Don’t Resist Peace

Posted December 29, 2016 by JJ
Categories: Miscellaneous Cards

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“Today I will simply accept. I will relinquish the need to be in resistance to myself and my environment in any way. I will move forward in joy by accepting where I am right now.”


My Dad has been in end-of-life palliative care for some days. His body is dying, and he’s been going downhill all year, so it’s a peaceful thing and they are so good about making people comfortable in this type of palliative care and being respectful. We have been writing back and forth preparing his obituary and remembering pleasant things.

Still, it’s hard to think of him dying and leaving us with no anchor for the family. It’s a natural thing but I worry and wait. I’ve always liked that old maxim “Body at rest, spirit free” that you see in obituaries.

All kinds of release at hand today.

Awareness, By Gum

Posted December 15, 2016 by JJ
Categories: Oracles - General

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I went to a new dentist but it set up a chain of pain, so I’ve been pretty sick.

However, while organizing my last two sketches for my old sketchbook project, I decided I needed a proper set of gouache paints. I’ve been limping along with the extremely cheap and chalky Reeves set, which is about 15 to 20 years old, so for Christmas I ordered a Winsor & Newton set of 10 gouache tubes and ordered one extra tube of titanium white, which is a little different than the zinc white that comes in the set and I need them both.


BLUE GUM FLOWER – (Eucalyptus globulus) Healing

I am mixing the Australian Wildflower Reading Cards with the old but charming Nature Spirits Oracle Cards.

Acceptance for what has gone before , and a time to move forward, not getting bogged down in details. Look at other ways to heal and be healthy and look after yourself.

Awareness is always a struggle I find. Mention is made of paying attention to details but the Blue Gum says not to get bogged down in them. Be more focused and attentive, observe, it’s a good time to make changes.

Art is a healing thing, sometimes it’s good to get away and draw.

When we were in the dollar store this week they had this at the checkout counter, so I bought it for $2 to set on my drafting board while I work.


Database in the Golden World

Posted December 7, 2016 by JJ
Categories: Database Monday

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“…fleet the time carelessly as they did in the golden world.” [Shakespeare, As You Like It]

This week while looking through one of my art history books, I came across a leopard that Kat Black had used in her collaged Golden Tarot on the High Priestess card. I have a number of books on frescoes, illuminated manuscripts, and Sienese painting and every now and then recognize snippets from this deck.  It made me want to discuss the deck.


I started the original thread for this deck on a forum under the name “darwinia” which I used at the time. Kat sent me a signed card when I bought the deck to thank me for that, which was nice.


I remember being incensed at the derogatory review that K. Frank Jensen wrote about this deck. He was disparaging about the pretty deck as a mere clone of the Rider-Waite, gussied up for the fans. I find many old-time tarot people can be dismissive of themed decks, not even giving them a chance. One fellow whom I e-mailed made fun of me for recommending the Pagan Cats Tarot when it was published, but it’s a good deck, and has some depth, despite the sound of the cheesy theme name. I prefer people who work with a deck for some months to do reviews.

Yes, it’s pretty but these images really pull you into the archetype, pull you into the reflection of the human condition. I laud Kat’s depth of experience and wisdom to visualize that.


I respect the deck because of the art and Kat Black’s mastery of collage is very good in comparison to other collage decks. It’s an easy technique but not easy to compose seamlessly from disparate references. She did a great job. Over time, I have come to be wary of collaged decks and prefer hand drawn illustrated decks, but this holds up for me.

I felt a bit sad for several years because after Kat published the Touchstone Tarot I saw her deriding someone on a forum for some reason, long forgotten. Ah, the fallen hero. Imagine though, what it’s like to work for your own fun and amusement, to know the work intimately from all your solitary hours of work, and then to get a huge amount of attention and accolades, from tarot celebrities as well as regular folk, and to be a professionally published author. The Ego, ever ready to convince you of your greatness, and one day you make a remark…certainly we’ve all been there. People are humans, not heroes, despite our projections.

Over time I can pull this deck out and feel my fondness for it, the attraction of the Medieval landscape quietly inhabits my mind. It reminds me a lot of the Grail Tarot, with artwork by Giovanni Caselli, another favourite of mine. Here are four cards that are beautifully done.


I never bought the Touchstone Tarot because Kat changed the head on a painting depicting Elizabeth I as a young girl; I couldn’t bear to look at that card as I adore the original painting. I also felt the deck was a bit same-y after the Golden Tarot, although she used artwork from a later period. Such is the subjectivity of art and deck publishing.

The Golden Tarot definitely has staying power, and I shall use it for a bit, re-familiarize myself with the deck and generally enjoy it, a personal favourite. I saw recent comments online about newer editions having glossy lamination, whereas this deck, the original publication, has matte lamination which beautifully complements the Medieval/Early Renaissance time period. Still, the fact that it’s in-print says a lot about the spirit of the deck and its author.

Good on you Kat.

Festive Postcard

Posted December 5, 2016 by JJ
Categories: Art Postcards

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I like to use some of my botanical decks and postcards in the winter. We actually got a dusting of snow here on the west coast, and the spouse and I put our little tabletop Christmas tree up this week.

This postcard is from the postcard book Posta Cucina by Helen Buttfield published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, and it is part of my larger postcard oracle featuring all the botanical postcard books by Helen Buttfield.

I deliberately chose this one to represent Christmas because don’t we all think of baking and cinnamon at Christmas?


Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) was considered the tree of life by the ancient Chinese; early Christians thought it grew in the Garden of Eden next to the apple tree. Valued for its aromatic, medicinal, and preservative properties, it has been imported from its home in Sri Lanka since Roman times and was one of the most expensive prizes of the spice trade, worth its weight in gold. Today, for only pennies, cinnamon adds pungency and aroma to cooked apples and pears, sweet breads, cookies, and many hot drinks.”

This is my tabletop tree that I bought for our first Christmas 40 years ago. When we moved this year I discarded many of the old raggedy ornaments and we bought a few new ones this year. The monk with the plum pudding was repainted and urethaned to keep him fresh after 40 years. I bought him a ceramic black pig with two red cardinals sitting on its back to keep him company. The presents are fake ones that I made from aspirin boxes and similar boxes.


We were moving last year so didn’t get a chance to put the tree up so it’s a happy thing to put everything out this year and freshen things up for our new start.


Ace of Spades Across Playing Cards

Posted November 24, 2016 by JJ
Categories: Playing Cards

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I see so many Bicycle decks with gorgeous illustrations and themes for the Ace of Spades, but my collection is a bit quieter. I used to buy a few playing cards every Christmas when Mr. Somerville was still trading, but he closed his shop five years ago and I only get new playing cards occasionally.

The closest I come to a Bicycle deck is my ultra cheap Jumbo Playing Cards. They aren’t printed very well and the finish isn’t good but I bought them to use for hand drawing titles on from the system used in the Playing Card Oracles deck so I could have an non-illustrated pip deck with those titles. In that system, the Ace of Spades is Terra Incognita.


I bypassed the illustrated decks I own, and most of my historical decks have interesting Ace of Spades cards. Even the quiet ones they’ve managed to make interesting. My quietest one is the Civil War Illuminated deck which has shiny gold foil.



Lastly, I have three Patience decks or Solitaire decks as we call them in North America.


The Tudor Rose deck was published to commemorate the coronation of Elizabeth II and is still in print—lovely cards. I find it so interesting how different artists and designers handle the pips in playing cards. It’s never boring to see that flare of design.




Catalogue Consciousness in The World

Posted November 15, 2016 by JJ
Categories: Tarot - General

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In September I received a catalogue in the mail from the Maplelea doll company, forwarded from my old address. I had asked to be removed from their mailing list three years ago after being treated rudely by two of their staff when suggesting they offer sewing patterns for their dolls. It brought up some anger in me, and this marketing ploy of resurrecting old customers bothered me. I put it in the recycle bin and forgot about it.

Another catalogue rolled in several weeks later, and this time I browsed through it several times and then started making a list of things to buy. Shoes are $12 to $18 a pair, outfits are $26 to $50 each and with $9 shipping I couldn’t seem to buy anything for a reasonable amount of money. I let it sit for four days, thinking all the time how happy I had been not buying anything from them, and how I didn’t really want anything. Then I woke up, put the catalogue in the recycle bin and sent them an e-mail asking to be taken off their mailing list yet again.

This morning I scrounged for a book and picked up Hooked!: Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume, and there was a relevant passage staring at me. It is from the first chapter and Joseph Goldstein says:

“Covetousness, the wanting mind, the feeling that we never have enough, is seen in Buddhism as unskillful action of the mind. In the framework of the Buddhist cosmology and the different realms of existence, this covetous mind state is most extreme in the hungry-ghost realm. Hungry ghosts are often depicted as having huge stomachs and pinhole mouths, showing how they are incapable of ever feeling satisfied. In our culture, we might call it ‘catalog consciousness,’ obsessively rifling through the pages to see what else we might want. This is ‘wanting to want,’ a disease our culture keeps nourishing. [Emphasis mine.]

Gaki zōshi (section of the Scroll of Hungry Ghosts) 12th century: You can see the ghosts preying on humans, hanging around, with their mouths constantly wanting, and distended bellies. The one on the left seems to be the particular one that plagues me.


I thought I’d draw cards from a deck to augment this awareness. I randomly plucked the Golden Tarot of the Tsar from a shelf and drew these two cards:



The four evangelists read and write, doing their work and study, feeding the world of cosmic ultramarine, safely bordered in gold. And Jesus in the Ace of Swords, surrounded by four corners, puts out his boundless arms and says “Reach for a better life, you have all you need.” Resolve the old problems, think differently.

The World gives you understanding of what’s important, so free yourself from restrictions, complete things, start others but apply yourself and become closer to who you really are, create your reality. You can consume the World endlessly or feed it.

I mention again one of my favourite songs, Hungry Ghost by Brad Mehldau and Mark Guiliana which you can see here.

Feel the gnawing, then contemplate The World.

Database in Medieval Blue

Posted November 15, 2016 by JJ
Categories: Database Monday

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Guido Zibordi Marchesi illustrated the Medieval Tarot that I am discussing today, as well as the Giotto Tarot, one of my first and favourite decks, and the Bruegel Tarot which illustrates many of the Netherlandish Proverbs. The only deck of his that I don’t have is the Michelangelo Tarot.

He does beautiful architectural illustrations and models as well as paintings, and you can see how meticulous in detail and research he is by viewing his biography and a list of his various exhibits. These sites are in Italian but you can use Google Translate to get the gist of them. He is a real master of words and art, no wonder he is one of my favourite Lo Scarabeo illustrators.

For me, I look at an artist like this, and it drives me to purchase decks that an artist has spent some time researching and creating. Lo Scarabeo decks usually excel at this, I have great respect for that attitude.

What really attracted me to the deck was the blue skies and backgrounds, so reminiscent of illuminated manuscripts which are an interest of mine. Ultramarine in those days was made from lapis lazuli, and Guido Zibordi Marchesi captures that feel of the Middle Ages in these colours. This deck was published in 2007 and still holds up for me, a gem of people and colour, initiating a grand old browse through my many books about illuminated manuscripts.


The Tower card is very like castles depicted in illuminated manuscripts, particularly the castle of the Duc Jean de Berry in the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry where his castle is seen on the calendar for September.


You can see more examples from the book here.

As examples, two other 15th century manuscripts that have the style and colours that perhaps inspired this deck are The Bedford Hours, made for John, Duke of Bedford, and the Bouquechardière Chronicle by Jean de Courcy, also known as Chronique de la Bouquechardière.

The descriptions for the deck are priceless:

“A medieval inspiration: The Art of Memory is one of the greatest secrets handed down by alchemists and medieval sorcerers. The later Middle Ages have a brighter aspect, marked by the rebirth of the arts, philosophy, and sciences. It is the second period that inspired Guido Zibordi to paint the Medieval Tarot. These 78 cards, in fact, recall the magnificence of the princely courts and pastimes of the courtiers, the battles of the Crusades, the solitary study of philosophers and discussions of theologians, the daily work and beliefs of the common people.

This is not, however, a commemorative or historical deck. On the contrary, the Medieval Tarot contains the spirit of Ars memorandi, a memory system passed down in the schools aimed at developing intellectual qualities and spiritual virtues. The Ars memorandi, which attributed an exemplary value to images, without a doubt traces the first Tarot decks back to its origin, a “wordless book” that taught the rules of true nobility, that of the intellect and soul.

Today like in the past, simple yet profound rules let each individual follow a path of improvement and reach the top of an invisible ladder uniting the material world with the spiritual dimension.”


One of the reasons I’ve been keen on decks for 16 years is the spiritual dimension described above, the ideal of archetype and Medieval pageantry, lush, saturated colour steeped in history, and the human world absorbing and reflecting it.

How could you resist the courtly ideal of it all?