Last night, after finishing one painting and sketching another one, because I've finished the (hopefully) second to last draft of my romance novel and need to let it sit a while, I started thinking about my tarot project again. (And yes, that was a run-on sentence--or at least a damned long one. I'm on my first cup of coffee, so I beg a little indulgence.) Anyway, you may remember, (if anyone actually reads this) that a while back, I "scrapped" my tarot deck. I haven't done anything as awful as throw any of it away, most of the pieces are sitting in my closet. One has already found a happy home with a dear friend (who now has three of my pieces...hmmm..... :snicker:. There are a couple of pieces earmarked for my own wall and at least two others I want to give away.) But I digress. As I said, lack of caffeine.
Where was I? Oh yeah, the new deck. So I started working on it last night and within moments the whole thing fell into place in my head. Or at least the general shape of it, including a couple of "radical" decisions. (And really, if you know anything about tarot, you know how hard it is to do anything "radical" compared to what's already been done!) But what that really got me thinking about is the real topic here: creating your own tarot deck.
Here, let's put that in bigger, bolder letters, so someone stumbling on this randomly will see it:
CREATING YOUR OWN TAROT DECK:
Taking on a project as monumentally HUGE as making your own deck requires a little planning. Yes, I know, I pretty much just sat down and started sketching last night, but remember, this is my second go of a deck. I've already done a small ton of research, and already had a plan for the first deck. There were just a few things not working for me (the biggest issue was that I made a huge mistake when I forgot that I'm really not very good at lettering... no, really, this time around, I'll leave putting titles on for the final step, and do it digitally. Maybe some day I'll learn calligraphy, but I'm not taking up a new hobby just for this. Besides, I've never had the burning desire to learn calligraphy.)
So, #1: have a plan, and #2 DO YOUR HOMEWORK. I only put those in that order because unless you have a plan, you won't know what you need to research... and let's face it, if your plan is to just draw pretty pictures, you probably don't need to do too much research, assuming you've been reading tarot for a few years (and who else but a reader would be masochistic enough to do their own deck?)
For my first attempt, I had a plan, or at least half a plan, and I did some research... and some more... and got frustrated and shelved the project for a year. Eventually I came back to it, with a clearer head. Eventually, I think the 'downfall' of the first deck, besides a couple of technical errors, was that I was too constrained by my framework. I do eventually want to do an Egyptian themed deck, because I've got some great ideas (not to sound too conceited or anything), but for my first deck, I need to be free from fetters and constraints and just have FUN with it.
Let's make that #3: HAVE FUN! No, really, you're going to be illustrating 78 (SEVENTY-EIGHT) cards, if you're not having fun, you're going to lose interest fast! Well... seventy eight, more or less...see, that's where the radical comes in. I own one deck with 96 cards and another with 97. Some cards add an entirely new suit, so add 14 and you get 92 cards. And yes, it's possible to subtract cards, too. That, in fact, is my plan (although I'm also adding, so in the end, it'll still be around 78 cards.)
What am I taking out: Court cards. Not all of them. One of my newer decks is the Minchiate Tarot (Brian Williams's lovely re-illustration of it.) The Minchiate has 97 cards; it adds the zodiac to the major arcana (along with the four elements.) I like the addition of the zodiac...but I've always seen them in the court cards. The Kings are fixed, the Queens are mutable and the Knights are cardinal (your millage my vary, i.e. you may see it differently, and that's totally cool. Tarot is subjective enough for us both to be right--heck, it's subjective enough for there to be a deck out there with swords as water, for crying out loud! No, I swear, I'm not making that up! I've seen staffs to earth, cups to air... like I said, it's hard to actually do anything "radical".) Oops, digressed again... I think I need another cup of coffee. But that means getting up and making it and well, I'm feeling lazy.
Which is not a good trait for anyone working on a tarot deck :)
All right, as I was saying, I, like many other readers, have a dickens of a time with the court cards. I hate them. I have been so tempted to just pull them out of my deck before doing a reading! No, really... I never have, but it's a temptation. So to help myself, I figured out astrological correspondences that worked for me. The Kings are stubborn, not quite static, but certainly they want what they want and will do what they have to within their elemental purview to get it. The Queens are gentler, Watery energies (yeah, mutable is really more air, but it works.) Knight CHARGE! Cardinal energy. They make things happen. Pages I actually quite like, but they don't really fit the equation. Pages are supposed to be Earth, but I tend to see them as Airy. (And frankly, fixed energy is Earthy.) So where does this leave me? Simple. The new deck, which so far doesn't have a snazzy title, will have only three court cards per suit: Father, Mother and Child. Each will correspond the the fixed, mutable and cardinal astrological sign of the appropriate element (I hope I haven't lost anybody who doesn't know astrology. Here, let me back up just a smidge. There are 12 zodiac signs... no, I'm not counting the Serpent Dude. Those 12 signs are divided up elementally into four sets of three signs each--so three Fire signs, three Water signs, three Air signs and three Earth signs. There are a fixed, a mutable and a cardinal sign within each element. Got it?)
And to answer the ages old tarot question here: in this deck, swords will be Air and wands will be Fire, because that's the way I usually read it. (That said, when I get back to my Egyptian deck, swords are Fire and wands are air, because that's the way it works on the altar and the way I want it in that deck!) And I still have ideas rolling around my head for a Steampunk deck... but one massively insane project at a time...
Going back to the Minchiate Deck... one of the things I like about it is the addition of the Virtues: Hope, Faith and Charity. Yes, we see some of these things expressed in other cards (certainly the Star tells us to "hope", and the six of coins is about giving-back) but I like the idea of these three virtues spelled out (and that leaves room to do other things with the Star card.) By the same token, I'd like to see the corresponding Vices. Yes, we have folly, to an extent, in the Fool, but Fool has a number of meanings and I rarely read him as "folly." And certainly we see a sense of despair in both the nine and ten of swords, and misery in the five of coins/pentacles, but these are in specific areas. The trumps represent a general (and usually pretty weighty) state of affairs.
So it looks like I'm firmly in the "homework" stage of my project (I've navigated away from this page at least four times to look things up), but my breakfast is almost done and after I eat, I'm going to go downstairs and paint because even though I'm in the homework phase, I've got a pretty good idea what I'm adding and how I want the finished product to look... most of all, I want to have FUN (and let's face it, too much homework all at once, just isn't fun... besides, I can websurf and eat breakfast at the same time. What I can't do is type and eat or type and paint...)
Happy rest of the week!