Journal Notes on a Deck Production Process

Proofs Line Sheet #1

The ball is now officially in motion. It’s well past the point of no return. Also, fair warning: this is a really long progress update.

I ended up not having to convert my card image files from JPG to PDF, and could submit them directly as JPG files, which I was really happy about. By the way, if you want to see all finalized images, I’ve shared a Gallery of All Cards here.

Proofs Line Sheet #2

Also, aspiring tarot deck creators: from the line sheets I’m sharing, you can now see why it makes sense to design 80 cards, right? Even if you are sticking to the 78, I would still recommend creative ways to utilize the remaining 2 cards. Even if you say you’re going to print 78 cards only instead of 80, you’re getting charged for 80 anyway. Do you see my point?

And check out the ordering of the cards on the line sheet. My educated guess is that the automated printing machine will be cutting the cards starting from the bottom row of the sheet, going left to right. (Not all that important to know, but for the curious nerds, something fun to observe.) You’ll see what I mean.

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Creative Divination: Reading Tea Leaves by Tabitha Dial – Book Review

Tea leaf reading (or palmistry, can’t really determine which of the two) is probably the first form of divination I was exposed to as a child. For many personal-shadow reasons, I’ve always rejected it and shirked from any interest in learning more about it, but recently I set the goal to learn and Tabitha Dial’s Creative Divination: Read Tea Leaves & Develop Your Personal Code has been an incredible introduction to the art.

Dial herself comes from a creative writing background and is a poet, which is evident in how well-written and organized this text is. Among independently published books in this field, this is one of the more polished and professionally designed.

She begins by distinguishing her approach to tea leaf reading from a more folksy fortune telling approach. This book sets forth an approach she calls Creative Divination, which is “related to fortune telling, but arguably more of an exercise in reflection and self-improvement.” Creatives, such as artists and writers, share many traits with psychics and diviners, and Creative Divination taps in to that common denominator process.

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What is a Beneficent Spirit?

The following is an excerpt from The Book of Maps, the companion guidebook to the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, a hand-illustrated black and white tarot deck crafted with practitioners of the mystic arts in mind. The pen and ink drawings were inspired by woodcut prints from the late Renaissance. Symbology called upon is based predominantly on medieval European alchemy, astrology (the Sacred Seven), Hermeticism, Zoroastrianism, Abrahamic angelology, Kabbalah, Catholicism/Christianity, Sufism, and Egyptian mythology.

For more information about the deck, go to:

In the weeks leading up to the pre-order launch, I’ll be posting excerpts from The Book of Maps while continuing the deck creator’s progress notes.

Excerpt from The Book of Maps:

What is a Beneficent Spirit?

At numerous points throughout The Book of Maps, I’ve referred to the spirits that you interact with through the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot as beneficent, noting for comparison that malefic spirits, or spirits who do not support your highest good and best interests, are blocked from interacting with you through the cards. A psychic barrier has been crafted into place so that only that which seeks to do good, cause good to be done upon you, and to confer benefits can come through.

However, what do I mean exactly by a beneficent spirit? Key 15: The Demon, for example, might not look beneficent to most of us. Few of us think of Death (Key 13: The Reaper) as beneficent, though if we’re being realistic, we can at least acknowledge that death is neutral. We might not be sure about what’s going on in the Ten of Swords, but The Destroyer isn’t our first impression of a beneficent spirit.

I would still categorize these spirits, even The Haunt in the Nine of Swords, and yes, all of the spirits herein as beneficent. Beneficent doesn’t mean dressed in white, glistening with a pastel ombré, a golden halo, smiling, and the persona of gentility. That’s dressing, and it’s neither good nor evil. It’s just dressing.

In fact, we’ve all encountered corruption and nefarious intents dressed up in a way that gives a superficial impression of goodness. It’s only when you look through the surface and past the superficiality can you pick up on the ill intent underneath.

The beneficent spirits as depicted in Spirit Keeper’s Tarot and as they can manifest through the cards can at times appear wrathful, ominous, or grim, but they are still by their natures beneficent spirits. Why? Because they act in your best interest. They seek to uplift you, not tear you down. They want to see you in a place of abundance, fulfillment, and empowerment, not a place of weakness, deficiency, or damnation. They never want to see you under prolonged suffering. However, they may let you endure pain in the short term if it means that tribulation will build the strength and character you need to achieve greatness.

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A Walk-Through of All Cards in the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot

I’ve been keeping busy and I promise a deck creator’s progress report soon enough, but I’m done-done with the tweaking of the cards, so let’s do a show and tell. These cards will be printed in 500 dpi resolution, but here I’ve reduced the images down to 250 dpi, so just keep that in mind.

I’m doing a walk-through because I think it’s important for you to see all 78 (well, 80) cards of the deck before you make up your mind on whether to purchase Spirit Keeper’s Tarot. (I do hope you’ll purchase. Info and details on pre-orders coming soon.)

If you’re anything like me, one aesthetically dissonant card can mean you end up never using the deck. Or maybe there’s that one card in the tarot that you just always look to for assessing a deck’s appeal and the way I’ve rendered that one card is a total turn-off to you. It’s better you know that now and save your money than find out later and have wasted that money.

I understand that means a lot of you are very likely to spot aesthetically dissonant cards in this gallery and then change your mind from “buy” to “not buy,” and that’s okay with me. I’d rather you buy with all eyes open, fully informed, knowing what to expect, than to make presumptions based on false advertising and then open the box to find out you hate some of the cards and therefore will never end up using the deck. Wouldn’t that copy of the deck be better served in the hands of someone who does like the artwork and point of view? So. Here ya go. Full disclosure.

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2019 Metaphysician’s and Metaphysical Day Planners

$25

The 2019 Metaphysician’s Day Planner

Okay, so at this point, I would reckon about 95% of the people who are going to be buying this have already bought this before and know all about my Metaphysician’s Day Planner already, so I’m not sure how much I really need to say about this thing? =)

If, however, you stumbled here by chance and so have no idea what I’m talking about, in 2017 I debuted a Metaphysician’s Day Planner, which you can read all about and see pics of here, the 2017 Metaphysician’s Day Planner.

I did one again in 2018, which you can watch a video walk-through of and read more about here, the 2018 Metaphysician’s Day Planner.

Product Description

You send me $25 via PayPal and then e-mail me at abelldelivers@gmail.com with the completed form (you’ll see it below) and within 3 business days, you’ll get a confirmation e-mail that your order has been received. If you don’t get a confirmation e-mail in 3 business days, something went wrong and we didn’t get your order, so contact us again to follow up.

However, the digital e-delivery of your order won’t arrive in your inbox until November 30, 2018.

What’s the $25 for? You get the digital files only (as a PDF e-delivered to your e-mail inbox) of the 2019 Metaphysician’s Day Planner. It is going to come formatted and ready for third party print-on-demand printing with a site, such as Lulu.com (it’s the most economical option I’ve found, and substantially cheaper than if you tried printing locally, but you can also home or office print it for free if you have that kind of access). I’m going to recommend that you get it spiral-bound for easy use.

Your $25 Day Planner includes customized options, such as:

  • Your choice out of three size options: (Option A) U.S. Letter, 8.5″ x 11″, (Option B) Trade Paperback, 6″ x 9″, (Option C) A4 European Standard, 8.27” x 11.69” or 210 mm x 297 mm
  • Your birth chart in Tropical Whole Signs (not Placidus), featuring decan rulers along the outer ring, both traditional and modern planetary considerations, a couple asteroids, and key personal sensitive points.
  • Your 2019 solar returns chart, but it’s not a true solar returns chart. It’s just a transit chart for your birthday in 2019 with location of birth changed to your current location of residence.
  • Your choice out of the provided options of what I refer to as “Divinity Pages” (only because I have no idea what else to call it). Click here to view all Divinity Page selections you can choose from.

You will get a folder full of lots of different day planner cover options. You can mix and match or choose any cover option you like. You do not need to tell me what your cover option is. You get all of them. You get to choose on your own time. OR! Create your own! Or customize, edit, modify, and change up any of the cover art options I send you!

You will also get the digital files only (both a PDF formatted digital file and also a MOBI e-book file to upload onto your e-reader) of a companion guidebook to the Day Planner. For those who have the 2018 Day Planner, don’t get too excited. It’s pretty much the same exact content as the 2018 one, only updated with some of the 2019 astro info.

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When 8 mm = $5,000 and Other Tarot Deck Creator Musings

Okay so first, I’m blogging pretty much in real time as I learn these things. Based on known specs and some brainstormed ideas for shipping, we figured out this custom size box that the deck would fit snugly into, how much it’d cost to bulk order the thousand custom shipping boxes we’d need, and so on, you know, your run of the mill biz calculations for cost.

I’ll save you the in-between stuff and get right to the point. In the U.S., if I ship a package that’s under 13 ounces, I can use my own custom box and ship first class for around $5.50.

The moment it goes over 13 ounces, in fact, just 1 ounce more at 14 ounces, it starts at $8.20. So if your package is over 13 ounces, then you wouldn’t go first class anymore. Instead, you’d have to opt for flat rate priority mail.

My box was 1 pound and 1.6 ounces exactly. That’s roughly 18 ounces. Dammit. Way over for economical shipping in a custom box.

So then that means my “only” option is to go priority mail, flat rate. Next hurdle here we go.

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Tarot Box and Packaging Design DIY

Designing the box and packaging for your own tarot deck

For the making of my budding tarot deck, I’m logging a journal of progress notes to document my entire process. From June 13 to June 28, I shared my card by card drawings for the Majors, rough drafts, and pen and ink linework via Instagram. From June 29 to July 20, I completed the Minor Arcana cards. A listing of all posts about that are in the Progress Diary. That weekend of the 21st and 22nd, James and I decide to independently publish the tarot deck, so I got to work on researching what the heck that entails. Journal entries in the Progress Diary then evolved to commentary on the independent publishing process, working with a manufacturer, and the logistics of getting your deck and any companion guidebooks you’ve written in print.

During the new moon in Leo and a partial solar eclipse, I finished the crafting of product packaging for Spirit Keeper’s Tarot. I spruced up some public domain decorative borders and old frontispieces ranging from the medieval era to Victorian and piecemealed them to fit with the specs and dimensions of my tarot box. I also merged them with clips of my own illustrations from the tarot deck.

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Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) and Thoth Comparison with Spirit Keeper’s Tarot

Keys I to VII

Over the last few months as I shared progress photos of my card illustrations, especially when we got to the Minors, RWS folks started to get confused by my pictorial interpretations, though I think that’s because Thoth influences started to show up more prominently.

On my shortlist of objectives for creating Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, one of those objectives was to harmonize the RWS and the Thoth together, which I’m going to say right up front turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be. It was so hard for me that in fact at many points during the process, I was beating myself up and lamenting, damn, I’m failing so bad at this.

I figure a side by side review of the decks will help clarify some of the confusion about where I’m getting what for the symbolism I’ve opted to go with in Spirit Keeper.

To do that, I’m using The Original Design Tarot Deck published by Siren Imports for the RWS and the Thoth Tarot Deck published by U.S. Games for the Thoth. I printed a sample copy of my deck, which you see above on the very right, but this is not what’s going to be produced for sale. I printed this physical copy to scrutinize the lines, production quality, alignment, that kind of thing, and because of that, I’ve already spotted things that need to be fixed, which will get fixed before final production. So just bear in mind that what you see here for the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot is pretty damn close to what will be offered for sale later down the line, but with editorial improvements.

Speaking on the design of the Majors from my frame of mind, the voice of what I might describe as my inner genius came through more distinctly. And by genius I don’t mean hey look at me I’m objectively a genius, no. I mean that inner genius we all have that we need to go through the structured, methodical process to unlock. That inner genius is what I’m saying really came out.

I say that because I think something shifts by the time I reach the Minors. More on that later.

Keys VIII to XIV (with Thoth VIII and XI switched intentionally)

I’m picturing the cards in the exact order I drew them. You’ll see back in the First Septenary Keys I to VII, there were no human figures depicted. I had started the project with the intent on having no depictions of humans. Where human-like figures would be used, they’d be, like, you know, with an animal head or something, the way you see in The Emperor, or most of the face concealed from view, like The Empress.

Then I got to Key 8 Strength and broke that rule. Doh.

By the way, I devote a whole section in The Book of Maps, the companion guidebook that will go along with Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, to the Key 8 and Key 11 situation and my struggle with deciding how to approach the 8 and 11 switch, which funny enough, involves the Justice card and those goddamn balancing scales.

I felt like there had to be more to the reasoning for Waite’s switch than the order of the zodiac wheel. My speculation at the end of that struggle is it had to do with differing theology, so then I had to decide where my own theologies aligned.

Since I went with Key 8 for Strength and Key 11 for Justice, following Waite’s switch, for an easier comparison, in the above photo I switched 11 for 8 and vice versa in the row of Thoth cards.

Keys XV to XXI

Although there are inevitable nods to the Marseille, the reason I didn’t focus my intentions on actively integrating the Marseille is because for Spirit Keeper, my focus is on the esoteric and occult expression of the tarot. The Marseille is by original intention a deck of playing cards that later got appropriated into a form of divination or fortune-telling, whereas both RWS and the Thoth were from beginning to end intended as esoteric and occult expressions of the tarot. You could even argue that both the RWS and the Thoth tarot decks are the product of spell-crafting, born from fertile pools of knowledge and magical experience. That is why these two in particular are the chosen parents.

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The Spirit Keeper’s Tarot Coloring Book

I know that adult coloring books are all the rage right now, but I wanted to produce a tarot coloring book for children, which sure, adults can use, too. The premise of the coloring book is to use the tarot, and namely, my Spirit Keeper’s Tarot deck, to impart everyday insights to children. So it’s instructive to the extent of “everyday wisdom, but with a slight universal-religious bent.”

While writing the text to go along with the card drawings, I pictured only one particular child and envisioned myself talking to her. So I have written this book entirely to her. Her parents come from a particular background and faith, and so do her grandparents (and she’s being raised by her grandparents), so all wording is with that in mind. Whether it ends up being applicable to anyone else in this world, that remains to be seen. But just so you know, I wrote this book to her.

I don’t know if I’m good with children. I don’t have any myself. But I do have a bunch of nieces and nephews. I’m the kind of aunt who–true story– when tasked to babysit for the day, will teach your four-year-old kid how to play chess or a simplified version of Beethoven’s Fur Elise on the piano. I tend to start from a place of presuming that children are brilliant and capable of anything.

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Publishing Your Tarot Deck: Always More Work Than You Bargained For

Life… can be so hard. In theory my card image files (like what you see above, the Ace of Swords) should be perfectly centered. But it’s not. As you can see after I superimpose the template guidelines that the manufacturer sent me. Look at where the blue line ends on the left side, then look at where it ends on the right– it’s not symmetrical. Also, all content must be within the blue line. Crap. Oh.. F me.

So let me explain before you’re like, wow, you have no idea what you’re doing. I had previously formatted these image files toward Manufacturer A while I was working on some digital sampling with Manufacturer A. For some reason I assumed there was some sort of industry standard, so what works for one should work for all others.

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