A BIPOC tarot deck to navigate difficult times

El Sumo Sacerdote (The Hierophant) card from Nomadic Press’s new tarot deck (all images courtesy of Nomadic Press, unless otherwise noted)

OAKLAND, CA – Tarot in Pandemic and Revolution, a unique collaboration of art and poetry, just released by Nomadic Press, a nonprofit community organization in Oakland and Brooklyn that advances the work of intentionally marginalized voices. Inspired by a lucid dream, visual artist, poet and curator of Peruvian origin Adrien arias invited 67 visual artists and poets with connections to the San Francisco Bay Area to create an original work addressing the present moment. Inspired pairing kicks off as interest in tarot is at an all time high. One Washington post source estimates that sales have doubled in the past five years and tripled during the pandemic, and the Guardian and Vogue have written of the rise of tarot and other forms of spiritual guidance as coping mechanisms in these uncertain times.

Tarot in Pandemic and Revolution (author’s photo for Hyperallergic)

Arias told Hyperallergic, “Since the beginning of their existence, tarots have been used to recognize where we are and what we can do to take a new step in our life. Although the exact origins of the tarot are unknown, it is generally believed that it originated from an Italian Renaissance card game, with aristocrats commanding special artist-designed trumps (tarocchi). However, it was the French occultist Jean-Baptiste Alliette who, in the aftermath of the violent French Revolution, revised the cards specifically for mystical divination and called the whole game tarot. A century later, tarot – along with Ouija sittings and boards – gained popularity in the United States during the spiritism craze sparked by the Spanish Flu pandemic.

Modern decks consist of 78 cards divided into Major Arcana and Minor (Secret) Arcana, taking their imagery from the Rider-Waite Tarot, first released in 1909 and one of the most widely used decks in existence. The 22 Major Arcana cards address major life lessons and archetypal themes, such as “El Carro” (The Chariot), a card on how to overcome conflict and move forward. Artist Ytaelena López transformed the traditional chariot into a skateboard, the crown into a protective helmet, and the pair of sphinxes (sometimes horses) into black and white cats embodying yin and yang. The accompanying poem by former San Francisco poet laureate Kim Shuck encourages the young rider who features sneakers, a crescent-embellished scarf and a salwar kameez, to find balance and strength. to make the decisions that are necessary in / this time.

Adrian Arias with tarot cards from Tarot in Pandemic and Revolution (image courtesy of the artist)

The fifth Major Arcana card, “El Sumo Sacerdote” (Hierophant), maintains tradition and beliefs; standing upside down, it defies authority. In the collage composed by José Antonio Galloso, the high priest, usually seated on a throne wearing a triple crown, is depicted as a head wrapped in a red turban and sash under a 3D render of the COVID-19 virus. Instead of the hand usually raised in blessing, he wields a pistol in protest and power, in keeping with Arias’ goal of creating “a space where we can recognize ourselves and fight for who we are.” want to be ”.

Card “Copas IV” (Four of Cups) from the new tarot deck from Nomadic Press

The 56 Minor Arcana cards are arranged in four combinations, from which modern playing cards descend – cups (hearts), pentacles (diamonds), swords (spades), and wands (clubs), and reflect everyday events. A powerful example is “Copas IV” (Four of Cups), which illustrates our tendency to disconnect from others and take things for granted. Painter Allison Snopek transforms the now standard image of a young man seated under a tree, immersed in contemplation, into a naked woman in meditation. The two don’t notice the outstretched arm offering them a cup, but the stakes for the unconscious woman are higher, as behind her, the California wildfires are raging. A poem by former San Francisco poet laureate Alejandro Murguía warns that fire can be medicine where he can destroy what we have failed to protect.

Three new maps have been created especially for Tarot in Pandemic and Revolution. One, “La Madre” (The Mother), is based on an iconic feminist painting by the late Yolanda López, in which her mother, seated in front of a sewing machine, repairs the mantle of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Surrounding a seamstress in the same multicolored halo as the Virgin, the image honors the daily work of immigrant women, while the light blue background evokes La Lotería, the popular Mexican folk art cards used for fortune telling and for a game. bingo type with a story similar to tarot.

There has been a recent wave of inclusive decks, like Hip Hop and Modern Witches Tarot, and a tarot cookbook to harness spiritual energy through food. Tarot in Pandemic and Revolution restores the lasting capacity of the tarot to offer structure and advice in times of social unrest, and particularly significant are the representation of diverse bodies, the highlighting of the matriarchal DNA of the tarot and the focus of the artists and poets of the BIPOC as oracles and visionaries to navigate these times.

Card “La Madre” (The Mother) from the new tarot deck from Nomadic Press

A striking example is “La Muerte” (Death), the card of transformation and rebirth. Arias’ black and white pen and ink drawing of a skeleton on horseback resembles a woodcut. Death wears a Black Lives Matter pennant, the numbers 8:46 – the length of time George Floyd was grounded – in the background. Protest poet and publisher Michael Warr’s accompanying poem references endless cycles of george floyds / resurrected to be buried again, while reminding us that, Our bodies are more than a metaphor. As JK Fowler, founder and editor of Nomadic Press, told Hyperallergic, “We are both witnesses and participants in the death card draw. As oppressive systems twist, new perspectives take their place. Systems that have never served anyone – even the oppressor – find less traction. People are hungry for new eyes to do with and during COVID, the resurgence of poetry and increased readership indicate the necessary search for new ways of being. Poetry and Tarot offer these tips, two steps in a multi-step dance to guide us towards balance.

Tarot in Pandemic and Revolution is a collaboration between Adrian Arias and Reneé Baldocchi of Baldocchi Projects & Collaborations and is published by Nomadic Press. The project is edited by Michaela Mullin, the booklet and box design is by Jevohn Tyler Newsome and the card design is by Dánica Conneely.

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