My 2018 Year in Review

I used to do this by newsletter, but I accidentally deleted my regular newsletter mailing list in Mailchimp and then couldn’t figure out how to get it back. Oops.

To write up this year in review, I took out my 2018 Metaphysician’s Day Planner and went through the pages, the months at a glance, weeks at a glance, the divinatory forecasts, reflection notes, and everything I documented this past year. I’m gearing up to write in all my goals, resolutions, and plans for 2019 soon.

If you’d like to order a Metaphysician’s Day Planner for 2019, you can read more about it here before you buy.

Order Your 2019 Metaphysician’s Day Planner

Comes with a free 2019 Metaphysician’s Guidebook

If you’re into that whole tarot year thing (where you add up the digits for your month of birth, day of birth, and then this current year, 2018, then reduce it down to a number 1 through 22), then 2018 was a Strength/Justice year for me (depending on how you ascribe Key 8 in the Majors). I’m gonna guess my life path has programmed itself to the RWS system because it was definitely more of a Strength-y year than Justice-y.

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Is there a pagan community? PantheaCon’s current issues 2018 and my concerns.

This month, PantheaCon has been under scrutiny. A firestorm has erupted, dividing the community and showing us where the rifts are, perhaps rifts that have been here for a very long time. The Wild Hunt summarized the issue succinctly in this December 3 post (first three paragraphs).

Presenters were announced for the 2019 PantheaCon scheduled programming and segments of the community weren’t happy about two of those presenters. The trans community reported concerns with Max Dashu’s alleged stance against trans women participating in events intended to celebrate biologically-born women.[*] Pagans of color reported concerns with Witchdoctor Utu’s alleged cultural appropriation. In both instances, I want to emphasize “alleged” not just for legal reasons, but because there really are disputes about whether these allegations are even true or have, at least in part, been misrepresented and factually distorted.

[*] – Psst… please see updated note at the end of this post.

In response, the organizers at PantheaCon then un-invited the two controversial presenters. Yes– their presentations were accepted, announced to the public, and then in response to the reported concerns, un-invited publicly and neither will now be presenting at PantheaCon 2019.

PantheaCon has also issued a public statement here (undated) noting that it was “a mistake to include Max Dashu in the program” because having Dashu at the event could pose a safety issue for the trans community. Furthermore, “all trans-exclusionary advocates and those in close association with them will not be presenting at PantheaCon for the foreseeable future.”

A late November issue of pagan community notes from The Wild Hunt, here, reports that allegedly Witchdoctor Utu was un-invited from presenting at PantheaCon 2019 because of his “veneration of certain black ancestors and the Underground Railroad” that were construed as cultural appropriation (Witchdoctor Utu is not black). Yet let’s not overlook the public support Witchdoctor Utu has received from native practitioners of the tradition he practices, so really, the only conclusion anyone can take away from this is the community is divided. For another perspective, Irene McCalphin of Mammy Is Dead shared a beautiful, powerful, and poetic piece here, “Social Gaslighting and the Make Witches Great Again (MWGA): Love Letter to QTPOC Witches here inspired by what went down with the PantheaCon and Witchdoctor Utu controversy.

Further note that members from all camps on all sides have reported receiving death threats, hateful and demeaning even defamatory remarks, trolling, and doxxing. Several members of the pagan community who dared to take a public stand along one of those noted position lines then had to subsequently disable all their social media accounts because they began receiving death threats, hate, and harassment. I believe every one of those members who say they’ve received death threats and harassment because I get those too for the most asinine reasons– like, “I hate what you said about reiki/starseeds/hexes/the tarot and you’re a total ignorant stupid bitch I hope you die a miserable lonely death and watch out my coven is going to curse you fuck you bitch die die die.” Not kidding. So I’m not one bit surprised people are sending death threats over serious controversial issues like the ones presented here.

Continue reading “Is there a pagan community? PantheaCon’s current issues 2018 and my concerns.”

The Mass Exodus Away from YouTube

I’ve opted to blog my commentary on this issue rather than create a YouTube video and in the meantime, I’m trying to figure out for myself what I want to do going forward.

Those who follow the YouTube beauty and makeup community, or a community affectionately referred to as AuthorTube, or any other number of subsets of personalities on YouTube may have noticed that all of them seem to have one thing in common in recent times: the growing exodus of their personalities leaving YouTube and seeking out other projects, platforms, or simply choosing not to be so public and personal online anymore.

Yes, part of it is the site’s changing algorithms, but it’s a lot more than that. Few of us, especially pagan YouTubers and tarot YouTube channels did it for views or money in the first place. So the mass exodus of pagan and tarot YouTubers isn’t because of a changing algorithm. We might’ve mildly griped about it, but it wouldn’t have caused so many to altogether up and leave.

It’s the ever increasing hostility. There has been a noticeable wave of negativity washing over the comments section of YouTube videos, all across the board, and that wave has noticeably hit pagan and tarot YouTube channels.

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Reflecting Back on the Design Process

While I’m waiting on production of the first print run, I want to share some of my reflections on my design process and the personal experience of creating and illustrating this deck.

Plus, everyone keeps asking me about it. Admittedly I thought I covered this ground, but guess not, given how often I get asked the same question. So let’s talk about my design process. How was Spirit Keeper’s Tarot created, or at least the technical side of things?

In the above photograph you’ll find my tools of trade. I sketch with a mechanical pencil using HB graphite lead (for those who do pencil drawings, this can matter, since most of us have that whole metal tray set of graphite pencils at different softness and hardness levels….), erase frequently, then go in with a superfine tip black pen. I always have straight edges, a protractor, and compass on hand, because that’s how I manage those lines, or angles, or circles you see in the card illustrations.

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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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So It Begins: The Artist vs. Business Reality

Thumbnails of the finished cards will illustrate this blog post so there’s a balance of images and text.

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.

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Am I Creating a Fluffy Tarot Deck?

Ongoing working draft of the cards.

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.

Is that nice-washing The Tower card?

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Drawing My Own Tarot Deck: Ruminations on the Court Cards

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Rumination Notes:

Aces to Threes

Drawing the cards in sets of three, actual card size. This is how I begin.

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.

Drawing angel wings on the knights assembly line style…

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.

Click to enlarge for viewing.

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Drawing My Own Tarot Deck: Rumination Notes Aces to Threes

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Rumination Notes:

Fours to Aces

Annnnd…. I’m done with the pips. Phew!

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.

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Drawing My Own Tarot Deck: Rumination Notes Fours to Aces

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Ritual Coloring of the

Major Arcana

I shared all my digital files for the Major Arcana from the tarot deck I’m currently drawing at the end of June, 2018 here: Spirit Keeper’s Tarot (Majors Only). Then went on to explain the purpose for ritual coloring of the Majors, among other thoughts, here in a subsequent video and blog post: Ritual Coloring of the Major Arcana, though there I share some draft images from the Minors as well. If you’re not subscribed to my Instagram, then you probably don’t know that I’ve been sharing progress photos of my work as I go along. In the event that interests you, subscribe here, IG: @bellwen.

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.

Continue reading “Drawing My Own Tarot Deck: Rumination Notes Fours to Aces”