Get to know Timothy Bryant Smith, one of the 22 contributors to the recently-released Allegories of the Tarot Anthology (which is already trailblazing its way up the fantasy anthology charts on Amazon!). Timothy wrote his tale, Transformation, based on the Death card.
Timothy Smith lives in North Carolina where he and his wife split their time between running their restaurant, indulging in creative projects, and spending time with their two dogs. A lifelong student of symbolism and creative expression, Timothy has always enjoyed exploring the eclectic myths and archetypal characters of various religions and their respective cultures throughout history. Inspired in his youth by the insights of Jung, Campbell, and other authors who defined the field of comparative mythologies and their impact on culture and the human condition, Timothy has studied and practiced various systems of divination since his childhood.
This is Timothy’s first contribution to an anthology, but hopefully not his last.
Just a few questions…
What intrigues you about this particular Tarot card? Aside from the Lovers card, the Death card is (perhaps) one of the most frequently misinterpreted cards in the deck. Death, as an inevitability of living, is such a taboo subject to begin with. The Death card invokes such vivid imagery, sadly, it only serves to confound the neophyte interpreter into thinking an issue of mortality must be at hand. The involuntarily and reflexively dire associations that come with drawing the Death card are, unavoidably, a manifestation and expression of the individual’s fear of dying—as if drawing this card is some sort of harbinger of physical death. This, of course, is completely inaccurate and a repeatedly misused portend of what this card is actually meant to represent. The specter of the Death card (as a harbinger the physical event) is often abused in movies, television, and pop culture. Just as the Lovers card is often falsely portrayed as the dealing with sex, or the Devil card having something to do with the ultimate personification of evil, these types of cursory interpretations have always frustrated me when I see them. The Death card offers a sacred knowledge so very much more profound than what pop culture has attempted to paint it as meaning.
Why did you decide to get roped into this project? I have repeatedly broken a promise to my special friend Annetta Ribken to write something worthy of publishing. This might be my chance to make good on that promise.
Have you ever had dealings with the Tarot before? Yes. I was that weird little kid who had a deck of Tarot cards hidden under his bed instead of Playboy magazines (ok… I had a few of those as well). Divination has fascinated me my entire life and continues to fascinate me to this day. It has always provided me with a special counsel; a conduit of imagery, metaphor, and allusion which allows me to transmogrify unconscious desire into lucid intent.
What other projects do you have planned? I have often wanted to create an in-depth compendium of divination, its systems and the cultures from which they originate, and an interactive experience by which people could learn what real divination can be and mean to the journey we must all go through. Maybe even help reclaim it from the ridicule both science and religion have heaped upon it (having never actually studied it or simply fearing it, respectively). Divination provides an answer that both science and religion have, to date, failed to provide. This project, sadly, remains an infrequently visited folder on the desktop of my life.
How did you decide what to write about? When Annetta asked me to write one of the stories (I was a bit late to the selection of cards) nearly all of them had been picked by other writers. I was both pleasantly surprised and a bit perplexed the Death card had not yet been picked. It was one of maybe three or four left to choose from, so I grabbed it as soon as I saw it was available.
I toyed around with writing the story of the Death card as a metanarrative—the personification of Death expressing a narrative about the various takes and misconceptions of what Death is, how it’s perceived, and what it has come to mean to the cultures who fear, avoid, embrace, and worship it. Sort of a 3000-word Facebook rant by the Grim Reaper as if It had a few minutes of humanity’s time to set them straight on a few things. I just couldn’t get it right. The first few drafts sounded too absolutist and didn’t leave much to the questions a reader’s imagination might have—as most metanarratives are wont to do. I realized it lacked compassion and the ability of the readers to sympathize or immerse themselves in what was being said. There wasn’t any real plot device or thematic vehicle to what I was writing. So I choose instead to go back and explore a more approachable story with characters, settings, and dialogue about an event in a young woman’s life that I felt we could all relate to some degree while still getting across the idea that Death isn’t about dying, it’s about transforming in order to continue existing.
How literal did you want to get with your card? That’s problematic with the Death card, as the Death card is not meant to be taken literally. I really wanted people to see Death the way the Tarot intends for it to be seen and understood—as a transformation from one state to another; a passageway through the cycle or circumstance of existence. Humanity sees Death as an end of the body, something to be mourned, avoided, feared. The Tarot intends for the Death card to be seen as a willing rite of passage the soul must make on its way back to the Source.
Is your story a part of something you’ve written about previously? Only in my story’s setting. I am still developing a novel that is based, at least in part, in Knoxville, Tennessee the same as my allegories story. I have no idea why this story took me there, it just happened. I should really go there sometime, I suppose.
Would you like to have written about any other card? Which card? Why? I would have loved to write about any (or all) of the other cards. Fortunately, Annetta has some amazing authors who beat me to it. This is a really special collection of stories written by some really talented writers.
If you could have the power to divine the future, would you or would you not and why? I believe we all have this ability as long as the information is put into the correct context. Divination, in my experience, is not really about predicting the future, it’s about becoming conscious of the present, making a choice, and having some insight as to where that choice might take you. The deepest, powerful, and most lucid moments of personal transformation lies in being honest and aware about where you’re coming from, where you are now, what is influencing you, where your path will lead, and the new situation which will likely unfold from that awareness. This is not magic or divination per se, rather a basic ritual of self-awareness.
The Tarot cards are tools in the guise of symbols. Each encapsulates an archetypal area of self-awareness. Ultimately, though, the hammer, screwdriver, saw blade, and measuring tape are useless in building the abode of Self unless you take the time to understand and accept their appropriate usage and technique. Or perhaps one could think of the Tarot cards as just one set of musical instruments one might play in orchestrating the symphony of the soul. These symbols/tools/instruments are just “allegories” of Self and what an honor it has been getting to tell the story of at least one of them!
About Allegories of the Tarot
Once upon a time, there was an editor with a fascination for the Tarot. She was struck one day by a crazy idea. “Hey,” she said. “What if twenty-two writers each wrote a story about the twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana of the Tarot and were fashioned into an anthology?”
The idea would not leave her alone.
And thus, the Allegories of the Tarot was born.
Crowdfunded by a campaign on Indiegogo with the help and support of an amazing group of writers, twenty-two stories were crafted around the mysteries of the Tarot. The group includes a Pushcart Prize nominee, a Pulp Ark nominee, a former Bigfoot researcher, a journalist, an award-winning YA author, and a Rhysling Award winner. Professional writers, new talent, and a range of genres boggling the mind: Horror, Speculative Fiction, Bizarro Fiction, Erotica, Mystery, Humor, Paranormal, Epic Fantasy, Literary, Romance, and Historical Fantasy.
What has emerged is an outstanding collection of fiction, unique and mysterious. Stories that will make you cry, make you laugh, and make you think. Stories that make you feel the touch of the Universe.
Dare to step through the portal to shadowy realms and emotional journeys.
Get the book!