My major arcanas (storytelling)

General Aim

The activity aims to stimulate the imagination, the introspection and the ability of creating a story through the use of tarot cards. The suggestions given by the card may help the participants to let riemerge some deep memories and hidden emotions. The narration stimulated by the visualization of archetypical images leads the participant on an introspective journey which is at the same time shared with the other members of the group.
Therefore, tha activity allows both the deepening of the inner dimension and teamwork. In fact, listening to oneself and to the others are crucial elements in the creation of a story that can bring together all the pieces of a puzzle composed by all the people involved in the narration.

Learning goals

– Developing the imagination starting from the analysis of a picture in which we can find elements of our memory or life.
– Developing the ability of introspection, self-reflection and self-awareness by associating images with personal feelings, memories and sensations.
– Learning to create and elaborate a short story in group by mixing fantasy elements and experiences from one’s personal background.

Short description/background/Introduction/Tips for the trainer

Starting from the suggestion of semiotics’ research and the Italo Calvino’s novel Il castello dei destini incrociati (The Castle of Crossed Destinies), in which a group of people are forced to communicate inventing stories from the images of tarot cards, the activity aims to stimulate the ability of creating short stories by choosing unknown images that can be related with personal feelings and sensations.
The name of the activity is inspired by the word “arcana” which comes from Latin and means “secret, mystery”. Major arcana is a group of tarot cards in which symbolic characters appear and to whom an allegorical meaning can be attributed. The images of the arcanas represent archetypal human’s life elements and their visualization can arouse feelings and sensations that can be experienced by every human being, such as: love, fear, power and so on. In order to stimulate imagination and introspection, participants will attribute personal meanings and values to what they see on cards. The participant, intent on attributing a meaning to the chosen card, must not dwell only on what is clearly represented by the image but also on what could be hidden in it.
The trainer could decide to start the activity by reading a small text based on Italo Calvino’s novel to allow participants to immerse themselves more easily in an atmosphere of mistery.
A second phase of the activity will be dedicated to reflecting on the choices made. Once both stories have been reported, the participants will be able to decide independently whether to share with the rest of the group the reason for choosing their card and the value attributed to it.
Therefore, the activity also attempts to follow the narrative model of “The Hero’s Journey”, developed by Christopher Vogler and based on the studies of the jungian historian Campbell. Through the crossing of stages and difficulties individually exposed by the participants a shared solution is reached.



Suggested group

20 people divided in 2 different groups


Tarot cards; Paper tape for covering the names of the cards




– The facilitator must organize two groups of participants and give ten cards to each group.
– Each member of the group must choose a card to which he/she feels more attracted and with which he/she believes he/she can have a special connection.
– After choosing the cards, the facilitator must specify to the participants that each card will correspond to an element of the “journey” that they will have to tell.
– The story to be developed will tell a journey and each participant will have to choose which frame/element of the journey they want to represent through their cards.
– The frames are:
1. Protagonist
2. Starting point/place
3. Protagonist’s starting feelings
4. Travel’s reason
5. Protagonist’s helper
6. What/who the protagonist finds during the travel
7. Antagonist
8. Problem resolution
9. End of travel/changes of the starting situation
– After the assignement of the frame, each participant will start to tell his/her own part of the story according to the frame of the story he/she represents.
– Each group will nominate a spokeperson who will take notes and tell the story on behalf of the whole group once completed
– The two groups will share their stories and will discuss the experiences narrated, the differences and similarities of the stories
– The participants will reflect on the cards choosen and on the choices made

Evaluation/Final debriefing

At the end of the exercise, the facilitator will ask the group to reflect on the activity by asking the people if they have understood the reason for the choices made during the creation of the story and if this reflection has led them to understand something more about the way they move in the world.


Italo Calvino, Il castello dei destini incrociati, Torino, Einaudi, 1973