Deck creator forum — The Lover’s Path Tarot
The following is a new entry in my blog’s “Deck Creator Forum.” I occasionally do deck reviews on this blog, but in this feature I have asked various deck creators to say a few words (or paragraphs, actually) about their Tarot deck.
By the way, you too can contribute to this discussion. If you have this deck and have experience using it, please leave comments about your use of it. (Note that I will be moderating the comments.)
Kris Waldherr is an author, illustrator, and designer. She is the creator of both The Goddess Tarot and The Lover’s Path Tarot, as well as the author of Doomed Queens, The Lover’s Path and The Book of Goddesses. She is a very busy person, and I was lucky enough to get a bit of her time for this interview in which she discusses her Lover’s Path Tarot deck.
James: What inspired you to create this deck?
Kris: There are two inspirations for The Lover’s Path Tarot. The first is the city of Venice and the Italian renaissance. The design and art for The Lover’s Path Tarot is intended as a tribute to them. For example, I used oil paints for the art; the borders on each card are inspired by Renaissance manuscript paintings and maps (some which I saw in the map room at the Vatican Museum). The art and literature from this era was dominated by love stories drawn from mythology and folklore. So it all made sense. Secondly, as a tarot reader for some years, I’ve noticed that love and relationships queries are probably the most popular ones I receive. I thought it would be useful to create a deck to directly address these concerns.
Do you think some people may find that this focus limits the deck’s ability to do readings on topics other than love and relationships?
Not at all. We’re surrounded by relationships in our life—from our relationship to the divine to our relationship to ourselves. Love relationships just seem to get the most “press”, if you will, since they bring up the most emotion. I think the deck is multi-purpose in this regard. My intention is for The Lover’s Path Tarot to encourage us to take responsibility for all of our relationships—from the cosmic to the personal.
Here’s an excerpt from the introduction to the deck:
All love relationships mirror our relationship with ourselves. They ultimately reflect upon our relationship with the world around us—how we think others see us, what we believe we are worthy of. Our beliefs about love relationships can even embody our thoughts about how we feel the universe nurtures and supports us.
This truth is a rewarding but complicated conundrum which all humans confront throughout their lives, for we are surrounded by relationships from our first breath. They begin with our dependence upon our parents for our very existence, and continue through our friendships. They reach their perhaps most intense expression in the magical, self-contained world of lovers. …
The Lover’s Path Tarot is a tool to examine and improve relationships—whether they be with yourself, with your beloved, or with the world. Examining our preconceptions about love—the ways we yearn to connect with another, what we desire in a partner—is an act of self-illumination. More importantly, it’s one way to take personal responsibility for our lives.
Most modern Tarot decks fall into one of three “camps” — Marseille, RiderWaiteSmith, or Thoth. With which of those is your deck most closely aligned, and why did you choose that “type” of deck?
The Lover’s Path Tarot is based on the Rider/Waite/Smith system. I don’t think any one system is better than the other, but I’m the most familiar with the Rider, so it made sense.
What can you tell us about that theme for this deck?
The theme is love and relationships. However, I’d like to emphasize that The Lover’s Path Tarot encourages people to view their love relationships as a mirror of their relationships with themselves—and to take charge accordingly. I find that some love-themed decks can be a bit disempowering in a “here’s a love spell and you’ll find your soul mate” kind of way. Magic has its place, but so does personal responsibility (which can be just as magical).
How did you create the artwork for your deck and what would you like to say about that process?
The main art was painted with oil paints over watercolors on Arches paper. With this technique, I was attempting to replicate the richly detailed quality that so many paintings of the Italian Renaissance possess. I should mention that I also designed the book, deck, and packaging for The Lover’s Path Tarot. These were created in Photoshop and in Quark.
What else would you say makes your deck special?
Besides what I’ve mentioned above, I think the design and printing of the deck is especially beautiful. The publisher, U. S. Games Systems, really spared no expense in creating a sumptuous product—the deck really feels like a precious love-themed reliquary. Also, the full color book in the deluxe gift edition includes fairly extensive retellings of twenty-two famous love stories. These range from Tristan and Isolde to Cupid and Psyche. I think these work as tarot commentary as well as stories in their own right.
Are there any non-traditional elements of this deck, such as a 79th card, unusual suit names, an extra suit, or something like that? Why did you make that change and what is its importance or significance?
I renamed the suit of swords as arrows. I thought this seemed appropriate, considering it was a deck about love—think of Cupid with his arrows. I actually ended up using the story of Cupid and Psyche to illustrate this suit. It’s one of my favorite myths of all time. Also, each of the major arcana cards have been renamed to mirror a stage of love or emotion. These range from Innocence (traditional card, The Fool) to Triumph (traditional card, The World).
By the way, can you clarify something, please? The images of your Major Arcana cards on your website don’t seem to have titles on them (like “Innocence” or “Triumph”) on them, just the names of the lovers depicted. Am I missing something?
The card designs include the names and numbers on them. They’re upon the white borders. Here is the Love (VI) card as an example:
Can you give an example or two of how you chose your Love Story to Major Arcana card associations?
The lovers featured in The Lover’s Path Tarot include:
Pamina and Tamino, Merlin and Morgan le Fay, Shahrazade and Shahriyar, Cleopatra and Anthony, Romeo and Juliet, Isis and Osiris, Tristan and Isolde, Brunnhilde and Siegfried, Danae and Zeus, Penelope and Odysseus, Orpheus and Eurydice, Pluto and Persephone, Venus and Vulcan, Paolo and Francesca, Aeneas and Dido, Dante and Beatrice, Cupid and Psyche, Tannhauser and Elisabeth, Ariadne and Bacchus.
One of my favorite correlations in my deck is for the Grace card (traditional card: The Star). I use the story of Dante and Beatrice as an example of how love can inspire someone to a state of grace and inspiration. On this card, Dante’s vision of Amor, the god of love, is shown here; this vision was described by him in his thirteenth century book La Vita Nuova (The New Life). As Amor embraces Beatrice within the art, flames swirl about them, as passionate as the emotions at play. The starry sky suggests celestial forces at work to bring inspiration and beauty. Over the years, their story has inspired many to give their hearts just as completely, I think, as well as to use love to inspire themselves to higher goals.
Are there any other remarkable or unusual features about this deck that you’d like to talk about?
Each of the major arcana cards correspond to a different love story—twenty-two in all. Each of the four minor arcana suits are used to retell one love story in depth:
Cups: Tristan and Isolde
Staves: Brunnhilde and Siegfried
Arrows: Cupid and Psyche
Coins: Danae and Zeus
Why did you choose those associations? I think I can figure out why you would associate Arrows with Cupid, and Cups with Tristan & Isolde (considering their ill-fated drink from a love potion), but can you say a few words about the other two suits?
Staves corresponds to Brunnhilde and Siegfried, whose story is retold in Wagner’s Ring Cycle (among other places). Staves are associated with fire, and in the cumulation of the story of Brunnhilde and Siegfried, Brunnhilde destroys the ring of power in a great bonfire, in order to allow love to reign supreme on earth.
Coins corresponds to the Greek myth of Danae and Zeus. The god Zeus appears to Danae in a shower of gold coins to declare his love. In the Italian Renaissance, the story of Danae was also viewed as a metaphor for the courtesan’s path, who exchanged the favors of love for the compensation (and security) of gold.
There is one feature of the images in your Minor Arcana cards that I found particularly interesting and wanted to ask you about. The cards in the Minor Arcana of the number 10 are basically landscapes (Cups and Coins) or a collection of the suit’s icons (Arrows and Staves) rather than scenes with people as is the case with the other “pip” cards. Why is that?
Yes, that was a conscious choice. I wanted the ace and the ten to be the purest evocation of the energy of the suit, if you will—from start to finish.
I know this is a tough question, but what is your favorite card from your deck? Why is it your favorite?
Oh goodness, I have many cards from The Lover’s Path Tarot that I feel personally connected to—the Princess of Pentacles, Grace, Love. Right now, I have my Queen of Arrows art hung in the corner where I conduct business in my studio. The painting is a portrait of the goddess Venus—she’s decidedly no nonsense but also very inviting and beautiful. It seems a good fit for a creative person such as myself who works with language and literature.
The Queen of Arrows is a lovely card, and in it, Venus looks a lot like you, so I have to ask: Did you use yourself as the model for it?
No—I wish I was that lovely! The model was a Russian woman who interned in my studio several years back.
I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree about how lovely you are.
What is the most interesting discovery you made about your deck after it was done, either through your use of it for doing readings or from comments by other people, etc.?
A publishing colleague on Twitter told me she met her husband immediately after pulling Triumph/The World from the deck; this card corresponds to the story of Ariadne and Dionysus. At the time my colleague got the card, she was completely brokenhearted because her boyfriend had just broken up with her. She thought it was a nasty cosmic joke! Little did she know that love was just around the corner—she ended up marrying her ex-boyfriend’s best friend who comforted her, just as Dionysus comforted Ariadne after she was abandoned by Theseus. My colleague now has the Triumph card framed in her home as a lucky totem.
Is there a companion book for your deck? Who wrote it? Does it come with the deck or is it available some other way?
Yes, there is an extensive companion book which I wrote and designed. It’s included in the deluxe gift edition.
Is there anything else you want to say about your deck?
1. The Lover’s Path Tarot has a tie-in—an illustrated novel, The Lover’s Path. It was published by Abrams Books and has garnered some wonderful reviews, including praise from the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The Lover’s Path is set in Renaissance Venice. It’s about the sister of a courtesan who becomes a famous singer; the plot includes an eventful tarot reading. The novel was printed with love letters, maps, and fun interactive elements for the reader to explore —it’s somewhat like Griffin and Sabine in this regard.
2. The Lover’s Path Tarot is also available as an iPhone app on Apple’s App Store, which I personally developed. It’s marketed as the Love Tarot app and is available in a free lite version and a paid full version. It can be downloaded at http://kriswaldherr.com/apps/lovetarot/index.html.
Where can people buy this deck?
The print deck is available through Amazon and other major retailers in a deluxe version (which includes a beautiful gift box) and a deck-only premiere edition. It can also be ordered from U.S. Games Systems, Inc. The digital version is available from the App Store. All links for purchasing can be found on my site at http://www.kriswaldherr.com.
Publisher: U.S. Games Systems (2004)
All images from The Lover’s Path Tarot deck Copyright 2004 © U.S. Games Systems, Inc. Stamford, CT 06902
NOTE: If you have a deck that you would like to have featured here, contact me about it.