Votive Cards
Story telling cards to help people tell stories about how they feel

Photos by Garry Barker
We want you to tell a story about how you feel, about how you are coping with strange times. If you feel ill or if you feel well, it doesn’t matter, it’s just important to communicate. Be as playful as you like. The most important thing to remember is that the use of the cards is up to the people who use them and it should be an intuitive process that begins first of all through play. Shuffle the cards and lay them out, which ones do you like, which ones don’t you like? Why might that be? Can you think of a story behind the ‘not liking’, what sort of reason might lead you to decide one card is bad and another good? Sort the cards into types, such as similar colours, inside bits of the body, outside parts, illnesses etc. but once sorted think about what these collections of similar cards means to you. What colours do you like, what sort of colours don’t you like? You will find dots and triangles of different colours appearing on the cards, what do you think they mean? Now look at individual cards, what do you think they are about? Once you have an initial feeling about the cards, start shuffling and laying them out in different patterns, what do these patterns suggest to you? Is there any sort of logic emerging from your play? As you explore the deck make your own associations, and continue to think about what each card might mean to you?
You might give a pack to someone else and let them play with it for a while and then compare thoughts. It suggests a way to play with the cards on the side of their box, is this a way you think is good, would it be better to play with them in another way?
Photo by Garry Barker
Card 1 the lungs

Without the breath of life, we are dead. A breath of fresh air is very different to the stale air of a damp cellar. We take slow breaths to calm down when tense, we breathe quickly to recover from action, or when we are ill. We share our breath when we kiss and a good pair of lungs allow you to shout loudly.
Eventually you might begin to shuffle the cards and think of a question such as “How can I improve my life?” and then lay out the cards in one of the formats you have thought about and see if you can pick out a response from the cards in front of you. All you need to do is ‘see’ a story in the cards and to be inventive as to what a card might mean. A bent knee might be a painful knee, or it might be a running knee or a kneeling knee or a reminder of a successful operation on someone’s knee. What does its colour mean? It is of course up to you. What happens when the next card is turned over, hopefully it becomes a prompt for the next part of a story. A knee next to a hand might suggest one thing and a knee next to a heart another. The heart might mean love and the knee being subservient, you might think about marrying someone you love. The cards just prod you in a direction, but it is a direction you shape.
Photo by Garry Barker
Card 2 - The Heart

The heart is often seen as a representation of love. But it is also about courage. It is our life pump and we worry about its failure. We refer to our heart when we give favour to others. To ‘have a heart’ means to be compassionate.
There are two different versions of every card, one might be good the other bad. Lots of differences come in pairs. Hot or cold, positive or negative, healthy or ill, first or last, good or evil, winner or loser, fast or slow, success or failure, rich or poor, you can use your imagination to come up with a lot more I’m sure. Any two cards with the same picture can be paired as opposites and it’s again up to you to decide. Is one good and another bad? How does this affect the gradually developing story?
Photo by Garry Barker
Card 3 - The Stomach or Intestines

When you worry about things you feel anxiety in your stomach. There are some things you can’t stomach, such as racism or unfairness. Some ideas are hard to digest and take time to work their way through, a bit like a clogged pipe.
Body metaphors: Your body isn’t just about something that is healthy or ill, it is something that gives you a language to think about the world. “He broke my heart"; "he has one foot in the grave" “she has her eyes peeled”, “she needs to stop pulling my leg” are all apparently simple phrases but they can be used to convey deep meanings; images of the body are powerful things, especially when they enter the subconscious mind. Can stories be told that mix physical body health awareness with awareness of concepts, inner emotions and our wants and needs?
Photo by Garry Barker
Card 22 The Hand

Before sight is touch. If we want to understand something we need to grasp the idea, to hold on to it, we need a firm grip. We greet with our hands, but in one simple movement a hand becomes a fist. To hold hands is a wonderful gesture of warmth and friendship, to get a slap in the face with an open hand is a wake up call.
Several sets of these cards have now been printed. If you want a set of 52 cards , e mail your contact details to:
garry.barker@leeds-art.ac.uk If you need more than one set indicate how many and as requests come in if there are enough, extra sets will be sent out. The idea is to use the set of cards to find out if they can be useful in getting people to begin to open out about their own health stories. There is no right way to use them and some people have simply seen them as a small exhibition in a box.
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