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by Arastorm the Golden

Tarot cards are so personal and so independently psychically charged that for anyone with even minor artistic talent, making your own deck is worth the trouble. Especially for novices, the concentration put into each card while making it is very useful in learning the meanings of the cards. Sure, it will take from weeks to a month to finish. But if you buy a new deck, it will probably take that long to charge the deck anyway. Making your own deck is especially good if you plan to read for yourself; the symbols will be yours. If you plan to read primarily within the SCA, you can design your pack to meld nicely with your persona, Viking, Elizabethan, or whatever, without putting out $30 for the reproduction Visconti deck (although I AM rather partial to the Viking deck). But most importantly, you can alter the symbols if you like. People in the SCA don't see Kings, Queens and Knights the same way people outside the SCA do. It's possible you might want to SERIOUSLY alter the deck and change the pages for Companions (of the Laurel and Pelican). It's your deck, it's your decision. For instance, I don't like the various symbolisms used for the Death card. Death as I generally read it is a release, renewal or rebirth. So I drew a glowing golden spirit joyously escaping from a grey, dead body. (To me, the Black Rider and the Reaper do not mean rebirth. Maybe a sheela-na-gig...?)

First, collect your materials. A deck of 3x5 blank index cards (bigger ones are harder to handle) and paints or colors are the minimum. Of course, my first deck had many blue lines and one pink one as a back design and that didn't hurt it, except aesthetically. Blank would be better. Better still would be to print a personal sigil, or your arms, or a good luck symbol like a pentagram on the back. You could have a rubber stamp made most easily, or silk-screen or block printing --all would do, according to your talent. Make at least a hundred of these blanks before you start the individual art on the front. It would be a shame to smear the art on the back if the front were perfect. And don't use a medium that will change the weight/thickness of the cards (as some printing inks or paints could do. It would play havoc when you tried to shuffle the cards. Other materials you may want to assemble are a compass, ruler, pencils, and erasers. These I would keep together and not use for anything else until the project was done. This will avoid psychic contamination, but more, this will help avoid running out of an important color in mid-project. Water-color with pen and ink detail works fine. I used felt-tip pens for my first deck. If you want to, you can use oils and gold leaf, but remember, this artwork will be handled and handled. Make it sturdy.

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After stamping the backs, the first thing you want to make is a stencil for the outline of the picture area. It'll make the finished task look more uniform. You can make it out of another card, although this might not last through the whole deck, or out of a piece of plastic, which is sturdier. Either can be cut with razor blade or sharp knife. Keep a sketchbook with you all the time; don't leave it with the rest of your supplies. That way you can develop designs and catch inspirations when they hit you. Work on them until you are sure they are just right for you before you put them onto the cards. I would not expect that major changes would be needed for every card. After all, these symbols have been worked on for centuries. You are not supposed to be making up your own symbols, just making them more meaningful to you.

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When I made my cards, I divided them and did each one on a night that seemed astrologically compatible with the card. However, if I got a strong urge to do a certain card one night, I'd do it. You should also use your intuition for correcting my chart of days. I put it together from Eden Gray, Crowley, and Cavendish's Black Arts. You could use the planetary ruler for the day of the week; or you could use the sign that the Moon is in, if you have a calendar that shows these things; or you could match days and cards up numerologically. This isn't necessary, of course , but it should give the cards a little extra psychic kick. I would do the Fool on your own ruling day, but if you don't see yourself in it, choose a different day. Another example of going by your own feelings in the cards is the Hanged Man. If you associate him with Christ, you'll probably want to do it on Sunday. However, if you associate it with Odin, you will want to do it on Wednesday.

Another book it would be good for a beginner to study while making his cards is The Dictionary of the Tarot by Butler. It will give you a variety of symbols (and a consensus) to choose from for each card. One thing it doesn't cover too well, though, is the symbolism of colors. This is a vital aspect of working out your own cards, so please look into it further.

In closing, I have two more suggestions. One is to wrap your finished cards in a cloth or box from when you start to make it; don't wait to complete the entire deck. Each card is charged at its completion, as opposed to the usual gradual charging of the full deck. And second, although a master can give you a lot of help, don't let your master dictate your designs. It's your deck. Own it

© 2002 Virginia Fair Richards-Taylor, known in the SCA as Arastorm the Golden. Used by Permission