So this is a deck that took me a bit longer to parse out and have something to say about. It’s the PoMo Tarot by Brian Williams. My friend David Ricci gave this postmodern deck to me in a Secret Santa gift exchange some time in the mid-to-late-90s. It was published in 1994 by HarperSanFrancisco, a division of HarperCollins. The beginning of the blurb on the back of the box will tell you something more about it: “It’s almost 2000 A.D. Does your tarot deck seem more suited for a Renaissance court or a gypsy tent than for navigating the next millennium? Continue reading “Witchy Weekends: PoMo Tarot”
Category: Witchy Weekends
Witchy Weekends: Steampunk Tarot
Welcome to another Witchy Weekends post here on the blog, my annual online celebration of October.
This weekend I’m featuring the Steampunk Tarot by Barbara Moore and Aly Fell (illustrator), published by Llewellyn Worldwide in 2012.
The Steampunk Tarot is a wonderful deck for anyone fascinated by the Steampunk aesthetic or iconography. It’s firmly founded on classic Rider-Waite imagery, and while you won’t find a whole lot that’s groundbreaking about this deck because of this, the lush illustrations will absolutely be comfort food if you’re into Steampunk literature and graphic novels. You can see this quite evidently in the major arcana, such as on the card for the High Priestess, which is replete with gears, a top hat adorned with goggles, a somewhat edgy stylized version of Victorian clothing, and various other elements of familiar Steampunk imagery.
As we move into the suits, we never stray too far from the expected, but the artwork is done with such elegance, it’s okay. The suit of wands encompasses stories of resolve, of will, of bold or audacious action or intent. Some of the wands cards in this deck actually give me strong Mistborn (a book by Brandon Sanderson) vibes, such as the two.
This deck’s cups, the suit of water and emotion, are particularly adept at conveying whole narratives in a facial expression.
The suit of swords has a lot to say about our (or the characters’) thoughts. One card that has always represented this best to me is the ten, whose image depicts a dead man with ten swords sticking up out of his back. As the adage goes, never beat a dead horse; well, stabbing a dead man is much the same thing, isn’t it? This card reminds me of someone who needs to let go of obsessive or intrusive thoughts that aren’t serving any useful purpose.
Finally, the pentacles, the suit of physical experiences and the material world. I’ve chosen the ace here because the aces in the tarot represent the pure form of the element or suit, and the imagery on this card is another iconic sample of the Steampunk aesthetic, with brass and gears and a cybernetic arm holding the coin up to glow from within, juxtaposed almost ironically against a polluted sky above a pastoral setting.
The Steampunk tarot is great for fans of the genre, full of decadent artwork and a wealth of storytelling possibilities.
Witchy Weekends: Nicoletta Ceccoli Tarot
I am all in when it comes to autumn and think the holiday season begins pretty much as soon as Labor Day is over. I love decorating my house for the holidays, starting with Hallowe’en. I even decorate for Thanksgiving and celebrate that aesthetic for several weeks before launching myself headlong into Christmas. I put my house back to Ordinary Time sometime in January — and depending how things are going, sometimes it’s late January. It’s all good. The more festive the better, am I right?
So it’s October again, and if you’ve been reading this blog for a minute, you know that means it’s time for Witchy Weekends! This year I thought I’d do something a little different, so each week my intention is to feature a different beautiful tarot deck. I have collected these my entire adult life, and while yes, of course, I have the classic Rider-Waite and its popular derivatives, the decks I most love are the ones with more unusual imagery, the ones that interpret the stories of the Major and Minor Arcana in unexpected, or at least thoughtful, ways. I’m fascinated by the way the cards have traditionally embraced the plot structure archetype of the Hero’s Journey. Maybe one day I’ll learn how to read them all, but even if I never do, I can admire the gorgeous artwork.
The first deck I’m featuring is the Nicoletta Ceccoli Tarot, published by Lo Scarabeo in Italy, copyright 2014. The collection was edited by Pietro Alligo.
The artwork on this deck is reminiscent of Mark Ryder’s work, I think, in the way it blends the Gothic with a sort of candy-coated palette. It fetishizes youthfulness but not in a particularly indecent way: I don’t find a significant theme of sensuality in these cards. Rather, there’s a strong undercurrent of precociousness in this artwork and an acknowledgement that the innocence of youth is a cliché. You also will not find a wealth of diversity here.
Many of the cards allude to fairy tales or other children’s stories. Wonderland’s Alice shows up more than once, and this example from the Major Arcana references Snow White.
Now for the Minor Arcana. The first suit, cups, typically deals with emotions and corresponds to the element of water. Many of the cards in this deck reflect nautical imagery or creatures or interpersonal connections.
The next suit — called discs in this deck but sometimes called coins or pentacles — concerns itself primarily with material issues and the element of earth. Like many reflections on consumerism or materialism, you’ll find depictions of power imbalances here.
The wands suit is primarily about actions and the element of air. In this deck the wands appear to be clubs; in some decks they’re called staffs or staves. Many of these cards, in this deck, include animals, suggest movement or travel, and portray interpersonal dynamics.
The final suit, swords, concerns itself with conflicts and the element of fire. In this deck, the artwork for this suit includes many images of implied or explicit peril.
The artwork of the Nicoletta Ceccoli Tarot is just lovely, if you’re interested in a pale and waifish aesthetic with a dose of world-weariness thrown in.
Are there any tarot decks whose artwork you particularly enjoy? Tell us about them in the comments section. And Happy October!
Witchy Weekends: Samhain
Happy Hallowe’en, everyone! This is my last Witchy Weekends post until next October. I hope you have enjoyed the smorgasbord this year.
I’m finishing out the series today with an acknowledgement of Samhain, the pagan New Year. You can learn about this high holiday here. In a nutshell, it’s the day when the Wheel of the Year turns, the veil between the worlds (the living and the dead) is the thinnest, and it’s an important time for remembering the life and death cycles of our world and everyone and everything in it. In other words, it has many of the same qualities as other major world religions and cultures. One thing I’ve learned from my research is that the associations of evil times and practices with this holiday is about as far from the actual truth as you can get.
You can look online for images of Samhain altars and find a virtual cornucopia of beautiful pictures. Some of them resemble gardens, some of them resemble goth art installations, and some of them resemble Dia de Los Muertos shrines. They are all personal and special and endearing, each in its own way. I’d include some of them here but don’t want to accidentally impinge on anyone’s copyight.
I’ve been considering doing something different with my Hallowe’en decorations next year and might be borrowing some of these traditional aesthetics myself. Time will tell.
Now I must get ready to take my kids trick-or-treating. Have a wonderful end of the holiday!
Witchy Weekends: Review of WITCH PLEASE by Ann Aguirre
Witch Please by Ann Aguirre is an entertaining paranormal rom-com that nibbles at some important social issues without treading into heavy-handed territory.
Danica Waterhouse lives with her first cousin Clementine in a small midwestern town. They own a fix-it shop and perform technomancy, a form of magic that repairs broken gadgets, appliances, and electronics, for their fellow townspeople. The catch, though, is that they can’t let anyone know they’re using actual magic, because for one thing, they can’t let people know that witches (the actual magical kind who have metaphysical powers) are real, and for another, they don’t want to bring witch hunters onto themselves and their coven. (Or, as they like to call themselves, their “book club.”)
The challenge comes in when Danica meets Titus, a mundane (i.e. not a witch), and they have instant romantic chemistry. And since this book is firmly in the romance genre, working out whether they’ll end up together is most of the plot. But the journey through that plot is pretty fun.
I won’t lie, this book feels like a confection sometimes, and not just because Titus is a supremely talented baker. But Witch Please does begin to explore deeper issues, too, including real-life dangers and prejudices against pagans, bigotry rooted in fear, emotional manipulation within families, and the importance of ride-or-die friendships against the pull of one’s heart.
Other reviews online have made some valid points about some of this book’s features and quirks that are not satisfying for every reader, particularly Titus’ arguably underdeveloped bisexuality and the question of whether the varying gray shades of honesty within their relationship would work well in the real world.
The second book in this series focuses on Clem, and the foundation of her storyline is significantly developed, dovetailing quite nicely with Danica’s in this first book. I haven’t read the second one yet, but since I generally enjoyed Witch Please, at some point I’m sure I probably will.
What fun witchy books have you read? Or entertaining romances? Tell us in the comments!
Witchy Weekends: Review of Deborah Blake’s New Book
I encountered this book when Alethea Kontis recommended it on her #FriendlyFridays series, and since I’m fascinated by spellbooks as cultural artifacts, I checked it out. While it was published earlier this year, it took several weeks to arrive after the presumed release date due to the supply chain woes currently hampering the book industry (as well as most other industries right now). But it was definitely worth the wait; this is a fun one!
The Eclectic Witch’s Book of Shadows by Deborah Blake is part grimoire, part journal, part recipe collection, and part friendly encyclopedia. It is both practical and entertaining, with a wealth of competent knowledge that any practitioner from New Age to hobbyist to pagan can find real value in. It also contains ample space for the reader to add plenty of their own knowledge and experience to make this a truly personal book of shadows.
The sections included in this book include herbs, stones, candles, magical recipes, divination, gods and goddesses, invocations and quarter calls, spells, rituals, recipes, and correspondences. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and yet radiates respectful kindness of the faith practices (and to some extent psychology) of a healthy swath of the population.
This book contains charming and colorful illustrations by Mickie Mueller, the kind that give off a peaceful and cheerful vibe. This is not the sort of book conspicuous Goths like Azrael Abyss and Circe Nightshade (from SNL’s Goth Talk, ca. 1997-2000) would gravitate toward, but a useful and fun book that could be appreciated by a young or new practitioner and an experienced one and everyone in between — as well as those who, like me, find this genre of literature interesting for its peek into another worldview.
Witchy Earworm: INTO THE WOODS
Hello! We’re having a long weekend here, so my days are a little disorganized and I have a ton of work to do for school, and I’m therefore combining this (long) weekend’s Witchy Weekends post with today’s Monday Earworm. But you get two delightful items in one blog post, so that’s something, right?
Here are two of my favorite selections, sung primarily by The Witch, from the musical Into the Woods, written by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine.
Fun fact: I have only a handful of musicals on the list of musicals I like. Into the Woods used to be my favorite, until Hamilton came along, and now that one is my favorite, but ITW is still definitely on the list.
The first song is the Witch’s Rap from the first act, and the second one is “Your Fault / Last Midnight” from the second act. I love them both for how beautifully they convey the complicated multiple facets of The Witch — not only in this play, but also in the rich pageant of literature and literary archetypes. (Maybe more on that later. We’ll see.)
A lot of amazing people have played The Witch in this musical. I’ve included here the original, Bernadette Peters, who is an icon and a legend to be sure. But Meryl Streep, Vanessa Williams, Hannah Waddingham, and countless others have rocked this character onstage (and perhaps also in film?). Who is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below, and feel free to link to a video of your favorite performance, too!
And the second one…
Witchy Weekends: Holiday Decor
Welcome to October and the return of Witchy Weekends! Thank you to everyone who voted in the poll last month to help me curate this year’s series. Turns out the votes were all over the place! So a seasonal smorgasbord it is…
This weekend I’m posting a book spine poem I created while I was decorating my house for Hallowe’en. So far only the library is done — okay, mostly done — but I will get to the outside of the house in the very near future; I just want the heavy rains to be finished for a while first. (I also have a mountain of papers to grade and report card comments to write this week, so…)
One of my favorite things about book spine poetry is that it illustrates the versatility and importance of punctuation. (Yes, I’m a grammar geek.) Similarly to grammar, punctuation is architecture: it gives our sentences structure. Book spine poems are just a bunch of seemingly unrelated or random words — until you add punctuation in there and create a story.
September Poll Plans For October
Hello! Welcome to September. I don’t know about you, but I’m desperately happy it’s not August, The Official Worst Month Of The Year In Texas. This September is admittedly not ideal, but we’re going to press on forward, onward and upward, and fake it till we make it around here.
One of the things I really love about September is its proximity to October, which actually is my favorite month! (Or one of them. Or probably my actual favorite. I mean, October is just grand.)
And October on the blog means the triumphant return of Witchy Weekends, one of the seasonal celebrations we do around here. This series has taken on a variety of forms over the years, and this time I’m in a bit of a quandary deciding what to feature. There are just so many options!
So I thought I’d pose the question to you, dear readers: what would you enjoy seeing here on the blog this October? Please let me know in this totally informal and unscientific poll, and feel free to expound upon your opinions in the comments section. I will take your preferences into account.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts!
Witchy Weekends: Something Different
First, Happy Hallowe’en! Today’s will be the last installment in this year’s Witchy Weekends series. I hope you’ve been enjoying it this year (and every year, for those of you who have been here for a while).
Today I’m posting something very different, because, honestly, I just wasn’t able to produce another scene in “The Frog Wish” this week that I felt satisfied with. I’m not one of those authors who feels The Muse must descend in order for me to write anything. I’m realistic enough to understand that stuff has to get done regardless of whether I feel “inspired” in some grand or mythical sense.
However, part of that realism is recognizing that I have multiple projects happening at the same time, and sometimes those projects have deadlines, and some of those deadlines are more pressing than others. So while I’m loving “The Frog Wish” and having a lot of fun with it, it is definitely a side lark, and the more pressing business of the new novel I’m currently writing had to take precedence this week.
However, I do have something else to offer you. The video I’ve posted below is a book chat between my friend Kara and me, about witchy books for the season and some movie adaptations we’ve been enjoying. I hope you’ll find it interesting. We certainly had fun chatting with each other, enough that we might do it again in the future. So stay tuned.
Have a very nice and safe Hallowe’en, if you’re celebrating it, and otherwise, see you in November!