Sitting next to me there is a 14 x 17 " piece of paper with names scribbled all over it. Next to that a leather bound 3 x 5" with a list of cards, check marks and names associated with those cards. Some are scribbled out three or four times, some remain blank, some were lucky enough to only have one name jotted into the allotted slot. These is the rough plan for the tarot deck. My tiny windswept village filled with artists of all kinds.
When Sherene and I first decided to create the deck our plan was simple. I would paint the cards and she would write the meanings. As the deck started to take shape, we realized that simple plan was not going to work. The deck wanted more from us. She would still write the traditional and Jungian aspects but also her own personal tale of each card. I would still paint but I'd also write about the experience of making the tarot. I'd add my own stories about the cards, making them easier to understand through my own experiences. I'd write how a card takes shape and how sometimes it's a disaster until you close your eyes, take a deep breath, and listen to what it really wants from you. Sometimes that can be really painful.
I recently had to mark a number of people off the list. These were people I really wanted in the deck but the deck had other plans. There's a certain energy to it and like any small village, some people fit and some people don't. This doesn't mean I don't love those people any less. It just means, now isn't the time.
The process of making your own deck is both incredible and gut wrenching. There are some cards that are easy to paint. You know the person and you love them dearly, so you paint and you focus, and you fall in love. And then there are other's like the three of swords, the ten of swords, and the five of coins that were hard lessons but you pulled through, even if it took years to get it that way. One of my favorite cards in the world is the Tower. I haven't painted it quite yet but as I type the card forms slowly in my head. The Tower is that moment, when the lies you've believed as truth are suddenly shown to you in all their ugliness. Sometimes we fool ourselves into believing them, sometimes we are fooled. Recently I have learned how much I appreciate the Tower and all of the knowledge it brings. No one should ever be afraid of the Tower, they should embrace it. It's a hard lesson, that card but a necessary one and it leaves you with a foundation of truth to build upon.
About three or four cards into the deck I started working with Jim Shirey. Jim takes amazing photos of plants, some as tiny as your pinky nail. He has an incredible and deep relationship with the land, sometimes wandering about only catching a glimpse of a color. That glimpse usually turns out to be a magnificent capture on camera. There is something incredibly magical about being able to see a flower that you would probably pass right by up close. This partnership has also created a whole new dimension to the tarot. Each plant I have chosen for the cards corresponds to the meaning of the card in a certain way. For instance the lobelia spicata seen in the Ace of Wands consists of a central taproot, from which occasional basal offshoots are produced. The offshoots then germinate, although self-compatible, a flower is unable to offer pollen to itself and it must be pollinated by insects. This shows the querant that no matter how great an idea or partnership is, it must have help from the outside to truly blossom. The plant is also connected to Venus, the planet of love, beauty, creativity, and the arts.
And so as this deck moves along in it's process I continue to live each card as I paint it. Thank you so much for journeying with me.