Commentary: More on Tarot and Symbolism in My Writing

I mentioned a couple chapters ago that the structure of Angelfools is guided by the Fool’s Journey of the Major Arcana in the tarot deck. One of the aspects of tarot that continues to fascinate me is the wealth of symbolism inherent in the deck. The classic Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck incorporates symbolism from several ancient mystical cultures into its artwork, ranging from astrology to alchemy to Kabbalah. Modern decks often play with the symbolism and the meanings of individual cards. For those who like to find patterns and connections in otherwise random collections of objects, this is a nearly endless source of inspiration.

The poem that I wrote as the proto-story of Angelfools took pains to include the varied symbols of the tarot deck into its verses. I hope to do something similar with this prose narrative, though in some cases, I’m not yet sure how to do that. For example: Major Arcana number XV, The Devil, is associated with the astrological sign of Capricorn the Goat, as well as the classical element of earth. Thus far, there has been no appearance of a goat in the XV chapters. We’ll see if I can sneak one in at a later date, but if it doesn’t happen, no worries.

One of my experiences in writing is that I learn a lot about the story after it’s written and I go back to edit. Deeper themes and recurrent motifs emerge as I trim and embellish to support the narrative and the writing needs of the passage. In a short story I wrote for a fiction-writing class a few years ago, the first draft featured no recurring symbols at all. It wasn’t until the editing process when I needed to add more details to a scene that I started associating stars with skulls, and the whole meaning opened up to me.

The point of this rambling is to say that the writing process is organic, and will become more developed over time. This first draft is mostly for my own benefit, to get the story down in one fluid progression. I’ll worry about the finer details in the next draft. Y’all get to enjoy the process with me.


Author: Ben Ginsburg

I'm a writer, a storyteller, and a dreamer. As a recent graduate of UC Davis with a shiny new B.A., I decided its finally time to start writing that novel. So join me as I write, rewrite, and talk about it.

2 thoughts on “Commentary: More on Tarot and Symbolism in My Writing”

  1. Is the story you mention the one from the class we were both in? I wonder if I have a copy still, I’d be interested to go back and have a second look.


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