Creating with Collage

How collage can be used to access Tarot's archetypal energy. You can draw on this energy to stimulate and support personal transformation.

One of  the reasons for Tarot's growing popularity is that it can be used in many ways and read at many levels. Tarot cards are commonly read in what are called spreads in which the cards are laid out in a certain pattern. The location of each card in the spread carries a meaning. For example, the first card drawn may represent the past, the second card the present, and the third card the future. These meanings are then combined with commonly-accepted meanings of the cards chosen for each picture to create a reading or explanation of what the cards say. For example, drawing The Fool or an Ace in the second position may call the querant's attention to something new that is occurring in his or her life.

An alternative approach to working with Tarot is to work in depth with a single card. This is particularly useful when we are using Tarot as a transformation tool. It allows us to connect more deeply with archetypal energies that can assist us in making transitions or changes in our lives. Archetypes, according to Carl Jung, are symbols or patterns that contain universal human experiences. Examples of archetypes in the Tarot are mother (the Empress), wise old man (the Hermit), and creator (the Magician). By exploring these cards in depth, we can draw the power of these universal symbols into our own lives. We can become more fully in touch with our innate ability to nurture, to know, and to create. An example of how archetypal energy can be accessed through collage is given below. The Magician is used as a starting point for this exercise.

When the Fool begins his journey—when we embark on some new adventure or exploration in our lives—the first card he encounters is the Magician. The Magician has all four suits of the Tarot at his disposal: cups (emotion), wands (spirit), swords (mind), and pentacles (matter). The Magician's job is to play with these elements: to discover the power and purpose of each and to experiment with different ways of combining them to enhance his creative powers.

We can use collage to explore the experience of doing Magician work. Collage gives us a chance to play with color, images, shapes, and textures. when we use it to explore a particular card, such as the Magician card in this example, it allows us to experience first-hand the archetypal energy in that card. Then we can use the tools of that card to explore the energy of the collage. In the case of the Magician, we can approach our collage intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically to integrate and apply our creative experience. At the end of this exercise, we will have a better understanding of the card's archetypal energy and how it can be used to transform our lives.

How to Begin

The first step is to choose a card. This can be done by shuffling the cards and choosing from a face-down deck or by spreading out the deck face-up and selecting a card you wish to know more about.

Study the Card

Once you have chosen the card, spend some time studying it. You may wish to read what the designer of the deck or other authors say about the card, but this is not necessary. The important thing is to spend some time looking at the card in detail and letting its symbols and images speak to you. You needn't analyze the card. Just allow memories, feelings, and ideas to surface as you look at it.

Collect Images

Once you have studied the card, you can begin collecting images that remind you of it. If you have a collection of old magazines, the images might be collected in a single sitting. But you may wish to spread your efforts over a number of days, gathering images or materials whenever you see something that reminds you of the card.

You may choose to collect pictures of the card's symbols. In the case of the Magician, you might look for swords, cups, or people doing magic. But you need not limit yourself to exact representations. Your collage will have more depth if you choose images that evoke the feelings you have about the card. If cups represent love to you, you might be drawn to images of people kissing, or to hearts, or to things that are colored red or pink. If cups represent emotions to you, you might be drawn to pictures of people who are happy, or sad, or angry. If the word Magician conjures up purple robes or rabbits in hats, you might find a scrap of purple velvet or a ball of white cotton. If there is a person in your life who seems to incorporate Magician energy, you may wish to use a photograph of that person. Or you may wish to look for words that evoke that energy. Don't be bound too strictly by what you think about the card. There needn't be any rational connection between the card and the images you select. In fact, things might become more interesting if there is no obvious connection.

Choose a Background

Once you have collected the images, spread them out to get an overview of what is there. Then decide what your background is going to be. It might be a piece of heavy paper, white, black, or colored. It could be a can, a box, or a Styrofoam ball. It could be large or small, depending on the size of the images and materials you have assembled. Anything will do as long as your images and materials can be glued to it.

Lay Out Your Images

Now begin laying out your images and materials. You can line them up, overlap them, or leave spaces between them to fill in later with color, or glitter, or drawings. You can leave them the way they are or cut or tear them into particular shapes. You can group like objects together, make a linear design, divide the background into symmetrical areas, or scatter everything haphazardly within or outside the edges of the background. There are no rules here. You can try to be artistic, but it's best just to let your unconscious do the work. Move things around until they end up where they seem to want to be. When it feels right, begin to glue.

It may take you only a few minutes to complete your layout, or it may be a matter of days. After you have laid things out you may discover that something is missing. There may be a hole that needs to be filled. It may take a few days before you find the object that belongs there. Time is not an issue here. Your collage may develop quickly, or it may take time.

Make Notes about the Process

Now comes the work of extracting the meaning of the collage and your creative process. Begin by making a few notes about your work. What was it like searching for images? Was it an exciting treasure hunt or a chore? Did the images come easily, or were they hard to find? Were you frustrated when you couldn't find the perfect thing or satisfied to find something that would do? Did you find everything all at once, or was there a missing piece? Did you know why you chose each object, or were some choices a mystery? Why did you choose the background you did? Did your objects fall into place on the background, or did you have to struggle to find the right place for them? Answering questions like these will help you get in touch with your own creative process. You will experience Magician energy creating something new out of a collection of pieces that may seem at first glance to be unrelated. You will discover how the Magician archetype expresses itself in your particular life.

Study the Collage

When you have finished making notes about your creative process, begin to study the collage. What captures your attention first? How do the parts relate to one another? Are there certain symbols or objects that occur more often than others? What do you feel when you look at the collage? What colors occur most often? Are the lines jagged and angular, or are they soft and curved? Do the objects overlap, or are they spaced far apart? Have you captured the card literally, or have you evoked its spirit? Answering questions like these will help you relate your collage to the card that inspired it.

Let the Collage Speak to You

Finally—and most importantly—what does the collage have to say about your life? Does it evoke memories of the past? Concerns about the present? Hopes or fears for the future? What helpful energy can you draw from the collage? What strengths does it call forth from you?

Finish your work by dating your collage and giving it a title. Then place it in a place where you can see it every day.  Each time you look at it, you may discover something new. It's a snapshot of the Magician at work in you—the Magician who is constantly experimenting, combining, playing with the things in his world. Hopefully you will discover that he calls you to play too.

Work with Other Cards

The process of collage can be applied to any card in the Tarot deck, all of which contain archetypal energy. It can be done quickly with only a few items, or slowly over a period of time. You will find if you continue to collage that some cards will reveal their secrets more easily than others. The ones you find the easiest to understand at first glance may turn out to be the most difficult ones to produce. And the ones you find most mysterious may come to fruition most quickly. It's all part of the charm of Tarot. Expect the unexpected. You never know what you will find along the way.