The Old Gods Tarot
The Old Gods Tarot is coming on well – far quicker than I expected, to be honest. The Majors are complete (most of them are still more or less the same as you see below, though the cards are slightly squatter and fatter than they look in the image).
As the deck is being painted in Photoshop – (not in oils as all my previous decks with the exception of The Intuitive Tarot), it has a more graphic feel. Now I’m used to creating digitally, I’m enjoying it. I like the fact that you can add (or delete) layer upon layer until the finished image takes shape. And the pip cards, which I’ve just begun, and which I thought would be a nightmare as I’ve never worked with a pip deck, turn out to be much more interesting than expected.
Why did I decide on this deck, and why this medium? Years ago I read a book entitled ‘The Old Gods Laugh’. It wasn’t particularly wonderful (it was really chauvinist, even for the era), but the phrase stayed with me. I can see these massive beings, their laughs echoing through the clouds, as they decide whether to inflict the world with a drought or a pandemic (they have been busy recently, haven’t they). As for working in Photoshop? I felt like a change, and a more precise set of images – I decided to have at least three gods in each Major Arcana, from very different areas of the world.
The Major Arcana
Creating a pip deck instead of my normal basic symbolic imagery is quite different. Numbers have their own magic which I almost managed to intuit in my teens, but I never managed to make the jump to calculus or esoteric mathematics. I have been researching the magic of numbers and the way of reading a pip deck (mostly from Caitlin Matthews brilliant book, The Untold Tarot), while I painted, and it has been a fascinating journey.
The Old Gods are still waiting to see whether I’m serious about them. I don’t actually believe in many of them, but I make an exception for a few… Years ago my family went on a cruise round the Greek Islands, and we were able to land on Sunion (Poseidon’s island) at dusk. It was the most magical experience . Then, later, as we were sailing around Naxos, I heard Pan’s pipes. Of course, it was ‘only’ wind in the rigging, but it didn’t feel like that. (Unfortunately I chose not to go to Hera’s island, Samos, which I regret now.) Finally, another link with Poseidon. My father said he would offer him a libation, but chose not to offer the best wine. I thought that was a mistake. It was. The next day we were sailing along and were caught by the Meltemi, the hot wind that can suddenly blow up in the Mediterranean. The yacht heeled over, my mother broke a rib, and my father lost his favourite pipe lighter. I, on the other hand, found a waterproof jacket in the sea. Not a very good one, but hey – I still have a soft spot for Poseidon and, of course, Pan, who began as card 0 The Fool, but has now transmogrified into the Barefoot Immortal, though he will always be my muse,
The Minor Arcana
The Minors have fully pictorial face cards, of course, but the Minors are pips and are based more on the Tarot de Marseille than, say, the RWS. I haven’t completely decided on the suit titles yet, though Cups are Cups, as they’ve been around since well before recorded history – mankind would have fashioned cups from bark and clay (and sometimes the tops of skulls!), and so I began with the Cup suit which is now nearing completion, although the pips are still rough so I haven’t included them here.
The Knives / Blades suit (Air) shows skies and mountains, Batons / Staves have fiery, hot colours, and Coins may well be called Stones or Denari – Stones somehow doesn’t do it, but Coins doesn’t either. So I’m still thinking about it. The convention in tarot now is that Knives (Swords) are connected with air, the mind and intellect; determination, the ability to visualise abstract concepts, while Staves (Batons) have been linked with fire, and thus creativity, passion, intuition, inner vision. The Stones Suit is connected with the earth element, grounded, practical, down-to-earth, elemental. The Cups suit has come to symbolise all the emotions of the psyche, empathy, and self-awareness.
Below, is the whole deck – as far as it’s gone. So I’ve marked the Cup pips as ‘roughs’ plus a few of the other suits, and all the others are blank. It looks like a lot of blanks, but the pips don’t take as long as the Majors did, so I hope the full deck won’t take that much longer. Bear with me, then…