Deck creator forum — A King’s Journey Tarot
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.)
A King’s Journey Tarot is an interesting blend of traditional Tarot and an innovative take on it. The caption banner on the website for this deck states:
“A King’s Journey Tarot: Lessons in spiritual and mundane growth, as we follow the Fool throughout his progression of life, through this Fool’s Journey themed tarot deck.”
This gives you an idea of what this deck is about, but for a deeper look into it, I have interviewed the creators of this deck. Some of the answers you find below were from Chanel Bayless and others are from James Battersby (the artist). They are differentiated by a tag: C (Chanel) and JB (James Battersby)
James Ricklef: What inspired you to create this deck?
Chanel: I wanted a deck that would read at a little more depth than the usual decks.
I have to confess something here. At the time, I wanted two things: I wanted a tarot deck that made more sense in the way I came to understand the cards, and I wanted other readers to read the way that I read. The latter came from receiving a series of extremely vague, inaccurate, and general readings.
I wanted to create a deck that let us, as tarot readers, see through the window just a bit more. You see, I am a natural psychic, and I was used to seeing ‘more’ in my visions. Over the years of practicing with tarot, I noticed that I Scrye off the cards. I didn’t think this was too unusual, but when I spoke to a few other tarot readers, I came to realize this wasn’t a common practice, and some readers were finding it difficult to achieve depth in a reading because of their inability to intuitively follow the cards. So, I wanted to create a tarot deck that would aid readers in opening up their intuition to enable them to see the ‘movies’ within the spreads from the cards’ interactions with one another.
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?
C: A King’s Journey is more aligned with the Rider Waite Smith style of decks. I chose this type of style because it’s the one that I’m most familiar with. Differences that you will find in A King’s Journey are that I call the Pentacles, Coins and the Pages are Princesses.
Yes, that and the addition of new cards, which we’ll get to in a minute. For now, though, I’d like to ask if there is a theme for your deck, and what would you like to say about that theme?
C: Yes, there is a theme! A King’s Journey is styled after a Fool’s Journey. I have always loved the Fool’s Journey from the moment I learned of it. One day I thought, what if the story was carried through the entire deck? What would the Fool’s Journey look like in our own personal journeys? So, that’s exactly what I set out to portray. I wanted the story to be one we could all relate to in every aspect of our lives. I do believe that we will journey through all the tarot cards in our life, and probably even more than once in some cases. My hope was to remind querents and readers of that fact when they realize, through the cards, where they are in the ‘issue’ or where they are currently on the path. This can bring hope when they realize what card would come next, or which ones they have put behind them.
So each of the suits portrays a bit more of the Fool’s journey, another chapter, so to speak? Can you talk about how the cards in the Minor Arcana do that?
C: The story starts as the Fool steps into the Ace thru Five of Coins. He is inexperienced and learns through watching his surroundings. That’s how we all start learning as teens. We people watch, we visit the local shops and listen to the store owners, and we listen to those we idolize.
As we travel around the wheel in A King’s Journey, we then go thru the Ace thru Five of Swords where the Fool learns how to communicate, learns boundaries, learns about his mental stamina and ponders the natural environment around him. He also has to start learning rules around personal laws.
Next comes the Ace thru Five of Wands where he gets introduced to his ego which includes his desires, motivations, passions, etc. by how he thinks outside influences may find him more desirable.
Then the Fool comes through the Ace to Five of Cups where he learns about relationships and communicating emotions with other people. He also finds out how other people influence his emotions.
At that point, the Fool goes through Death and transforms as he has passes the gate of maturity. Then we see him travel back through the suits via the 6 – 10 cards. This time, the Fool will experience his inner influences rather than the outer influences that he previously went through.
After he travels through all his inner influences according to the suits, growing through each one, he will finally feel content in all areas (suits) as he reaches the Ten of Cups / Judgment and World aspects of the Journey. At this point, the Fool is returning home, and ready to take his place in spiritual purpose. That’s when he climbs up through his spiritual journey through the Spirit Suit to finally Attain Ace of Spirit / Soul in which the Fool feels he is ‘one’ with his higher self.
How did you create the artwork for your deck? What would you like to say about that process?
C: It would all start with meditating on each card. I would ask how they would like to be defined on the image. Then I would check to make sure the vision that I understood matched the meaning of the card and was in alignment with the story. Next I would check to make sure each one had a natural flow with the rest of the cards, including the system around the theme that I created. I would sketch the vision I received with colored pencils and scan them in for James to illustrate. When he returned the images to me for proofing, I would check for readability and would tweak colors or consider elements to be added or taken out.
James Bayless: I had no real former knowledge of tarot imagery except what the average person might pick up in day-to-day life. (The devil, death and hanged man cards seem to get the most publicity). I had been creating artworks for some time, sometimes for clients but mainly for my own personal enjoyment. Chanel liked my style of artwork and thought it would be suitable for her King’s Journey deck. Chanel would sketch out a rough drawing of what she would like me to do and I then sketched this out in pencil and showed it to her to see if it was near to what she had in mind. When we both agreed on it, I penciled the illustration more precisely and went over it with black ink markers and pens. From there, I then took Chanel’s color description sheet and followed her instructions as best I could, using Photoshop to add the many layers of color that go into each card. This was then shown to Chanel for a final review to make sure everything was to her satisfaction, in case I needed to either edit it or add something to it.
Note: For more about the design process behind this deck, see: http://www.akingsjourneytarot.com/thedesignprocess.htm
There are some non-traditional elements of this deck. Why did you make those changes and how are they important or significant?
C: There are a few exciting non-traditional elements in A King’s Journey. I introduced a fifth element called the Spirit Suit. It is associated with Virtues (in the upright position) and Vices (in the reversed). I’m really excited about the additional of this suit into tarot. I believe that the Spirit Suit shines a spotlight on our core issues and motivators. This is so important if we want to know what is affecting our decisions around our issues.
In order to blend the Spirit Suit into the traditional 78 card deck, I needed to add two Major Arcana cards. These are Daath and Soul. Daath is the point of entrance into the Spirit Suit, and Soul is the completion. What I love about the Daath card, is that it reminds me of the Fool. He is walking out on to the ledge. Only, in Daath, he is not skipping aimlessly, oblivious to his surroundings. He is standing there looking out into the Universe, oblivious of his purpose and path, but at the same time, he has blind faith that the Universe will lead him to his spiritual purpose.
Are there any other remarkable or unusual features about this deck that you’d like to talk about?
C: Yes, there is. I designed the cards of A King’s Journey to be without borders to allow the mind to wander through the story that is presented in front of them, as if it was movie flowing and melding the images together. To further aid the mind to swim in the images, I took out all distracting information from the card fronts, including identifying words.
What would you say makes your deck special?
C: Definitely the additional cards and the depth of information that the reader can get from these cards. I continually receive fabulous emails from recipients of this deck to tell me that the cards are giving them deeper insight into the questions. I think this makes the deck very special. It’s not just another clone. There are twists on the images and meanings that we are normally used to seeing. Those little twists on the images and meanings seem to make all the difference in the world.
JB: I think for me, it would have to be the fact that it’s borderless. Although Chanel tried to explain it to me, I never really understood fully why I was illustrating these cards with no borders in mind. It’s actually only now, with having the deck and trying to do my own little amateur readings that I see why Chanel decided to design the deck that way. When the cards are placed in close proximity, sometimes you can see symbolism forming out of two images close together.
I know this is a tough question, but what is your favorite card from your deck? Why is it your favorite?
C: Wow… a favorite card? I have a few of them. The Hanged Man, Justice, Temperance, Chariot and Lovers for sure, because of the way I tweaked the images to fit my understanding of the card. The designs of those cards are not illustrated in the typical manner that we are used to viewing them. I love the Hanged Man, I think visually it is a happy and comfortable card. I like the Ten of Swords colors and portrayal of the way our chakras are affected within that card. The Tower card is another favorite, as it is based on a past life memory I’ve had over the whole of my life. I also love Daath, Ten of Spirit, King of Spirit and the Ace of Spirit and the way my own spirit could just fall into those cards.
JB: For a long time, my favorite card was the 5 of cups, just because I felt that way. But I’ve started to like the 6 of wands a lot now, mainly because it shows up a lot in my own personal readings with the deck.
Considering the two cards that James mentioned, I like the addition to the Five of Cups of a distorted reflection in the pond. As for the Six of Wands, though, I’m curious — why the snake?
C: In A King’s Journey, there is a story, and this part of the story comes after the ten of swords. This is offering a solution to the ten of swords. Basically, in a word, get your ego motivated and get moving!
Snakes represent the lower chakra points that are stimulated in order to be motivated. As I mention in my book, Snakes are sly in the way they maneuver, or they can be a calming and loving connection. This may seem a crude expression, but I didn’t really intend for it to be vulgar. I wanted to make the point that often, when we feel as dead as we do in the ten of swords, to feel out that ego part of us, awakens the ‘snake’ that allows us the purpose of motivating our ego. That awakening of the ego and desires will cause reactions and motivations in such a way that we go beyond actions we’d normally take. It gives us a lust for life, and I think that’s where success and triumph can come, as we are triumphing over our personal setbacks. It’s also showing our ego in front of us being the leader, pulling us forward towards victory.
Although many of the cards in your deck follow the RWS tradition, I noticed that there are some that deviate from it. One in particular is the Two of Wands. Can you tell us how you came up with this image of what looks to me like a Phoenix waiting at a cave entrance?
C: I like that you noticed! Yes, a few of the cards do deviate because I wanted to bring out another viewpoint in the cards. I have to admit that the two of wands was one of those cards that I have always struggled with in completely grasping. We all have one of those cards, and this was mine.
I think many people have a hard time with this card, perhaps because it seems so similar to the Three of Wands. Or maybe because it doesn’t look as obviously like a TWO card as do the other TWOs in the Minor Arcana.
I studied and studied this card, and then finally decided to design it how I have come to understand what it means for me. The Two of Wands is a card about shaping and molding who we are, much in the way a teenager or young adult does. The Two of Wands gives us that permission to mess up, redefine and perfect the image that we want to present to the world. The Phoenix represents the idea of reincarnating from your own ashes. If something isn’t working, let it go up in flames, and rise again. Sculpt yourself again and again until you feel this is who 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.?
C: I knew this tarot deck would be more advanced. But I’m thrilled about the way a few inexperienced readers and newcomers, with virtually no experience, have been able to pull out meanings and do very deep, meaningful readings. I cannot tell you how profound this discovery was for me. I didn’t expect that it would be easy for the newcomer to connect with it.
JB: Artistically speaking, I’ve found that some of the cards that I felt weren’t my best work (Three of Coins, Queen of Coins, and Six of Wands in particular) … I’ve discovered that some of these are starting to become my favorite cards, visually. I think the biggest discovery, though, is still how well the borderless design of the deck works.
Is there a companion book for your deck? Who wrote it? Does it come with the deck or is it available some other way?
C: Yes, there is a companion book with the Deluxe Limited Edition.
It is 134 pages — 8.5 x 11 inch FULL COLORED pages in spiral binding. I wrote the companion book in a very playful manner, with lots of colors and fonts to highlight specific meanings of the cards. I also weave the story of the Fool in A King’s Journey on each of the pages so you can follow along with the progression of his journey. Every now and again, I pull out specific symbols from the cards and give extra sidebar information. At the end of the book, I’ve included eight spreads that I designed. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on the book, and I’m excited to offer it as a companion to A King’s Journey. I’m totally excited about the companion book, and thrilled that others are excited about it too!
What makes this a limited edition is the addition of a second book that was written by the artist, James Battersby. It’s called, The Journey. He takes you through the making of A King’s Journey through his perspective, thoughts and musings, as a non-tarot reader, during his time spent illustrating the tarot deck. You also get to see my sketches of the cards, poems from both of us, cards that never made it into the deck and his process in illustrating. It’s a nice read!
The only way to get either of these books, for the time, is to order Our Deluxe Limited Edition. James’ book will only be offered in this edition.
Is there anything else you want to say about your deck?
JB: From my own personal view as a non tarot reader, although I am familiar with all the cards without needing numbers or titles, having illustrated each one, I imagine that some beginners, and possibly even some who have experience, will need to work with the deck a bit to get familiar with the cards since they are not numbered or named. But I don’t see that as necessarily being a bad thing, as when you do get familiar, you will have in your hands, a deck that can be both personal to you but also able to be read more extensively and intuitively, thus leading to more accurate readings. I would say that with this deck being borderless, you can very literally, think outside of the box!
Update (August, 2015): I believe this deck is out of print. You can read more about it on Aeclectic.com.
All images from A King’s Journey Tarot deck are Copyright Chanel Bayless ©2010 All Rights Reserved.
NOTE: If you have a deck that you would like to have featured here, contact me about it.