Gothic Tarot Cards

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Arcana

 

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Never was there anything more mysterious than the Tarot cards. Their air of magic tinged with the apprehension of what fate has in store, their storytelling capacity, are some of the qualities that lend themselves to our dark, dramatic themes.

I am revisiting the stories of Angela Carter these days. She was the first author I read who inspired met o get serious about writing. her use of language lavished on themes of werwolves and vampires gave me permission to compose the kind of  Gothic tales I enjoyed reading while indulging in the lush, poetic writing style we call “literary”. These were the first Gothic tales since Poe, that really moved me and took my imagination to new heights and depths.

The Visconti Tarot, shown above, is the oldest complete Tarot in existence. It red-brown and gold hues suggest royalty, spell casting and dried blood. These are the cards of the vampires.

Carter uses the Tarot cards in full force in her short story, The Lady of the House of Love.

 

Wearing an antique bridal gown, the beautiful queen of the vampires sits all alone in her dark, high house under the eyes of the portraits of her demented and atrocious ancestors. each one of whom, through her, projects a baleful, posthumous existence, she she counts out the Tarot cards, ceaselessly construing a constellation of possibilities as if the random fall of the cards on the red plush tablecloth before her, could precipitate her from her chill, shuttered room into the country of perpetual summer and obliterate the perennial sadness of a girl who is both death and maiden.

 

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Love and Death

Of course the Death card always puts in an appearance in these tales. This is the fate we all fear, especially combined with The Lovers, for who can bear the death of love?  Of course  the Grim Reaper always smiled up from her blood red tablecloth. When, at last, the Lovers appear, this is not a cause for joy.

The bride is also a powerful Gothic persona, for marriage is a kind of death for woman. In the days of arranged marriages, when love had nothing to do with it, when a girl could be sold to the wealthy old man, or the cruel aristocrat, when she never knew how the beast would treat her, appearing in ghostly white veils was the most resonant attire. She grips the cards, desperate to know: is she safe, or not? Is this love, or not?

Her great Aunt is Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, a figure who seems to haunt us all. How many actresses have played the role? This lost bride, this ghost, sitting alone in the dark, high house with the long table gone to rot, is a kind of vampire who feeds on her ward,  Isabelle,draining the girl’s emotions, killing her love, cosigning her to s symbiotic death in life.

I don;t think most people think of Charles Dickins as a Gothic author, but he’s one of the best. Like Shakespeare.

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Stories with Tarot

When I found the Angela Carter book, Tarot Readers were few. I was one, so I was drawn in to this story of the lady in the House of Love. I also have incorporated the cards into stories.

Now there are many authors employing the Arcana!

Here is a Goodreads list of novels that use Tarot as a theme. As you can see, they all have a dark, Gothic feel to them.

Out of 530 books, I am sure you will find something to enjoy.

http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/5230.Stories_Where_Tarot_Reading_Plays_A_Role

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The New Gothic Revival

The New Gothic Revival

I grew up an organic time, close to nature. Mothers stayed home to take care of the children. We played outside, ran through the woods, played games in the streets, stayed out until twilight when we were called in for supper. Television only came in black and white. I remember my grandparents on my father’s side, rather medieval French Canadians who took my brother and I to a cathedral to attend High Mass sung in Latin — well they had the first color TV I’d ever seen. At Christmas we gathered around it to watch the Wizard of Oz waiting in breathless anticipation for the moment when Dorothy opened the door to Oz, seen in full technicolor for the first time.

I’m not sure about other kids, but I was a voracious reader. My father encouraged me, giving me all the classics as well as the new phenomenon The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I spent my whole 10th summer reading it. For me that book paled in comparison to Titus Groan and the much more Gothic Gormenghast Trilogy. I loved fairy tales especially and not only read them, but began making up my own, writing them in pencil on lined paper while sitting in the shade of our mock orange tree. Like Jo in Little Women, II dreamed of writing books. There was a large field behind my best friend’s house with an enormous oak tree. There I would sprawl on a large branch with a book and bag of apples and spend hours reading and munching away.

When I got older, I would spend my whole allowance on books. There was a drug store in my very small town with a rack full of pocket paper backs, including collections of weird tales. They were a bit adult and disturbing for me, but I was quickly addicted. In our small local library — I might have read every book working my around the shelves — I found interesting collections of fairy tales re-tellings, and ghost stories  like The Haunted Looking Glass, including stories by Wilkie Collins, Algernon Blackwood, M.R.James, Robert Louise Stevenson, all illustrated by Edward Gorey. I never forgot the tale of The Monkey’s Paw with its warning to careful what you wish for.

Then came the years of Jane Eyre and Wuthering heights, Great Expectations, Edgar Allen Poe, and all of Shakespeare’s tragedies, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson… always the dark overcast, the ancient ruins, stately tombs, castles and inbred aristocratic families. There were the wild and fated romances of the Brontes and Daphne DuMaurier’s haunting Rebecca. I read Dracula every winter for years.

When I finally completed my BA degree, it was in English Literature/ Creative Writing. I was publishing poetry and won a couple of prizes for my weird creations, full of witchery and earth magic. I wanted to write fiction, but my professors taught us to be snobs and I had no desire to write mainstream fiction about failed relationships, addicts, disease and death, or being crushed by society. I began to dread expressing the ‘mood’ I was always accused of filling my poetry with. (Now I know that’s ‘atmosphere’.)

I had to move to London to find my stories. Because of my love of the British Gothic Mystery and Romance stories, I suppose it was a kind of coming home.  Living in the land of Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, I was amazed to discover that they weren’t making that stuff up!

Anne Rice revived the Gothic Tradition in the 1970s with her classic Interview with a Vampire. Her books had a huge following and a powerful impact on popular culture. Lately we have had Twilight, but though Stefani Myers uses Gothic monsters like vampires and werewolves, I’m not sure her books are Gothic. What do you think?

In the 1980s I found a copy of The Bloody Chamber in a bookshop and was electrified. I wanted to write like her. In England I found Tanith Lee’s Red as Blood and I wanted to write like her. I have done so and all of the short stories I wrote under the influence of these modern Gothic authors have been published. I am unknown, so those Gothic Faery Tales are yet to be collected under one cover. Someday… Brides of Darkness shall be brought out to my dedicated fans… 🙂

Now I am releasing the novels I have been working on over the past 13 years. I aim to reignite the old Gothic style of atmosphere and suggestion, dark shadows (I used to RUN home from school to watch that!) lurking menace, doomed love and sorcery.

I do not wish to glamorize the darkness, but rather peer behind the spangled veil. What one finds there, is the essence of the Gothic thrill that has such sway in some of our imaginations.

Angela Carter werewolf image found at www.bluebeany.com

Get my novel The Roses of the Moon I: Mara on Amazon Kindle Books

The Roses of the Moon I – Mara

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