Friday, 3 April 2009

A Wicked Pack of Cards

* * *

Some years ago, when I was very deep into Archetypal Psychology, Alchemy and Jung, I came up with the idea of creating a personal tarot deck. The images would have been drawn from my own dreams, and there would therefore have been a potentially unlimited number. The idea was that I could thereby get in touch directly with the Unconscious using the cards, saving myself the incovenience of having to go to sleep. (For every deeply mysterious and profound dream one has, I find, there are always three about tramping round Tescos looking for custard, or getting on a bus being driven by a badger.)

I sat down and made a list of the images that would populate the cards. Some were drawn from the ordinary Major Arcana - Death, The Hermit, The Moon and The Star were obvious ones to keep. But others were odder, and I would be woken in the night suddenly desperately conscious that there needed to be a card called The Lark-Tamer (a green-hued young man surrounded by singing birds), or The Blind Mouth, The Madwoman, The River, The Creeping Thing, and so on. Some were drawn from literature (who could forget Milton's thunderous 'Blind mouths' bit in Lycidas?); one was called The Small Creature with Dark and Fiery Thoughts, which is from Susanna Clarke, and The Fiery Cat came straight from the medieval Irish Voyage of Máel Dúin's Curragh. But some simply emerged from my dreams - The Revenant; The Leaping Bull, &c. From John Crowley's wonderful novel Little, Big came The Bundle and The Fisherman.

Anyway, I have decided the time is right to revive the project. It fell by the wayside in part because there was no way I could find time to design 50+ cards and paint them. Instead, I've decided to use images drawn from elsewhere and to collage and photoshop them suitably if necessary. This revelation hit me when I looked at Janet Kaplan's Remedios Varo: Unexpected Journeys, and saw that certain of Varo's longer, thinner paintings already were cards for my personal tarot, in some mysterious fashion.

And the best thing about these future cards? Well, should any reader be moved to have a go at this idea as well, do bear in mind that they will only work for you. You won't be able to give anyone else a reading with them, because they will form your own intimate inner arcana, a private constellation of secret meanings.

Above are the ones I've managed so far. They are actually all the same size, I'm just not very good with computers. You'll see Projection, Discovery, The Hanged Man, Aged Fraud, The Tyrant and The Tamer of Larks. The come Fire in Snow, Harmony Born of Opposition, The Rose of the World, Greed, Order, The Bride, Prudence, The Tower, The Hermaphrodite, The Sea, The Devil, The Vestal Virgin, The Fisherman and The Descent, then The Muse, Death, Prayer, and The Madwoman (wasn't that a band?), followed by The Empress, The Minotaur and The Wise Man. Then come The Singer, The Magician, The Sanctuary, The Tree of Life, Memory, Riches and Dream, and then The Small Creature With Dark and Fiery Thoughts, The Sun and The Moon. Finally we have Hope, Fear and the Black Sun.


Anonymous said...

What was that fleeting descriptive text in Prospero's Books ... "97 Conceits of the Minotaur" or something? I think it was one of the Book titles, but haven't seen the film since '92. Always had it in mind to nick it as a poem title.

Have liked these tarot since you first put them up. "Suddenly desperately conscious that there needed to be a card called The Lark-Tamer (a green-hued young man surrounded by singing birds)."

Of course! Those Byzantine images of the Cross rising up amid some tree of life scrollwork, with birds roosting on all of the four beams, and on to Messiaen and his birds twittering.

Seen this guy?:

Slightly repetitive, but a nice mix of the alchemical & the catholic.



Fionnchú said...

I know nothing about tarot, but I know what I like when it comes to graphic design. These images are lovely and haunting and eloquent. I encourage you in filling out the whole deck with more dreamy delight.

Bo said...

Thanks guys! And thanks Andrew for the beautiful pic of the Byzantine fresco you sent. I agree. And that line from PB had haunted me too, btw.

Lee said...

those images are wonderful.

i had a non-tesco-custard dream last night. though in a similar vein to most of my dreams *sigh*

something was eating the world, destroying it, small swarming 'things' like a dust storm with attitude. there was a woman with skin covered in sapphires who couldnt be taken by the swarm and who called the gods to intervene. so the gods appeared and stopped the swarm. the thing is, one of the gods was your typical upper-class countryside woman - all wax jacket and slightly masculine features. the other was, well, a bog standard person.

alas as i was running from the nasties i didnt stop to ask who the god were.

Anonymous said...

Something about the lark-tamer also reminds me of a painting .. though I'm not sure which one. Maybe something by Scottish artist Steven Campbell, boy surrounded by a huge flock of birds taking off, kind of elaborate and symbolist ..

Thought it might have been this one on the cover, but I don't think so:


Anonymous said...

Ah! Got it: it's the one on the cover of this book I'm thinking of:


Yvonne Rathbone said...

As a long time Tarot reader, I *love* the cards you are coming up with.

There is something that happens to symbols when you put them on cards and shuffle. (Don't underestimate the power of shuffling.) I love what "the Blind Mouth" becomes when it's put on a card.

Related, Caitlin Matthews put out a wonderful deck based on The Voyage of Máel Dúin's Curragh. An immram is a great way to map a deck.

Mariana said...

I love your collages. :) And it's delightful to see again that werewolf/little girl combo in this context.

Bo said...

It really struck me! I thought you'd like that one.

Steve Smith said...

Wow! I just surfed in, and I like these a lot!

If you can finish this deck, put it together, and make them available, I'll buy one.

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