Introduction

In pursuit of revealing a prisca theologia, a primordial truth about divinity, the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot journeys back to our cradles of civilization. This is a deck that integrates ancient theologies from disparate corners of the world.

I created the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot with a singular mission in mind: to design the most powerful occult technology possible. Whether I have succeeded in that mission is not for me to say, but for each holder of these cards to discern.

The journey began in 2018 when I set out to hand-draw my own personal working copy of a tarot deck, in pen and ink. I drew each illustration at actual tarot card size, with the intention of cutting these cards out for, quite literally, a hand-drawn working copy of a tarot deck with original art.

Those early tarot card illustrations were always done in sets of three. 80 cards + 1 card back design = 81 illustrations for a total of 27 sheets, theosophically reduced to 9.

My art tools: an HB mechanical pencil, a steel tip ink pen, triangular rulers, a compass, and a protractor. Basically, the tools of an architect. (A little bit of a freemasonry reference there. ^_^*)

The pen and ink line drawings for all 80 cards took a month and a half to complete.

I aspired to design a tarot deck scion that grafted together the Rider-Waite-Smith and the Thoth, to create an offspring that was a merger of the two. In a self-assessment of my deck, I’d say it physically bears more resemblance to the RWS, but in terms of how it feels, how it reads, the deck’s personality and emotional values, it’s more Thoth.

After finishing the illustrations, I changed my mind and decided to scan all the images in to create a self-published black and white occult tarot deck.

In 2019, I converted the scanned-in line drawings to sepia tones, revised several cards, and changed around some of the aesthetics of the deck to release the Vitruvian Edition.

The namesake for this second edition comes from Vitruvius, who lived around 80 B.C. to 15 B.C. Vitruvius was a Roman architect who taught that every structure must exhibit three qualities: stability, utility, and beauty. These three qualities have come to be known as the Vitruvian Triad. A millennium after Vitruvius, Leonardo da Vinci was inspired by the Roman architect’s works. One of da Vinci’s most famous sketches–rendered in sepia ink–is the Vitruvian Man (1487).

The Revelation is the third of three editions from the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot family, finally revealing the deck’s architecture and design in full-color.

While the earlier two editions focused on delineating ideas, with human depictions being merely archetypal, in the Revelation, ideas are concretized and given specificity through names, faces, cultures, epochs, and civilizations.

The linework for the Revelation Edition illustrations are still done by hand on paper, then scanned in and prepped for digital coloring.

In the digital medium, I can magnify the image to 500% and work on details at a micro-level that would be impossible on paper or a physically-fixed canvas.

This coloring process was tedious, and the coloring work for a single card could take up to 36 hours of intense handiwork, in addition to 15 hours of staring blankly at the screen, trying to decide on colors and how to design the patterns.

For linework that calls for greater precision or symmetry, such as with architectural designs, the base drawing is done by hand with a stylus and tablet.

On a tablet, repeating design features can be replicated automatically, without having to re-draw every line, and lines can be rendered cleaner. The “undo” button was also a profound saving grace.

With world-building as one of the key missions, the digital medium allowed for more efficient construction of symmetrical structures.

To color, I created 108 seamless tiles of different hues and values, using a digitally painted pointillism technique.

With the 108 colored seamless tiles of dotted color, I then created over 900 seamless patterned tiles. Those patterned tiles are what I use as “paint” to digitally fill in the shapes, forms, and spaces of the linework.

Thus, what appears to be blue, or purple, or beige in the illustration is in fact a multi-hued seamless patterned tile that I created from a palette of colored tiles rendered in a pointillist style.

After drawing, scanning, and coloring in each feature of the composition separately, I’d then digitally paint a background of land, sea, and sky, then begin the process of layering.

I’d consider the composition in thirds, not just in terms of the golden ratio in design theory, but also spiritually, in terms of how heaven, earth, and humanity interact with one another. Here, the convenience of the digital medium meant that I could move the features around the canvas until I felt it looked balanced.

You’ll spot actual historical relics, like the Sword of Goujian pictured above in the Knight of Swords.

These spirits will take you to cultural landmarks and reimagined historical sites, from Angkor Wat (the City of Temples) in Cambodia, 14th century Timbuktu, and Mēxihco Tenōchtitlan to Late Roman and Byzantine Alexandria and Rani ki Vav under the Chaulukyas of Gujarat.

Along the backdrop horizon lines, see 15th century Florence, the Taj Mahal and cityscape along the Yamuna River, and ancient Uruk.

Visit the verdant lands of the Haudenosaunee (the Iroquois), the islands of Oceania that the Austronesian navigators of the seas landed on, Athens and Sparta, or journey along the Silk Road, the arctic tundra, or pre-Columbian Andes.

The foundational principle of the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot is animistic in its premise. A speculative (and oft-chided) premise in Western occultism is that tarot cards are living beings, that there is a spirit embodying each one. Each card is ascribed certain characteristics, tendencies of behavior, and qualities, just like any sentient creature. It’s subject to predictable habit, but also subject to spontaneity in any arbitrary moment.

Modern day tarot readers dismiss that premise as superstition. I did, too. In the face of science and contemporary rationalism, animism—this belief that objects, such as a deck of cards, might possess an animated spirit essence—is ridiculed, even censured. To believe that a deck of cards can hold spirited life is to reveal an unsophisticated intellect.

Yet that is exactly the point where I start my journey with crafting this tarot deck. What if there is a roster of known essential spirit energies in our universe that influences human events, both on the macroscopic and microscopic, and if encoded in just the right manner, a tarot deck (really, any intelligently designed system) can become much more than just pieces of cardstock? What if there really is a mad method to giving a tarot deck sentience?

Quick sketch to final card illustration

My ambition was to transform lines of ink and pieces of cardstock through a precise, formulaic code—an intelligent design—into a sentient roster of spirit calling cards. A tarot reader who wields such a roster would then become a spirit keeper. My ambition was to give life.

(click for enlarged view)

I’ve also illustrated this deck with the purpose of conveying esoteric knowledge and creating a comprehensive platform for divine transmissions. To that end, a deck such as this one requires intricacy of symbolism and allegory—each card is designed to tell a story, to introduce you to a complete psychic realm, and to invite you to pathwork and journey into that realm.

The starting point of consideration for each card was world-building, for a blend of history, archaeology, visionary reconstructionism, and magical realism. Each card in this deck is a key that unlocks the gateway to an astral realm, one where the collective human memory of what had been merges with your memory, thus amplifying your intuition.

After a world was built, next came character development. Who occupied each world? Who reigned there? Who are its guardians? What is the established lore and culture of that world?

As a metaphor for the atoms at the micro-level that form molecular structures that are the building blocks of our world, color correspondences for the elements and a pointilism technique applied to those color correspondences inform a painstaking attention to detail.

Historical fantasy and science fiction converge. From the birth of a supernova observed in the 11th century and the Eye of God helix nebula to the Pleiades, Arcturus, Draco, Orion, and the aurora borealis, the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot Revelation inspires you to expand the horizons of the world you think you know.

Finally, each card is designed under strict adherence to principles of talisman crafting and ritual magic. I commenced each day of artwork by lighting incense blended from herbs I grew and sun-dried myself, prayer to the four directional guardians, and checking planetary and Hermetic Lot placements for the day.

Astrology, numerology, alchemy, and a portfolio of mystical and shamanistic traditions converge to engineer a deck that can jailbreak your own mind and gain you access to your full psychic and spiritual potential.

The Spirit Keeper’s Tarot is a skeleton key for opening gateways that you had otherwise felt locked out of.

Research for The Revelation edition was just as if not more laborious than the illustration work. I consulted over 200 bibliographic sources for this deck, vetting each based on the author’s curriculum vitae and the book’s publisher. For references, I worked off of archaeological records, museum pieces, and historically significant paintings or artwork from that respective region of the world.

This is an 80-card deck that follows the traditional tarot structure of 78 cards, with the additional feature of having 3 versions of Key 0. My objective was to merge the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot with the Crowley-Harris Thoth. Then as the deck evolved, it became its own independent system, to be approached in a way that departs from both its parents.

Sure, your tarot knowledge will guide the way you read these cards, but take care that your experience doesn’t become your limitation. Clear the channel to your psychic and astral awareness. Let the voices of the spirits speak to you directly.

Do not be afraid of what you do not know. First and foremost, if you truly believe you don’t know enough, then congratulations, you are well beyond the first milestone for attaining wisdom. From there, what you don’t know should not breed fear, but rather, let it breed curiosity, and let that curiosity lead you to knowing.

Major Arcana, Key 0 (three versions) through Key 9

Although the 700+ page companion Book of Maps will deconstruct the symbolic anatomical parts of each illustration, you don’t need it. It’s a nice-to-have, not a must-have. On its face, some people may assume that the SKT is a complex esoteric deck, but this deck is no more complicated than any other tarot. What it does, however, is attempt to reveal all the metaphysical influences that have always been there, whether or not one is aware of the presence and interplay of those influences.

Major Arcana, Key 10 through Key 21

When you operate a wheel and axle, which is a simple machine, you’re applying math and physics at rather complex levels. You’re quantifying leverage, calculating friction, mechanics, you’re considering chemistry and what materials that wheel is made of, and in certain academic contexts, philosophy, anthropology, and all the many angles of study you can approach observation of a single wheel are in active motion.

Minor Arcana, Suit of Scepters (Wands)

That’s not to say you can’t be given the wheel and axle and you’ll have just enough born intuition to operate the machine, no study necessary. In 3500 BC, the inventor of the wheel stumbled upon it by intuition, and not by algebraic equations.

Minor Arcana, Suit of Chalices (Cups)

Tarot– and reading with the SKT deck– is no different. You can observe any tarot card in this deck and do just fine with inductive reasoning. You may or may not be able to calculate W, Work, by crunching numbers through Fr×2πr/θ=FR×2πR/θ, but if tasked to assemble that wheel and axle, you’ll manage just fine with real life experience, and trial and error.

Minor Arcana, Suit of Swords

That doesn’t mean the many complex influences of physics aren’t there, that there isn’t a formula for mathematically calculating the actual mechanical advantage or ideal mechanical advantage of that wheel, of calculating its input force and output force, of studying friction and torque so you can master the rolling of that wheel with precision.

Minor Arcana, Suit of Orbs (Pentacles/Disks)

Vocatus atque non vocatus Deus aderit—called or not called, God is present. The rational-based interpretation of that phrase is exemplified by the wheel metaphor.

Click into the links below for a brief description of each card and short-form card meanings.

MAJOR ARCANA | MINOR ARCANA | THE COURTS

If you’re interested in further reading about my self-taught art journey, visit here.

Pre-Order the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot: Revelation

Benebell Wen