THE DRUIDCRAFT TAROTAn Interview with the authors
Philip & Stephanie Carr-Gomm
Who illustrated the deck?
Will Worthington will be known to many readers as the artist for The Druid Animal Oracle, but in this new work he has moved from using gouache to tempera – a method favoured by the Renaissance artists, using ground minerals and egg yolk. The artwork Will has created is extraordinary - it almost seems to glow, and each card seems to act like a window on a magical world that Will reveals. In the accompanying book Will explains how he worked to create the cards, and the special typeface he designed to illustrate the cards and book.
Why is the deck not being published in the USA until April 2005?
The DruidCraft Tarot has finally been published in Britain, though not yet in America – thanks, funnily enough, to another OBOD member Cilla Conway whose wonderful Intuitive Tarot is being published there first. St Martins Press in New York have decided to promote one deck at a time, so Cillas is being published now and ours will come out next April there. I first saw Cillas artwork at our Samhuinn camp two years ago, so its wonderful to see her deck finally published with a fantastic workbook to accompany it.
American members need not despair though, because they can order The DruidCraft Tarot directly from us here, and we have designed and printed a special bookplate which Will, Stephanie and I will sign for each copy.
Why a DruidCraft Tarot? Since when did Druids use Tarot cards?
To answer this question we need to realise first of all that there is already a tradition of Pagan Tarot decks, including Bob Stewarts Merlin Tarot, and the Matthews Arthurian & Celtic Wisdom Tarots. The Tarot is a tool for self-understanding and for exploring metaphysical questions, and it is a tool that can be used to examine or explain any spiritual system, which is why you get decks that explore the world of Zen or Alchemy, for example. But, as Pagan Tarot authors have found, it is particularly suited to Paganism, and hence to Druidry & Wicca, because the Minor Arcana are based upon the powers and associations of the four elements, and the Major Arcana are based on an awareness of the dual forces of God/dess, Yin & Yang, Masculine and Feminine. In other words the Tarot and DruidCraft go together like milk and honey.
But there are even more reasons to link Druidry with the Tarot: the classical authors said the Druids taught Pythagorean numerology, and the Tarot is based on numerology too. And it was Bob Stewart who first suggested, in The Merlin Tarot, that many of the Major Arcana images can be found in the Vita Merlini – and it is quite possible that Tarot images might originally have been the pictures used by the Bards of old to guide them in their tale-telling.
All these would be good enough motivations in themselves for creating such a Tarot, but there is one more persuasive reason: modern Druidry and Wicca have been strongly influenced by The Golden Dawn stream of the Western Magical Tradition, and it was this tradition that gave birth to three of the most influential decks of the last century: the Smith-Waite (Rider-Waite), Thoth and BOTA decks. Since Druidry & Wicca share the Golden Dawn as one of their many roots, then working with the Tarot represents a recognition of that stream of inspiration, and builds upon it.
Is The DruidCraft Tarot a traditional deck or have you made many changes?
We have built on the idea that modern Wicca and Druidry have been influenced by the Golden Dawn, and so our deck continues in this tradition – particularly of the Smith-Waite (Rider-Waite) because we feel most connected to this deck, and it is also the most widely used now. So unlike older decks, and say the Thoth deck, we have not chosen to have the pip cards painted with simply the appropriate number of cups, swords, wands or pentacles. Instead we have followed the example of Pamela Coleman-Smith (and the Sola Busca deck from long ago) to use complete pictures for each pip card. Much of the inspiration has come from the Coleman-Smith images but we have departed radically in certain ones. Rather than explaining which we have changed lets leave that to the reader to discover!
What about the Major Arcana?
We have changed the name of The Devil to Cernunnos and have explained why in detail in the book. Likewise with Temperance, which we have changed to The Fferyllt to reflect the alchemical nature of the card, and Judgement whose name we have changed to Rebirth. We have also changed The Emperor and The Empress to The Lord and Lady, but all other names stay the same.
How do you present the Arcana in the book?
99.9% of books on the Tarot begin by discussing the Major Arcana, then move on to the Minor. We have reversed this and begin by looking at the court cards – urging the reader to explore them as 16 personality types, just as one might explore the 12 types of the zodiac, for instance. Then we move on to the Pips, then the Majors. This way it feels as if we approaching the Mysteries appropriately, rather than jumping straight in, then considering the Minors later.
What about the famous 8 & 11 Argument in the Majors?
Ah! Weve had many heated debates about this with friends and tarot experts. We think its a mistake to fall into the trap of being dogmatic about the Tarot. It is capable of a multitude of ways of understanding it, interpreting it and even arranging it. Think of how many different spreads you can use! We find it works whether you place Strength at 8 and Justice at 11 or vice versa. So in the book we mention that you can choose to do either, but we have opted for placing Strength at 8 for three reasons: firstly it continues with the GD tradition that is historically associated with modern Druidry & Wicca; secondly since the Smith-Waite deck is the most widely used, this is the sequencing most readers will be familiar with; and thirdly dividing the Majors into three sets of seven cards matches perfectly with the spiritual journey undertaken through each of the grades of Bard, Ovate & Druid, and Strength works very well in eighth position in this scheme.
Do you give any new spreads in the book?
Yes. There is a section at the end of the book in which we offer a blessing and dedication ceremony to begin working with the deck, or the Tarot generally, and then we offer six spreads. Two will be familiar to users of The Druid Animal Oracle: the Awen spread and the Spirits of the Circle spread. We have included these because over the last decade so many people have told us how helpful they can be. Then weve taken two of the most important symbols in our traditions: the Pentagram and Hexagram, and offered a Pentagram spread to help you explore your four functions and the influence of Spirit in your life, and a Hexagram spread to help you explore relationships. Then weve created a Lunar Spread using the phases of the moon to explore the creative process and projects that might need nurturing, and finally weve taken the good old Celtic Cross spread which works so well for general readings. But weve suggested a different way of looking at it: as a Chalice and Wand spread which works with the central idea of DruidCraft: that there are two forces which when combined create life and movement.
At the back of the book you have a Further Reading & Resources section. Can you say a little about this?
Of course there are masses of books about the Tarot, and hundreds, probably thousands of decks. So what weve done is chosen books that are particularly illuminating if you are approaching Tarot from a Pagan perspective or from the position of wanting to understand it not as a fortune-telling device but as a profound psychological and spiritual tool. With these ideas in mind were also working on an in-depth course using the Tarot, with fellow members of the Order, Jurre & Agnes Yntema in Holland, who have been working with the Tarot for years, and were hoping to include some DVD material with the course, since the visual faculty is so important in the Tarot.
Can you say a little about the Messages you have put in the book?
Each of the Majors, and each number of the Minors has a message – a sort of inspirational or provocative phrase or two to get you thinking and to give you a feel for the energy of the card. These just came to us as we worked on the deck. They are not meant to express the full meaning of any card, but to convey some of its importance and perhaps to work also with the Unconscious.
Finally, do you have a favourite card?
Stephanie: Its very hard to say which is my favourite – I love the 5 of cups – I think the painting is stunning – the figure is so solitary, and the otter almost catching the salmon in the water. But perhaps my favourite card of all is The Wheel, which is often called the Wheel of Fortune in other decks.
Philip: My favourite card in this deck is the image of Death – not a corny old skeleton with a scythe on a horse, but a loving crone cradling a skull, which she is about to place in the cauldron of rebirth as dawn approaches on the horizon. And its message in the book reads: The old and unnecessary wants to die. What passion! The new prepares to open like a rosebud at the dawn of a new day.
From a user of the Druid Craft Tarot:
"I received my Druidcraft Tarot from you today (I’m in Canada).
I just wanted to thank you for designing a truly beautiful work. Druidcraft
is a visual/spiritual/intellectual feast - I love so many cards that I
would be hard pressed to identify my favourite. But if I *had* to pick
one or several it would be The Lady and all your people (court) cards which
are stunning. I’ve been reading and teaching the Tarot for twenty years
at community colleges and centres and I remain a strict adherent of decks
which are non-racist, non-hierarchal and non-sexist. Although one race
is depicted you have presented a plethora of people that appear uniquely
individual, and horay! they aren’t “perfect” in a magazine sort of way.
They look like real people – people that I would love to get to know! Your
characters represent all age groups, and project an amazing warmth. I've
been craving a Wiccan/Pagan deck that I could relate to for many years.
I've just spent the whole day with the deck and I've experienced the oddest
sensations that I've been in these places and met the people depicted throughout
the deck. I know how strange this must sound but it's true. I don't know
exactly what that means but I do know the cards so distinctly depict scenes
and people that are believable, as if they really do exist in this mystical
place that I might visit. It's such a romantic notion it makes me blush
but that's how your work has affected me. The book is wonderful too. Really
well written - warm, insightful and honest. It's not just the cards that
are stunning but the connections drawn in the book between Wicca, Pagan,
and Druid and the Tarot are ground breaking. I think your work will be
a roaring success among Tarotists and Pagans alike. Anyway thank you again
for bringing into this world such a work of beauty and inspiration. I have
no doubt your Tarot work will be a huge success."