Swimming in the Waters of Soul

The Use of Archetypes in my novel Water

Water, my fourth novel, opens with a dark night of the soul. The protagonist, Pearl, is 28 years old and has just repatriated to the States from living abroad. The relentless capitalistic, pragmatic nature of the U.S. has plunged her into despair. She feels desperate for soul.

“Metaphor is the missing legend. I’m living in a country that has lost its metaphor, its poetry, and without it, we are plunging into ugliness. The dream world is as real to me as your Starbucks, your children, and your husband who no longer wants to have sex. Metaphor is as real as reality. How many times have you seen a shadow and jumped or stopped driving, thinking the shadow was a thing that could tear your car in half? How often has a shadow been a dark pit in the middle of the road that you could fall into? Plato was wrong. The prisoners in his allegory of the cave were right. The shadows have meaning. The darkness is a thing. The dark dream is a thing.”

Pearl resists a call to own her metaphysical self. Such a calling is just too odd. But she does ultimately find her connection to metaphor and archetypes through studying the tarot.

I believe our lives have to be more than the practical accomplishments of daily tasks that the U.S. (and other countries) so prides itself on. I believe our daily lives are so devoid of soul and spirit that we are suffering from the boredom and ugliness. Lack of spirit is making each of us ugly. I believe we’ve lost our rituals that help us live in soul as a daily part of life. I believe we’re all searching for something bigger, some higher energies, some dimension of soul that speaks a different narrative that is more dimensional than the one we are living.

I don’t believe there is only one way of accessing that connection to higher energies. In Water, Pearl uses the archetypes of the tarot to engage it. Walks in nature, poetry, art, music — there are so many paths up the same soulful mountain peak.

It isn’t just “fortune telling” that results from Pearl’s connection to the tarot; opening the channel opens her to the magic of the soul.

“In a trance, I pull the Prince of Wands. The Prince comes alive in my hands. He releases one leg from the confines of the card, then another, and stands up. He prances to the edge of my hand, leaps, and hits the ground like a dancer. He looks at me and holds up both hands as if to say, “What now?”

I pull more. The Queen of Cups slips from my fingers in a billowing dress and twirls into form.

The Prince extends his hand to the Queen to dance, but she turns her back. He taps his foot, crosses his arms, and looks to me because he wants more. I pull. The Queen of Swords brandishes her blade and throws it down between my fingertips, and the tip embeds into the hardwood. She jumps with a thud to the floor. The Page of Coins follows, shy and unsure, rolling the coin in front of her like an old tire. The Jester has cynicism written all over his face.”

Each chapter of Water opens with a tarot card. A few nights before I was to finish the book and send it to my proofreader, I awoke and realized I’d missed an opportunity. There are 22 major tarot cards, each a major archetype that speaks to the big ideals we all live through on our journeys to individuation. I had used tarot images as opening to the chapters, but not worried about writing 22 chapters, or making sure the progression of the overall novel narrative fit the progression of the archetypes. I knew that had to change. So I got up, and did the ninth full revision of the novel to echo the arc of the tarot. My hope was that the very energy of the symbols would imbue the entire novel with a deeper magic that helped my readers transform.


I believe everyone’s soul is magic. And accessing that magic is part of our personal healing and the healing of our world. We have to make a conscious choice to daily engage the soul. Soulful energies need to be where we live every single day, not just something we maybe do after all the housework is done. We “contain multitudes” and most of us are living a too-small version of ourselves. For me, and for my protagonist, the archetypes of the tarot were simply a doorway to access the magic. I access higher energies now in my art and writing, and not just through the symbols of the tarot. I’ve learned that if I can swim in the waters of spirit daily, many of my ugly issues fade away.

What do you use to access the inexhaustible creative energies that flow from the source?

Purchase WATER here. More info at carolineallen.com.

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