from the author’s page of her opening her box of copies.
It didn’t take me long to get online and buy the ebook of Mapping the Hero’s Journey with Tarot: 33 Days to Finish Your Book by Arwen Lynch.
This book is for the writer looking to use the Hero’s Journey for their creative writing project as a tarot spread (and let’s be honest, surely that’s exactly what you should be doing if you’re structuring your writing at all).
Write with Joy, Y’all
Released earlier in 2019, Mapping the Hero’s Journey with Tarot is a self-published book that uses each of the 12 steps of story telling as their own mini tarot spread, which works to ward the much larger spread.
She references Christopher Vogler and Joseph Campbell heavily (and rightly so), and uses easily recognizable examples such as Avatar, Beauty and the Beast, Shrek, Star Wars, and The Wizard of Oz.
The first half of the story looks at building your character in the first chapter, providing an exercise with the Court Cards to flesh them out, then moves on to each step of the Hero’s Journey:
- Ordinary World
- Call to Adventure
- Refusal of the Call
- Meeting with the Mentor
- Crossing the First Threshold
- Tests, Allies & Enemies
- Approach to the Inmost Cave
- The Ordeal
- The Road Back
- Return with Elixir
Not only does she explain explicitly and clearly just what each of these steps are, but she provides a Tarot card to ground your focus on when you pull two cards for that section.
For example, regarding the Refusal of the Call, Lynch explains that
This is the card that shows you what your Hero fears. Not an external “big bad guy with a sword in his hand” fear, but an internal “what if I fall down” fear. He knows if he proceeds forward, he will change irrevocably. This change my render him unable to ever return to the safety of his Ordinary World (p. 33).
Then she picks a card which is associated with this particular step in the story. In the case of the Refusal, she explains that the Lovers is the representation of this because
Gemini rules this card. Think pushmi-pullyu again. There is an internal war going on for the Hero. He knows on the fundamental level that he has to do this, but he has been cursed with the knowledge of what could happen if everything goes horribly wrong (p. 34).
Essentially, the card is used as a signifier for the reading, if you will, and with focus on that, you pull two cards. Each card will have a different meaning depending at the stage of the Hero’s Journey. However, continuing with this step, the first card represents ‘the Hero’s biggest fear about answering the Call to Adventure,’ while the second card represents ‘what responsibilities can’t be abandoned in order to answer the Call to Adventure. This is why he can’t refuse’ (p. 37).
Finally, at the end of each chapter, not only does Lynch give a story template for you to follow up to the step of the journey you’re on—which of course can then act as an outline upon completion—but she also gives a journal-writing prompt. These usually aren’t specifically related to the tarot or to the story you’re writing now, but instead a means to get you journaling and used to the act of.
Finally, she wraps up the chapter with a ‘Write with joy, y’all,’ along with some positive reassurance on your own journey to writing.
The Other Tools
The second half of the book is involved in helping the writer get to know their cards, with a very fun exercise regarding a tarot journal, along side a tarot journal spread, and then a description of each of the cards and journaling prompts to go along with each of the Major Arcana.
For example, for Judgement on page 143, she offers key words, an astrological correspondence, a Kabalistc correspondence, symbolism worth noting, and key questions such as
- What call do I need to listen to?
- Who am I judging?
- Why am I being judged?
Lynch then offers the journal prompt under the heading of ‘You do the Work:’
What do you think the open graves represent? What are other symbols in this card? How would you interpret them? What is another job that Judgement might enjoy? Come up with one more question that you think you should be aware of when you see this card. You can use your own keywords as a basis for this.
For the Minor Arcana, they are divided into groups of numbers with a description of what the number means in Tarot, as well as a dignified and reversed definition of each card. She then goes on to the Court Cards, then the suits and their elemental representations.
Lynch finishes the book with a few writing-related spreads to deepen the story or the characters that the reader might be working with.
Right, I can’t contain this any more—I loved this book. I want to recommend it to ever writer I know.
She moves about her information in the exact way I would if I were writing a similar book. She provides exercises to get to know and understand the cards along side understanding the writing process. I truly think this book is fantastic.
Right, ok, putting on my critical hat.
As I read through this, I put together a completely organic story based on the methods provided in this book. I didn’t have a character, I didn’t have a plot. I just laid the cards out and created an outline to something that I’m excited to start writing.
There were a couple suggestions that I modified for my own purposes. For example, when selecting a card for the step of the Hero’s Journey, I didn’t shuffle and draw from the top, but instead looked for the corresponding card and pulled the two surrounding cards. So, continuing with the example from above, when looking for the Lovers card to act as the signifier, I also took out the card behind it and in front of it, and used those as my Card 1 and 2. I found this really effective.
There was one thing that I did find a little confusing:
She makes the suggestion to draw two cards for each step of the 12-card spread. However, only one card is laid down. I’m not really sure which card was meant to be laid down, but I ended up using both cards that I drew. So instead of 12 cards down, I had 24 (actually, I had more than that, as one of the steps requires three cards to be drawn, and I modified that step as well).
Also, I would say to anyone looking to get this book and actually use it as it should be used, be sure to get a hard copy rather than a digital one. There were many times when I wanted to flip around the book, and it was just difficult to do on my Kindle.
But please, go check this book out, even if you’re not interested in trying your hand at writing, it’s a good look at the way we as a culture form our stories and narrative, which can provide an interesting psychological study—which I think as tarot readers, we really should all be into that.
Do you have any books you think I should read? Let me know in the comments!