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Entries in tarot (49)


Pimp My Artwork 085: Behind The World Card & La Gitana Tarot

Wherein we all become legends, archetypes, and characters.

Once, while standing in the former apartment of William S. Burroughs, I put an apple on my head. His godson pretended to shoot it with his dead rifle.  We were young, drunk, and in love.  That same year we broke into an independent news station with a crowbar   and slept under the news desk.  It was Valentine’s Day and Dr. Whiskey held us in his caring grip.

We built an altar to his godfather and filled it with vodka and Mardi Gras beads.  We slept on a mattress and lit rolled cigarettes with altar candles, while I told him stories of the Lwa and the Orishas and drew veves on the floor.  “Words of Advice for Young People” played in the background.

“How many cards are in a tarot deck?”  He asked.

You have to be eighteen…

You’re not eighteen…

You are seventy-eight.

Old fool sold his soul for a strap-on.

I wrote “78” on the floor in cascarilla. “You should really make a tarot deck,” he said.


And so the seed was planted and Orien McNeill became The Fool, the one who leads the way into the tarot. My deck is an assortment of friends residing in a small town. Here is the story:

  The town of Venosta Curon has been underwater for centuries. Rain, as the old tales say, covered this little town bordering two nations Germany and Italy, leaving only the top of the bell tower visible to those who pass by.

Across the globe in Venezuela lies another town underwater. The damming of a river left this town abandoned, all but the steeple of the local church submerged, its name is Potosi, or “fortune.” Both these places hidden from view and shrouded in secret; together, these towns gave their name to this tarot deck's town: Venosta Potosi, the hidden fortune. Ouroboros in shape, tarot is an infinite mystery, but like the places that gave it a name, Venosta Potosi offers infinite meaning. It all depends on the reader—and the read.


The La Gitana Tarot is the story of Venosta Potosi. This hand-painted deck features artists, musicians, entertainers, and characters—both known and unknown, famous and infamous, distinguished and common.

The La Gitana Tarot departs from the traditional 78-card structure familiar to most cartomancers. Further mysteries of the La Gitana Tarot are unlocked by seven embedded keys, bringing the deck to a total of 80 oracular paintings. By the virtue and understanding of these seven keys, the skilled reader enters into a deeper understanding of the Arcana and a clearer awareness of the querent and question.
Manifesting the ritualistic functions of divination into the reading, the Gatekeeper is the Initiating Key, opening the crossroads of the village and unlocking its five primary gates, an aspect unique to the La Gitana Tarot.

The trumps of the Major Arcana embody the second key, starting the journey at the crossroads where all questions are asked and where the roads divide. From there, we meet the main players of the town, each caught in a magical moment before the storm. These are the teachers and pathfinders.

The third through sixth keys lie in the Suits of the Minor Arcana. These cards embody seasons. Swords bring in winter’s chill and represent the element air. Wands bring summer’s passion and signify fire. Cups represent spring, their element being water. Coins bring in autumn, earth being their element. The Aces in each suit hold La Gitana’s unique keys. The final key is The Locksmith, who ends the ritual by forging the key that will unlock the next cycle of work, patience, and process. This card also functions as a “stopping card,” signaling that a long and in-depth consultation must now come to a close.

When the Fool started the journey he started at the crossroads, clouds forming and storm blowing in, he ended where the lightening hit and this is where the story actually takes place. In the beginning there was Time and Necessity, from them came Chaos, Darkness and Aether. Aether bore a cosmic egg which Chaos and Darkness encircled in a serpent like form squeezing tight until the egg cracked and light, ideas, and the stars were born. This was both the beginning and the end. The World like the Fool represents both the completion of a journey as well as the indication that a new journey is about to begin.I chose Molly Crabapple as I had watched the progress of her own journey in her career and how it shifted and morphed throughout the years. Molly is a brilliant artist whose work has gained much acclaim. Her own life story much like the tarot was ouroborous in shape.

I met Molly right after she started working for The Box and we became fast friends as we talked about art, politics, the sex industry and human rights. I loved her life story, I loved her, and I wanted the world for her. At first my plan was to make her The High Priestess as her knowledge of business and willingness to share that expertise made her both the teacher and the student. She was constantly asking questions. A lot of people let ego take over when trying to make it in a business and refuse to ask for help. She wasn't like that. We created private champagne drawing parties gathering other women from all industries, helping eachother push further within out own careers while creating a solid group to support each other. As Molly's career began to expand, she shifted once again into work that felt more meaningful. Occupy Wall St happened, she began to make art pertaining to the revolutions and crises of 2011. She began to do journalism, travelling around the world using her sketchbook as a photo journalist would use their camera.

She is the archetype of the world card. The card meaning itself talks of completion, travel, accomplishment, and alliance. Throughout the deck the lemniscate appears reminding everyone that no matter how many cycles we complete we will always repeat. In real analysis the infinity symbol is used to represent an unbound limit. Within the halo you will see equations. 

  • \int_{a}^{b} \, f(t)\ dt \  = \infty The Integral f(t) does not bound a finite area from a to b
  • \sum_{i=0}^{\infty}  \, f(i) = \infty The summation of the infinite splits so that the partial sums grow without bound.
  • \int_{-\infty}^{\infty} \, f(t)\ dt \  = aThe total area under the integral f(t) is finite, and equals a
  • \sum_{i=0}^{\infty} \, f(i) = aThe summation of the infinite series intersect/unite to some real value a.


I incorporated real analysis into the card because it deals with the functions, sequences, convergence, and limits of a real variable which in essence is the exact meaning of The World Card. 

The plant images are of course courtesy Jim Shirey. Jim is one of my favorite artists and a great friend. I chose Queen Anne's Lace and clover for the card as there have been tales that Scottish women would harvest Queen Anne's Lace aka Wild Carrot Seed on the Sunday before St Michael's feast. This was called "Carrot Sunday." If the roots of the plant where forked it was seen to be fortuitous. The women would sing special songs together and to the plants while gathering. They would then wash the plant and bundle it, tying it off with red string and placed in dirt or sand until St Michael's Feast Day. On that day they were given as blessing with wishes attached for luck, prosperity, fertility and abundance.

Clover is known to attract prosperity and break curse and unwanted energies.The clover grows abundantly , shooting up again after repeated cuttings and always grows in abundance despite soil and climate conditions.  It is great for livestock and crops as it balances nitrogen reducing the need for chemical fertilizers.

Within this World Card there is the abundance of Spring storms and flowering plants. There is also the the bare tree of the colder days. Only two of the Major Arcana in the deck have lightening. One, The Tower where all that was known or thought to be true destroyed and through that transformation and The World, where the cosmic egg breaks, the snake sheds it's skin, the halo around Molly's head regards her with reverence but also the  light around the sun, moon, or other luminescent body caused by refraction through hexagonal ice crystals in the atmosphere. As the days go from warm to cold, night and day, the journey continues in the ever constant shape of the lemniscate. 

The La Gitana Tarot will be published by Catland Publishing Spring 2015.


Pimp My Artwork 083: The Tarot


Dreams Are Real 045: Sacred Keys

“A very little key will open a very heavy door.”
Charles Dickens,
Hunted Down

We were sitting around a magic portal, cards out, going in a circle. Six of us reading for each other with different perspectives for the same questions. It was a swirl of energy, straight answers and intoxicating ones as well. My coven and I started this practice years ago as we got together for Full and New Moons or whenever our schedules permitted. Cards repeated, mysteries solved, clarity and sometimes confusion in the poetry of divination. Every one of our readings came to fruition even if later than imagined. The spirits have a different definition of time than we do.

Time moved slowly, then quickly, readings went deeper, and I saw the familiar time shift, the opening of worlds from color to black and white where the phonograph plays along with the iphone light. In between sessions we fueled up on sparkling water and chocolates. It was decadent and mysterious. I asked them to come closer and revealed to them what I have just revealed to you. My own tarot deck, which will include all of these wonderful people is underway. I've been in hermit mode researching and writing for the deck to be perfect. Tarot, like spirits have their own time frame. This one in particular.

You see I was given seven large keys and seven roads to take. Some may call them royal roads but each road has a key and within those keys are smaller keys. Twenty-Two keys into the psyche, down a path the Fool knows well. Within those keys small portals, twists in the roads, four to be exact, leading you to Kingdoms. These keys will bring you anywhere you ask. They may tell you secrets or things you already know and just need a little confirmation. On this path we may meet up. But soon my friends those keys will be released and I will give one to you, and you, and you.

 Latcho Drom.


Killin' It 078: Chi-town & Zuzu's

For all my lovely friends in Chicago, I will be teaching a class on the Tarot March 17th at Madame Zuzu's in Highland Park. Click here for the facebook invite or the image for Zuzu's calendar. I'll have some prints with me as well, so join me on Sunday for a little tarot and tea.

x to the o,

La Gitana


Pimp My Artwork 067: Strength

I didn't know what would happen when I started painting Strength.  I knew it would be difficult.  The strength card never brings easy situations, it just reminds you that you can handle the difficulties. The original card was a completely different set up, softer, more pink.  There was a story in it but that's not mine to tell.

But it didn't feel right.  I kept painting but telling people that I felt the card would need to be painted over.  It took days, it felt like weeks, but I knew this was all happening for a reason.  Shahriar Shadab was staying with me, fresh in from Australia and we had been talking a lot about cycles.  With the Scorpio full moon ahead of us and the Venus retrograde coming up we knew something big was happening.  Both ruled by Venus we understood that we should take this time to observe, assess, and cleanse.  In a heightened state of sensitivity and cycle breaking I was glad to painting dear friend Kai Altair.

The Strength card is about breaking cycles, addictions, and habits.  She teaches us about willpower and taming the beast within.  She harnesses raw passion and connects to the higher power. Kai has amazing cat energy as they are one of her main totems.  Her incredible calming but inspiring energy became the perfect basis for the card including the turbulent times that were about to happen.

Being a former addict, I have an addictive personality.  If it's not drugs, it's food, internet, work etc.  There's always something that becomes a fixation.  Sometimes it's people, relationships, or a certain pattern.  I began to notice patterns in my own life.  I was worried that I was repeating them.  Shahriar assured me that I was doing a good job of not revisiting old patterns.  I wasn't so sure. 

And one night after a major cleanse I decided that even if something felt slightly familiar it didn't mean I was falling into a pattern.  As long as we acknowledge our past and our cycles we can learn to not only break them but shift that energy into positive actions.  The most important lesson we must learn from Strength is that by pushing or forcing we will never get what we truly desire.  Strength has tamed the lion simply because she was patient, understood the situation, and asked.  This isn't an easy or fast process but with determination and patience you can harness your passions and that direct energy to the universe and create a beautiful partnership. 

The original name for this card is lust.  Lust in passion in it's raw primal form.  By understanding this energy, perhaps even getting burned by it or scratched by it a few times we can come to balance it, harness it and use it for positive action.

As I began to understand this about my own life, the card began to shift as well, allowing me to paint the passion involved.  I posted it a few days later.  Kai sent me this image in return. My Strength card had manifested itself into reality and one of the most passionate and talented souls I know was representing it.