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The Urban Tarot Deck is an illustration series that is nearly 10 years in the making. It is about magic, truth and the city.
The Urban Tarot Deck is an illustration series that is nearly 10 years in the making. It is about magic, truth and the city.
346 backers pledged $33,595 to help bring this project to life.

At the End of the Rainbow

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Hello, tarot folk. It's been a little while since my last update, sorry if I've kept you in suspense. With this card, we finally complete the set of the Minor Arcana, leaving us only two more cards from the Major Arcana to go. I admit, I may have put a little extra time and effort into this one, I wanted it to be something special.

The Ten of Cups: Satiety

And finally, with the last step in the story of the Cups, we reach that fabled Happily Ever After. If the Nine represented a single moment of pure Happiness, the Ten represents that Happiness stretching from this moment forward far into the future. This card speaks of love's ultimate dream, of happiness and home and family, for the rest of your days. It is joy, and peace, and the hope of the next generation.

The Ten of Cups: Satiety
The Ten of Cups: Satiety

I have a bit of a personal theory about this card, as it was illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith in 1908 for what is generally called the Rider-Waite Tarot. So I apologize, as I'm about to get a little long-winded here. 

I've spoken once or twice in my updates before about Smith, and how much I adore her illustrations for that most recognizable tarot set. She was a woman of mixed heritage, born in London to an American father and a Jamaican mother. She went to school for illustration here in New York at the Pratt Institute, and went on to work with Bram Stoker and William Butler Yeats, among others. It was Yeats who eventually introduced Smith to the Order of the Golden Dawn, and to the man who would commission the tarot she designed, Arthur Edward Waite.

Pamela Colman Smith never married, and in fact I don't believe there exists any solid evidence of romantic entanglements of any kind in her life, at least not any she was very public about. It is known that she had many colorful friends within the theatre scene, but her only long term relationship seems to have been with a female companion with whom she lived for many years, and to whom she left her entire estate. 

The Ten of Cups by Pamela Colman Smith
The Ten of Cups by Pamela Colman Smith

Given the above bio, perhaps you have already drawn the same conclusions that I (and many others) have. Now of course, we cannot say with any certainty that Smith was gay, but I think there are quite a few reasons to suspect she may have been. With that in mind, take a closer look at the Ten of Cups she drew. In it, she depicts a pair of figures embracing, with rolling fields before them and a small farmhouse sitting pleasantly in the distance. There are two children playing, dancing in a circle to one side of the adults. At first glance, it's easy to assume that the figures are a mother and father - indeed, one wears pants while the other is in a dress. But the more I look at them, the more sure I feel that I'm seeing two women. Additionally, one can see that the woman on the left, and the two children, are the only figures in the set who are clearly colored with a darker skin tone. 

I'm aware at this point that I'm making a bit of a leap here, but I've long believed that Smith deliberately inserted herself into the set in this card, and that what we are seeing is a depiction of her and her partner living together as a family, with two children of their own. Perhaps that farmhouse is the home that Smith retired to in Cornwall towards the end of her life. Although I can never prove it, I strongly believe that what we are seeing in this card is the impossible dream of a happy same-sex marriage, drawn by a queer woman of color, over a century ago.

Here we are in 2015, and gay men and women can now legally marry in 37 out of 50 States in this country at last count. I am myself one half of a legal same-sex marriage, and I am very thankful to be in a part of the world that recognizes both my union and my gender. My wife and I share our home with another same-sex couple, Sarah and Jen Salenger. They have been married since 2010, and legally recognized as such since 2011, when The Marriage Equality Act was passed here in New York.

I wanted this card to be an homage in part to Pamela Colman Smith, and to that impossible dream which has finally become reality for so many. In the foreground, I've depicted Sarah and Jen, as they appeared just a short time before their daughter was born. Their daughter actually appears a second time in the piece, being held aloft by yours truly. The lady with her arm around me is naturally my lovely wife Amy. I've also included someone else from a previous card here - Tobin, my model for The Sun has his back to us, while he watches the Pride March with the rest of the crowd.

Although I've used thematically appropriate cups for each of the other cards in this suit, with this card I've used the exact same goblet I used for the Ace. With each ending, we come once more around the circle to where we began.

Next up: The Art

Just two more cards to go, and I've already done all the preliminary work for the next one. Chandra Jessee came to my home carrying a fabulous pair of white feather wings for her modeling session last month, and I'm looking forward to getting started on her piece very shortly. If all goes as planned, I'd like to have the first run of decks printed by June, as I'm hoping to have them on hand for a few events I'll be attending this summer.

Chandra Jessee
Chandra Jessee

Comments

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    1. Missing avatar

      Liz Denys
      Superbacker
      on March 23, 2015

      (I would also like to confirm my address - a survey would be great?)

    2. Missing avatar

      Liz Denys
      Superbacker
      on March 23, 2015

      Another beautiful history to another beautiful card!

    3. Michelle Kelly on March 23, 2015

      I would also like to change my address since funding the project. Also, is it possible to add more? I'd like to make another purchase. Finally, I just want to say, WOW. I also am \l working on illustrating a deck (which is how I initially found you when you supported my kickstarter!) and I'm so, so inspired by the clarity with which you define the cards. It increases my understanding of the Tarot immensely. Thank you. I'm so excited you are coming to the end of this and congratulations on this AMAZING achievement!

    4. Darren Bulmer on March 23, 2015

      Robin,

      Could I please confirm with you my postage address, as it has changed a few times since this project was funded. Really looking forward to getting this deck. I think it's going to be up there among my favourties :)