Friday, February 14, 2014

Tarot Butterflies 2: Exploring the Minor Mentors of Tarot

The Ace of Cups is the open heart, the clear heart, the trusting heart, the spiritual heart. This is the Holy Grail sitting within the emotional nature...Angeles Arrien, Ace of Cups, from The Tarot Handbook

I discovered a second link between tarot and butterflies this week while preparing to teach Exploring the Minor Mentors of Tarot on-line for Story Circle Network in March (I wrote about the first link in Tarot Butterflies and Poem Disorder). As a poet /image celebrant in love with the narratives images impart directly, I find tarot helps me connect with my own soul and that of others. I borrow the term for the course’s title from Eileen Connolly who refers to the minor arcana as Minor Mentors. Engaging in several years of writing based on the cards with a tarot companion (Feb 19 addition: Mary Allen: Under The Tarot Moon, Tiferet Journal) inspired me to design this course and work with the cards in new ways. We’ll be using the tarot as a source of inspiration to generate writing, spending a week on each of the four suits: Pentacles (earth), Swords (air), Wands (fire), and Cups (water). You can read the full description here: Exploring the Minor Mentors of Tarot: A Tour Through the Suits (no prior knowledge of the tarot required).

Tarot has been part of my life for over twenty years now. I scavenged deep in my files to find the logo I used in my life BK (before kids) from when I gave readings in Iowa City. I also photographed a few selections from my library to share with you. Preparing to pose questions to my students--What is your tarot lineage? How did the cards first come to you?-- I came across an entry I started but never finished for a column:

The Royal Road: 100 Butterflies and a Bicycle

The summer I graduated from college, I was living in the Sacramento Valley, surviving a record heat wave and the state of indecision that descends on every undergrad: where do I go from here? In search of shade, I threw on a pair of overalls and headed out by bicycle towards the olive groves. Tar from the road stuck to my tires while heat-waves wrinkled the horizon. Suddenly, the sky filled with hundreds of butterflies fluttering softly in droves across four lanes of traffic from Interstate 80 and down the frontage road, wafting over my hair and shoulders, fluttering between my tire spokes and peddles. I braked and hopped off, the road littered with pale yellow wings of the cabbage whites. What to make of the omen, I wondered, and filled my bike basket with handfuls of the glittering wings of the perished and rode home.

At that time I had trouble taking responsibility for my future or claiming a space of my own, crisis plaguing my love relationship. I meant to ask for a room of my own to write in but hadn’t, meant to write daily but wasn’t. So I staked out a corner of the bedroom, filling a basket with rocks and pine cones and the limb of a madrone tree the neighbor had cast out on the curbside. Below the tree limb, I scatted the lifeless butterflies on driftwood I had gathered earlier at the mouth of the Russian River where it meets the sea in Jenner. I felt oddly calmed by the stilled butterflies, inert and grounded just like I was.

Later that day, I found a deck of tarot cards tucked into the bookshelf. It was my lover’s, but not being used, and from that day on, the colorful cards became my quiet allies as I turned inward to begin the long journey to wholeness through listening. Without the deck’s corresponding book of explanations, I began my tarot journal by pulling one card and meditating on its possible meaning each day, guessing at the interpretations, reading each card as if it were a dream delivered in the night. I found a temple nearby where self-teaching was celebrated and learned more about the tarot under a woman named Reverend Jacqueline.

That summer of inner contemplation culminated in my decision to formally pursue my dream of becoming a writer. I applied to grad school. In the heartland I attended the program of my dreams. In addition to its university community, Iowa City hosts an intense group of spiritual pilgrims, scholars, channelers, psychics and body workers including (at that time) astrologers Quan Tracey Cherry and Bonnie Orgren. Both of them offered me a deeper look at the tarot through the lens of astrology.

Eventually, post MFA, while scoring essays by day and teaching as an adjunct English instructor by night, I’d give tarot readings between shifts as a retail girl at The Vortex Crystal and Gem Store in Iowa City. Working there meant exposure to a diverse braid of seekers and speakers. Sadly, The Vortex has since closed its doors, but I will always remember the crew of brilliant fellow workers (and our employers, generous and large-hearted enough to watch over us all like protective parents). Nor will I forget what it was like closing a late night shift, the store at last void of customers, the massive vibrant brown and red hued Buddha in the front window next to the door-sized purple amethyst crystal cathedral, snow falling steadily outside, diagonally, while I vacuumed between the thousand beautiful items I hoped to someday be able to afford.

Further contemplation:

(April 10, 2014 addition) Tarot Writing Exercise:

Earth, Air, Fire and Water: Using The Tarot to Inspire Your Writing Practice

If you’d like to join us, sign up here. Cost for 6 week class for members of Story Circle Network is: $192 and for nonmembers: $240

Photo by Robyn Beattie
Here is a question, in honor of Valentine’s Day, from the week we focus on the suit of cups:

Where in your life do you offer the cup of your heart?

Prior posts on the tarot:

A few sites of some of my favorite established tarot scholars:

Rachel Pollack


Edith said...

What a fascinating approach to writing. I sometimes create SoulCollage cards which are somewhat similar to tarot, at least insofar as interpreting images goes, though of course the ones history stretches further back than the others. Still working with images, found or set, can generate new and fresh impulses to the creative art of word smithery. I'm so glad that you are running another course over at SCN. :)

Tania Pryputniewicz said...

Thanks Edith! SoulCollage sounds like a lot of fun--I've just recently heard about it. Collaging has been one of my leisure time loves for many years, to balance out the word fray. I like that the tarot has so many interpretations.