The RWS Tarot as Storyboard

From Wikipedia: “A storyboard is a graphic organizer in the form of illustrations or images displayed in sequence for the purpose of pre-visualizing a motion picture, animation, motion graphic or interactive media sequence.”

I think this definition  is a workable analogy for envisioning the “movie” of a querent’s life as it unfolds into the future via the cards in a reading. Of all the tarot decks on the market, the Waite-Smith (aka RWS) Tarot and its near-identical clones arguably lend themselves best to this purpose. First, a bit of disclosure: as a Thoth aficionado of many years’ standing, I’m no great fan of the RWS and its captive story-lines; I think the images in the “pip” cards too often hijack the reader’s attention at the cost of more nuanced interpretation. When considered in light of the underlying esoteric principles (with which Waite was fully conversant), many of them are cringe-worthy.  But put them together in a spread sequence (a “storyboard,” if you will) and a little magic manages to find its way out. All but one of the court cards (the King of Swords, although his sword does tilt slightly toward the viewer’s left) exhibit “facing” or directionality that adds a past-and-future inflection, the minor cards furnish hints of narrative detail that can be synthesized with more intuitive impressions while not slavishly buying into their anecdotal thrust (I get a lot of mileage out of the 6 of Swords), and the trumps, with a few exceptions, follow the medieval “blueprint” closely enough to provide a sound rendering of the archetypes involved.

Of these, I find deciphering the minor arcana to be the most fun. Although I view some of them (or at least the folklore that has grown up around them) as thoroughly unsatisfactory from an esoteric standpoint (the 6 of Pentacles and the 6 of Cups come to mind), for the most part they offer no end of insight and entertainment in terms of metaphoric fodder. One of the best examples of this is the 10 of Cups, which I can’t help but think of as  the “Ob-La-Di, Ob La-Da” card, with Desmond and Molly Jones in their home-sweet-home, with a couple of kids running in the yard (if you are too young to have been a Beatles fan, look it up).  I often describe the 8 of Cups as the “poisoned well” card; the retreating man has looked in the cups and found their contents toxic, so he is trudging away in discouragement. The 10 of Swords is the “scorched earth” card; there is nothing worth saving so it’s time to move on without looking back. The 8 of Swords is a sensory-deprivation card that urges “Follow your heart, not your head.” These are just four examples of how I choose to work with the RWS images in a story-telling sense. Right now I’m trying to develop a full set of metaphorical euphemisms for all of the minor cards, but I’m having to wait for inspiration, imagination and ingenuity to do their work, which happens most frequently in the middle of a reading. When I have it done I’ll post it here.

3 thoughts on “The RWS Tarot as Storyboard

  1. Storyboarding would be an amazing way to learn the RWS Minors in particular. I like this and your Boy-Meets-Girl post. 🙂 Have you ever given any thought to storyboarding by time? I came across a post on AT where they gave the Golden Dawn time correspondences for the Minors, and I think those correspondences might serve you well. Just a thought. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I tend to find the Golden Dawn’s timing model unreliable, and timing with tarot to be untrustworthy in general. The decans for the minor cards essentially follow the cardinal, fixed and mutable modes of the “natural zodiac,” which scatters them around to the point that they would probably make no sense in a storyboard sequence. I have a couple of previous posts on timing, one very elaborate and one more streamlined. I think I’ll take a look at the simpler one along the lines you suggest.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I never ever read for timing within a tarot context. It’s just never felt right. But, there are some interesting story patterns within the Golden Dawn timing model and the RWS. But yeah, reading that timing model is unreliable. I use tarot for personal growth… and that’s pretty reliable. But otherwise… for divination… not so much (just for me at least). No psychic call lines in my future.

        Liked by 1 person

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