Creating Tarot and Oracle Decks with AI Generated Art

Back in December 2021 I covered the topic of AI generated art and what it might mean for the marketplace of tarot and oracle decks here (“How Do We Value Art? What AI art means for tarot and oracle deck publishing“) and here (“I Ching Oracle Cards with AI Generated Art“). But since then there have been new developments in this subject area so I thought I might revisit the topic.

Left: My illustration, by hand in pencil and ink. Right: NightCafe, art style: “Charcoal”

Above to the left is a sketch I did by hand, first in pencil, then outlined in ink. I started with the following prompt, text I typed out myself and stared at for a good five minutes before putting pencil to paper: Solitude. Contemplating. Maiden in a moment of self-questioning.

I copied some text written by Hildegard of Binden on the transcendental experience of God, to fill the blank space. What you see took me two hours. Uh, tbh, probably longer than two hours. I lose track of time when I’m doodling. (The barely-there blue grid lines was added digitally, because that’s just something I like to do when I share my doodles to the public.)

What you see to the above right was produced via NightCafe, an AI art generator, with the same exact text as the prompt: Solitude. Contemplating. Maiden in a moment of self-questioning. I selected the art style “Charcoal” to see how close to a pen and ink sketch it could go. The illustration to the right took the program two minutes.

Left: High school art by yours truly, from the 90s. Colored pencil. Right: AI generated art based on text description of illustration to the left, via Wombo

I’m fascinated by how similar the interpretations were, between me, a human, and AI tapping in to collective knowledge. In fact, in the past I’ve drawn illustrations in charcoal very similar to what the AI produced!

The pose, the facial expression, the way the hair falls, the vulnerability– if I rummage through my old art portfolio from high school, I can excavate a charcoal or pastel drawing that looks more or less the same with that!

“You Are the Journey” by @KaliYuga_ai via MidJourney (AI art)

So while I have many conflicting thoughts about AI art, the accusation that it lacks soul isn’t one of them. If anything, I wonder if the full body of AI generated art is mirroring back something deep within us collectively, for us to see.

Technomage Tarot by Lee Duncan in collaboration with AI, via Kickstarter campaign (last visited 2022 Sep. 30)

Oh, and to illustrate what the community has been buzzing about with regard to AI-generated tarot decks (or in collaboration with AI) coming on to the market, I’ll feature several throughout this commentary.

Continue reading “Creating Tarot and Oracle Decks with AI Generated Art”

Tarot Deck Collecting and Consumerism: My Thoughts

I’ve had a working draft of this blog post, on this topic, started in 2020, and already I was feeling late to it, since it was a topic trending in 2019. Life and other priorities got in the way so I left this draft unfinished.

In 2021 I started seeing this topic discussed with fervor again. It inspired me to reopen this post. I worked on it some more, but again, just didn’t care to finish my train of thought, for whatever reason.

Now it’s 2022 and this same exact topic of conversation in the tarot community is still going strong.

Maybe this time I can finally finish what I was trying to say. I’ll divide up my thoughts by the recurring subtopics or points of argument you hear when community members start talking about tarot deck collecting, culling, and consumerism.

To balance out the paragraphs of text, I’ll be sharing random photos of decks you’d spot around my house.

Continue reading “Tarot Deck Collecting and Consumerism: My Thoughts”

Angels and Ancestors Oracle, Sámi Erasure, and Takeaway Lessons

Inlé’s Inlet recently posted the above deck review and commentary on the Angels and Ancestors Oracle Cards, which raises cultural awareness of some concerns with the imagery in this deck. To be more precise, it’s not the imagery that’s of concern, but the lack of credit and acknowledgement for where the sources of inspiration came from.

The distinct drum design featured on the Drum card, the Shaman card, and on the card back of the Angels and Ancestors deck (photographs of it in my deck review) have been taken directly from Sámi religious and spiritual iconography.

However, no credit, reference, or source citation was provided in the accompanying guidebook, in effect erasing the Sámi, who are a historically marginalized indigenous minority.

This is a form of appropriation of indigenous cultural intellectual property rights. Yet this particular instance is one that could be reasonably remedied.

In this type of a scenario, I do think addressing the issue head-on is the compassionate approach.

Continue reading “Angels and Ancestors Oracle, Sámi Erasure, and Takeaway Lessons”

To the New Pagan Author…

A video I watched inspired me to hit the record button and share these thoughts. But this is no longer a direct VR to that video (and in fact this video might have taken on a more melancholic tone than intended).

Instead of being a direct VR to the video inspiring this sharing, I will be commenting on what my own experiences have been like.

Here are some of my thoughts 7 years in.

This video is unlisted, which means it won’t appear on my YouTube channel or on the public YouTube platform. I will be experimenting with moving away from that platform and posting more unlisted videos here on the personal website.

Ancestor Veneration When It Isn’t Your Father’s Wish

I received a question by letter, which I wanted to answer privately, but didn’t have an e-mail address or even mailing address. So here’s to hoping this post is seen by who it’s intended for. ❤

The question presented:

Dear Benebell,

I am a Taoist witch, but my religious family thinks I am a Baptist Christian and therefore against non-Baptist religious practices.

Last night my dad and I were watching a Taiwanese movie and an ancestor veneration scene came up. My dad began a conversation about Taoist traditions and said, “When I die, please don’t venerate me like a Catholic or Taoist would.”

I am a strong believer in ancestor veneration and plan to venerate both of my parents when they pass away.

I do not want to go against my father’s personal wishes as I love and respect him, but I also do not want his spirit to go un-venerated because I love him dearly.

What, in your opinion, is the best way to go about this?

Continue reading “Ancestor Veneration When It Isn’t Your Father’s Wish”

Tarot Tag: 15 Questions, via Arwen

This tarot tag is from 2017, started by Arwen, and I’m only getting around to it now. But it’s a fun one!

EDIT: Omg, no, I did do this tag before! Back in April of 2017! See here. That’s hilarious. I totally forgot!

1. What is your current favorite deck?

I’ll start by disqualifying my own deck.

I’m in love with the Majors only Pharos Tarot by M. M. Meleen. It’s Thoth-based and Meleen’s artwork is exquisite. You can learn more about it and order your copy from Meleen here. I’ll be posting an in-depth review of the deck and its guidebook in the near future.

Artistically and theosophically, I see the evolution from her Tabula Mundi Tarot. I love seeing the way Thoth influences this deck compared to the Thoth influences in the Tabula Mundi.

Continue reading “Tarot Tag: 15 Questions, via Arwen”

Tarot Deck Piracy and Anti-Chinese Sentiments

See also: 7/07/2020 Edits below

“My legal counsel advised me to never do business with Chinese companies, because all of them will rip off your intellectual property.”

Paraphrased, but an accurate representation of what was said by a very prominent deck creator in our community. She’ll tell you my paraphrase isn’t accurate and that I’ve misrepresented her. She takes issue with me saying she used the word “all.”

I can’t recall if that precise word “all” was ever used, so let’s believe her and say I’m mistaken. She never said “all.” It was me who read into what was absolutely, unequivocally implied in the subtext.

Oh, wait. The below was sent to me, after I started feeling pretty terrible about maybe misconstruing what she had said. I was beginning to second-guess myself, thinking, man, I now feel like crap for thinking she said “all” when she didn’t. Many of her friends were messaging me, privately and publicly, telling me I got her all wrong, I am remembering her words wrong, and she never, ever said “all.”

Some deck creators saw that same post I saw and immediately thought it was problematic and insensitive.

Other deck creators believe she means well, but perhaps she worded her sentiments wrong– let’s chalk this one up to poor word choice. Maybe. But what I’ve seen from her, she is one fine writer.

And still others think I am the one who is way out of line, being overly sensitive, probably because I’m Asian, and poor, poor Karen for getting misunderstood.

I’ll concede that the truth is probably somewhere in that middle “no man’s land” intersecting point of the Venn diagram. I’m not 100% right, but then neither is she.

Here’s the thing. That was not her first offense. From what I have personally witnessed, it was her third. If we consider what the entire community has witnessed, who knows how many times she has repeated this rhetoric.

Continue reading “Tarot Deck Piracy and Anti-Chinese Sentiments”

Intuitive Tarot: Throw Out the Books?

Thank you to the hundreds (according to YouTube at least, who knows, right?) who showed up to participate this morning in the chatroom when the above video premiered.

By the way, can any of you help me with this? I really thought I had the recorded LiveChat transcript function turned on. I checked it several times before the video premiered and I checked it after. It’s on. However, it seems like the chat transcript from this morning has disappeared.

Does anyone know how I can make the chat transcript from this morning available to all? What everyone shared was so insightful and more valuable to the topic than just what I had to say in this video, so I want that chat transcript to be available to you. However, the function doesn’t seem to be working for me. Any help you’re able to give is welcomed. Thanks!

Elemental Directional Correspondences in Ritual Magic, East vs. West: How Do You Reconcile Conflicts?

One of my favorite personal rewards from launching the Witchcraft Fundamentals course is the Google Group, where all of us are exchanging insights, asking tough questions, trying to answer tough questions, and getting to know each other. To give you a sampling of what that e-mail list-serv group is like, I’m sharing something I wrote on there in one of the threads started by a practitioner of both Eastern and Western metaphysics.

The question presented is, in short, how do you reconcile Eastern elemental-directional correspondences with Western elemental-directional correspondences?

By the way, scroll all the way down for the PDF downloads of this post, which you can then print out and tuck into whatever reference manual for your metaphysical studies you have going on.

IN THIS WESTERN WITCHCRAFT COURSE, you’ll learn fairly soon that there are different systems of elemental-directional correspondences even within the umbrella of Western occult philosophy, and we cover three of them in this course:

Continue reading “Elemental Directional Correspondences in Ritual Magic, East vs. West: How Do You Reconcile Conflicts?”

Getting Mad at Our Reflection in the Mirror: Responding to Ceri Radford’s “I spent a week becoming a witch”

There’s an article in the Independent that has riled up the witchcraft community: Ceri Radford’s “I spent a week becoming a witch and the results were worrying,” where she culled tips and instruction from a book she cites, Luna Bailey’s The Modern Witch’s Guide to Happiness.

The community’s response on Twitter?

  • “vapid anti-witch bullshit”
  • “poor journalism”
  • “This bitch has no clue”
  • “written by an idiot only looking to be trendy through appropriation”
  • “hot mess of an article”
  • “absolutely shameful”
  • “ignorant and frankly disappointing and offensive”
  • “piece of shit”
  • “articles like this just piss me the fuck off”
  • “a smug shithead”
  • “I just read the vomit in question and I am fucking livid”
  • “dipshit sneer piece … 85% dumb jokes”
  • “complete horseshit”
  • “wildly offensive article”
  • “fucking idiot”
  • “hex that bitch”

Love and light, apparently.

The salient takeaway point from the article, however, is the one fueling the anger and animosity: Radford’s conclusion that witchcraft is in “dogged resistance to logic” and requires a “suspension of belief in the scientific underpinnings of the universe.”

And my private response to myself after reading her article? Oh, man…  We as a collective (so clearly I’m not saying we unanimously believe, but the dominating voice after averaging high and low and everything in between together) have put out a particular narrative about modern witchcraft, and then when we see exactly that narrative being reflected back at us tinged with a smidge of snark, we go off our rails because clearly none of the shadow work or meditation we’ve been doing has had any success.

Continue reading “Getting Mad at Our Reflection in the Mirror: Responding to Ceri Radford’s “I spent a week becoming a witch””