Years ago I started a blog post for this and for whatever reason, just stopped. Knowing me the phone rang and that was that. Another piece of blog mastery never to manifest because I was stuck on the phone insisting I don’t need to worry about my car’s extended warranty because I don’t own a vehicle.
Did you ever read a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story book? They were popular kids books in the 70s and 80s. The idea behind them is that every few pages, a decision is made by the reader based on a list of choices. The reader turns to the page that matches their choice and the story continues. One story book could have dozens of plots, endings, and characters, depending on what the reader chose. I used to devour these books as a child. I loved them so much that I made sure my son had some and I probably read them more than he did.
My “Choose Your Own Adventure” spread is more about just having fun with Tarot and less about solving problems with the cards. The idea is to tell a story using your cards, so a really illustrated deck will make this easier. Of the decks I own, I reach for my Green Witch Tarot to do this spread because the images lend themselves to story telling. It also works well with The Mythic Tarot, Morgan Greer, and the good old RWS.
The one I’m showing here is in the shape of a diamond but really, your spread can be any format you want. I like using the diamond shape, but I’ve also done a hopscotch-shaped story spread, a a question mark-shaped one, and one shaped like a labyrinth. That one took up my living room floor and is the War & Peace of Tarot story spreads.
My original diamond started and ended with one card. I changed it so that I would have more choices starting out and ending. If this feels like too many cards, make a diamond that starts one card. The rows would then be 1-3-5-3-1.
There is no official breakdown of this spread. The rows don’t mean anything specific, other than the first row being the beginning and the last row being the end. If you wanted to, you could design a spread according to a specific story formula (for example: introduction, problem/quest, journey, lessons, outcome) and then name the rows accordingly, but it’s not absolutely necessary, unless you need that structure. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun way to loosen up with your cards and learn to tell a story with your deck. It isn’t meant to be a serious reading, although synchronicity being what it is, it’ll probably have some meaning to you.
So let’s get started! Turn over as many cards in each row as you like. I’ll start with one. Let’s see how my story begins:
This looks like a happy lady. She’s resting on a bench underneath an old walnut tree. It’s got bright green leaves and it’s rather full. There’s a basket of what appears to be walnuts. They’re scattered over the ground. It must be late September/early October then. She’s got a pentacle on her lap, it looks like it might be the cover to that bowl. It looks like she’s spent some time picking walnuts and now she’s going to sit back.
But wait! There’s a bird in the tree. I feel like this bird is a friend. What are they talking about?
Rather than go to the traditional Tarot meanings, just describe the cards. There’s a young woman pouring liquid onto the ground. There are spirals carved into the rocks and a small stone wall. I feel like this wall extends around the area she is in. This looks like a sacred place. She’s leaving an offering in the circle formed by the trees, the carved stones, and the wall. There is a blackberry hedge in the foreground. Blackberry wards and protects, and these are ready for harvest so looking at the trees and these berries I’m going to say this is autumn. Everything outside of that magic circle is misty and shrouded in fog. Inside the circle it’s bright and sunny. The wind picking up her cloak and the ends of her hair. The more I look at this picture the more I feel like the wind is picking up in intensity as she pours. The gods have heard her words and events have been set into motion.
A magic wand floats in the air. A bird hovers nearby. There are juicy cherries below the wand and a glorious sunrise in the background. Magick is unfolding.
Three women raise a toast. The bird flies over them. The red-headed woman from the first card is in the centre of the group. The sky is blue and the overall mood feels light, happy, and summerlike.
The lady sitting under the walnut tree is remembering! She and the bird are reminiscing about a time when she and her friends worked as a coven, in their youth. She is the dark haired girl on the left.
(This is only my interpretation of this story. Your telling may be completely different)
A young man is standing on an altar. He is in a ring of sacred stones. It feels like it’s later in the day. The sky gives no clues but I get the sense it’s close to the end of the day. An older man in white robes plays a lyre. He is serenading the young man who is literally on a pedestal. While I don’t get the sense that there are a lot of observers to this scene, I do feel like he’s being praised for something he’s achieved.
At the same time I see five young men about the same age as this other fellow. It’s a foggy night and they’re in the heart of the forest working some kind of magic. It doesn’t feel right. The more I look at them, the more I feel they shouldn’t be there and that they’re somehow out of their element. They’re not working in unison, and one of them keeps consulting a magic book. They’re tilting their wands all over the place – no one is directing anything; any energy that they manage to raise will hopefully just dissipate and amount to nothing. There’s a basket with bread and wine but the bottle is corked and the bread is not broken. It looks like they went straight into the magic without making an offering. I don’t get the sense that they really know what they’re doing and the facial expressions I can see range from bored to confused. The young man from the first card is not among them.
The last card shows an old man. He’s in a chair, inside, and there’s a fire going. He looks very cosy and happy. He’s holding the wand we saw in the row below. It’s nighttime and a little ferret is playfully tugging at his robes. It’s a simple scene. His wand is up like he’s using it to add emphasis to a story he’s telling someone that we can’t see. I get the distinct feeling that he is the young man from the beginning of this row.
He’s telling the story of how these young witches helped him. Let’s continue the story. What happened after they helped him? How was his life? I feel like he and the Queen of Pentacles are together. I can’t wait to find out the rest!
I felt compelled to turn over every card in this row, so I did. What a story! It’s all coming together now!
These three young witches helped their friend. I feel like they helped him get his foot in the door with whatever job or schooling he was trying for. He outshone the competition (the young men in the 5 of Wands) and while magic will work, more often than not, it won’t actually help a situation that could not have happened anyway. Magic does take the path of least resistance.
At the same time, the red haired witch carried a little torch for this young man. She went off on her own and did some love magic. It worked! She got exactly what she wanted, but she’s not very happy. She’s sitting there at the table with the cups she used in her spell, as he approaches. He’s got the enchanted cup that she gave him, but he’s also got his bag slung over his shoulder. His path in life is taking him away. It’s time for him to become the journeyman – that’s what they were helping him to do. Her magic was all for naught.
The blonde witch played only a small role in this story. She was there for the magic but it appears that she’s got her own path to follow. Maybe she’s going to a college out of state. She looks a little wistful. I suspect she found out what her friend did and ended their friendship. Maybe that’s why she’s leaving? She merits her own story spread, but I’ll do that another day because these spreads can take all afternoon if you’ve got the imagination.
So time passes and the wheel of the year turns. Life goes on and old wounds heal….and here is our raven haired lady – no longer a girl, but a successful working witch and mother to a boy that looks a lot like the old man directly below him.
Here we are at the very end. I turned over just one card in this row. Right above the wheel of time we see the young man from the row below with his own beloved. He has taken over the family farm and it looks like they had a great harvest. His wife bears a resemblance to the lady in the 4 of Chalices – perhaps that lady moved on, met someone else, and is her mother. There’s another story spread there.
I’m in the mood for a new deck so if anyone knows of a deck that would lend itself well to this type of exercise, tell me, tell me, please. I’d love one that’s illustrated with real world scenes like this, but more modern.
Also, if anyone needs a DM I’m free!
6 Replies to “Choose your own adventure: Storytelling with Tarot”
Oh My Goddess I love this so much! Thank you for sharing. I am totally going to try this out with a deck or three 🙂 Ohhhh, I might literally mix 3 of my decks together and see what comes of it. This is fantastic 😀
That sounds like a fabulous idea!
My life has become a choose your own adventure these days. Do you do private readings?
I do! I took my page down to work on it, but yes I do.
I love this! This would be an awesome creative writing assignment 😉 .
I never thought of that, but yes it would!