I just finished watching, or at least glancing at, Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog.” I am not a huge fan of Disney, but used to love how I could watch a movie with the kids and still have some brainpower left over for something else. Likewise, when I don’t feel like I have a lot of brainpower left, a princess, some talking animals and some catchy tunes really do the trick.
“The Princess and the Frog” introduces a new Disney princess to the gotta hav’em plastic sisterhood. What caught my eye, unexpectedly, was the character of Dr. Facilier, The Shadowman.
Dr, Facilier is both narrator and villain in this New Orleans-based plot. Some of the images we see in his tarot cards are reminiscent of real tarot images, and seem to reflect the plight of the characters in the story.
The movie did not much move me. It neither disgusted me enough to turn it off, nor enthralled me enough to remember how it ended. Oh, well. I remember it featured a tarot card reader. What else matters?
It started a stream-of-consciousness musing about tarot and tarot readers in stories. Often readers, or the cards themselves, tell the story. This is so fitting, since we use tarot in divination to tell the stories of our lives.
Some of my favorite “cards as story-tellers” are in "The Red Violin," and the grisly William H. Macy vehicle, "Edmond." In "The Red Violin," the cards tell the story of a very special violin over a three-hundred year journey. In "Edmond," the cards point the way to the descent of an unfulfilled man into his place of unlikely fulfillment.
In these films, the cards are supporting characters in the plot of the story.
I want my cards, and me, to be a supporting character in the lives of my clients.
I do that well. I help clients piece together their resources and desires, and help them see the way clear to make something happen. Sometimes when I use the cards to tell their story to them, they understand and appreciate their story more fully. Sometimes I can read ahead, and let them know what the next chapter might hold.
Years ago, I was a presenter at an American Tarot Association Convention in Albany. Diane Wilkes of Tarot Passages did a great job presenting a workshop on storytelling with the tarot. Over the years, I have been lucky to attend workshops with other tarot greats like Rachel Pollack and Mary Greer, who often extol tarot’s storytelling virtues. Corinne Kenner’s recent book, "Tarot for Writers", suggests that tarot can help us become better writers.
The role of the cards and the reader as the mythical storyteller is a primary function of tarot. The mythical storyteller is an archetype. Which tarot card is its representative?
A well-loved Grateful Dead song sings of a storyteller in this way.
“The storyteller makes no choice
soon you will not hear his voice
his job is to shed light
and not to master
Since the end is never told
we pay the teller off in gold
in hopes he will come back
but he cannot be bought or sold”
In my musings this afternoon, I see this storyteller as a tarot reader, like me.
I am grateful to be a supporting character in the stories people tell of their own lives. I am the radio psychic who predicted the great new job. I am the reader at the party who described the new boyfriend three weeks before she met him. I am old enough now to read for people whose parents' unions I foresaw.
I also like to be a supportive character. I try to be a source of information, inspiration and spiritual connection.
Once in a while I am frustrated, because I cannot always be the healer, or the fixer. I can’t do the work, or make the decisions. That is always up to the client, and that is how it should be. As it says in the song, my job is to shed light, and not to master.