Deck creator forum — Julie Cuccia-Watts
The following is a new entry in my “Deck Creator Forum.” I occasionally do deck reviews on this blog, but in this feature I have asked various deck creators 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.)
Julie Cuccia-Watts has created several beautiful Tarot decks — the Ancestral Path, the Blue Moon Tarot (a majors only deck), and the MAAT Tarot — and she is now working on another deck with a working title of “Journey into Egypt Tarot.” From my own experience, I know that creating a Tarot deck is an enormous undertaking, so when Julie told me that she was working on her fourth deck I jokingly accused her of being a glutton for punishment. Seriously, though, I know that each deck is a labor of love, and I’m in awe of Julie’s enthusiasm for and devotion to the Tarot. I would also like to note that I have Julie’s MAAT Tarot deck, and besides being a great deck for doing readings, it is one of the few Tarot decks that I love to peruse sometimes just as sort of a stroll through a mini museum.
James: What inspired you to create this deck?
Julie: With my first deck, Ancestral Path, I was inspired to learn tarot. Making my own deck seemed like the best way to teach myself the symbols. The second deck (Blue Moon) was closure for the 52 week 4 season calendar I discovered in learning the minor cards while painting the cards of the AP deck. The third deck (MAAT Tarot) was inspired by so many people who loved the Blue Moon Tarot and insisted it needed minors. No one was buying the idea of closure for AP.
My fourth deck, which I am currently working on (Journey into Egypt Tarot) was inspired by a lecture on real sky astrology that author Robert Bauval gave while we were cruising the Nile in Egypt. I heard the lecture in April and it made me so mad I walked out. The reason I was mad was because I knew MAAT Tarot was wrong and needed to be redone. By the end of July I had a dream that showed me all the paintings for this new deck all at once, one after the other really fast. My neighbor had the same dream so I knew something was up. This last deck is based on real sky astrology and the ancient Egyptian calendar. It’s my first single culture deck but as it evolves I am seeing it is showing the multicultural influences in ancient Egypt.
Can you say a few words about how you came up with the title, “MAAT Tarot”?
My original reason for using the title MAAT was because Maat is the wife of the Egyptian god Thoth. Naming the deck after Thoth’s wife was supposed to suggest the deck to be a feminine view of astrology thru a lunar lens. When I looked into the goddess further I found that she was the goddess of universal order. Since this deck’s system is based on the oldest calendar system and it also changes the order of the major cards, this name felt very right.
Most modern Tarot decks fall into one of three “camps” – Marseille, Rider Waite Smith, or Thoth. With which of those is your deck most closely aligned, and why did you choose that “type” of deck?
The only deck I’ve made that is influenced by older decks is Ancestral Path, which was based on Rider Waite Smith. Since AP I’ve moved out of camp and remain elsewhere.
What is the theme for your decks?
I guess my decks’ themes are usually multicultural.
How did you create the artwork for your deck? (Watercolors, photography, Photoshop, etc.) What would you like to say about that process?
My decks are all painted in oils first. Then photographed. The MAAT Tarot and the Journey into Egypt’s final photos are enhanced by Photoshop.
What would you say makes your deck special?
My decks are special because they link traditional tarot symbolism with major calendar points found in lunar astrology and the cross quarter days. This idea just jumped out at me while working on a lunar calendar in 1997. People who buy my decks seem to really like this idea and they like learning about the way ancient people all over the world kept track of time.
Are there any non-traditional elements of this deck, such as a 79th card, unusual suit names, an extra suit, or something like that?
My decks stick to the usual 78 card tradition. They also can be read very traditionally and align with RWS meanings. The only thing strange about them is that the major cards do not follow the typical “journey of the fool” order and they are not numbered.
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.?
Primarily my greatest discovery has been rather recent. I discovered as I do more readings for other people that my decks are a tool for me to tap into my spiritual guides and teachers. As I learn more, I get to know my guides better and my cards need to deepen. I’m always finding out new things. I have had many people tell me things about obscure details in cards and I am surprised when they have meaning.
Can you give an example or two of obscure details that people have pointed out and the meanings they associated with them?
On the High Priest card a Reiki practitioner noticed a spiral on one of the stones in my stone circle. This was very meaningful in her reading. I put the spiral there because I felt it should be there but it held no particular meaning for me. Another example is in regard to the dog breed in my Princess of Swords card. A woman I was reading for was connected to this particular breed of dog and the reading became very personal for her.
Is there a companion book for your deck? Who wrote it? Does it come with the deck or is it available some other way?
Ancestral Path has a paperback guide-book written by Tracey Hoover. Tracey discovered my work and introduced it to her friend Stuart Kaplan (president of US Games Systems). And she also taught me how to read my tarot deck when I finished it.
Blue moon has one big LWB written by me.
I have about 10 books that go with MAAT that I wrote. Corrine Kenner put together a workbook based on class notes that she transcribed and simplified called the Ma’at Tarot workbook. These are available from Lulu.com. MAAT Tarot also has its own special hard cover guide-book which I wrote and illustrated that comes with the deck set.
Journey into Egypt will get at least as many books as the MAAT Tarot all via Lulu.com this time.
If your deck is not available through the regular channels (Amazon, book stores, etc.), where can people go to buy it?
The best place to find Ancestral Path is EBay. You can still find MAAT tarot and Blue Moon on my website, and when Journey into Egypt is done that will be on my website too.
Ancestral Path Publisher: US Games Systems. (1996)
Julie’s other decks are self published:
Blue Moon (1999) (2004)
MAAT Tarot (2006)
Journey into Egypt (in progress)
Julie’s website: http://www.newmoontradingco.com
Images from the MAAT Tarot deck are © Julie Cuccia-Watts
I would like to add that I have written a review of Julie’s MAAT deck.
NOTE: If you have a deck that you would like to have featured here, contact me about it.