A Tarot Deck for the End of the World
The first time I tried to draw a tarot deck I was fourteen years old, very new to tarot, and had no idea what I was doing. I quickly became frustrated by the fact that my artistic abilities were not yet developed enough to bring the images in my head to life on paper, and abandoned the project, but I never discarded the idea completely.
Almost fourteen more years later, in 2017, I found myself frustrated with the Inktober prompt for the day. Instead of drawing the prompt offered by the list I was working from, I drew a tarot card: the hanged man, and did a quick sketch based on my interpretation.
That simple sketch was enough to make me realize I should try making a deck again. I had been reading tarot for years at this point, and I felt that I had gained enough experience with tarot in general and had developed my artistic skill enough that I was capable of making the deck that I wanted. I had always struggled with the way so many of the most widely known tarot decks portray a binary, hierarchical version of the world, rather than expressing the ungovernable multitudes that are contained in the occult.
I started to work very seriously on the deck in August 2018. I planned out each card to reflect both the ways I have come to interpret each card, and aspects of my personal experience that relate to those interpretations. This deck is, at its core, an autobiography and an exercise in narrative self-portraiture as much as it is anything else, but it's important to me to make something that will speak to others as well.
Because this deck is meant to reflect not only my experiences, but also my values, it is an anarchist deck, so I have avoided the hierarchical aspects of traditional tarot. The court cards are named the Harlots, Enchantresses, Partisans, and Conspirators, rather than Queens, Kings, Knights, and Pages. The Empress is the Whore, the Emperor is the Mistress.
Visually, I've taken cues both from Pamela Colman Smith's famous deck and elsewhere, such as the homage to Artemesia Gentileschi's Judith Slaying Holofernes in the use of the severed head and vagina dentata, a symbol of the defensive ways in which femmes use our sexuality, in the Justice card.
The deck is still in progress, but with just a few cards left to draw, I've started to design the backs and faces of the cards. Like the art itself, the faces will be fairly minimalist with the images floating in negative space.
The aces will be the objects used to represent each suit (knives/swords, feathers/wands, roses/coins, and cups) and a single numeral on a solid-colored background relating to the element associated with it
The backs of the cards will be more ornamental, incorporating both Victorian borders and the eight-pointed star of Ishtar for a deck that is as beautiful as it is useful.
This is not a safe deck, it is a deck for the end of the world, a deck that shows both the brutality of destruction and the beauty of transformation. It's a deck for outcasts, anarchists, whores, witches, and queers. You can see the full progress of the deck on my Instagram.
Risks and challenges
The biggest risk for this project is, of course, financial. Your contribution is what will allow me to print the first run of decks and hopefully fun a second run that I will be able to sell independently.
It's important to me that this deck is accessible so I've done my best to keep the cost low, something I hope to be able to continue to do in the future in order to keep selling the deck at affordable prices.
- (40 days)