Tag Archives: Journal Work

Photo Generated Memories

When I run Left of Centre Memoir Writing courses we invariably use photographs to induce some speed writing.

Georgie has been quite intrigued by my use of tarot. She always focused on providing readings so she is fascinated that I steer well clear of doing so.

Over a cup of tea Georgie and I went through some of her old ‘photos’. I encouraged her to randomly pick two photos. Images of the lion tamer and acrobats performing bought back a host of memories and fascinating stories about her life in the Legrande Circus.

Generating Narrative with the Murder of Crows

Sometimes we become so focused on the nitty-gritty technical aspects of writing and publishing that we forget the power of the unconscious mind, the part that understands story at a fundamental level.
from the Creative Penn

When I saw this spread on Instagram I asked Georgie if she thought this would be a good way of drawing out some of her narrative, tap into things that had been stored in her internal archives. She was enthusiastic so we busted out the Murder of Crows Tarot, a great deck for this kind of work. It worked a treat and we have rough notes to work with now.

Some of Georgie’s responses

1. The Nightmare: The Two of Pentacles

Upon seeing this card Georgie recalled that punishments were given when she had not performed, when she was perceived to be a bit disrespectful or didn’t pay attention. She was severely punished for any misdemeanour.

Drawing the two of pentacles drew out quite painful memories of a domineering aunt who took Georgie in after her mother’s death. Aside from her possessiveness her aunt had regularly punished her for minor infractions, sometimes locking her in an airless cupboard for hours. However, her aunts lover, the original Ring Master, was even more of a tyrant and he subjected Georgie to unspeakable abuse. Serving these two ‘masters’ was, quite literally, a nightmare.

Given the painful nature of these memories I simply listened and bore witness as Georgie spewed out painful details. I did suggest she might counter this by recalling anyone who actually supported her during these years and she recalled a clown who she befriended who discretely provided some refuge.

2. The Root of the Darkness: The Eight of Pentacles

It was normal to be told on a daily basis that she was rubbish, she was hopeless, that she was not good, that she was wasting their time, that she was weak.

Her aunt justified some of the extreme treatment as being necessary, constantly stressing that if Georgina hoped to eventually wear the mask of the Popess and become a divine healer she had to undergo intense training that might make her feel as though she had been bought to the brink of death.

Georgie recalled that there were many times when she thought she would die in one of the airless places where she was imprisoned for hours, forced to undergo ‘vision quests’. Both her aunt and the cruel Ringmaster insisted that she had to learn about discipline and their way of instilling this was by belittling and harassing her.

3 The Fog that Lays in Wait

As she looks in the mirror Georgie can see the past shrouded in fog. So many things that have happened are barely discernable. It feels like she is a little like looking in a rear vision mirror. She finds it hard to believe what she had contended with in the past and reflects upon the present and what the future holds.

That Death Card

Recently, when Georgie and I did some spreads and sought guidance from beyond, “Death” stared right back into our very souls. But unless my ghost is writing this, you can assume we are both still alive.

Nonetheless the Death card has the capacity to shake people to their melodramatic cores. If there is one thing we can both predict, without the help of the cards, it is that clients will say “I hope I don’t get Death!”

So we agreed to pull out the decks and have a look at some diverse renditions of the death card and talk ‘Death Card’.

Top Row L to R – The Gill Tarot, Ghosts and Spirits Tarot, Tarot de St Croix. Bottom Row L to R – The Lions Gateway Tarot, Murder of Crows Tarot, The Witches Tarot.

The cards we laid out are pretty hard core. With the exception of the Tarot de St Croix death has the appearance of the Grim Reaper coming to grab you. But Georgie didn’t flinch. In fact she revelled in the imagery. She has spent her life working with cards and according to her, “Death”, the thirteenth card of the Major Arcana, could do with a massive rebranding. “It has had a lot of bad press” she says. “People take it far too literally! It is actually my favourite card

“Pulling the Death card is rarely predicting death. It is actually asking if you are you ready to move onto the next level. It is challenging us to consider if we are really ready to transform into the next version of of ourselves” says Georgie. According to her the Death card is “all about releasing stuff and making room for more”. She says that “while this release may feel challenging and bring up emotions we don’t want to feel, we will, ultimately, benefit by surrendering”.

A roadside altar marking a death.

A conversation like this is the perfect ‘in’ for me to talk about Descansos, a concept I read about in Women Who Run With The Wolves many years ago.  Estes describes Descansos as resting places, places that may be found on “the edges of cliffs along particularly scenic but dangerous roads in Greece, Italy and the Mediterranean”.

To make descansos means taking a look at your life and marking where the small deaths and the big deaths have taken place. Estes says that she “likes  to make a time-line of a woman’s life on a big sheet of white butcher paper, and to mark with a cross the places along the graph, starting with her infancy all the way to the present where parts and pieces of her self and her life have died.”

Georgina decides that she will work in her journal and make where there were roads not taken, paths that were cut off, ambushes, betrayals and deaths. She will put a cross on a time-line at the places that should have been mourned, or still need to be mourned.

I suggest that we both spend some time closely examining and meditating upon some death cards. The Margarete Petersen rendition is particularly powerful and will support some journal work.