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.
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.
At the end of my post on creating a fluffy tarot deck, I relayed that James has urged me to print and independently publish the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, and we’ll be doing so in black and white. As of this posting, I’m about 25% regretful that I said yes.
After preliminary due diligence, I noted that the minimum order quantity for most playing card printer companies is 500 units. Okay, I think I can do 500 units. Sounds like a scary lot of copies but maybe with effort and more marketing balls than I have, I can move 500 units….
Except then I learned that printing 500 copies of the deck is about the same price as printing 1,000. Okay, no not exactly, but for argument’s sake, the price difference is so negligible there is no good reason to order 500 instead of 1,000. Heck, if I order 1,000 copies, the number of decks I need to sell to break even is less than the number of decks I need to sell to break even at 500 copies.
Here’s the only problem. Can I sell 1,000 copies? I don’t know if I want to risk it. I don’t want a wall of my own tarot decks taking up space in my house for the next decade.
Nevermind that the premise of the Major Arcana for Spirit Keeper’s Tarot is to connect you to your Holy Guardian Angel, and therefore by definition is an angel tarot deck, which we all know occultists immediately giggle at, but now as I study how some of the imagery for the cards are coming along, I can’t help but giggle to myself and confess: oh man, I’m creating a fluffy tarot deck.
Maybe I can defend such an accusation by saying it’s not fluffy, it’s just a strong statement in favor of self-empowerment and an expression of religious faith. (But isn’t that what all designers of fluffy decks say? Crap.) Take The Tower, for instance. More commonly, the focus here is on a punishing Act of God, or having to tear down what you’ve so meticulously and painstakingly built, because you’ve built it wrong. There’s typically a forceful sense of calamity when you consider The Tower.
Yet here I’ve added a talisman to The Tower: I’ve given the Seeker an axe. There’s also blood dripping from the axe, suggesting that you’ve done this before; this isn’t your first time at the rodeo, so you know what you’re doing–you can do this. Also, if you consider the bigger picture here, we see that the serpent tail of the Demon is coiled around this tower, along with chains binding this tower to the Demon, so this destruction also destroys servitude to the Demon. There’s an element of liberation here.
I’ve been struggling with how to depict the tarot courts since back when I was still doing the Majors. And the whole time, I’ve been reading, brainstorming, researching, thinking– though no drawing– how the heck am I going to do this, and do this with any semblance of justice.
The more texts I studied on angelic correspondences to the elements, directions, and/or astrology, the more confused I got. Do I go Golden Dawn since up to this point so much of my point of view with the deck has been GD-influenced, or do I follow the lead of religious scholars turned mystics who say some of the Golden Dawn attributions for the Kabbalah are anti-Semitic in their source origins? How do I reconcile Christian mysticism, Jewish mysticism, and Islamic mysticism when it comes to angels? How do I also do it all with resonant subtext to Chinese, Taoist, and Buddhist ideas of angelic(-like) realms?
Also, when deck creators want to incorporate multiculturalism, they typically follow– shit–what’s his face–I can’t think of the name without looking it up. I’ve got it in an end note citation in Holistic Tarot if you really care. Anyway, Eden Gray followed what’s-his-face and everybody after Eden Gray followed Eden Gray so we go with this whole notion of Wands medium-hair, fair-eyed, Cups light-hair, light-eyed (or those two swapped), Swords dark-hair, medium-eyed, and Pentacles dark-hair, dark-eyed, so we typically end up with Asian or Middle Eastern for Swords and then Middle Eastern, Native American, or African for Pentacles. I opted not to go that route.
Agrippa made note of correspondences between geography, directionality, and the four elements, though he kept it relatively vague. Crowley then gave his thoughts on geography, directionality, and the four elements. His directionality conflict with Agrippa’s, but the geography and four elements kind of lined up. Well, lined up close enough to work for me. So that’s what I went with instead of what has become the more popular and trending ethnic associations for the four courts.
And that was just the tip of the iceberg of daunting considerations for the courts.
The more I thought into it, the more stressed and nervous I got. And I did not want to go the direction of “screw everything and everyone, I’m gonna follow my intuition and channel it from my own higher consciousness” or whatever it is people say when they don’t want to listen to precedent or read books. How do I honor precedent and still acknowledge my intuition?
The art style for the deck I opted for is in the spirit of Renaissance humanism, a time when Christian mysticism and paganism merged in eclectic ways and mystics of that time were far more cosmopolitan and worldly than we folks today give them credit for being. I think the louder establishment voices of that time in history for structured Catholicism and the Church came as a knee-jerk reaction of the establishment to the subversive undercurrent of diverse thoughts that were emerging at the time.
Let’s recap. On June 13 of this year, I got into my head this fantastical idea of drawing my own tarot deck. It was supposed to be a ha-ha fantasy but then I couldn’t shake the ha-ha fantasy out of my head, so immediately I got to work.
So as I explained in the last blog post on drawing my own deck, after completing the Majors and beginning on the Minors, I started with the Fours. And the suit order I’m going in for each number set is Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles, which I’ve renamed to Scepters, Chalices, Swords, and Orbs. Lots of really specific reasons for the renaming. I definitely didn’t do it just for shits.
The above thumbnail snapshot does not show the cards in the order I completed them. Because of the digital filenames, when I take a screen shot of the file folder that the scans of these images are in, they’re in alphabetical order. Also, these screen shots don’t include the titles and captions.