Friday, March 20, 2015

Updating the Tarot

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Wekcome to the Spring Fling edition of the Tarot Blog Hop. Our organizer for this hop, Ania Marczyk, posed a question to our merry little group of Tarot bloggers--Given that the Tarot is a product of its time period, created five hundred years ago, is the Tarot elastic enough that it does not need updating? or does the Tarot need to be modified to bring it into the modern world?

As always, my answer is one that just proves that I am of two minds about everything.

No, the Tarot does not need updating. The type of events and people that are present in the Tarot five hundred years ago are still with us today. There is absolutely no need to update the Tarot.

Well, except one. It is damn good fun to update the Tarot. So while the underlying structure of the Tarot makes it timeless, I am still going to be interested in, and willing to create modern versions of the Tarot.

(It should not be a big surprise that this is my position---after all, I updated the Fives in a previous Tarot Blog Hop. ex. The Five of Swords was a pro-wrestler.)

One of my favorite "updated" cards is the Magician card is from an (live-action) role playing game, Magic the Ascension. While the Magic the Ascension Tarot deck was created as a prop for the game, and used as a themed set of illustrations, and very much keyed to the worldview of the game, a few of the cards are worthy of consideration if one wanted to update the symbolism of the Tarot.

The Mage from the Magic the Ascension Tarot deck. 
While there is a lot of imagery specific to the game in this version of the card, there is something that I would be tempted to use if I ever did a modern deck of my own, and that is the elemental "tools" on the altar (table). The four elemental items are all modern (well, maybe not the key...but bear with me): a gun (aka firearm) is used to represent the element of Fire; a soda can is used to represent the element of Water; a key is used to represent the element of Air; and a set of credit cards is used to represent the element of Earth.

(I apologize for the following cards being only in black and white---a family issue chewed into my art time.)

One of the cards that I think needs updating is the High Priest or Pope. The reason for this is that for many people, the Catholic Church is not the Church that they know. In the modern world, at least in the United States, the evangelists are the keepers of the faith. Interestingly enough, the corruption that was associated with the Catholic Church in the times that the Tarot was first created can now be found in the ranks of the tele-evangelists--I assume there is some deep spiritual significance and lesson to be learned from this, though I am too tired to think of it at this particualr moment.

The modern High Priest or Pope is the Evangelist. 
A few years ago, I spent some time reading for teenagers. One of the things that I learned is while they understand the ranks behind the Court cards, many of them could not easily translate the older imagery into modern terms. Therefore, I highly tempted to update the Court cards.

This first example is from the suit of Pentacles. In this card, I show the Page of Pentacles as a youth working in some minimum wage job. This may seem to be an odd association, but I am standing by it because a lot of people who consult fortune tellers are the poor, whose associations with money tends to be poverty and minimum wage jobs, and not the wealth of the traditional version of this suit's Court cards. Or maybe it was just me that ended up having those associations, and those types of experiences...and almost everyone I have ever worked with.

Modern Page of Pentacles is the minimum wage worker. 
The second example of my attempt to update the Court cards is my version of the Page of Wands. Here we have an youthful artist, who is passionate both about their art and their politics. And yes, I accept the idea that artists smoke dope; that includes about half the pottery students that I know. I am quite sure if the Tarot was invented today that there would be a card representing the evil that this type of person can lead to....though in the original decks, it was a game for the worthy, therefore, this type of person (as well as my previous example) would not have gotten a Court card (probably both would have been dumped into the Fool card).

Modern Page of Fire is a pothead, sometimes in both senses of the term. 
Anyways, that is all the updating of the Tarot that I had time to finish (I have a whole list of cards that I have not even penciled yet). Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to visit my little corner of the blogosphere. And please consider checking out some of the other blog entries that my fellow and lady Tarot bloggers wrote.

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Vivianne said...

Interesting. I feel that the tools of your Mage are more than they seem: the soda for water is a corruption, water gives life and soda is bad for you, full of sugar & additives; the gun shows that tools can be dangerous if not used properly; and credit cards are modern trickery, replacing something of actual value with something superficial and again dangerous. All of these point to the traditional meaning of The Magician as a mountebank, trickster ...snake-oil salesman.

Olivia Peters said...

I understand your point about the Hierophant and loosening its historical, Catholic context. It's interesting because whether the card features a priest, or a shaman, or a Vodou drummer, I see the same energy. But I think that sometimes people just have a hard time connecting to the images from particular traditions. And I really like your point about how hard it can be for people (not just teens) to connect to the images in the Courts. The Tarot de St. Croix did, I think, did a really nice job with making the Courts more accessible, in a contemporary way.

Ania said...

I love your take on the Pages :) I do have to agree with Viv about "soda" having no place on the Mage's altar. Bottled water, on the other hand, would be perfectly at home :) I also have mixed feelings about the gun (though the idea of "Fire!" appeals to me linguistically.

Unknown said...

I so agree. Updating isn't needed, but it is fun! And, it's a great way to students to understand the archetypes, and to understand the creative nature of tarot today!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your post very much... you aplogised about not having time to add colour... I'm very much liking your images as they are... I think they'd turn quite nicely into a teen tarot... I like the spiral binding down the side... It makes for an interesting 'border' Less of a deck and more a Uncle Morgan's notebook of life hacks that every teen should know...
Just a thought ;)

Alison Cross said...

nooooooo!!!! Don't tamper with the Court Cards. Even though their names might be a bit odd these days, their interpretations are still very valid :-D

It's in discussing when you (ie teenagers who can't related to Knights or Pages etc don't understand things that greater understanding can be reached.

I like your drawings in B&W - keep them that way!

Inner Whispers said...

Once again, I'm humbled by your creativity! Excellent images - as others have said, I'd gladly use your updated deck :) I especially like the Page of Pentacles working a month minimum wage job: every entrepreneur (King of Pentacles) has to start somewhere :D