28th – 30th August 2020
Boghill Centre, County Clare, Ireland
A young woman leaves on a journey. What does she know? Nothing. She is unformed. She has what the Zen masters call ‘beginner’s mind.’ She may come back wiser, richer, happier. She may not come back at all. The world is open to her, and she to it.
On the journey she will meet those who will shape her life, and her destiny. She will have choices to make, paths to follow or turn from. The silent High Priestess, who guards some unseen mystery; the stern Emperor, who offers both protection and rigidity; the ambitious Magician, tapping the energies of the universe for his own ends. The Lovers, who pose a choice between wisdom and ambition. Will she take the reins of the Chariot, and hope she can steer it at speed out into the world? Or take to the mountains with the Hermit, to look inwards instead?
What does she do when she is challenged by Death, astride his pale horse? When the Hanged Man offers her the chance of change – for the price of a sacrifice? When, by the light of the Moon, she must choose between the path of the dog and the wolf? Can she tell the difference between Judgement and Justice, Strength and Temperance?
This is the journey of our lives.
The tarot is a centuries-old system of divination, using illustrated cards, which can be traced back to medieval Italy, but which may have originated earlier and further afield. Originally used as playing cards, the tarot (nobody seems to know where the name comes from, either) are now best known as a system of divination: an oracle, which can point to the powers, trends and influences abroad in our lives.
This course, though, will not use the tarot either for game playing or for divination. Instead, we’ll be doing something different: using these cards as inspirations to develop our storytelling and writing skills. The Fool’s Journey is a new course from the Wyrd School, which uses the ancient mysteries of the tarot to help unpick, illustrate, inspire and deepen our personal writing journeys.
The journey of the Fool – the first character in the tarot’s Major Arcana – is our journey through life. It offers up, in mythic and symbolic terms, the obstacles and challenges we will face, the difficulties of the underworld through which we must journey, the characters and energies which will challenge and aid us. In the shape of these 22 dense, complex and still mysterious playing cards, we see the arc of our lives laid down.
This means, of course, that this is perfect material for writers. During this weekend course, we will use specific cards, and the journey as a whole, to spark stories, characters and ways of writing. If you are stuck with a project, you may find something – or someone – within the cards to unstick you. If you are looking for ways to tell your story, or just seeking to understand just what story you have to tell, this weekend may help.
Through exercises, workshops and teaching sessions, we will use the journey of the Fool to mirror the journey of your work. What energies do you need to draw on? Which characters from the tarot challenge you most, offer you help, hinder your work? Everyone will leave with an understanding of the tarot’s mythic arc, and the story it tells – and at least one new story of your own, which the cards have helped you tell.
A note of caution, and clarity …
It’s worth saying, at this point, what this course is not. While we will be delving into the uses and traditions of the tarot, this is not a weekend of fortune telling or divination. You will not be seeing your future, or crossing any palms with silver (though silver is always welcome). It is not a beginner’s course in tarot reading, and it is not taught by a qualified tarot teacher, if such things exist. Finally, it should be emphasised that there is nothing ‘occult’ or sinister about the work we will be doing. It is open to everyone, whatever their background, beliefs or experience.
Instead, this is a course for writers and other creative people, run by a writer who has found that learning, and using, the tarot over a number of years has deepened and illuminated his writing practice, and his wider life. You will learn about the history, symbology, imagery and uses of these cards, and how they are used, and we will use this knowledge to help deepen our creative practice practice, spark new ideas and perhaps allow fate to take a turn in guiding our pens. You will use this ancient tool to help you find new ways in to your words, new depths to your stories and new things to do with them.
Paul Kingsnorth is an award-winning novelist, poet and essayist. He has published seven books, taking in fiction, non-fiction and poetry, with a wide array of publishers. He has won, or been nominated for, ten different prizes for his fiction, poetry and essays, ranging from the Man Booker Prize to the Wenlock Prize for Poetry. He has taught on writing courses, mentored writers and lectured on writing for – amongst others – the Arvon Foundation, Schumacher College, the Westcountry School of Myth and Story, and Falmouth University, and has run writing and story courses in places as varied as the islands of West Cork and the streets of Brooklyn. From 2009 until 2017 he was co-founder and director of the Dark Mountain Project, a global network of writers and artists in search of new stories for an age of collapse. He is the founder of the Wyrd School. Paul has been studying and practicing tarot for several years.
Location and travel
This will be an intense, busy but fun weekend, made up of teaching and discussion sessions, exercises, storytelling, time spent outside and time to write and/or relax with other writers.
The venue for the course is The Boghill Centre in County Clare, Ireland. Nestled in the heart of the Burren, one of Western Europe’s most remarkable natural landscapes, Boghill is welcoming but remote. You’ll be sleeping in bunk rooms, and wifi will not be on tap. It’s a retreat, after all. There’ll be hearty vegetarian meals, outdoor fires if the weather holds, a convivial atmosphere and the chance to mingle with interesting people in one of the most beautiful spots in the west of Ireland. This is another world, one far removed from the bustle of urban modernity.
The course runs from the evening of Friday 28th August until after lunch on Sunday 30th. You will need to be at Boghill by dinnertime on the Friday. The venue is around 3.5 hours drive from Dublin, and one hour from Shannon airport. Full travel details and directions will be provided when you book, as will a kit list of what to bring with you (you’ll need boots and a raincoat…)
Cost and booking
Prices include all food and accommodation from Friday dinner to Sunday lunch, inclusive.
Hostel room: €320 (£285 / $360)
Single room (4 available): €340 (£300 / $390)
Twin room (4 available): €340 per person (£300 / $390)
To secure a place, we ask for a non-refundable 50% deposit, which can be paid through Paypal or by bank transfer. To book a place, or if you have any questions about the course, please send us an email
* Page illustration: The Nightfall Tarot, by Amory Abbott.