Waking the Wild Spirit Tarot

I recently had the most wonderful thing arrive in the mail:  a tarot deck.  What is a tarot deck to me?  Seventy-two works of art.  A source of endless inspiration for storytelling.  A tool for tapping into my intuition and for finding new perspectives on life’s opportunities and challenges.  An object useful for tapping into magic?  No doubt, as not only do I believe that there is a sort of magic intrinsic in any evocative work of art, but I’m also confident that “there are more things in heaven and earth…than are dreamt of in [my] philosophy.”

I’ve seen many tarot decks that I like and admire, but so far only two have spoken to me immediately, and then also stood up to my pet peeves.  I was entranced as soon as I saw Poppy Palin‘s artwork.  The colors are vibrant and the sense of movement and flow in her cards is irresistible.  The artwork is detailed and evocative, and gratifies both my love of nature and my love of storytelling.

One of the first cards I look at when considering any tarot deck is the Fool card, and not just because it’s usually the top card in the deck.  The Waking the Wild Spirit Fool has been renamed the Wandering Minstrel, which suits my sense of story.  Most Fool cards that I’ve seen, following the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) tradition, show the fool about to step blithely off a cliff, with a dog either nipping at his heels or trying to pull him back.  Poppy, though, has depicted her Wandering Minstrel – in harlequin-diamond pants, a jester’s cap, light but sturdy boots, and a patched purple cloak – leaping off a well-trodden footpath.  The sense of movement – up and to the right – is infectious, especially since the dog is leaping right along with him.  Will the Fool’s leap result in good or ill?  We can’t tell, since his momentum will soon take him right past the edge of the card, but the day is bright and the sun smiles down on him.  I’ve always felt somewhat ambivalent about the image of the Fool at the edge of a cliff, which seems bound to end badly, and I much prefer this interpretation.

The Waking the Wild Spirit deck uses Earth, Air, Water, and Fire as its suits instead of Disks/Pentacles, Swords, Cups, and Wands.  I was pleased to discover this, as the symbolism of the elements is more accessible to me than the symbolism of the objects.  One of the first cards I fell in love with, while still exploring decks on screen, was Poppy’s Ace of Earth, subtitled “Seed.”  In this card, a bean seed sends out shoots and roots, under the guidance of a green-skinned man with root-like fingers.  He waves his arms over the seed, mirroring the snaking up of the shoot with movements almost like a belly dancer’s ‘snake arms.’  (I know:  Technically, this is a static image, but Poppy’s artwork is so alive it feels like the figures really are moving.)

One of my pet peeves is that I don’t like decks where all of the characters pictured look like movie stars.  I’m especially bored by decks where all the characters pictured look like Caucasian movie stars.  Extra thumbs down for decks that also show nude women who have obviously had plastic surgery.  The Waking the Wild Spirit deck, on the other hand, features young and old men and women with all sorts of skin tones ranging from pale to brown to blue to green.  Poppy’s characters have interesting and often strong features.  One of my favorite cards is the Wisewoman (a.k.a. the High Priestess), which depicts a woman with long, blue-gray hair and beautiful smile lines and crinkles.  She looks about to turn to the viewer to give advice that we’d be wise to take.  Also, none of Poppy’s women look as though they have helium balloons in bits of their anatomy.

I also feel mildly peeved when the faces of characters look stiff and inaccessible.   This isn’t a deal-breaker for me, but I was still thrilled at how lively and expressive the faces of the Waking the Wild Spirit deck are.

The Knight of Fire, subtitled The Gypsy

One or two of the reviews I read before ordering this deck commented that it might be hard to use at first because Poppy has deviated from much of the traditional (read RWS-based) imagery and meanings.  I’m not a tarot scholar, and I don’t have a real attachment to the RWS system.  Also, while I respect those daddies and grandaddies of tarot – RWS, Thoth, Marsailles, Visconti, etc. – I don’t see any reason why tarot shouldn’t evolve and change.  To me, the Waking the Wild Spirit deck is the best of both worlds:  I get to work with major arcana that are familiar and with suits that recall the suits I’m used to, but I also get a deck that is more evocative to me, closer to nature, friendlier, and that has the potential to tell me different things.  I find Poppy’s progressions of meanings within the minor arcana if anything easier to remember than the RWS meanings.

The cards are also a pleasure to use as physical objects.  The backs are gorgeous:  As one reviewer at Aeclectic remarked, “with each shuffle comes a mini-waterfall of colour”.  The cards have a geometric border around the image and then a white border around that.  In the white border is written the name of the card (at the top), and a subtitle which indicates the meaning (at the bottom).  Usually, I don’t like for meanings to be written directly on the card, but these subtitles are metaphorical rather than literal meanings (e.g. “Seed” for “Ace of Earth”), so I find that they add rather than take away from the experience.

I’ve really just started exploring this deck, and I’m eager to continue to work with it.  While it’s true (and a wonderful thing) that there are almost endless variations on tarot out there and you can rarely tell from one person’s experience whether a deck will appeal to you, I love this deck and would certainly recommend it.  You can see more of the artwork for yourself over at Aeclectic Tarot and at Poppy’s own site, which also includes some meanings for the cards and tells where you can buy this deck, as well as the full-length book that goes with it.  Apparently Poppy has another deck in the works, which I very much look forward to.

All cards shown are (c)Poppy Palin, and are used with permission of the artist.

Lord of the Rings as Chick Lit

I proclaimed my geekdom (again) by “liking” LotR, The Hobbit, and Peter Jackson on Facebook.  Plus, I got all teary when I watched a video from the set of The Hobbit.

My one gripe with Tolkein – and it’s not a unique one – is the lack of chicks in these stories.  Here he created a vast mythology, encompassing multiple ages, cultures, and peoples – but his women seem to be an afterthought.  It’s as though he figured that in any medieval setting, we’d just assume the women were stuck inside embroidering while the world ended.  What gives, J.R.R.?

Samuel Beckett (stay with me now) strenuously objected to casting women as Vladmir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot.  The justification I’ve heard for this is that he wanted the play to be about a human situation and – like it or not* – in our society the default human is male.  That is to say, Lord of the Rings isn’t just about “warrior-bonds** between men,” it’s also about a human struggle to maintain hope in the face of despair.  It follows that women don’t need to limit themselves to identifying with Eowyn – we’ve also got the full company of the Fellowship.  Which is nice, really – they get more screen time.

It seems like people often limit themselves to identifying with characters of the same gender.  I wonder why?  I like Eowyn because she, as a woman, takes the risk of fighting in the guise of a man, but I also like Boromir because he struggles with knowing which is the right course of action.  I know at least two men who love Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching books, which have a female protagonist – so I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in being able to identify with opposite-gender characters.  I still believe that it’s important to have strong female role models in literature (and film and theatre), but after all, Tolkein created a vast mythology, encompassing multiple ages, cultures, and peoples.  Maybe I should give him a break.  Maybe it’s enough that he created strong human characters.

*I don’t.
**Genuine or parodied.


…to all who have found their way here from Mrs. B’s!  I’d like to invite you to scroll down to Thursday’s post, Halloween Hauntings and Giveaway, where I introduced myself as part of the Haunted Blog Tour and offered my own Halloween giveaway of a Looseleaf Handcrafted Five Phrases Story (you pick five phrases, I fit them into a one-page hand-bound story) set on Halloween.  I hope you’ll enter that giveaway too!

I started Looseleaf Handcrafted Stories just this fall,  because while I’m fascinated by the mainstream publishing industry, by what makes a book into the next Harry Potter or The Help, I would also like for there to be a lot more sense of community between writers and readers – much like there is with blogs.  I’ve always loved getting snail-mail letters and I thought, how cool would it be to send stories to real, live individuals instead of to publications.  If you like, you can check out some sample stories by clicking here (you’ll find them on the right sidebar), and I’m always open to suggestions for new types of stories!

And to those of you who’ve arrived from elsewhere in the ether, if you have any love for Halloween, you must check out the Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom 31 Days of Halloween for a month-long celebration including tons of treats!

How I Wrote a Book, By Popular Request

Megan asked:

Did you say you wrote a book? I’d like to hear more about that. I’m very interested in writers and how they do it.

 Hmm…I did write a novel.  It was an on-again-off-again affair for a few years, until I decided I was going to go bonkers if I didn’t finish it.  So rather than going to Pennsic last August, I took advantage of the apartment being empty and set myself up with a DIY writer’s retreat.  I cooked up pots of food and oodles of scones beforehand, and stowed them in the freezer.  I canceled pretty much all of my commitments, and I became an urban hermit for about a week and a half.  Having given up a couple of weeks of sylvan festivities was somewhat depressing…but made it all the more important to Finish the Freakin’ Book.  And I did.

So far as ‘writers and how they do it,’ it seems that there are countless methods writers use, often contradictory.  I-can’t-remember-which-writer takes hours to write each sentence, but then that sentence is perfect and never needs revision.  I write first drafts by hand, always, so I know no one else will ever (be able to) read that piece of paper.  Then I revise again and again, depending on the work.  I’ve also found that techniques from other disciplines (e.g. theatre) are a whole lot of help in writing.  But instead of waxing poetic for far longer than the average internet-attention-span is likely to last, I will plug my other blog, Storytraining: Techniques, news, and inspirations for all disciplines of storytellers…  Granted, I haven’t posted there since I moved in November, but never fear, it will soon be resurrected.  Really :)