Updated: Nov 13
In case you missed my first post, The Intuitive Storyteller blog is a space where I will share research and musings around creativity and intuition with regard to the motivators and practices of writers. I am Amanda Hughes, an artist and storyteller who has spent my entire life sharpening my intuition and using it to develop art and stories.
Ever the lover of themes, you can look forward to blog posts every Magic Monday and Writer Wednesday. On these days, I will feature research and stories around:
the intersection of creativity and intuition
creative inspiration through the tarot
topics related to intuitive writing
On Monday, I shared with you my intuitive gift: how my mind’s eye can see my artwork and know the premise for a story as it appears in a single glimpse, the light of an idea flickering to life. Today, I’d like to share with you my earliest experience using the tarot as a tool for sharpening my intuition and nurturing my creativity.
The idea for my book series The Scars We Choose (A. Lee Hughes) appeared back in 2014. It was a Saturday and I was walking the causeway at Fred Howard Park, a gorgeous park in Tarpon Springs, Florida where the walking trail starts in a thick of moss-burdened trees, twisted by years of gusty winds, and then loops around an island connected by the causeway. The weather was something from a dream, the briny gusts and cackling gulls intoxicating. As I walked, a little girl and little boy appeared, followed by several other people—some I recognized and some I’d never before seen. Almost immediately, I knew that one of the characters was magical: a spiritual practitioner of some sort.
The Scars We Choose, Books One and Two and my first tarot deck.
As time passed, and I continued my inspired walks, sorting through the details of this burgeoning story, I discovered more about who the magical woman was, giving her a name (Pinkie Claire Perideaux), a home (New Orleans, Louisiana), and purpose (sharing that would spoil the story). While I could see, name, and place Ms. Pinkie, somehow I intrinsically understood that I would only be able to know her story through studying her practice.
Not long after meeting this magical woman, I learned that she was a Haitian Vodou Seer with the innate claircognizance of knowing details about people and manipulating the elements and time in order to help said people. An image soon emerged: a beachside porch and a table with a burgundy cloth and a deck of tarot cards. Having very little context around the tarot, my only brush with the cards being a reading at a friend’s birthday party back in 2009, and having leaned on Hollywood before that, I didn’t understand Ms. Pinkie’s purpose for owning and using them.
So, I bought my first deck. And even though researching the practice of cartomancy and physically observing and making notes on the cards helped me to write Pinkie Perideaux’s part in The Scars We Choose series, I felt like I had unearthed a trove of hidden treasure. The more I learned about the cards’ history—specifically about Pamela Colman Smith, the artist behind the most popular, traditional images—the more intrigued I was with how I felt when I was studying them. The sensation was/is quite like standing before art pieces in a gallery or a museum. And, if you know me, then you know my blood runs alizarin crimson. Apart from the artwork appealing to the very fabric of my identity, something about holding the cards and considering their details felt as though I was deepening my understanding of my gift; the cards felt like a translator for intuiting art and writing and story and people, both individually and all at once.
As I wrote Book One of The Scars We Choose, I started using the tarot for more than just becoming acquainted with and authentically writing Ms. Pinkie. I began using the cards to learn the entire story, especially the elusive, nuanced middle parts that were floating about, not yet assigned a place on my outline. In an attempt at discerning the artwork, I started researching the tarot’s history, cartomancy, more on Pamela Colman Smith (“Pixie,” as she was affectionately known), the concept of esoterica, the ideals of the Golden Dawn, an occult group whose members included Smith and Arthur Edward Waite, the author of the most popular deck to date. The list goes on.
Days into my research, I began pulling cards. I did so daily as part of my morning routine. I would study them, journal about what I saw, and then research the interpretations, symbols, and descriptions for myself. In adapting a daily practice, what I soon realized was that my immediate, intuitive interpretation of the cards didn’t always align with Waite’s. I purchased books about the tarot, reading other people’s ideas and practices with the cards. Often, my interpretations didn’t match up to theirs either.
And then another concept bubbled to the surface: the image of the Mona Lisa. I have a replica of the famous portrait hanging in my office. It’s a painting of hidden secrets, and I particularly love the mystery around the woman’s smile. I love reading interpretations of her smirk and what DaVinci must have been thinking when he painted the figure. I enjoy imagining who she might have been, what her story is, who others speculated her to have been.
How does the Mona Lisa relate to the tarot? Both are art. Both require an examination and invoke emotion and interpretation. Not everyone’s analysis of Mona Lisa’s smile is the same. Not everyone’s ideas around art are the same. As such, the same can be said for the tarot. That’s why my thoughts around Pixie’s illustrations haven’t always lined up with those of others. My way of interpreting art, my method of storytelling is different because these methods are mine and like their initial, inborn ideas, they come to me intuitively. Similarly, my interpretations of the tarot cards are unique to me. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s an important aspect of working with the tool.
Next Magic Monday, I will share a little tarot housekeeping to get writers acquainted with the tool... along with some emotionally charged thoughts surrounding my “coming out of the tarot closet,” and on Wednesday I will take a deeper dive into my definition of intuitive writing. I hope to see you back then!
In her more than thirty years as a storyteller and visual designer, Amanda “Mandy” Hughes has written and designed over a dozen works of upmarket, literary, and women’s fiction under pen names A. Lee Hughes and Mandy Lee.
Mandy is the founder of Haint Blue Creative, a space for readers and storytellers to explore, learn, and create. Although she earned a Bachelor and Master of Science in Psychology, she has yet to figure out her family, much less herself.
When she’s not writing, Mandy loves going to the movies, theater, traveling, nature walks, birdwatching, margarita-making, and binge-watching The Office. She is a tarot enthusiast who uses the cards to promote wellness and enhance creativity. She lives in Georgia with her husband and four boys, two of whom are furrier than the others (but not by much). Visit her website at haintbluecreative.com and follow her on Instagram @haintbluecreative.