Today on the agenda

The chapter Cards, Books, Newspapers, and Other Arcana became Cards, and isn’t finished yet, and is already too long.

But I ran into three problems I didn’t forsee:

1) locating good card decks unrelated to tarot for writers whose religious beliefs would not permit them to own tarot cards;

2) recommending a few useful tarot decks out of the zillion or so available, and,

3) realizing that the deck I use most of the time is so racist and sexist that I cannot in good conscience recommend it, and have to consider dumping it from my own use—not easy, since this is the deck in which I found the Phoebe Rain “door” solution, and a dozen others that saved me from beating my head against a wall when my plots froze.

The deck is the Motherpeace deck, which does have a nice racial mix most other decks lack, but which is generally anti-male (with the exception of gamma males—essentially, gay uncles and members of the castrati choir), and vehemently anti-white-male, and built on revisionist history of the Barbara Walker, Marija Gimbutas variety. Back in 1987, when my first marriage was going into a tailspin and I was pretty anti-white-male myself, a friend in my writers’ group introduced me to the deck by reading for me. At the time, the deck’s blame-men philosophy matched mine.

Now I find myself having to admit that this is the deck I still occasionally use because I have twenty years of practice with it (as opposed to ten for the Universal Waite, the other deck I use), and because of its quirky, complex imagery and my ability to find funky solutions to plot problems in it.

Aside from figuring out the kinks in cards issue and finishing the Cards chapter, today I’ll also be writing the chapters Making Things and Chop Wood, Carry Water.

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11 responses to “Today on the agenda”

  1. wisemoon Avatar

    Hey Holly, your new Worldbuilding book sounds faboo. I use Tarot Cards in developing my stories too. I know what you mean about the Motherpeace deck; I started using it in the late eighties and it was useful in some ways, but I haven’t used it in many years for most of the same reasons you listed. I just don’t buy into the ideology behind it anymore and that makes it hard to use. I like the round shape and the multicultural imagery but the bad aspects outweigh the good for me these days. I recently picked up a copy of the Aleister Crowley deck, strangely enough, because I had always vehemently avoided it before–and the imagery in that deck is intense. I find it interesting to compare and contrast the imagery and symbolism between the Thoth deck of Crowley and the Waite-Smith deck (my first deck and the main one I’ve been using for twenty four years now). Crowley and Waite were both in the same organization but had very different views.

    One of the things I’m doing for the story I’m working on is trying to come up with divination practices for the culture of my main character. I’m trying to develop a card-based divination system similar to Tarot but based on a somewhat different cosmology. It’s really a challenge to think outside the typical Western mystical tradition!

  2. Katherine Avatar

    Probably just as religiously dicey as tarot, but I’ve found I Ching cards helpful every now and then. The set I use (by Richard Craze) is probably too verbal for your purposes, but image-based sets exist.

  3. Inkblot Avatar

    I too would like to add my thanks that you would consider those of us who may not feel comfortable using tarot. Truly you are lovely, Holly!! 😀

  4. Carol Avatar

    Holly, I’m intrigued, can’t wait to read this. On another note I’m with LadyQ, and am grateful for your thoughtfulness. I’ve been reading your books and blog for some time now, only occasionally surfacing to make a comment. I don’t pretend to know you, but the things you reveal make me believe that you are someone worth knowing. Thank you.

  5. Holly Avatar

    Fiona–anything that was designed for use as an oracle or for fortunetelling is off limits to a significant number of religions. Those really are cool cards, though.

    I was hoping to find a number of Whack-Pack type cards that were designed only for spurring creativity, but with great pictures. What I listed was everything I could locate. Frustrating.

  6. jgm Avatar

    Another fairy tale deck is the Magic Realist Press Fairy Tale Tarot. For sample cards, see

    It is sold as a tarot deck, but the imagery is quite far from usual tarot imagery, and rooted in fairy tales and other stories.

    And there is (again, a tarot deck, but with very unusual imagery) the Lo Scarabeo Universal Fantasy deck. This one draws its inspiration from fantasy fiction. Sample cards for this one can be seen at:

  7. fionaphoenix Avatar

    These are called “oracle” cards, so I’m not sure if they’d fall under the heading of Tarot. The artwork is great, though. Brian Froud is amazing.

    I used these as journaling prompts a few years ago (when I was also going through an anti-male phase, though these are certainly not biased that way.

  8. Holly Avatar

    Here’s what I found in the way of cards that aren’t tarot cards that will work with the Cards exercise. (This is a direct snippet from the book)

    •Archetype Storytelling Cards:

    These are great, and are my number-one recommended cards for writers who cannot buy tarot cards, and my number two recommended deck for those who can.

    HOWEVER: While Archetype Storytelling cards are designed specifically as a writers’ tool (and are excellent as such), the creators, hoping to garner a wider audience for them, figured out a way that they could be used as a tarot deck. (Tarot decks sell much better than writing decks, I would guess.) I highly recommend these cards, and assure you that their contents will not be a problem for most religious folks, I do recommend that you look over the cards first. (You can see every card in the deck here:

    •Bright Idea Deck: Breakthrough to Brilliance

    While this is fairly low on my overall picks list because I think the artwork is plain and lacking in odd background detail, this deck is completely religion-safe, designed for use in business or at home, with contemporary take-it-to-the-office imagery. These cards will work for writers of any religious persuasion.

    If you cannot get the Archetypes cards, get this deck.

    •Once Upon A Time Storytelling Card Game

    •Once Upon A Time: Dark Tales

    The Storytelling cards are designed as a game to be played by a group of people, with very pretty fairy-tale images. They are useable for the purposes of plotting, though the Happy Ending cards aren’t going to help you. Set them aside. The Dark Tales set may have imagery offensive to some religious writers. And the whole fairy-tale theme, with its emphasis on wicked witches, fairy godmothers, and other Sleeping Beauty/Snow White tropes, may be off limits to some folks.

    If anyone can recommend any other card decks with pictures (NOT words) that aren’t tarot cards, please list them here. I’ll take a look and see if they’d work with the exercise. Thanks.

  9. LadyQ Avatar

    1) locating good card decks unrelated to tarot for writers whose religious beliefs would not permit them to own tarot cards;

    Wow, I’m touched by your thoughtfulness. I’m one who wouldn’t use tarot cards for exactly those reasons. I’m not sure that you *could* find any non-tarot cards, but I’m grateful that you at least thought to look. Thank you.

  10. sundart Avatar

    I have a Robin Wood tarot deck, which, while not particularly multicultural, is quite nice in other respects. It does include a limited amount of nudity, though, including male frontal nudity on the Lovers card.

  11. Holly Avatar

    The Motherpeace deck is out. Between the nudity, the anti-male and especially vehement anti-white-male bias, the revisionist history basis upon which it was build, and the general intellectual dishonesty that makes up the philosophy of the deck, I’ve decided to leave it out entirely.
    The deck isn’t just images. It’s actively pushing a religious and political agenda, and I wouldn’t recommend any other tool that was doing that.

    Trying to justify its inclusion on the basis that it represents a few other races and cultures simply isn’t good enough.

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