Along with astrology taking over the Internet, tarot readings are having a big moment in Brooklyn, and not just because we’ve begun a new year. Whether you go to an experienced reader or try it yourself, it’s become a bit like cheap therapy. These days when you “ask the deck” a question, it’s just as likely that it’s geared toward psychological study and self-growth—like “Am I aligned with my soul’s purpose?” or “What patterns have I been repeating?”—as it is toward divining the future. Even the places you can have your cards read have become more mainstream. In place of neon psychic storefronts, you can now find readings at wellness centers like Maha Rose, high vibes stores like Jill Lindsey, and gallery/ performance spaces like Tarot Society.
Actual tarot decks are changing to reflect the times, too, through thoughtful redesigns by makers and artists. Historically, the most popular deck has been the Rider-Waite, which was published in 1910, and illustrated by the talented Pamela Colman Smith. But now a wave of new, artist- developed decks have hit the marketplace, with updates to help users connect more deeply with the practice. We spoke to three makers about their radically new decks, and afterward, asked each one to pull a card for the year 2018—which does in fact look auspicious.
Next World Tarot
Brooklyn based, Cuban-American artist, Cristy C. Road, fronts a pop-punk band, has authored three illustrated novels, and recently just spoke at MOMA as part of “An Evening of Art and Astrology.” Her recently released deck, Next World Tarot, is a study of inclusion featuring themes of social justice. It seems to mirror the collective rage that so many are feeling today, and the first pressing is nearly sold out.
“The Next World carries values based on anti-racism, feminist, queer, and anti-colonial ideologies, or at least how they can exist in the world today—a world so founded on consumerism and destroying nature and homogenizing cultures,” she explains. “There are so many decks out there that focus essentially on white European imagery, and I wanted to create a departure from that. I wanted to see the world I see.”
The deck features over 78 people that she is inspired by or knows, many of whom posed for her. She’s kept the traditional nature of decks like the Rider-Waite with the numbers, names and some of the symbols, but changed the bodies and gender presentation to make the cards more diverse. Protesters, police brutality, diversity, and queer culture are all represented in illustrations inspired by classic artists like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, but also cartoons like Ren & Stimpy and punk rock artists like Aaron Cometbus and Fly. Mostly, Road says she is inspired by “the world itself; the struggles that urge communities to rise up, the horrifying foundations of capitalism and power that affect people’s ability to give and receive love.” The result is a tarot deck that is as beautiful as it is empowering.
We asked Road to pull a card from her deck for the year 2018. Here’s what turned up:
“The King of Cups is the space between gentle and tough love. She runs on awareness of logic while maintaining a soft open heart. She is a healed healer who fights through unlimited access to her highest self. This year is for honoring your gifts while you trek for that internal voice that echoes the King’s collected rage and unconditional love.”
The Fountain Tarot
Three Denver-based artists created The Fountain, a deck that is making waves in Brooklyn with launch parties at Books Are Magic, Catland, and Cap Beauty and a well-attended talk with Lindsay Mack at Space Ninety 8 on “Distilling Your Practical Magic.” The idea was conceived by Jonathan Saiz, who is also the artist behind the paintings, and he enlisted Jason Gruhl to write the extensive book that accompanies the deck, and Andi Todaro, who designed and laid out the cards in a project that became bigger than they ever imagined. The result is a reinterpretation of the Rider-Waite deck with modern magical images that seem to connect beyond the tarot community. It’s now being sold everywhere from Barnes & Noble to Amazon. “It’s important that if you have something that will help people, everybody should have access to it,” says Todaro.
Inspired by nature and a year spent in Mexico while working on the project, the deck is holographic and geometric as well as inclusive of the present world. “The essence of each card is stripped down without the superfluous symbolism from an older deck that isn’t relevant any longer. We knew we didn’t want to have people on horseback or a royalty system that was archaic,” says Todaro. “Even though they are archetypes, we were trying to get away from stereotypes.” It’s the perfect deck for those just starting on the Fool’s Journey or those well on their way. Todaro’s advice for those new to tarot is not to be scared of starting. “You should be able to just look at a card and get a feeling from it. Everyone who has a tarot practice gets out of it what they want. I don’t know how, but it works.”
Can you pull a card (or two) for the year 2018?
The Moon Reversed. Described Todaro, reading from the book that accompanies the deck, “The reversal is instability, impatience, an unwillingness to be truthful, barren stillness and misplaced fantasy.”
“I think this is so perfect because we have these major illusions about things like fixing capitalism or fixing society, and we have to go back and see how this was working the way it was intended. Inequality, as it was designed by the people who had power, is working perfectly. The structures don’t just need to be fixed, we need to get rid of them. 2018 is the year to stop swallowing our own bullshit, stop waiting for other people to do the work and see beyond the illusion.”
Nine of Cups. Said Todaro, reading from the accompanying book, “Shared happiness. A man sits with nine cups, inviting in anyone who wishes to share his joy and contentment. Often known as the wish card, the Nine of Cups is a moment of emotional fulfillment and satisfaction.”
“When an intention is absolutely clear and it is obvious that it involves other people to be at the table, you’ll see it returned to you for the good of all mankind. When you smile at someone, when you tip your barista, those small moments of kindness are literally what makes the world go round. We can’t get so bogged down in the bullshit that we forget to be human.”
She Wolfe Tarot
Devany Amber Wolfe runs Serpentfire, a magic art and design company, out of Toronto. In December 2017, she released She Wolfe tarot, a deck of rose gold edged cards with her own collage artwork. The artwork is based on submissions of strangers who sent her photos of themselves as tarot archetypes and the result is a cohesive, collaborative effort that speaks to a feminist future. “The wild woman archetype, as explored by many artists and writers over the years, has greatly impacted me. Woman as wolf, as primordial beast, provider, creator, nurturer, and how that differs from woman to woman is something I find fascinating. Women are instructed by the patriarchy to exist within this very small square of space and time. We must be “this” thin, “this” color, between “these” ages or else we are irrelevant. And the few of us who do exist within these brackets are valued only for our surface beauty and sex appeal,” Devany explains. “By taking a wide variety of submissions, my aim was to celebrate women of many ages, backgrounds and body sizes. And thus, every woman is a She Wolfe.”
The deck stands out for its feminine, goddess, pink look and although it follows the traditional Rider-Waite deck in terms of foundation, it aims to be more concise and impactful as inspired by ideas of the desert, ancient Egypt, and Kundalini yoga. For anyone new to the tarot practice, Devany suggests to “start with a deck that speaks to you, and keep going. You certainly don’t need to become an expert at tarot to reap the benefits of this self-reflective practice.” She Wolfe Tarot is available for pre-order online.
Can you pull a card for the year 2018?
“It’s one of the most uplifting cards in the major arcana. The Star comes right after The Tower, which, for many in your country, was very much the case in 2017 with everything that happened politically. The Star occurs when we’ve overcome destruction, disillusionment, difficulty, and a crisis of identity—and we can step more fully into the light of who we truly are. It is an oasis after a long time in the arid desert. It is our guiding light. A great omen for this year!”