** The Tarot Story **
(I don’t remember where I first saw this game, but it is a rather common one that I
have heard of from several sources.)
The first person pulls a card and uses it to start a story. Then the next person pulls
a card and continues the story. Etc. It’s a pretty simple game, but it’s fun. Each
person is free to use what’s on the card either literally or not. Some people pick up
on a bit of the symbolism, which they use to incorporate some concept into the
You will generally end up with a rather interesting story, but more than that, it’s
illuminating to see how people interpreted what is on their card and use it to further
the story -- it often says a lot about them, whether they realize it or not. Also, there
are often insights about the cards that are brought out that you may never have
thought of before.
For people who are mostly Tarot-naïve, this is a fun, non-threatening way to expose
them to Tarot cards.
** The WHO, WHAT, and WHY Tarot Story **
The first person goes through his/her deck until s/he finds a Court Card. This will
be the WHO of the story. Then s/he will keep going through the deck until s/he finds
a pip card. This will be WHAT. Finally, continue through the deck until s/he finds a
Major Arcana card, which will the WHY card. Note that this person should NOT tell
everyone else what cards s/he picked.
S/he will then make up a story for the three cards that s/he picked. The story
should be told in first person, with the narrator being WHO, and keeping in
character for that Court Card. The story should involve an event indicated by the
WHAT card. The WHO character should learn a lesson from the story, which is
WHY s/he needs to have the WHAT experience.
After this person has told his/her story, the other people will try to guess what cards
were picked. In other words, WHO was s/he? WHAT happened? And WHY did it
Then it is the next person’s turn to pick cards and make up a story.
(Note that a simpler alternative is to just use two cards -- WHO and WHAT -- and
not worry about WHY.)
** Court Card Characters **
Each person in the group takes turns coming up in front of the group. This person,
who we can call the Presenter, thinks of a fictional character. It may be someone
from popular media, such as a TV show, a movie, or a book, or it can be a
character out of mythology or folklore. Whoever it is, it should be someone who with
whom the group is somewhat familiar.
The Presenter then decides which Court Card would best suit this character. Once
s/he has made that decision, s/he tells the group who the character is, but not
which Court Card s/he associated it with. The group then has to guess the Court
People can ask yes/no questions about the character to be able to understand
better what the Presenter thinks about this character, which should help the group
see which Court Card s/he would assign to it.
For example, if the character is Homer Simpson, some good questions might be:
“Do you think Homer is emotionally immature?” A yes answer to this question might
imply that to the Presenter, he is the Page of Cups.
“Do you think Homer is overly impulsive, letting his whims take him in unpredictable
directions?” A yes answer to this question might imply that he could be the Knight of
“Do you think Homer is a better provider for his family than he is a leader for them?”
A yes answer might imply that the King of Pentacles had been selected.
To make this game a better learning experience, the Presenter should explain
his/her selection once it has been guessed (or if the group gives up guessing).
And if you want to keep score, the Presenter who is asked the most questions
before the group guesses his or her Court Card wins.
** Tarot Rummy **
I use the following game courtesy of Mary K. Greer --
For this Tarot game each person is dealt as many cards as there are people. Then
going around the circle of people, one at a time, each one must give one card to
each person (while telling them why) and keep one for themselves. Each recipient
must also state why a card they received is appropriate. Alternatively, you can have
one person start by giving a card to one person (state why & have them state why it
is appropriate to them), then that person gives a card to someone else, etc.
Continue until in the final round each person describes the card they kept and why.
If you want, at the end you could comment on the set of cards that each person
received. (I was taught the game as being called "Tarot Rummy" but I've heard of
other Tarot games with the same title.)
The following three games were created by Errol McLendon, CTC and are
used here with his kind permission.
** Liar’s Poker Revisited **
This is probably one of the first poker games you ever encountered. It was
designed originally to win or lose money in a quick and efficient manner. With the
rewrite, it becomes a great way for a group of students to share their perceptions of
what the images in the cards convey.
One Tarot deck is shuffled and one card is dealt face down to each player, who
immediately picks his card up without looking at it and places it on his forehead
facing the other players. If you are doing this right, everyone will look very silly at
this point in the game.
Starting with the player to the left of the dealer, each person goes around the circle
to his left and gives a keyword for each card they see. The added rule here is that
you cannot use a word that is printed on or permanently associated with the card, e.
g. Strength, Temperance, etc. Players must use a word that could honestly be
associated with the card, but creativity and imagination is encouraged. I have
actually seen students studying Thesauruses in preparation for this game.
Now, everyone tries to guess his or her own card. If someone in the circle has
trouble guessing their card, another round of hints can be given. This can be
repeated as often as necessary, but I always suggest that the hints become more
obvious with each round.
I have found that in the test groups in which I have used this game, that the
individual players come away with a wealth of new definitions for each card.
Because of this result, I would strongly suggest also using this game for
intermediate students who are attempting to increase the number of keywords per
** Six Degrees of Brad Pitt Revisited **
This is a game that can be played anywhere. I have found students playing it
among themselves before class and at breaks. You don't even need a Tarot deck
to play. Play it on the bus and frighten the civilians.
This can be played by any number of people. All you need to start is to know the
order in which the players are going to respond. The first player names a Tarot
card. The second player must give a keyword for that card. The third player must
name a different card that could have the same keyword. The fourth player must
name a different card from the first that could have the second keyword. This
continues until a roadblock is reached or until someone challenges. If anyone in the
group disagrees with an association, they can challenge. When this happens, the
game stops and the person being challenged explains his particular word
This is a very addictive game. It increases the number of keywords per card and
also allows the players to share insight into how they view the cards. I always
encourage discussion after each round. This allows the players to crawl into each
other's minds and share the connections made there. This is also a great game for
intermediate students as well.
** Person to Person Revisited **
This is a word-based charades game. For this game you need a watch with a
second hand, a deck of Tarot cards and a pad of paper for score keeping. At the
beginning of a round, one person (the presenter) from the first team sits before the
Tarot deck. A round lasts one minute. As time is started, the presenter picks the top
card of the deck and says one keyword. As before, the word that is used cannot be
a word printed on or permanently associated with the card. The rest of the team
must guess the card before the presenter can pick up the next card. The presenter
can say the word as often as they want and as many different ways as they want,
but they must remain seated, they cannot add a second word and they cannot pass
and go on to the next card. At the end of one minute, time is called and the number
of correctly guessed cards is added up and tallied. Then the whole process is
repeated by other team. For intermediate students, play several rounds and don't
allow using a word from a previous round.
Of all the games mentioned in this article, this game appears to do more to burn the
meanings of the cards into the players' subconscious. In order to avoid the obvious
trap of imposing the presenter's meanings on his team, I always end this game with
a discussion of which cards were the most difficult to guess and why. The difficult
cards were always a result of a difference of opinion between the presenter and the
team about a card's meaning, which opens up a sharing discussion of why the
presenter and the team see that particular card differently.
I am certain as time goes on there will be revision and refinement to these rules, if
not total evolution into new games. A side advantage to these games is that they
put my adult classes in a receptive, childlike frame of mind, hungry to learn and
experience the rich world that Tarot has to offer. Play on.
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James Ricklef's Tarot Website