Database Regina

I have been forgetting to do Database Monday for the simple reason that I can’t remember which day is which.

One of my favourite decks is the Victoria Regina Tarot created by Sarah Ovenall in 2002 and published by Llewellyn, it is collaged from old illustrations and clip art. She co-write the book with Georg Patterson, which is excellent. Ooooh, and she’s got fountain pens in there. I have always liked reading non-fiction about the history of the British royal family so immediately got this when it was published.


At the time, Sarah had a note on her web site showing how she’d embellished the velvet bag included with the deck, and invited people to send pictures of how they embellished their bags. A woman I was selling tarot bags through did one and wanted me to do one too so I did.

I remember sewing this during the last day of my first dog, my first Labrador Retriever Winnie. She had cancer and the tumour was interfering with her breathing, so I brought her down to the cool basement so she could breathe better but she couldn’t walk so I had to carry her. Poor old soul had to be euthanized the next day, but I sat with her and sewed this at my drafting table; it’s a special memory of a lovely friend.

I used silks, silk ribbon, plaids, white cotton lace and a small tartan Scottie dog button on this to reflect Balmoral, the castle in Scotland that the royal family purchased in the mid 19th century. When I sent it to Sarah she never replied, acknowledged me, or put the picture up. I sent it again thinking that it might have ended up as spam. Nothing. Yet, she put my compatriot’s picture up right away. I guess I wasn’t famous enough, not a tarot bigwig or anything. It’s not enough to contribute, to spend hours on something, to care and have initiative with some people, you must be a famous name. Who knows? I gave up trying to figure people out around 2008. (Click to enlarge.)


This was my favourite draw with this deck, one for which I felt compelled to write a poem.

You see, it doesn’t matter if people pay attention to you or acknowledge you, you can still create and enjoy your cards. I have a small sub-genre of black and white decks in my collection that I love. I also have some of the Dover clip art Sarah used in this deck, including some fountain pens which I just used in some stationery I made myself.

It’s all so interesting. It was this book that taught me that Princess Louise (Princess of Wands) was an artist and sculptor, and came to Canada when her husband was the Governor General here from 1878 to 1883. Victoria had so many children, I often found it hard to differentiate them, but lovely Louise the artist, I remember because of this deck. I also remember Bertie, riding gaily on the Six of Wands with a fountain pen in hand, and dogged, old-fashioned Georgie, Bertie’s son, on the Prince of Coins writing sappy letters to his darling Motherdear ad infinitum.

One of the first writing exercises I devised with my cards was what I call “Random Passages”, wherein I pick a random passage from a book and a random tarot card and write with it. Way back on February 28, 2003 I did this as a suggestion to others on how they could use their decks instead of merely acquiring them and packing them away in storage boxes. It was not a popular attitude at the time, many people assuming it was a frivolous time-waster and they were too busy, busy, busy, but with the advent of blogging I have seen others come around to my view that useful writing exercises are interesting with cards.


My random passage for this one was from a short story by Connie Willis called The Father of the Bride.

“I should be happy. Everyone tells me so: my wife, my daughter, my brave new son-in-law. This is the happily ever after for which we have waited all these long years. But I fear we have waited for too long, and now it is too late to be happy.”

I randomly pulled The Empress and this is what she had to say about it:

“Too late?” says The Empress with a skeptical look on her face. Indignantly she puts her hand on her hip to let you know how silly it is for you to say this, She smiles, and all the languorous smiles of lovers entwined in jungle rhythms, the heat, the fecundity of it assails you. Her feminine voice with laughter and love surrounds you and she sings, slowly stirring the green air:

“The world grows, leafy palms develop, grass greens, the bark shags off trees, my breasts suckle and tantalize, my hips beckon you, I create stars. We are crowned and enveloped by life and growth, the green of opportunity, the moldering bacteria I stand upon feeds the ripeness of creation.”

She is silent a moment while the cadence of her last notes can be felt in the plants around you, the skin of your body, your eyes vibrating, seeing what she sees. “We live green, it is never too late” she says touching your cheek, and the fields call you with meadow sweetness, and you hear the sound of water, ever circulating, ever moving, ever nourishing you.

A good deck, and this is more than a good deck, is forever.





Ace of Pentacles/Coins Across Decks

I saw in my statistics page that someone had come to my site searching for images of the Ace of Coins. I thought to myself that this might make an excellent study.

Danger, danger, hours later after searching through dozens of decks and scanning, adjusting, rotating and labelling in Photoshop, I’m a bit punchy. When you’re in a funk, nothing helps like a bit of sorting, categorization, and organization. This was more than a bit, but hey it made for a keenly interesting day.

Dealing mostly with the Rider-Waite model (here used in the Universal Waite deck) I decided that there were three kinds of imagery with this card: the classic “hand of God” approach; the figurative approach related to the theme like in the Golden Tarot; and the pattern and shape decorated or changed similar to a pip in transformation playing cards, like in this marvelous Ace of Pentacles in the Sun and Moon.

In this study I am ignoring the figurative approach, and looking more at the other two.






I don’t see too many people using the Fradella deck but it’s one of my favourites.

















I’ve talked about that Universal Fantasy card before, it reminds me so much of an old brooch.

So that’s it, about 8 hours of work and 39 decks!



The Queen of Coins in Black and White

Daily Draw March 22nd, 2013

I drew a card from the Tarot of the Absurd, and then I thought it might be an interesting study to pull the same card from other black and white decks, so this is a small study of the Queen of Coins or Queen of Pentacles.

The one that started it all:


Many people seem to attach the mothering gene to The Empress, but for me she is always this Queen. She stops to smell the flower, stops to nurture herself and others. There is something about the chair in this card, the cut-outs seem to allow for growth or change if not innovation, and the idea of movement and air circulating is here, like the openness this Queen has to others, like the tracery in the window, allowing and nurturing different paths.


Steve Bright has retitled the Queen “Nurturer of Pentacles”in his Fragments of an Illusion deck. In this case the queen is a Dad making sure he spends time with a young child even though he wants to fiddle on his computer.

In the Hermetic, she is associated with a goat for fertility. I like that he’s drawn a spiral on her helmet for snails and the fertility of the Earth too.

The Enigma makes mention of comfort not being for you alone, but something you give to others along with support. This drawing was a study for one of the angels in Da Vinci’s painting Madonna of the Rocks, so there is an angelic security or support hinted at here.

The Ship of Fools card displays the Queen with a mirror, an emblem of vanity and pride and it looks like a demon is going to roast her over a fire, an image the reminds me of several saints being tortured and grilled in history. The Queen seems unconcerned, a product of her grounded nature, although there is a hint that she might get carried away with material things and vanity.


Well, Queen Victoria had a lot of children herself and the stewardship of her people, which is a mothering concern. This is another very secure and dignified Queen and obviously fertile, generous too. There is that reciprocal idea of care and concern, also found in the Tarokado.

Ah the Ironwing, this is the Madrone of Bells, and the name madrone comes from the Arizona madrone tree which is a type of arbutus tree. My mother loved the Pacific arbutus. I was just copying out a poem for my Dad and I put an image of an arbutus with it. For me it is MOTHER and it’s so touching to see it referenced here. Proof that when you least expect it, a card will reach out to you. Collaboration and generosity, yet with productive work as crystals in a dark cave were transformed to provide the fruitful berries, and this Queen shares with animals too.

The Ravenswood deck shows the Queen with a necklace with a gold bull’s head. She has the freedom and wealth to share and seems very quiet and contained.

Le Tarokado is a French deck from Quebec. My French fell down on this one but it says something about everything being sacred and what returns is dedicated or consecrated. So in generosity and nurturing, the Queen has it returned to her and then she dedicates it to others again. Also in this card she looks very calm and contained, very grounded.


This card is so big I had to put it on its own. Again, you can see the goat association with fertility and also earthy impulses. I was interested that the dark and light aspect of the halves of the Queen is associated with versions of the Earth Mother from early cultures, and there is a suggestion of a third eye in the image. The darkness reminds me of the cave description in the Ironwing, where it is not dark and wet but fertile. Soil and growth and invention—I like the idea of invention as you grow things from your mind.


The Kaos shows another mother, nurturing a child. Comfortable and generous, secure productive and practical. She is really a great influence on people as well as taking care of them, she inspires us to be better, to work and be fruitful in many ways.

The Queen of Diamonds in the Diary deck also seems to have a third eye. The spider web on her face and the spider-like qualities of the jewel in her forehead remind me of the mythology of the Great Mother or Great Weaver, the creator of the world in several world mythologies. The web of life and mothering qualities are here, but there is also a watchfulness to this Queen, as a guardian to the Earth, a nurturing omniscience.

I don’t often get this card, but with my Dad going into a care home and his condominium being sold off, it does remind me of my Mom. She has been dead for twenty years but that was her home and as such it was an anchor or home base in the family and a reminder of her spirit.

The Madrone of Bells came to say “I am still here.” The other Queens say the same thing, and watch and comfort.



Toward Better Things

Daily Draw march 21st, 2013



Ah, the Darby and Joan of the Tarot.

When you’ve found someone special you have to treasure that. This is a pleasant thought for the day.

We are going ahead with our small kitchen renovation. We have white bevelled subway tiles for the backsplash. A dark black countertop shot with a bit of grey/blue and taupe, and taupe ceramic floor tiles. I didn’t get a snap of the cupboards but they are MDF in white with a raised panel. Nice but nothing fancy.


I suppose I should be excited but I’m not. We hope to sell up in 18 to 24 months so it’s really just getting things ready for resale so we can begin retirement. Still, it will be nice for us during the remainder of our time here to have a nice kitchen.

Hopefully we are like the couple on the card, walking off together, starting a better life.

I am suffering for my dental visit yesterday as it has set off my jaw and neck pain and some acute back and leg pain, so a quiet day here reading a book called Wild Coast: Travels on South America’s Untamed Edge by John Gimlette, which is about various regions of Guyana, its history, and is a good tie-in with reading Eduardo Galeano.

Gimlette mentions that Evelyn Waugh stayed in Guyana in the 1930s and wrote a scathing book about it so I’m off to look that up along with a Waugh book Gimlette calls “a masterpiece” that also came out of this trip: A Handful of Dust.

World exploration through reading….


My Card Database

Daily Draw August 24th, 2009

Instead of a draw today, I’m going to talk about my card database. I bought book collector software and use it for the simple reason that it has the option to scan in the back of a book and post it to the entry. Instead, I scan in cards and card backs and sometimes special boxes or bags I have for a deck and post that instead of a back cover.

According to my database I have 322 decks.

135 tarot
74 oracle
63 miscellaneous
50 playing cards

This includes my collection of postcards and botanical postcards too which may include about 700 single cards. I Ching and Rune cards are nice, I have several of those. Odd things in the Miscellaneous category include Knowledge Cards, religious decks like the Gita Deck or The Saint Deck, self-help or business-related cards like the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People deck, The Language of Letting Go cards  or Susan Woldman’s Contemplation Cards, my Lewis and Clark expedition cards and the three U.S. Games Strategies For Leadership decks. Two Tao-related decks, a deck on yoga, one on Kabbalah by the Bergs, the Mystic Rubaiyat by Penelope Cline, the wonderfully scientific Elemental Hexagons. This and that.

I just managed to get a scan in of the playing card category showing the thumbnails for the fronts of boxes. Three of the decks are ones I made myself: two using playing card software, and one using collage on an old Bicycle deck.

Click to enlarge the images.


Here is one of the scans I made to use in the database instead of the back of the book. It shows the Victoria Regina Tarot deck and the handmade insert I made for the bag that was included with that. The insert uses a scottie dog button and white cotton lace, silks and tartans to give the flavour of Balmoral.


These are some further examples of card samples from my database. This is the lovely Vacchetta Tarot deck that is copyright free and can be downloaded off the Internet to print. I tinted my cards olive green and made a special bag and tuckbox for them.


This is the Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg that I decoupaged and painted a box for plus made a handmade tuckbox for the deck.


The Tarots Suzanne M. is an odd deck that I trimmed of its borders, and then I painted a bag for it using bright colours from the deck. I don’t often trim borders off things, but this really needed it to let the art pop out. It’s not a tarot deck it’s more of a personal art oracle.


And that’s today’s exciting exploration into cards.

India’s Woven Winds

Daily Draw September 5th, 2008

From the Book of Silk I randomly picked the title page of Chapter 3, India’s Woven Winds, with the Queen of Swords from the Victoria Regina Tarot. This card depicts Queen Victoria at her husband’s funeral; Albert, the Prince Consort died from typhoid fever at the age of 42. She remained in mourning for him the rest of her life.

I feel a poem coming on. I picked 3 word tickets and a paint colour chip to use: Aquamarine, Italian, Sevastopol, Hunting Coat Red. I think my word tickets must have known of the Crimean War–one of those odd occurrences when using cards–synchronicity.

© 2008 Judith A. Johnston

In life, within the Italian house you designed,
We stood by the kolam tracery, safe.
I bathed in the light of Indies aquamarine,
Smelled distant sandalwood and monsoon rain.

You shone through an exhibition, crystalline,
Dispelled the shiver of black sea siege in Sevastopol,
A lamp of knowledge in darkness and ignorance,
Now swathed and smothered in your typhoid casket.

When I kissed your clothes in the chamber of death,
A blue room of dying kings filled with flowers,
I heard the hot rustle of saffron and India blue silk,
From different shrines.

I would have you instead picked clean to bones,
Placed on a mount for carrion of Zoroaster
Overlooking the Ghats and the sacred Ganges,
Near markets of spice, and winds of coriander.

You like a rhizome of turmeric sought the fruitful earth,
A king not a consort, my learned Augustus in tartan,
Forever held in the black border of my writing paper,
Into which words will fade and disappear.

My black crepe and silk reflects your sterbezimmer,
While I weep to wear vermilion paste, a sari dyed in indigo,
Riding the woven winds with you in hunting coat red,
Ever by me, everby.