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Deck creator forum — ShadowFox Tarot

November 5, 2010

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.)


The cards in the ShadowFox Tarot have a very minimalistic look, while also having an almost Rorschach Inkblot quality to them (they are in black and white), which makes them evocative, stimulating an intuitive response. The Tarot Garden says that “the cards … remain refreshingly free of symbological clutter” and that the spare images “force the viewer to … mentally ‘fill in the blanks’ of the image.” On the other hand, if you like your cards lavishly imbued with symbols so that one will catch your eye during a reading, this deck might pose some problems for you.

Here now is my interview with Richard ShadowFox about this deck.


James: What inspired you to create this deck?

Richard: The ShadowFox Tarot deck was created as a complement to our “ShadowFox Tarot Book of Shadows”. It just occurred to me that a Book of Shadows should have a companion Deck of Shadows.


Most modern Tarot decks fall into one of three “camps” – Marseille, RiderWaiteSmith, or Thoth. With which of those is your deck most closely aligned?

Pamela Colman Smith is probably the single most important influence on me, and I also have a great appreciation for the Visconti decks. When I conceived the deck it was a simple matter of “how do I represent the interpretation of the cards using only people, the elements, and the least amount of any other objects that I need to”.


That gives the cards a very minimalistic look. Can you tell us why you opted for such a spare style? I know that some people like how this lets them “fill in the gaps,” so to speak, when they read with this deck. However, many people like a lot of symbols on the cards since those symbols act as triggers for their intuition.

Well, that touches on a subject that I intend to address in a book and deck project that I hope to have released in the next couple of years, but I will be happy to try and give you an answer that you can use to understand my feelings about the Tarot.

To start, although all of the reviews I have read about the deck have been positive, I don’t presume to believe that everybody will want to read with, or even like, the ShadowFox Tarot, and that is as it should be. It is my belief — and let me emphasize that I make no claims that are intended to diminish any other person’s perspective — that the Tarot is pure in and of itself. Since the first deck was created, the missing Visconti, all the various metaphysical groups, and occultist was once the popular term, tried to find a way to make it a part of their subculture. The Thoth people, the Golden Dawn, etc., and pardon me for saying so but it reminds me of the scene in the movie “Finding Nemo” with all the seagulls. “Mine, mine, mine, mine!”

To come right out and say how I feel, the Tarot is a wonderful tool, but it is only one window to the information the Universe is offering each and every one of us, everyday, about our destinies. I feel less time is needed to analyze clues than is usually taken, and it has been my experience that people only want to keep digging deeper if they don’t find the answer they want or like on the surface. The Universe doesn’t send us a book, it sends a single sentence, or just a word, and expects us to recognize it and go out and get it.

We start out as little children so wonderfully intuitive, and then society says, “Think”, so we start ignoring the Universe as it speaks and guides us, because we need to “think through” all of our choices and not be rash. Five years before I met my current wife, Jennifer, I became somewhat infatuated with the name “Jennifer”. I even rescued a cat and named her Jennifer. Needless to say, my wife at the time, not a Jennifer by the way, became a bit put out about it. It didn’t end our marriage, but I’m sure it didn’t help either. Anyway, I went on about my life, nothing special on the romantic front, until one day I look into the eyes of a woman and I am in love like a teenager again. And if I have to tell you what that woman’s name is I’ve been going on so much I have lost you. Anyway, to make the point, the Universe gave me but a single word, a name, and without the name Jennifer I would have not met and married my wonderful and beautiful wife, but also, I would not have taken up the Tarot as the current direction for my art.


Is there a theme for your deck (beyond your minimalist approach), and what would you like to say about that theme?

To further expand on your first question here; the theme is Shadows, and aside from the straight line I drew between “Book of Shadows” and “Deck of Shadows”, my moment of inspiration came after my decision to work only with shadows on this deck. Shadows represent that which we do not see, and by depicting only the shadows it empowers the reader to find the obvious. As I see it people spend so much time making assumptions and drawing conclusions about what they do not see, they also fail to understand or recognize that which is not shrouded in mystery.


How did you create the artwork for your deck? What would you like to say about that process?

The deck was created using digital 3D rendering software, the same type of computer software that is used in movies such as Avatar, Lord of the Rings, etc. Every person, animal, element, or object, was digitally placed into an environment, followed by a lighting sequence. I then rendered it to remove everything, leaving only the shadows. And in the finishing process I removed all non-consistent shadows and cleaned up any imperceptible aspects of the image.


Are there any non-traditional elements of this deck, such as a 79th card, unusual suit names, an extra suit, or something like that?

It is a traditional 78 card deck.


ShadowFox 10 SwordsI think my favorite card in this deck is the Ten of Swords because it manages to convey the traditional message with an image that is not as gruesome as the RWS’s version.  I was wondering if you have a favorite card from your deck.

I don’t really have a favorite card, although there are some that I have slightly stronger feelings of pride about. The Three of Cups the Three of Swords, the Queen of Swords, and Death are a few of them.

Four ShadowFox cards


Would you like to say why you are proud of those particular images?

I am just now finishing up my fifth complete Tarot deck, and all told with some of my projects in progress, I have created something like six hundred Tarot card images. As far as I am concerned, I follow the rules, and the question is, “am I an artist who creates Tarot decks, or am I a Tarot deck artist”, and I take great pride in my efforts to be the latter. I don’t mind theme decks, or niche decks, but for me it has to work within the rules of the Tarot. I have a specific “traditional” set of rules for myself. I work with full figure humans, no partials or portraits, the elements, and a moment in time that represents the interpretation of the card as I see it. Actually capturing the moment in time that represents the card is very important to me, and I am proud of my efforts overall. These four cards stand out to me and I really don’t know that I can give you a quantifiable explanation for that, but the deck is meant to represent the purest and simplest aspect of the Tarot; the person, what they are doing, and the element that influences them, and I feel good that these cards do just that.

Three of Cups:

This card is about celebrating womanhood. From Pamela Colman Smith we have three women and a harvest on the Three of Cups. Where are the men? Well if it’s a party they are apparently hanging out with the girls in the Four of Wands, and I doubt the inference is that they are still in the fields No, this is girls night out. One thing that I have discovered is that if you take yourself too seriously, other people won’t. To me the Three of Cups is about celebrating the bonds of sisterhood, and I think I did a pretty good job of capturing that.

Three of Swords:

Again in reference to my mentor, Pamela Colman Smith, why did she put all three swords in a single heart? The act of betraying the one was committed by only two, so again, why three? As I see it the moments following the realization, confirmation, epiphany, what have you, of the betrayal, your destiny is at stake because what you do next may take it all away from you. The betrayal isn’t going to do that, you are. People do terrible things to others, as well as themselves, when their emotions erupt with pain and anger, and the third sword represents the final betrayal of yourself through an emotional act that further harms you. Walking away and surviving, suffering as you must, but returning eventually to the path that is yours is what this card represents. I tried to capture that moment where the woman holding the sword must drop it, and as hard as it might be, walk away.

Queen of Swords:

This card is a woman who will stand firmly against the bravado of any man. She will not accept that she is any less capable because she is a woman, and she will make sure you understand that completely. She does not exercise her power because she can, but she will have you feel it if she has made a fair judgment in her mind and you challenge her on it. She demands your respect, and will use fear if she must to get it. A bit of a handful at times, but great to have on your side. I just felt like she’s not the type to be sitting around, and it is her throne.


This card represents sudden and unexpected change. It doesn’t tap you on the shoulder and say, “hey, got a minute”. It descends upon you in an unsuspecting instant, seemingly out of nowhere, and your life will be different after it leaves. If a lover tells you legally, or otherwise, that “it’s not working”, this card shouldn’t be there unless you didn’t see it coming. I subscribe to the philosophy that an end is just the step that comes before a beginning. Because of my way of thinking, in the same scenario, if you did know that the relationship was over and the official paperwork, or moving out, was only a remaining formality, you are more likely to find the Fool, maybe an Ace, or the Eight of Cups, but number 13 of the Major Arcana, in my mind, is reserved for what is best described as “you won’t know what hit you till it’s gone.”


Is there a companion book for your deck?  Who wrote it?  Does it come with the deck or is it available some other way?

The deck comes as a set with the 224-page “ShadowFox Tarot Book of Shadows”, which is a very extensive compilation of correspondences and other significant aspects of the Tarot. It contains more information on the Tarot then has ever been published in a single publication before that we are aware of. My wife Jennifer and I wrote the book, but most of the credit belongs to her for her years of research and organization of the information it contains.


Where can people go to buy your deck?

The ShadowFox Tarot deck and book set is available around the world through Amazon, including foreign language versions of the Amazon site, as well as Borders, Tarot Garden, and any other merchants that carry similar subject matter.


Publisher: Schiffer Publishing
Publication date: April 30th, 2010
All images from the ShadowFox deck are © Richard and Jennifer ShadowFox


NOTE: If you have a deck that you would like to have featured here, contact me about it.


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