sophiacatherine: Tarot cards (tarot)
Naomi J./Sophia Catherine ([personal profile] sophiacatherine) wrote2012-11-11 11:25 am

Divination and #AcWriMo

Inspired by Ali Leigh Lilly's post on using the tarot for writing, I've been starting to work with tarot for academic writing. This was an experiment. While for fiction writers this month is NaNoWriMo, for academic types it's AcWriMo - academic writing month. I don't know any crazy person who's aiming for 50,000 words in academic writing (since that will be a bit less than the length of my entire thesis), but I wanted to have a go at making good progress on a chapter that I've had difficulty starting. And then I heard about Ali's approach, which seemed worth a try.

I wasn't sure whether a similar use of the tarot for academic writing could work. I looked into a few techniques - most are based on fiction writing, such as using them to create character development, which is nice, but not particularly relevant to my chapter on the history of illness and healing in Christian churches. (I mean, I could use the Emperor to represent Martin Luther, but if the ensuing spread suggests he gives up on the church reformation thing and becomes a Hindu, then we're into fictional rather than research territory.) The ones that recommend meditation on the card followed by free writing seemed to have potential, so I tried that. Instead of providing specific guidance for my writing, it has given me a kind of theme for how to approach the writing day. Some days this has been more motivational, other days more directional. It's certainly interesting.

Amusingly, on the first day I tried this, I drew the Fool - the beginning of the journey. In meditation I came up with the concept of starting with a clean slate, so I did - and going into writing with no expectations or plans (just for that day) was very positive for my work. Day two, and I drew the Seven of Pentacles, which I interpreted in terms of magical work - which gave me inspiration to continue, as well as the idea that I had already done a lot of the work and was at the 'harvesting' point, which was useful. On my third day of trying this, I drew the Nine of Swords - and it was a particularly difficult day, but with a possible new direction (albeit an extremely unexpected and challenging one) occurring to me by the end.

I don't think tarot can tell the future, and I don't know how much I'd invest in a reading from another person, but I do find it useful for getting in touch with my subconscious mind and spiritual side. I also think the gods can use any divination system they care to - although I don't have quite enough hubris to believe that the gods are interested in my work (although Ogma seems to appreciate my need to do excellent research). I find academic writing really, really hard, and anything that can help me work with what I'm doing on a more symbolic level is a good idea. I'm usually lost in enormous mind-maps, plans with far too much detail, and confusing reams of notes that I don't remember writing from books that I don't remember reading. But, as my work with NLP has shown me over the past few years, the brain is a much more useful organ than we usually allow it to be. I'm going to think about other ways to use symbols to help my brain drag itself out of the Bog of Pointless Notes and the Slough of Over-Detailed Chapter Plans. It needs rescuing.

Divination is generally starting to interest me more recently. I use it a lot to talk to my deities, but not in any particularly skilled way. I mainly use the DruidCraft tarot - the only deck that resonates with me - and (less often) the Druid animal oracle, although occasionally my pendulum also comes in handy (but I'm not particularly skilled with it). I would like to learn Ogham - I've been working through John Michael Greer's 'Druid Magic Handbook' recently, where he talks about the Ogham in some detail, and I've been finding the concept of Druid sigil magic an interesting one. I use sigil magic occasionally and would like to create a system for it that works better for me personally. The chaos magic approach of creating a sigil based on each working is fine, but doesn't particularly resonate with me. I know ADF has done some work on creating Druid sigils, although I haven't explored that in any detail. Since I'm almost certain that I'm not moving on the Ovate grade after I finish the OBOD Bardic grade (at least not for the moment), I won't be doing the year+ of divination skill-building that my grove mates will be doing when they move on to Ovate*, so I'd like to start some more dedicated study of divination systems in a self-directed way soon. Just as soon as I get past the Bardic grade and  work out what I actually am doing next - ADF, BDO, or entirely self-directed stuff. Ah, decisions.

And talking of divination, it's Druid Coffee Club today and that's the theme. I'm off to dig out my cards. Happy Sunday, all.

*There are several of us who are about to move on from the Bardic grade - it just sort of worked out that way.