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More brainstorming with tarot cards
What could this mean?

Let the image do the talking

The best thing about a tarot deck? The images!

[A version of this post appeared previously on SynTAROTis.]

The images on a tarot card can do more than stir your intuition for a tarot reading: I will show you a ‘sceptic's tarot’ way to solve a problem using tarot cards.

Images affect us in more ways than words. Think of dreams, works of art, photography .... And of course, tarot cards. Images evoke and stimulate viscerally, not intellectually or analytically.

But how are images used in creative problem-solving?

Many problem-solving techniques use random elements to stimulate ideas. These random elements can be words, objects, ideas, analogies, metaphors, or images. Random elements are not part of the problem: they give you a different way to look at the problem.

A tarot deck presents a variety of ambiguous and evocative images. The human mind does not like ambiguity, so we immediately—and usually unconsciously—give the image a context: we think, “Oh, the picture shows ….”

This quality of the cards stirs the imagination even more than a random word or object.

So, how do you apply an image to a problem?

An example of this technique:

Problem: I am a manager. My employees are upset about the small increases they received. How can I best handle my employees' anger?

Deck: Robert M. Place’s Alchemical Tarot: Renewed.

Card drawn: Six of Staffs (Wands)

6 of Wands, Alchemical TarotWhat is going on? How does the image relate to the problem? What solutions does this picture hide?

What I see

(Note that I go beyond traditional meanings for this card.)

  • Five torches are thrust towards a man in a threatening way. The man has to defend his position.
  • Or: The man on the cloud is wearing an apron and a laurel wreath, suggesting he is not only an artisan but master artisan in his field. He might be sharing his knowledge.
  • Or: The man in the apron is offering something to the crowd.
  • Or: He could be lighting their torches. To light the way? For a celebration? For a sporting event?
  • Or: The man could be making a speech.
  • Or: There is a great celebration.

What the image suggests to me:

  • ‘Descend from the cloud’ and tell the employees what the situation is. An honest explanation might deflate anger.
  • Offer the employees a variety of non-monetary rewards for excellent work, such as public recognition (in the company newsletter, on bulletin boards), a gift, a certificate, a day off.
  • Organize a ‘fun’ day or event to award innovative employees.
  • Ask the employees to come up with ideas with for cost-cutting; after all, they know their jobs better than I do.
  • Reward cost-cutting suggestions that are implemented.
  • Give employees more opportunity to interact with me and other managers.
  • Ask for employee representatives to approach management with ideas and complaints.
  • Make sure all supervisors know the company policy and the role of every individual employee in it, and that they convey this to the employees.
  • Set up brainstorming sessions that would give all employees a chance to suggest ideas.
  • Arrange management meetings that include staff who are not managers, but more in touch with the needs and expectations of all employees.
  • Reward teams that cut costs without compromising quality.
  • Offer a bonus to individuals or teams that come up with the most useful suggestions for cost-cutting and/or income generation.
  • Allow employees to ‘appeal’ their increase with convincing reasons for reconsideration.

Now it’s your turn!

Think of a problem and formulate it so it asks for a list of ideas. (For example: What can I buy my mother for her birthday? What can I do to revive a stale relationship? How can I help my teenage son manage his anger? What can I do to attract her attention?)

First off, choose a Tarot deck with “story” pictures on all the pip cards. (Pip cards are the Twos to Tens in a deck. Some decks show only suit symbols on the minor arcana. Here are examples of decks that trigger stories.)

If you wish, separate the pip cards from the rest of the deck and use only them.

Draw a card and ask yourself, "What does this card show?" See how many options you can come up with. (Go beyond the traditional meanings of the card.)

Now imagine that the image contains solutions to your problem: all you have to do is find them. Sounds easy, huh?

Take note of every idea that comes up, not only the 'good' ones. Don't judge these ideas! Be as silly as you can be. You can modify these silly thoughts into working solutions when this section of problem-solving is done.

Related posts:

Why use stimuli like random words or tarot cards to solve problems?

Why use tarot cards for brainstorming?

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