Deck creator forum — Ghosts and Spirits
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 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.)
This time it’s my pleasure to interview Lisa Hunt, a truly prolific artist who has created quite a few Tarot decks: the Shapeshifter Tarot, the Celtic Dragon Tarot, the Fantastical Creatures Tarot, the Animals Divine Tarot, and the Fairy Tale Tarot. She is now finishing work on her new deck, the Ghosts & Spirits Tarot, which is what we will be talking about today, and from what I’ve seen of it so far, I think it might be Lisa’s best work yet.
In addition to Tarot decks, Lisa’s artwork has appeared in numerous periodicals, book covers, calendars, and collectible card games. Also, she wrote and illustrated a full color book entitled Celestial Goddesses published by Llewellyn, and she co-authored a children’s book published by Simon & Schuster. Rumor has it that Lisa also has a family, but I don’t know how she found the time to do that too. 😀
Here now is my interview with Lisa Hunt. She has been quite generous in making time to give very detailed and well-considered answers to my questions, and I think you’ll really enjoy reading this.
James: You’ve created several Tarot decks already, Lisa. What inspired you to create this new one?
Lisa: As an artist, I like examining that which is just beyond immediate recognition–ghosts and spirits as a tarot deck seemed like the perfect instrument for exploring this concept in greater depth. Interestingly, the whole process from idea to submission to contract came about quickly. I woke up one day with a title on my tongue. I then brainstormed and just let the basic ideas flow into a comprehensive proposal. It was probably the creative idea of least resistance to date. U.S. Games actually made an offer the very day they received my package, a definite sign that the time was right for this deck.
On a side note, I painted “ancestral spirits” for a collectible card game company for about 10 years. It had become my trademark of sorts–being the most natural thing for me to paint. It was also the theme most CCG players recognized as my work. I think on a subconscious level that I knew I wanted to take my spirits paintings further and into the intricate realm of divination.
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?
I do not like to categorize my decks, but this particular project generally follows the Rider-Waite tradition. With that said, I take a Jungian approach to almost everything I do. In fact I count Sallie Nichols’ Jung and Tarot to be one of the most important books in my tarot library. I’m also influenced by the symbolic complexities of Thoth and am a big fan of Angela Arrien’s The Tarot Handbook.
What would you like to say about that theme for this deck?
The Ghosts and Spirits tarot examines the thin veil between conscious recognition and those things that reside just beyond “normal” perception. I included ghosts AND spirits because both can be considered mysterious fixtures in our psyche.
How do you define the difference between those two terms — ghost and spirit? They are often seen as synonymous, so for “spirit” are you including things like fairies, elves, angels, demons, etc. or what?
Including “spirit” gave me more flexibility with my choices. Technically, some of my inclusions fall under the category of fae or shapeshifter such as Leshy, Swan Maiden, Shellycoat, Banshee, Cailleach Bheur, Tornak and Menehune. With that said, most of the deck showcases ghosts from around the world. I think the biggest difference is the origin of these supernatural appearances. Ghosts are connected to the deceased and are often restless for a number of reasons that are explained in my deck while spirits can expand into the realm of the fantastical; some are perceived as insouciant creatures while others are helpers, messengers or an integral part of nature. Both are paranormal phenomenon that encompass the otherworldly–something beyond normal perceptions of the living. Many mortals get feelings or glimpses of their presence and/or appearance on the physical plane thus their omnipresence in world folk traditions. I know I have!
How did you create the artwork for your deck? What would you like to say about that process?
I used watercolor paints on watercolor paper. Unlike my previous bodies of tarot work, this one was handled with a more spontaneous approach. I did not pre-plan the paintings beyond the basic design. For most of the work, I drew directly on the final watercolor paper and just let the images flow unrestricted by conscious critiquing. This lends to a more natural, raw and penetrable delivery. The imagery comes directly from heart and soul, and reflects my gut reaction to a particular idea. I think my process itself is otherworldly because it took me to a place where I connected with Spirit.
What would you say makes your deck special?
I don’t know of any other Ghosts deck out there, something that honestly surprises me. My deck is not afraid to let it all hang out: It’s scary, ugly, beautiful, dark and raw. There is no censorship when dealing with shadows–yet embracing both benevolent and malevolent ghosts/spirits is an integral part of achieving balance. I think ghosts and spirits are excellent communicators between the different levels of consciousness. They’re there to assist us in our internal explorations.
Are there any non-traditional elements of this deck, such as a 79th card, unusual suit names, an extra suit, or something like that?
No, I didn’t deviate from tradition, though there are a few select name changes that I’ve utilized in previous decks.
Are there any other remarkable or unusual features about this deck that you’d like to talk about?
This deck is a big departure from my previous efforts. Instead of pre-planning all the drawings, I created the art with a spontaneous fervor that was almost like possession. It was a process that required a total relinquishment of the ego. It forced me to let intuition take over and guide the paintbrush. Also, this is the first deck that I’ve been documenting the process. I even created two stop-motion videos of my work from initial drawing to finished painting. It’s a deck that’s come to life during this revolutionary era of multimedia engagement and I’ve taken full advantage of this kind of exposure. My friends and fans have been able to look at the art and read about the process as I work through the project.
Yes, I remember viewing one of those stop-motion videos, which is what first got me interested in this new deck. Can you give us the link to see that?
You can see them on my blog archives:
Wow, Lisa, I love those little Clay animation figures running around on that first video! And of course I enjoy the second video because I love the psychopomp painting!
Okay, now. I know this is a tough question, but what is your favorite card from your deck? Why is it your favorite?
That is a hard question because each card has so much meaning for me. But if I had to choose my absolute favorite it would be Ankou as King of Pentacles: To me, this is a powerful image. It exemplifies death, transition, continuation, life cycles and those things that are an inherent part of existence. Nothing stays the same, something I’m really beginning to understand as I grow older. I also really like the lighting and color scheme. I think it projects a potent, poignant vibe.
That reminds me of something else I want to ask. How did you assign the ghosts and spirits to the individual cards? For example, I understand using the ghost of Hamlet’s father as the King of Cups, but I’m curious why you associated the Queen of Wands with the White Ladies or the King of Pentacles with Ankou?
Given that much of my deck is about exploring the raw shadows of the psyche, I took liberties with some of the card assignments. That is not to say that I compromise any of the core meanings, but they may obfuscate traditional views given the dark nature of much of the subject matter. I think that is what makes it an interesting, “different” deck. The meanings are not immediately digestible, they are deep and require time to process and assimilate. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be a difficult deck to work with (in fact, the accompanying stories and information are clear and to the point), but it’ll require an open mind to embrace that which we tend to impulsively fear. The ghosts and spirits are messengers–and are there to guide us through the complexities of our mortal lives. They have the advantage of seeing life from both sides!
The white ladies as Queen of Wands are inspiring creative energy. They’re lovely dancers with fiery spirits who proposition those that cross their path. Metaphorically speaking, they sort of shake one out of complacency. One can either let go of the ego, take opportunity by the hand and just go with the flow–dancing in the moonlight, so to speak–or one can recoil and repress energy that becomes stunted in a place inhabited by fear and misgivings. The White ladies are there to assist the receptive soul. It’s about maintaining an open mind and letting one’s creative potential flow. Many of the Ghosts and Spirits are there to help dismantle self-imposed blocks, at least that is my intent as the creator.
Ankou as King of Pentacles makes total sense to me. One cannot get more earthy than when dealing with life/death and the life cycles. There is no compromising with Ankou–he is there for one purpose and that is to usher a soul to the next plane or “Land of the Dead.” Though his appearance may seem ominous and foreboding from a descriptive storytelling point of view, he also serves as a reminder (roots of the unconscious) that nothing is permanent and death is inevitable for all. I think Ankou is a poignant messenger: “Live your life now! Follow your heart and dreams and do something that fills your days with satisfaction and success because your existence on this plane is a temporary assignment.” 😀
Thank you! I really like Ankou’s message via the King of Pentacles to live your life now.
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.?
Despite the posting of some dark (sometimes horrific) imagery, my audience has responded in a very positive way. I honestly think people were waiting for me to explore the shadows in-depth. I don’t see this as a reflection of a cynical mind; rather this deck reflects an artist who has visually embraced light and dark and has recognized the importance of acknowledging all aspects of our humanity. I’m not afraid to “paint in the raw” and I’m grateful that people are applauding me for (what I personally feel are) my courageous efforts.
Is there a companion book for your deck and who wrote it?
The companion book will be in the typical US Games format and was written by me.
Is there anything else you want to say about your deck?
Most of the card paintings are packed with hidden creatures and symbols. Some of my fans have literally counted the hidden creatures (on images I’ve posted on Facebook, etc.), with some numbers topping 46. The idea of multilevel imagery is to help the reader to connect on multifarious conscious planes. They’re there to help us to dig deeper into the psyche and to come to a place where information and ideas become discernible amidst the distraction of conscious deliberation.
Publisher: U.S. Games Systems
Publication date: April, 2012
Find it on Amazon here.
All images from the Ghost & Spirits Tarot deck are © 2010 Lisa Hunt
NOTE: If you have a deck that you would like to have featured here, contact me about it.