A Real Treat
Iâ€™m sure most of you have heard of Lisa Hunt, a very talented artist and tarot expert. Her knowledge of fairy tales, myths, psychology, art, and tarot is impressive not only because of the sheer breadth but also because of the magical way Lisa weaves all these disciplines together to create extraordinary tarot deck. Her works include The Shapeshifter Tarot, the Celtic Dragon Tarot, the Fantastical Creatures Tarot, and the award winning Animals Divine Tarot. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with her about her most recent deck, the Fairy Tale Tarot.
Barbara: Fairy tales and myths are different genres. However, they do have similarities as well as differences, which is probably why they both work soÂ well with tarot. What are some of their most important shared traits? WhatÂ are their main differences? In what ways did you particularly like workingÂ with fairy tales?
Lisa: That is a loaded question and one that stirs up all kinds of interesting conversation. Though I am not a fairy tale scholar or a mythographer, having spent much of my professional life working with both, I would say myths and fairy tales share the need to explain those things related to the human condition. They provide basic maps for survival and help us to make sense out of the inexplicable (or those things that are seemingly out of our hands). Both began as oral traditions and fairy tales are arguably extensions of myths, having evolved due to changing environments and circumstances. But many of the basic themes and motifs share commonalties. For example, some scholars have suggested that the Greek myth Cupid and Psyche is an ancient version of Beauty and the Beast. And stories about the persecuted heroine or the diminutive hero can be found in myth and fairy tale collections alike.
I think generally speaking, the main difference is myths tend to address bigger questions about the cosmos (collective questions), our origins, and often include sacred pantheons that reflect cultural beliefs. Fairy tales are more about immediate struggles (more personal ones) pertaining to the here and now and often employ magical or supernatural devices (rather than gods) to provide entertaining delivery while instilling a sense of hope in the face of adversity. With that said, I have included a few mythic stories in The Fairy Tale Tarot such as Kahukura and the Fairy Fisherman and How Raven Brought Light to the World; tales that in my opinion are demonstrative of this melding of genres.
Barbara: What is one lesser-known fairy tale that you wish more people knew and why?
Lisa: Surprisingly to me, many people are unfamiliar with The Fisherman and his Wife (Grimm). Itâ€™s a powerful tale about the ills of greed and how insatiable lust for material wealth can lead to disaster. This basic moral dilemma certainly played into our lives as we watched the housing and Wallstreet meltdowns unfold before our eyes. But the changes also brought simplicity and frugality back into fashion, much like the conclusion of the aforementioned story. The fisherman and his wife end up where they started, perhaps smarter and wiser as a result.
Another less known tale is The Moss-Green Princess.Â The Moss-Green Princess is a beautiful story about a princess condemned to wearing the skin of a Nya-nya Bulembu fairy beast. The message is clear: External beauty is lost under the shroud of moss, but internal beauty will shine through regardless. This story comes from a collection of South African tales published in 1908. Itâ€™s one of my most treasured fairy tale volumes in my possession.
Barbara: Which card was the most challenging and why?
Lisa: Bluebeard as Temptationâ€”to depict the tensions of this card through visual narration was a challenge. I wanted to imply the terror about to unfold without giving too much away. I am happy with the outcome. We look at the image and sense the inescapable shadows that are about to dominate the scene and infilitrate the protagonist’s conscious being.
On a more humourous note, in the image of The Emperor’s New Clothes as the Tower card, the strategic placement of cape over the emperor’s family jewels had to be carefully planned. I know my editor Becky got a chuckle out of it. It’s so trite that it’s funny. haha.
Diamonds and Toads as Eight of Swords was another one simply because the regurgitation of snakes and toads is not a pleasant subject for an artist to tackle. I think the image bothers people, but it is supposed to be repulsive. The Snow Queen as Five of Wands was challenging as well because of the sheer length of Andersenâ€™s The Snow Queen story. But I was able to choose an applicable scene and make it work. It ended up being one of my favorite paintings in the deck!
Barbara: Which card was the most surprising and why?
Lisa: Two of Swords because I didnâ€™t like it. I think itâ€™s a harsh piece with such strong contrasts, though it serves its symbolic function. Well, it turns out to be a favorite with fans. Who would have thought? Itâ€™s funny because I noticed my favorite works are not necessarily ones others would choose.
Barbara: Which card is your favorite and why?
Lisa: I have several favorites. The Lake Maiden as The Sorceress because I just love her mysterious presence, Puss in Boots as The Mentor because he is a portrait of my charming feline Timmy aka “Studio Buddy”. And as you know, itâ€™s the painting that helped sell the project to Llewellyn. I also like The Snow Queen as Five of Wands from a visual standpointâ€”that piece went so quickly and with such artistic fluidity. The Little Matchgirl as Three of Swords and Urashima as Five of Cups were emotionally charged stories that penetrated my core, spilling over in an inexhaustive display of soulful intent. They were perhaps my favorite stories to write. Itâ€™s so hard to choose because I have such an affinity for fairy tales. Each one having itâ€™s own special place in my heart.
Sweet Twilight Winner
Congratulations to Oliver Danni, who commented: “I often use reversals, and let my intuition guide me as to their significance. The two most common things Iâ€™ll find with them are (a) the â€śblocked energyâ€ť interpretation â€” that the card means basically the same thing as it would mean upright, but that there is something blocking it from fully manifesting or (b) that thereâ€™s a particular perspective on the image in the card that I need to be viewing it upside-down in order to see properly â€” sometimes something different in the card will catch my attention than what I would have focused on if the card were upright, or sometimes something on the card will appear to be something entirely different than if I had viewed it upright. I used to read reversals as â€śthe opposite of what the card would mean if uprightâ€ť, but that wasnâ€™t turning out as accurately as when I started using a more intuitive approach to discerning why the card had come up reversed, and I found that those two possibilities I just described were the most common.” Â Oliver, please email email@example.com with subject line Sweet Twilight to claim your prize; I hope you enjoy it!
There were so many interesting comments. If you have a moment, go back and see.
As mentioned in an earlier post, I’m using tarot to write a novel for National Novel Writing Month. Here is my first attempt at plot, using the Lo Scarabeo Tarot and a simple three card spread of Beginning-Middle-End. I welcome you comments (Clearly, I need all the help I can get).
Beginning: A wealthy man/woman (I think it is the antagonistâ€¦but more about him/her on Tuesday!) orders the restoration and refitting of a building from the protagonistâ€™s teacher/mentor, so naturally the protagonist (who may be named either Tarin or Juliana) will be working on that building. The antagonistâ€™s agenda (which goes far deeper than simply making a building) sets the novelâ€™s plot in motion (at least I hope, although I have no idea yet what the antagonistâ€™s evil agenda is!).
Middle: The entire world (or so it seems) comes to Julianaâ€™s/Tarinâ€™s city for some reason (a fair, a sporting event, a political gathering, a religious ritual???) and during which the antagonist hopes to launch his/her evil plan. OR Juliana/Tarin takes control of the antagonistâ€™s evil plan (consciously or unconsciously?). She brings the abstract to life. She completes it but in a way different than originally planned (playing with the idea of her own worse fear becoming the worldâ€™s salvation).
End: Juliana/Tarin meets an itinerant wise person and she is beguiled and cannot stay away from him/her. His path is one of solitary travels, not the rooted, â€śnormalâ€ť family she always wanted. In the end, she follow him away from her sunny home to a place of cold and snow. OR Despite Julianaâ€™s/Tarinâ€™s confusion about what to do (her idea of what is right conflicts with that of her sister, who is after all, a priestess and sibyl and who J/T wishes to please). In the end, she must do what she thinks is best. I recently read a list of questions for novel writing help and one question was â€śwhat is the last line of your novel?â€ť I came up with a last line (and no, Iâ€™m not telling you yet!) and it involves J/T setting a fire. Just a small one, like in the Hermitâ€™s lamp. I think that is better than her becoming a Hermit groupie, donâ€™t you?