Saturday fortune (because this took me so long I missed Friday): Skill

Skill, as you can clearly see, is not something I have when it comes to photographing tarot cards, but after a search for images turned up nothing, I was forced to make the attempt. ;)

Card of the day: Three of Coins, "Skill"

Today's fortune is one I have pulled many times when asking questions about my writing career, along with the Eight of Coins, "Apprenticeship." Whenever I get these cards, I figure I'm on the right track. Maybe not there yet, but certainly on the way to one of my favorites: the Nine of Coins, "Security." I'd like to be that mature woman depicted on the Nine of Coins, confident in her achievement. (And since "mature" is becoming increasingly an adjective I get to use next to the word "woman" when I describe myself, I think it's time I started moving in the direction of the Nine.)

I like the RToSP's Three of Coins, because it shows a wealthy boyar patron beside the artist. Skill may be something a writer seems to come by naturally, or something she acquires through long practice, or a combination of the two, but it sure helps to have an interested patron to encourage and support you along the way.

What's also different about this deck's Three of Coins is that instead of the usual stonemason, it shows a man playing a balalaika. The stonemason is building his skill brick by brick, which is all well and good, but there's something more freeing and artistic about an image of a musician. A musician's skill, like a writer's, is more individual and less practical, perhaps, than someone who's handy with a trowel. Writing is work, but it is also art, and when work and art come together, it is in a sense the very definition of skill.

There are other artistic touches in this scene, typical of Russian folk art, in the painting and sculpting on the column, and the woven tapestry on the floor. It speaks of the skilled laborers behind the scenes who are also artists in their own right. Perhaps, like these artists, we have not yet reached the Nine of completion, but the Three is something to celebrate all the same. It's a recognition of one's skill, no matter how great or how small, and its contribution to the greater world, as opposed to the personal pleasure in achievement that success brings with the Nine. And that's okay. Maybe "quitting the day job" is no longer a reality in this brave new world of publishing, but being recognized and appreciated is still pretty awesome.

Jane Kindred
Jane Kindred

Friday fortune: Fantasy

Well, this is an appropriate card for a fantasy writer to pull. :)

Card of the Day: Seven of Cups, "Fantasy"

In the Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg's Seven of Cups, the central figure is that of a serf observing cups overflowing with a wide array of fantastical objects: what might be imperial jewels; an unlikely dragon; the severed head of a despot, perhaps; the golden cupolas of an Orthodox cathedral; a viper ready to strike; a wreath of flowers; and a burst of fantastical stars floating off into the ether.

I think it's interesting to note (and you'll have to take my word for it, since you can only see it up close in these fabulously painted miniatures by Yuri Shakov) that his gaze is on the flowers: the essence of the Russian spirit, beauty from the land itself that a price cannot be put on, and something the poorest peasant might have for the taking. The serf seems least of all interested in the imperial jewels.

The general meaning of the Seven of Cups is about dreaming of what might be, and not focusing on what is. This isn't always a bad thing. Without our fantastical dreams, what would we writers be?

I think what the Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg's Seven of Cups is saying is that the wildly out-of-reach dreams and the dark and frightening fantasies are irrelevant. Each of the other cups contain something the serf can never attain, or need never worry about. He keeps his eyes on the one thing he knows is within his grasp, a creation he can take pleasure in and one he can cultivate to bring beauty and joy to others.

When I first arrived in St. Petersburg in 2006 for my summer study abroad, this lovely sight greeted me on the balcony of my room:

Windowbox flowers in the Lesnoy flat
Windowbox flowers in the Lesnoy flat

They were just a few simple flowers, but it was a touching gesture and made me feel instantly at home. In Russia, it's important to give a gift to someone when you visit, as well as when someone comes to visit you. The people we met there shared with us happily though they had little to give. When it was time to return to the States at the end of this enchanting trip, my roommate and I wanted to give something to our "khaziayka," Yelena Volfovna, to thank her for her hospitality. Andi and I had both given Yelena chocolates when we arrived, and she laughed and showed us the cupboard full of chocolates from other students she'd hosted; she set them out every night with tea before bed to try to get us to eat them so she wouldn't get fat.

Yelena Volfovna and Jane Kindred
Yelena Volfovna and Jane Kindred

We ended up buying her flowers for our thank-you gift, and we didn't have much money left by the end of the trip, so it was a very small bouquet (you can just barely see them in the bottom left in the picture, and you can also see the typical painting of flowers on the wall behind Yelena). Yet she was moved when we gave them to her, as if we'd brought her two dozen red roses.

The lesson of the Seven of Cups is something I needed a particular reminder of right now. Today I received the official ebook copy of The Devil's Garden, and while it ought to have made me jump for joy, instead I focused on the imperfections of the words that are now permanently set in type, and on the pieces of my dream that I haven't yet attained. I have to try to remember that it's just a little story I put down in words to entertain someone. It doesn't have to be perfect. It can't be perfect. I'm never going to have the imperial jewels of literary talent, nor do I need them. I just need to keep cultivating what I do have and enjoy sharing the simple pleasures of my gift.

So much more easily said than done.

Jane Kindred
Jane Kindred

Friday fortune: Одиночество

Say what, now? Well, I have this deck, the Osho Zen Tarot...which I bought in St. Petersburg. It was the only Russian-language tarot deck that Dom Knigi carried, and I really wanted a Russian deck, so I bought it. But it's been nearly impossible to use. Not only are the cards different from the traditional tarot deck, but the commentary in the companion book is both Russian and zen. Even after I've translated to the best of my ability, I have to sit and stare at it and ponder what the heck it's trying to say. So...

Loneliness, Osho Zen Tarot Card of the day: Loneliness (Odinochestvo)

The level of Russian in this book is far beyond my ability, so I resort to Google Translate. It takes me quite a while to type my transliteration of the Russian text from the companion book into Google and try to get it to re-transliterate into Cyrillic, and then get the translation itself. Invariably, the translation comes out rather mangled. As near as I can figure, this card is about recognizing the difference between the negative state of feeling alone (loneliness) and the positive state of being alone with oneself (solitude).

Then it says this, the one paragraph I was able to get clearly:

When we don't find support from others in the truths that we feel deeply, we can either choose bitterness and isolation, or realize that our vision is strong enough to overcome the core human need for approval of family, friends, and colleagues.

Wow. This is totally for writers. Writing is a very solitary pursuit, and even when we do have supportive people in our lives, they can't totally get how immersed we become in a world of our own making—that drive to make the story as true as we can. So the Zen Tarot is telling us that it's up to us to believe in the story we're compelled to tell without expecting or relying on external validation. That's a really hard one for me, and it hits home with what I was thinking about in my last post: how to believe in the good stuff people say about my work as much as the bad. In the end, no one can tell me if I've told the right story. I have to believe in it whether anyone else does or not.

So it took me several hours to get this post out and it's no longer Friday, but there it is: your Friday fortune, a day late.

Jane Kindred

Friday fortune: Hope

I decided to try a different deck tonight from my usual favorite, so I chose The Mythic Tarot. Strangely enough, I pulled the same card as my first Friday Fortune two weeks ago. Unlike the Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg, however, the Star of  The Mythic Tarot augurs the usual interpretation of "hope," but through this deck's unique association with Greek myth, it has a bit of a twist.

Card of the day: The Star

The Mythic Tarot's Star depicts Pandora unleashing the Spites upon mankind. Like Eve, Pandora is the creation of a vain, paternal god, and like Eve, she is blamed for all the miseries of the world because she just can't obey the authority of the man to whom she's given as a bride when he gives her a simple order.

Does this bug anyone else but me? I choose to interpret the stories of Eve and Pandora a bit differently. I think it's pretty clear that the miseries of the world were there all along, otherwise women would not be the pawns and property in these stories of the battles between petty gods and foolish men.

Instead what these much maligned women represent is a refusal to "keep one's place" and an insistence on independence and the right to self determination no matter the consequences. Thinking for oneself is bound to include some mistakes along the way; if you never take a chance on opening the box of potential and possibilities and facing the mistakes and failures that might be part and parcel of the journey, you risk never seeing your brightest hopes realized.

As writers, we have to allow ourselves the bad first drafts, the darlings we may later have to murder as part of the process of perfecting our craft, the queries and submissions that will amass a pile of crushing rejections. Because only in allowing ourselves those mistakes will we be able to experience the joy and beauty of reaching for that star and discovering worlds we never dreamed of along the way.

So go ahead, open that box, eat that apple, and to hell with any critical, disapproving voice that tells you you're being foolish to pursue your dream. There's enough misery in life already without keeping hope buried and playing it safe.

Jane Kindred
Jane Kindred

Friday fortune: Transformation

I almost forgot my new weekly feature. The day is almost over, but the card I ended up drawing is the sort of card that's best to contemplate overnight anyway.

Card of the Day: The Hanged Man

It's interesting that I chose this card just now. I just finished watching this week's episode of Supernatural, which featured a phoenix. And here on the Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg's Hanged Man, the phoenix (or Firebird) is featured prominently, sitting atop the apple tree from which the hanged man is suspended. (And I just got done complaining on Twitter about how the writers of Supernatural used the phrase "hung by the neck until dead" in that episode, which is a pet peeve of mine. It should be "hanged.")

I love this kind of odd little synchronicity.

The traditional meaning of the card is the suspension of will, a period of inactivity in which the querent has no choice but to remain still and contemplate where she is on her path. As the Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg companion book puts it in one of my favorite phrases: it's the dark night of the soul, a period of doubt that precedes profound change.

The phoenix, too, is a symbol of profound change, experiencing the dark night of the soul in as profound a manner as possible: the total destruction of the self. But it also promises a glorious renewal, the phoenix rising from the ashes.

The other addition to this card, the apple tree, is a reference to the Russian folk tales of the Firebird in which a tsar's son proves himself to his father by watching over the orchard to catch the creature devouring his father's apples. Ivan Tsarevich faces a literal dark night, but stays faithfully on watch, rewarded by plucking a feather from the Firebird that ultimately allows him to defeat an evil sorcerer. The apples are at once a Christian symbol (the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil from which Eve ate) and a pagan symbol of the goddess, representative of Kore descending into Hades.

In another bit of synchronicity, the Firebird, or Zhar-Ptitsa, is a key element in the books I'm writing now in the Queen of Hell trilogy.  This mythical creature becomes a symbol of my fiery heroine, Ola. Ola is my version of Kore.

I can only say what the card represents for me. Each person has to experience the dark night of the soul for herself, and as writers we may have many such nights. We certainly have to give them to our characters. But I love that this spoke to me so personally about where I am at this moment. It's this kind of synchronicity that makes me wonder about connections and the nature of reality. It's very Philip K. Dick.

Jane Kindred
Jane Kindred

Friday fortune: Renewal

On Wednesday, I blogged over on Here Be Magic about using the tarot for plotting. It got me thinking it might be fun to feature a weekly tarot post here, so I've pulled one card for the day from the Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg.

Card of the day: The Star

Traditionally the card of hope, in the Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg there are additional elements that refer to the continuity of the cycle of rebirth of the soul (the empty clothes on the bank, the butterfly), and triumph over a seemingly hopeless situation (the Napoleonic army tents in the background). In this context, hope becomes the certainty of renewal. As Napoleon wrote of the Russians after his failed attempt to conquer them, "What savage determination! What a people! What a people!" Yes, Russians would rather burn their own cities to the ground than submit to a foreign invasion, no matter how relentless. Talk about murdering your darlings.

The Star follows the upheaval of The Tower in the tarot hierarchy. The message for today, then, is that though things may have been all atumble yesterday—maybe you thought that synopsis was going to be the death of you, or you fell in a plot hole so deep you couldn't see light—we've managed to survive the breakdown of everything we thought was important. Today we have a new vision of reality and a fresh start. We pour our souls into our writing, so let the words flow, and they'll return as something new that wouldn't have become clear without The Tower's disruption.

Write with savage determination.

Jane Kindred
Jane Kindred