The Old Gods Tarot
I guess I better begin this with a disclaimer. I have only just begun The Old Gods Tarot so at the moment it can’t make much of a dent on my website. So bear with me – I’ll put the images up as I finish them, but you also need to be aware that the images may change multiple times, as I create the deck.
What’s more, this tarot deck is being painted directly in Photoshop (not Painter) onscreen, which tends to take about five times as long as painting in normal media. The pluses are you can edit ad nauseum – produce everything in layers and, if you decide to make one motif bigger or smaller, or even move it or delete it, you can do so without damaging the other layers. The negatives are that working like this is much more labour intensive, particularly when I get confused with what is on which layer. Still, as long as I’m happy for it to be a slow process, it’s an interesting way to work.
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 stuck, and kept on returning every now and again. It returns a vision of 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 – to have at least three gods in each Major Arcana, from very different areas of the world.
The Major Arcana
Reading the Minors using numbers and colour is a very different beast from the easier option of symbolic imagery, and this is the first deck where I’ve attempted to be more rigorous, in both geometry and numerology. 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 will be researching the magic of numbers while I paint this deck, though, so it will certainly be an interesting journey.
My Old Gods are still waiting to see whether I’m serious about them. Trouble is, before I wrote this sentence, I’d have said I don’t believe in any of them. But I realise now that isn’t completely true.
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 appears as The Fool in this deck.
The Minor Arcana
I’m considering a numeric system for the Minors, based more on the Tarot de Marseille than, say, the RWS. One suit (Air for Knives) would show skies, Staves would have hot colours, and Stones would be based on the idea that stones were used as currency at one time and be earth-coloured. Cups have been around since well before recorded history – mankind would have fashioned cups from bark and clay, and no doubt would have realised the possibilities of terracotta when a clay goblet fell into the fire.
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 (Wands) 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. My Intuitive Tarot linked Fire with Swords and Air with Wands, and the face cards worked really well that way (in earlier times, the suits were not fixed as we have them, and other tarot masters have also used Swords-Fire, Wands-Air. But I’ll probably use the usual system, as shown above).
Apologies for the image below, as it shows the Deva cards rather than the Old Gods. This is because I only have about twenty images so far, so the display would too sparse to bother with. However, as soon as I have about half the cards ready, I’ll post the deck with blank frames (again, bearing in mind that the images will certainly change as I progress).