Connecting with our Ancestors.
The Major Arcana
This tarot visual journaling workshop is a deep and soulful way to connect with our ancestors. Using the creative process and tarot we will have the opportunity to experience the essence of our ancestor and respond to them from our own essence. We will be making two pages. The first page will be an altar to our ancestor, the second page we will be working with both our birthcard and our ancestor’s from the tarot major arcana. Open yourself to the mystery of revelation.
Play video for instructions: View video
- A journal. I suggest using a sturdy multi-media sketchbook (I use Stathmore Visual Journal) or some good quality paper or cardstock that you can keep in a binder.
- A photo of the ancestor you want to connect with.
- Art supplies you might have: scissors, glue sticks, your favorite pens, paint if you have it, crayons or colored pencils.
- Collage images from magazines or you can Google images that you want and print them out. Decorative paper or tissue paper.
- Tarot images. You can print photocopies of the birthcards or make your own.
Creating an altar to your ancestor
In Mexico on the Day of the Dead people create altars to their beloved ancestors decorated often with flowers – marigolds in particular, candles, food and icons. I would like you to create an altar in your journal where you honor and remember your chosen ancestor. Find a photo of the ancestor you wish to work with. Look for the image that makes you smile; maybe a photo of them in their prime or one that best captures their essence. If you do not wish to use the actual photo, you can either take the photo to a local copy shop or if you have a scanner or camera, computer and printer you can make one at home. You could also build a 3D altar and then take a photo of it to use for this project.
Think about what your ancestor liked, what had meaning for them and find images that symbolize that. You can either paint, draw or collage. Think of the five senses, what did they like to see, eat or drink? What was their favorite flower? Which colors remind you of them? Using symbols of the four elements are powerful on altars: a candle for fire, incense, feather or smudge stick for air, a cup,glass or shell for water, crystals or pretty rocks for earth. Spend time remembering what brought your beloved ancestor pleasure and what they enjoyed. Make this an offering to them.
Journaling about your Ancestor
Write your thoughts about who they were and what they meant to you. You can write directly over the images as I have, or around the sides of the photo. If you have a lot to say you can attach paper, a greeting card or a letter in an envelope. Allow yourself to write without any inhibitions, let it flow. This is your personal experience of them and often unedited writing is the most powerful and honest expression.
Birthcards from the Major Arcana
On the second page we will be working with our ancestor’s birthcard and our own birthcard from the major arcana in the tarot. You will need their birthday, month and year as well as your own.
Formula for birthcards:
birth day + birth month + birth year eg. 9 + 3 + 1960 = 1972
Then add each number of your total eg. 1+ 9 + 7 + 2 = 19
You will want to add the digits until you get to a number 22 or under.
Find the corresponding tarot card to the number you get. 22 is the Fool as no sum will add up to zero (trickster!)
If you are not familiar with tarot cards and their numbers there is a video below where I talk briefly about each of the cards in the major arcana. You can also visit this page on my blog to see the major arcana cards, with their numbers and a brief description : Major Arcana
Major Arcana Video: View video
Once you have worked out both your own birthcard and your ancestor’s birthcard you can either make the two major arcana tarot cards or find tarot cards or photo copies of your favorite deck to use. If you create the birthcards yourself, a border and title will make them look more like tarot cards. You can make them directly on the page, or use cardstock and then photo copy them and glue them on the page. This could be the beginning of your own deck!
Make sure to leave some space to write on the page next to the cards. If for some reason you do not have your ancestors birthdate you can choose a card to represent them by either divining it or selecting one that feels right to you, trusting your intuition.
Calling in your Ancestor
I would like you to create a safe and sacred space by making sure you will not be disturbed. Turn off your phone. Lighting a candle is a simple ritual that marks this time as sacred. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Feel your feet on the ground, relax your shoulders and hands. Picture your ancestor and call them in with great love and respect. Tell them you would like to connect with them and see if there is anything they wish to communicate.
Writing from your Ancestor as their Birthcard
Using your non-dominant hand – that is the hand you do not usually use for writing, write as if you were your ancestor speaking from the point of view of their birthcard. Eg: my father talks to me as the Moon (his birthcard) talking to the Sun (my birthcard). It will feel awkward to write with your non-dominant hand but trust this process. When we use our non-dominant hand it accesses the other half of our brain and something quite different will appear. Let the words flow, no thinking or editing. You can either write next to the birthcard you made for them, or on a separate piece of paper which you can attach to the page. Another idea is to use an envelope to put their writing in or fold paper to fit the space.
Responding from your Birthcard
You will then respond to your ancestor by writing with your dominant hand – the hand you usually write with. Respond as if you are talking as your birthcard to them as their birthcard. Eg I talk to my father as the Sun talking to the Moon. If you feel there is more to say you can have a dialogue between the two of you, going back and forth until you feel complete. The best way to do this exercise is stream of conscious writing, just letting the words flow out, leaving behind any editing or judgement. Allow the power of this connection to sink in. Finish the page by embellishing it, adding color or whatever you feel inspired to do.
Once you feel satisfied with your connection, thank your ancestor and release them by blowing out the candle.
Downloadable PDF of Workshop 2
If you would like to share your pages or just your thoughts please join the Facebook Tarot Visual Journaling Group
Thank you for trusting me to lead you through this sacred process.
Lisa de St. Croix