tarot_scholar: A black mystical-looking sigil on a white background. (Default)
I've come across a couple of Tarot apps that I think are worth having. They're both the work of Tina Gong, in terms of code as well as art. Multifaceted!

I had been looking for a Tarot deck app for a while before I stumbled across her apps. I just wanted something quick and clean that could generate cards on the fly, which turned out to be a more challenging task than you might think. I had another one before, but it was gummed up with ads and was just a mess. (I don't remember which one it was, but even if I did, I don't think it's generous to badmouth a free app that was only mediocre.) For a while, I was using a random number generator. Golden Thread and Luminous Spirit Tarot are both what I wanted, plus more. (In a good way, not in an OPTIONS OVERLOAD way.)

Golden Thread is targeted at beginners. You can draw a daily card, and there are also spreads: one-card, three-card, and Celtic Cross. The single-card reading was perfect for my "I just need to draw a random card on the go" needs, and I'll be using it for that for the foreseeable future. It also helps you track a lot of neat Tarot data about yourself: how positive/negative your readings have been over time, the most common card keyword that's come up, etc.

The Luminous Spirit app is more intermediate focused and assumes you already have a solid working knowledge of the Tarot (though keywords are always available for each card, plus its reversal). Instead, it connects your readings to lunar cycles. You set an intention for each cycle, and then at each new phase of the moon, there's a different reading.

Each app uses a Tarot deck that has a physical, printed equivalent (hence my use of the "deck lust" tag here). The apps are free, and are free of ads. It's the sale of the physical items that helps support the apps. (And Gong's enthusiasm, natch.) I don't know how much I like the aesthetic of the Golden Thread deck, but I might very well pick up the physical Luminous Spirit deck:

This is a really well designed app, and I appreciate that they use original decks instead of just using the Waite–Smith deck. I admit that it wasn't until I did some research into Pamela Colman-Smith that I really appreciated the Waite–Smith deck, but now I'm totally onboard with it. My beef with Tarot apps using the Waite–Smith deck is more how it usually indicates a sort of lack of effort—just grab a public domain Tarot deck with easy-to-read images and go! No original decks, no recent decks that would mean paying licensing fees to artists or estates. (Of course, not every app or software with a more unique, modern deck is necessarily paying its artists. I recall a sketchy app ripping off a deck from the Magical Realist press.) But it's that extra attention to detail that makes an app really stand out, and that's why I think I'll continue to use it for a long time to come.
tarot_scholar: A black mystical-looking sigil on a white background. (Default)
Fellow Tarot nerd and high school classmate [personal profile] starfrosting Kickstarted his own deck last year, and I was amped to get in on the ground floor. How often do you get to work with a deck whose creator you actually know? (Okay, maybe some of you get to do this all the time, but I don't.) Before I get to pictures and my own thoughts, I'll let [personal profile] starfrosting introduce the deck in his own words:

The HIDDEN LIGHT Tarot is an elemental, fey, Jewitchy, & subtly spellbinding Tarot deck.

The HIDDEN LIGHT embodies my approach to Tarot honed over 15 years: elemental, imaginative, and viscerally magical. Created through collage and my multi-media pen, ink, and paint work, the cards themselves enact the divinatory process of Tarot— taking what's there to assemble and discern rich meaning. My half-a-lifetime experience as both zinester and Tarot reader yields a deck whose zine-witch aesthetic hums with raw, lively, fey power. The cards resonate with rich, subtle magic.

The HIDDEN LIGHT Tarot draws from traditional decks in its structure but sheds their hierarchical and patriarchal inheritances in favor of queer and immanent perspectives. In keeping with my own magical and Jewish practice, the spiritual themes of the cards are articulated in earthy, cosmic imagery that conjures wider tides of contraction, expansion, concealment, and revelation.

This deck is a tool for intimate conversation with the seen and unseen dimensions of life: for divination, meditation, and magic.
First, the physicality of the deck itself: It's a self-published indie deck, but the quality overall is stunning. The colors absolutely pop and the lines are clear and sharp. The borders are only a couple of millimeters, so the vast majority of card real estate is taken up with imagery. I have no preference when it comes to matte versus glossy finishes, but if you do, this is a matte deck. I found that traditional riffle shuffling was a little tough going at first (maybe the cards were too stiff?) but after a few rounds it's much smoother. Otherwise this deck is a candidate for my Klondike shuffling method, to avoid bunching near the top of the deck. The backs, while not perfectly reversible, are an abstract image of what I assume are stars against a night sky, so reversed cards are not immediately apparent face-down.

The images themselves have a raw and modern feel to them, particularly the Major Arcana. A couple have been renamed ("The Devil" becoming "Bondage" and "Judgment" becoming "Redemption," with the resulting changes in imagery), and the vast majority have what most people would term "non-standard" imagery. (Much of this depends on your own definition of "standard," of course.) For me, the Major Arcana is where this deck really shines. I would like to specifically point to [personal profile] starfrosting's interpretation of The Hierophant and The Emperor, cards I generally viscerally dislike. I vibe much more with this imagery than the traditional Waite-Smith or Thoth symbolism.

Finally, there is a definitely nautical theme to the Major Arcana of this deck, which makes me kind of want an entire nautical Tarot???

The Minor Arcana is very pip-heavy; funny enough, the use of the pips and color remind me a lot of the Thoth deck, though I know from previous conversations with [personal profile] starfrosting that the Thoth is not one of his favorites. It could be the shared background in Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism that gives this deck a Thoth-y vibe, I'm not sure. That said, much of the Waite-Smith imagery is retained (3 of Swords, 10 of Cups, and 6 of Swords spring to mind). And, like the Major Arcana, much of the imagery and symbolism in this deck are new and wholly separate from either Thoth or Waite-Smith. (I'm not familiar enough with Marseiles to know if [personal profile] starfrosting drew from there as well.)

One aspect of this newness is the representation of Swords. While not renamed, they're represented by switchblade knives rather than traditional swords. [personal profile] starfrosting has also aligned the deck with the wands/air, swords/fire tradition (making it the first deck I've owned in that particular paradigm).

The courts likewise depart from traditional symbols and imagery, mostly featuring figures against a cosmic space background. This deck probably has my favorite Queen of Cups image: cheerful, mid-laugh, sparkling. This is how Drunk Me perceives myself. ;)

The card is much less sickly yellow in real life. Crappy lighting.

The KS is over now, but you can purchase The Hidden Light Tarot on Etsy if you like. I would recommend springing for the zine as well, as it functions as the deck's LWB (and is probably one of the cooler LWBs you'll come across).

I immediately sat down and did a "getting to know you" spread, but I've already gone on enough so I'll have to save that post for later. :)
tarot_scholar: An image of Norman Rockwell's interpretation of Rosie the Riveter (Rosie)
I love projects that combine the arts and the sciences (you should check out the #sciart hashtag on Twitter if you haven't already). This Science Tarot deck is so wonderful, I might make it my Christmas present to myself.

Each card, from the Majors to the Minors to the court, has been associated with a scientist (courts), a scientific concept (Minors), or a "science story" (Majors). Care has obviously been taken to align the energy and meaning of the card as best as possible with the concept. Each suit has its own theme that in turns tells the larger story of creation: Wands as creation, the nuclear fusion burning in each star; then Pentacles as exchange, elements forged in the star now coalescing into matter; Swords as scientific observation, the higher thinking of conscious life and the beginning of abstract, scientific fields like mathematics, chaos theory, and physics; and finally Cups as the integration of the scientific consciousness into a more holistic picture of life and the return of the scientific observer to a participant in the system. The deck creators also employed Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey to tell the "story" of the Minor Arcana suits, for that extra layer of meaning. For example, the 2 of Swords:

Sitting under the apple tree, we contemplate a choice to be made. The tree branch lifts an apple high in the air, and gravity continuously pulls it toward the ground. These equal and opposite forces hold the apple in place. But soon the balance may shift and the apple may fall, releasing the branch from its burden and shaking the leaves as they swing upwards.

Isaac Newton observed that every action caused an equal and opposite reaction and so reasoned that every reaction could be predicted from the action that triggered it. Like a game of billiards, Newton's world is a predictable knocking around of objects: the force of the impact equals the mass of the moving object times its acceleration. To send an apple flying in a specific direction, we only need to know where to hit it and how hard. To move a gigantic apple, we'll need to hit it with a great deal of mass, or we will need a running start.

A decision is hanging over your head. You can choose to leave the apple suspended in the tree, or you can apply enough force to bring it down. Either decision may bring good results, but if you wait too long, the apple may fall on your head.

Hero's Journey, Step 2: Refusal of the call. The hero is reluctant to use this new power.

The court cards are all illustrated with famous scientists; Page, Knight, Queen, and King are all associated with Helen Fisher's work in personality and attraction. Pages are the Explorers of their suit, Knights are the Innovators, Queens are the Storytellers, and Kings are the Visionaries.

There is obviously just so much thought and attention to detail in this deck—but then, would you expect anything less from a science-themed Tarot deck?—and I am just in love.

tarot_scholar: An image of Norman Rockwell's interpretation of Rosie the Riveter (Rosie)
A friend of mine alerted me to the existence of The Ghetto Tarot, and I wanted to share it here.

I love the idea of photographic Tarot decks, especially updated or just new interpretations of the iconic images. I love the idea, but the execution so far has been lacking. Things got one step closer with Alice Smeets's The Ghetto Tarot, a collaborative fundraising art project. I encourage you to read more about the project at the above IndieGoGo link.

The Afro-Caribbean milieu of this project is certainly appropriate, given Pamela Colman-Smith's own heritage; I haven't seen all of the images yet but I can say already that I particularly love Death and The Sun, as they are less literal recreations of Colman-Smith's plateaus and more a portrait of Haiti, Haitians, and Port-au-Prince themselves.


The Sun

I admit to liking the simple recreations less than these images, but I still love Smeets's collaboration with Haitian artists on this, and the fact that the profits from the deck will go to them. Tarot and art as a force for good in the world. Plus, sometimes the literal recreations actually work out well, like in The Moon and the 3 of Swords.

The Moon

The 3 of Swords

Others work because the Colman-Smith's original artwork was striking and made for a well-composed photo. Yet somehow, the impression is starker when it's a photograph. Take the 9 of Swords, one of my favorite cards (in terms of aesthetic, not in terms of divinatory meaning. Obviously!)

9 of Swords

I don't know if I'm going to buy a copy of this deck yet, or if I'm going to opt for a poster print. I know already that I probably wouldn't use this deck much to read, but some of these photographs are just too beautiful to pass up. Besides, it's for a good cause.


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