If you pre-ordered the 2nd printing of the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot: Revelation, then your input is requested. And… so sorry… I need it, like, in the next 24 hours because I’m about to submit to the factory and start the production process.
UPDATE: Visit here to see the final proofs for the second print run box design.
Lisa Hunt’s art style is one of my favorites, with its intricate detailing, expressive features, and delicate grace. What she does with watercolor is nothing short of spectacular.
Hunt had mainly done high fantasy and mythology-inspired art in the past, so to see her take on the traditional American landscape painting is a treat. Look at how she rendered the quilt patterns in the Eight of Pentacles, the softness yet precision of Hunt’s lines.
The Pastoral Tarot celebrates the idyllic life of small towns of New England and the Mid-Atlantic, through the countryside of the Mid-West, and the coastal regions. Each landscape piece is a scene out of Americana, a call back to 20th-century North American life.
Wayne Rodney’s Global Fusion Intuitive Tarot is quickly becoming one of my favorite contemporary tarot decks. If you want a case study for diverse representation in tarot art done well, look no further than Global Fusion.
Rodney is a Jamaican American painter and illustrator who runs a martial arts studio. As an artist his work is heavily influenced by Rosicrucian mysticism, values of cultural diversity, and what I found throughout the Global Fusion Intuitive Tarot– Taoist metaphysics.
In this deck, Rodney orders the Minors before the Majors. The Sticks correspond with Wands or Clubs, expressing the traits of creative will and intuition. Of the four temperaments, he connects it to the Sanguine. Gems, Pentacles or Diamonds, signify the Phlegmatic, of the sensory and the practical. Vessels, Cups or Hearts, correspond with Melancholy, with emotions and feeling. Blades, Swords or Spades, signify the Choleric temperament, of reason, logic, and thought.
Published through Schiffer Red Feather, The Poe Tarot by Trisha Leigh Shufelt is a delectable black and white illustrated deck that I’ve been eyeing for quite some time. I was one of those kids who loved Edgar Allan Poe. I’m also a big admirer of pen and ink illustrations.
And I really love a narrative-driven and thought-out tarot deck that has clearly been rendered with depth, passion, and copious amounts of research.
So it’s no wonder I’d take so easily to The Poe Tarot, which is all that and more. Bringing her depth of knowledge in Poe, weaves his life’s work, his struggles, passions, and motivations into the tarot, presenting each card as a lens through which you will ultimately find personal meaning.
The deck art illustrates scenes and characters inspired by Poe’s classics, from The Raven and Annabel Lee to The Masque of the Red Death and many more, bringing to life traditional tarot archetypes through a macabre meets whimsical 19th century pen and ink style.
For instance, the Six of Wells (Six of Cups) pictured above illustrates Poe himself reflecting on a portrait of his childhood sweetheart and fiancee before his death, Sarah Elmira Royster Shelton, with a quote from “Spirits of the Dead.” The composition itself was inspired by Poe’s short story “The Oval Portrait.”
Whew! NWTS 2022 was a blast! This was Michelle and Roger of SoulTopia’s inaugural year as the organizers of NWTS, the Northwest Tarot Symposium in Portland, Oregon. And wow, what a comeback for NWTS, thanks to SoulTopia’s tireless efforts, persistence, and stewardship. This year, the tarot community really showed up for an impressive turnout, to the point where we might’ve outgrown the Monarch Hotel! Time for a bigger even more spacious venue? =)
Anyway, this is a casual recap of the event from my vantage point.
But since then there have been new developments in this subject area so I thought I might revisit the topic.
Some Personal Dabblings with AI Art
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.
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!
Does AI Art Lack Soul?
I explored the question “does AI art lack soul” here in an earlier rumination on the subject. In that blog post, I talked about how this advent of AI generated art has shifted my former paradigm on the mind-soul relation.
This declaration you’ll hear oft repeated — AI art lacks soul; AI lacks soul — is one I’m most apprehensive about. Perhaps we can say we don’t understand the soul of AI, but to declare that AI art lacks soul… I dunno. It doesn’t sit right with me.
I’m not convinced that these works “lack soul.” If I’m getting all psychic and woo, I might say the impression of the soul that’s present feels different from a human sapient soul, just like an animal’s sentient soul or a tree’s soul feels different. You hear people critique the evident style or aesthetic consistent in AI generated art, but just because you don’t love an artist’s style or technical approach doesn’t mean that artist suddenly lacks soul.
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.
A Rising Popularity of AI Generated Art Decks
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.
Tarot for Real Life by Jack Chanek, published by Llewellyn Books, presents one of the best approaches to learning tarot that you can find. I love its focus on the Minor Arcana rather than the Majors, though it most certainly gives due treatment to the Majors as well.
The structure and layout of the book also makes it user-friendly, and the go-to reference you’ll want at your fingertips. If you’re looking up a specific card, there’s a separate table of contents in the front pages just for the 78 cards.
The meat of the book is subdivided into six parts: Practical, Intellectual, Emotional, Aspirational, Personal, and The Big Picture. Respectively they correspond with discussions on the suit of Pentacles, Swords, Cups, Wands, the court cards (under Personal), and the Major Arcana (under The Big Picture).
This masterpiece reproduction of the Jean Dodal Tarot by Justin Michael and Shell David (of East Tarot) is everything to me right now. It’s a fixture on the corner of my personal reading desk and when I’m catching up with old friends via zoom video calls, I’ll reach for this particular deck, sling some cards while we virtual-klink wine glasses, and read about Life.
I wish I could tell you that they’re selling these and you can buy one for yourself, but I’m not sure. You’ll need to reach out to either Justin Michael or Shell David directly to find out. Whatever the cost, having just one of such decks is worth your investment.
It becomes that prized tool. You’re not paying for just another tarot deck for your collection. Something like this is special. It’s the artisan craftsmanship and the personal touch that you’re investing in, which I truly believe is converted into energy and gets infused throughout the deck.
Dating back to around 1701, the Jean Dodal deck, one of the early iterations of the Tarot de Marseille tradition of tarots, were printed from woodcut engravings and hand-colored by stencil, produced primarily for export. Shell David’s restoration project is top notch, and Justin Michael’s printing and production– just, wow.
I’ve started a new project– a reconstruction of the Grand Etteilla. (The deck name won’t be “Etteilla Tarot Reconstruction,” I assure you. It’ll have some overly fancy name. That’s just a placeholder for now.)
The project premise I defined for myself was “reconstruction of the Etteilla,” but the first challenge presented was, which Etteilla? What do you mean by a “reconstruction” of the “Etteilla”? And then, like, the deeper I tried to philosophize on those questions, the faster my brain melted. =(
Here, I’m saying reconstruction because I will be rebuilding the deck with more overtly Hermetic references from the Divine Pymander, which I believe was Etteilla’s original intention. And while I want to stay true to the original imagery– I do– I’m also adamant that the overall approach needs to be updated.
Tarot historians designate three major iterations of the Etteilla: the Grand Etteilla I, which would be Etteilla’s own pack and its direct descendants, circa 1791; the Grand Etteilla II published as the grand livre de Thot under Julia Orsini, believed to be a pseudonym for the publisher, circa 1838; and the Grand Etteilla III published as the Grand jeu de l’Oracles des Dames, first printed by G. Regamey around 1865. Both II and III were produced by the most notable students of Etteilla’s school of cartomancy. [Decker, Depaulis, and Dummett]
But… (!!!) there’s no real consensus on that. So you’re going to find different Etteilla I, II, III designations in different places. As if I’m not confused enough. =)
There’s also the Jeu de la Princesse Tarot circa 1843 sandwiched somewhere in between II and III, considered an offspring of Etteilla I. Another edition of Jeu de la Princesse Tarot seven years later changed Card No. 1 from the Male Querent (or The Man who Consults) to Thoth and Card No. 8 (previously the Female Querent) to Princess Tarot–“Princess Tarot” being described as a priestess or seer of Thebes and Memphis. After that there were a few more versions of the Etteilla of varying styles.
A 1969 Grimaud version of the Grand Etteilla features astrological correspondences where the first twelve cards are the zodiac signs, Aries through Pisces. So Card 1: Chaos is Aries, Card 2: Light (The Sun card) is Taurus, Card 3: Flora (The Moon card) is Gemini, and so on.
Then the ten pip cards in the suit of Coins correspond with the Sacred Seven planets, Lot of Fortune, and two lunar nodes. So the Ace of Coins corresponds with the sun, the Two of Coins with Mercury, the Three of Coins with Venus, etc.
The first seven cards also signify genesis, expressive of Creation. Then Card No. 8 in the second septenary is the High Priestess (in some versions of Etteilla) or more frequently, titled Rest, for the Biblical seventh day of creation when God rested, which He then made holy.
Card No. 1
In the beginning…
Card No. 2 upright
Day 1 of Creation
Card No. 3 upright
Day 3 of Creation
Land, Sea, and the Plant Kingdom
Card No. 4 upright
Day 2 of Creation
Card No. 5 upright
Day 6 of Creation
Land Creatures & Humans*
Card No. 6 upright
Day 4 of Creation
Sun, Moon, and Stars
Card No. 7 upright
Day 5 of Creation
Sea Creatures & Sky Creatures
Card No. 8 upright
Day 7 of Creation
And here’s how I interpreted the order of Creation that’s expressed in the first seven cards, per the Corpus Hermeticum:
Card No. 1
Void / Chaos
Card No. 2
Card No. 3
Card No. 4
Card No. 5
Card No. 6
Card No. 7
The Tree of Life / World Tree
Card No. 1 is the Male Querent while Card No. 8 is the Female Querent. The left two cards above are two different versions of the Male Querent card and the right two are versions of the Female Querent significator card. If you’re confused and secretly wondering if you’re dumb, don’t worry– I’m right there with you. I don’t get it either.