Finding novel inspiration through the tarot

A few years ago, I was writing a novel that wasn’t working. I had a main character that I loved, but the story wasn’t high concept enough to get the attention of an agent or a publisher. I needed a big idea – and luckily inspiration came to me through the tarot.

It was on a tarot course, run by Maddy Elruna in East Sussex, that I discovered the myths and magic of Norse legend.

Odin in the tarot

I’ve always had an interest in tarot, and love the symbolism depicted in the cards. Much the same way that mythic stories explore archetypal roles and themes central to the human experience, tarot speaks of the 'big things' - birth, death, love, betrayal, and yet it can also be incredibly nuanced thanks to the way the cards fall in a spread.

One card that really captured my imagination was The Hanged Man. I admit I’d never really liked the card much before. I always thought it signalled a time of waiting around (and who likes that?!) but this card has a much deeper meaning. The Hanged Man is associated with Odin, the Allfather, who hung himself from the world tree Yggdrasil. Odin is the god of many things, including poetry, wisdom and magic. In his wanderer’s guise, he traverses the nine worlds, seeking out knowledge – and even plucked out an eye to drink from Mimir’s well of wisdom.