In December 2017, I ran a workshop exploring creative writing with tarot cards, for LGBTQ+ people of all sexual orientations and genders. This was part of my MA in Creative Writing and Education, and it was an experiment to see if tarot – which has become really popular in queer culture in the UK and US – could be a way to support LGBTQ+ people to write creatively about our identities. It’s a technique that I use myself, and I wanted to collaborate with other people from the community to find out if it might be useful to others. As part of a module on research into writing techniques, I investigated the possibilities and pitfalls in a 5000 word essay. This was a fascinating and personally important piece of work which helped me to develop my creative work and pedagogy with the queer community that I am a part of.
From the conclusion to my essay:
“Tarot, with its rich symbolism and big themes, can be a useful prompt to support participants in exploring their identities and experiences in their writing. Combining tarot with writing amplifies the possibilities for reflection and expression inherent in both. This kind of reflective practice is essential to the formation of identity as an active process which is empowering rather than limiting.
While these benefits could be useful to any writer, my experience working with LGBTQ+ communities indicates that they are particularly important for LGBTQ+ writers. Often LGBTQ+ people are told – implicitly or explicitly – that their experiences and feelings are not valid or important, and this can be difficult for LGBTQ+ writers who want to write from experience. By offering a space in which aesthetic interpretation is paramount, tarot can support LGBTQ+ people in accessing and discussing those experiences; it offers validation that their thoughts, feelings, and reactions are important to their writing.
The attitude of the educator is of utmost importance to creating the right atmosphere for this to happen. There is a danger that tarot could become monologic, shutting down possibilities for meaning and reproducing oppressive discourses. However, LGBTQ+ communities and culture have already begun this work: the queer reclamation of tarot is underway, and as educators we would do well to follow their lead. Further research and practice could engage with LGBTQ+ communities who use tarot, to understand what kind of writing opportunities would be beneficial and how best to develop them collaboratively.”
The full essay was published in Story Makers Dialogues, a working paper series by Leeds Beckett University, and is available for free!
I will be developing this work and running more tarot and creative writing workshops in the future – if you are interested in hosting one, or would like to collaborate or find out more, please do get in touch.
(Image features cards from The Wild Unknown Tarot)