I’ve been reading and studying tarot since 2013 when I bought my first deck, but my interest in it extends long before that. Depending on who you ask, tarot is either the craft of magic or the art of deceit. If you ask me, tarot is simply a way to gain unbiased insight and clarity into your life and your own mind. Though a tarot reading does not definitively reveal your future, it does allow you to connect with the deeper meanings of the cards and reflect on the choices you have made and are moving toward. Tarot simply illuminates the path you are on, and extends an invitation for you to change your circumstances.

For my college senior capstone project in 2017, I created my own tarot deck and accompanying guidebook, which uses the narrative structure inherent in tarot to explore alternative forms of storytelling. The cards also provide commentary on experiences with and perceptions of femininity by subverting their traditionally patriarchal imagery.

The cover-spread for my tarot guidebook

The 165-page guidebook includes a short story about a young witch in search of belonging. The story uses the 56 cards of the Minor Arcana as the story elements while exploring themes of found-family and self-acceptance; it is also told in second-person as a way to further draw connection between the reader’s own journey and the one reflected in the cards (often archetyped as The Fool’s Journey or the Hero’s Journey).

The photography on the cards uses witch imagery to explore the intersections of gender and femininity, as witches are historically representative of the darker and less “pure” sides of womanhood. This relationship is further explored in the 22 Major Arcana cards, character archtypes such as The Magician and The Fool, which aim to break down these negative biases associated with the feminine. This portion of the guidebook also includes quotes from the models on their own experiences with femininity, seen here as a cast of sorts to the tarot narrative.

This nearly 6-month project was a labor of both passion and dedication. In addition to writing and editing all the content, I also arranged meetings with all of the models, took and edited all of the photographs, and compiled and formatted the deck and guidebook using Adobe InDesign. The physical decks and books were available via an online pre-order campaign where I was able to exceed my goal of units sold. Check out images of the deck below…

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photo by Abbie Stoner