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.

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Ritual Coloring of the Major Arcana

I posted a video over the weekend in which I ramble in many different directions. It was supposed to be a video in which I introduce you to the black and white line drawings of the Major Arcana from the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, which are now available for your free download. It was also supposed to be me making a case for undertaking a ritualized process of coloring in the black and white line drawings.

And instead, I went off on a tangent about God, the Devil, my lifelong love of art, and the role of religion in occult study. I do at a couple points keep to topic and mention the tarot deck and coloring in a tarot deck, but I’m afraid most of it is just a winding road of rambles.

Yes, you can tell I’ve cut and edited the clips because the original rambling was even longer, which all but turned into an unfiltered incoherent video diary of what I did for each Key. When I went to edit the video clips, I thought, yeah, I’m not going to post a one hour video, so I literally cut about half of the footage. Hence the noticeable heavy-handed cutting here. Don’t worry, I promise you, you’re not missing out: the cut ramblings were very boring.

If you haven’t already downloaded the Majors-only black and white line drawings (all umteen zip file folder versions of them…) and the companion guidebook (your operation manual), go here:

Download the Majors from the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot

I’m now at work on the Minors, but it’s going to take a lot longer to complete than what it took for the Majors, because I need to return my focus to other projects in the pipeline, both professional and personal.

For the Majors, I worked on them pretty much during every single millisecond of non-day-job-work time I had for sixteen days (new moon in Gemini to the full moon in Capricorn). I won’t be able to commit that full-force on the Minors, so the time allotted for the Minors will need to be distributed out more evenly and in a more balanced way with my regular schedule.

Like I did with the Majors, my process for the Minors is to first read Mathers, Papus, Waite, and Crowley, find the common denominator (not easy at all; really struggled with this), then factor in my point of view, philosophy of life, and how I’m sensing that common denominator energy in today’s collective unconscious, and then depicting that personalized and updated extrapolation, all while attempting to keep with that medieval grimoire woodblock print art style.

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Quick Tutorial: MovieMaker for YouTubers

Previously I shared a Quick Tutorial on using PowerPoint to create animated video footage with voiceover narration earlier, here. This Quick Tutorial is on Windows MovieMaker.

Basically, this Quick Tutorial series for newbie YouTubers like me demonstrates how to make video content on a shoestring budget, or no budget at all. The premise is to be as low-tech as possible, using what you probably have on hand already. It’s all about being smarter with what you have.

Before reading further, can we both acknowledge that I am not an expert, not sufficiently experienced or skilled to the level where I should be giving anybody advice, and have literally only been doing this for about a year. On the other hand, to make a case for myself, I think this makes the Quick Tutorial series all the more endearing. It’s me saying to you, hey look, I don’t know what the heck I’m doing but I still manage to get stuff up and running, so you can, too.

Note: MovieMaker was discontinued effective 2017 and replaced with something called Windows Story Remix. Since my computer and my set video-making ways pre-date 2017, I’m going to proceed with MovieMaker. Assuming at some point in the future I upgrade to Windows Story Remix, I’ll make a Quick Tutorial for that then.

The first thing I do is set up my laptop on a stack of books to get the angle and positioning just right. (I’ll get into how to angle and position your camera lens in the subsequent post.) The laptop came with a video camera recording program, so that’s what I use. I click the red record button, and then just go.

I like to use jump cuts (also explained in subsequent post) so that it’s easier for the final video product to look like I stay on point the whole time and don’t wander off on irrelevant tangents or have you all sit there watching me think, on camera, about what next thing I want to say.

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Quick Tutorial: PowerPoint for YouTubers

Let’s not kid ourselves here: I am no expert at YouTubing and you’re probably better off learning video editing from someone else. But what I hope this Quick Tutorial series will demonstrate is how you can make halfway not-crappy videos with a lot of multi-media stuff going on and do it without spending a lot of money on tech.

I spent zero extra dollars on tech to make my YouTube videos. I use a webcam (which, come on, everybody has; my old-ass retired parents have one) for both the video and microphone functions, try to schedule my recording times to the sunlight (in other words, I don’t have special lighting equipment), and software programs that already come with my computer or can be downloaded for free off the Internet. And I do all of this from a $300 laptop I’ve had since 2014.

This tutorial post is specifically for YouTubers who’d like to add a more multi-media dimension to their videos by including animated PowerPoint slides with voiceover narration. Using PowerPoint is a budget-friendly way to vamp up your videos. Here’s how you do it.

First, open PowerPoint on your computer. It came free with my computer. So it’s not even like I needed to buy any fancy tech to make YouTube videos. The default first slide will look something like the below. I select the text boxes and delete them so I can begin with a blank slate.

To insert a photograph that will become the background image, start by going to the “Insert” tab at the top. Click on it, and then click the icon for “Pictures.” You can click on the screen shots in this post for enlarged viewing.

As an example, I’m inserting this photo I took of me holding the Page of Cups up to a painting. If your photograph is exactly the size of the Presentation slide, it’ll auto-fit. Otherwise, you may need to adjust manually.

These days, the default proportion is 16:9 so if you want a photograph to be the background image in the video, it should be at the proportion 16:9. (Most camera phones have an option where you can select this proportion to make sure the photos you’re taking are at that width x height ratio.) For YouTube videos, you want images to be a minimum of 1280 pixels by 720 pixels.

Now click on the tab “Animation” then the tab option “Animation Pane” to show the Animation Pane. You’ll see it appear in the screen shot below.

Now let’s say you want text to appear on the screen. You’re now in the “Insert” tab (see top row across your browser, the red row), then click the icon “Text Box.”

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Is Reiki Bullshit? The Critique on Reiki in the West

After folks watched the above video, they reached the conclusion that I hate reiki (and one commenter even arrived at the far-fetched conclusion that I hate America and/or American values).

Guys, I think reiki is awesome. I told you: I love it, but love it the way I love a day at the spa or how pampering it feels to get my hair done by a professional. If you think that means I’m devaluing reiki, then you have no idea how much I value a day at the spa or getting my hair done.

Reiki as it is peddled and sold in the United States is fine in its own right, but I would assert that it’s a misrepresentation to call it “traditional” and then attach it to Eastern mysticism. It’s a modernized, Westernized version of Eastern mysticism. As it is now presented, it is certainly not “traditional” Eastern mysticism. At best, and that’s presuming the entire mythology and alleged history of reiki’s origins is true, it’s modern Japanese mysticism that, even while in Japan, got blended with Christian mysticism.

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Guidebook of 19th Century Etiquette (Download PDF)

You can file this under totally random and “what the hell is this Benebell.” A while back I told you all about my hard drive mishap. What proceeded was some top level desperate attempts to recover as much as we could.

One of those things recovered was this. For reasons now unbeknownst to me, one day a younger version of me decided to check out a stack of 19th and early 20th century books on etiquette and manners. And I took notes. And I consolidated those notes into a Word document.

Fast forward more than a decade seventeen years (!!!) and among the things recovered from my erased hard drive was this document. I spruced it up a bit, made it pretty, and now it’s a free downloadable PDF for you. Why? No reason.

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Readers Studio 2018: First-Timer’s Insights

Readers Studio 2018 was both my first time as an attendee and first time as a presenter. The tarot community is truly one-of-a-kind. Having now experienced the astrology community, pagans, Taoists, and Buddhists as social collectives, the favorite is hands down my tarot peeps. You won’t find a warmer, more enthusiastic, more diverse, more welcoming, more integrated and united, or more supportive tribe.

The Readers Studio is a weekend extravaganza of three master classes, breakfast roundtables, general sessions, tarot incubators, study groups, showcases, and many delicious event offerings. They also feed you, so there’s a cocktail party, luncheon, formal dinner banquet, and breakfast buffet. Ongoing throughout is the merchant faire where you can buy amazing goodies from small artisanal proprietors or get a tarot reading from one of the Studio’s selected celebrity psychic readers.

This post is going to be a review of my first Tarot Readers Studio experience. I’m sure I’ll be attending in 2019– and next year as an attendee and eager student only– no onstage pressures (yay) so I’ll be able to focus entirely on mingling, learning, and of course, sharing an unconscionable number of live tweets and Instagram posts.
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Life Update & Why a Pause on Video Making and More

So you may or may not have seen the below tweet from me not too long ago.

Hubby set about helping me resolve this issue. He bought me a new bigger and better hard drive. Had I known he was going to do what he was going to do on the date he did it, I would have told him to stop, yes, in part because I’m astrology-superstitious and Asian [not only retrograde Mercury and a void of course moon, pretty brutal transit aspects to my natal, but it’s also the week of Tomb Sweeping Day, a time in the Chinese calendar when the dead return to visit their living loved ones, i.e., if you believe it, stronger forces of paranormal activity at play], but also because I would have said, “Wait, hold on. First let me back up everything because all the current connected drives contain the sum of my life’s work.”

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