Christiana Gaudet

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The Mary-El Tarot Sneak Peek Preview of a Deck Now Published

The Mary-El Tarot
Marie White, Artist
Sneak Peek
Tarot World Magazine
Christiana Gaudet

Artists have a variety of reasons for choosing to create a Tarot deck. Some do it as an interesting challenge. Others see it as a logical progression from designing collectible card games. Some have a particular vision of the Tarot archetypes that they would like to document and share. Then there are those artists who have a real passion and love for Tarot. Marie White, creator of the Mary-el Tarot, is one of those.

White, a full-time mom and self-taught artist, has been working on the Mary-El Tarot since 1997. Designing a full Tarot deck was not what she had in mind when she painted a picture of The Emperor just after her first child was born. She found the process inspiring, and went on to complete a few other Major Arcana cards. Before long, she was no longer focusing on individual cards, but on a vision for a full deck. She created more cards; both Major and Minor Arcana, working on the ones that captured her most. Eventually, she became more disciplined about the process and began creating them in order.

When it became clear that she was creating a deck that eventually would be published, White began sharing her images and promoting her deck on-line. Her terrific website, Mary-el.com, and her other on-line efforts, made sure that this deck developed a strong fan base. When White self-published the Major Arcana in 2003 it didn’t take long for them to sell out completely.

In my telephone conversation with White, I learned that, unlike many Tarot artists, she is a reader herself, although not yet a professional. She hopes to become a professional reader when her full deck is published, so she can offer readings with it. She says that reading for people with her Majors-only deck is a completely different experience than reading with a standard commercially published deck.

White told me that she enjoys a number of Tarot decks, including the RWS, the Halloween Tarot, the William Blake Tarot, and the Crowley Harris Thoth Tarot. Mary-el Tarot is clearly inspired by the Crowley Harris Thoth, although its images are unique unto themselves. Justice is numbered as Key 8 and the suits are Wands, Cups, Swords and Discs. The Court follows the RWS standard, with Pages, Knights, Queens and Kings. Not all Court cards picture an individual human, and the pip cards do not include suit icons.

The artwork of the Mary-el Tarot is both bold and delicate. The images are so very detailed that I was amazed to learn that each original piece measures only 7 inches by 11 ½ inches! The process that White uses to create each card is just as detailed as the finished images themselves. She told me that each card can take several months to research, a month to sketch, and a few days to paint. It is no wonder, then, that the deck has been in progress for more than a decade! White provides a window in to her artistic process on her website, where she actually shows the stage-by-stage creation of a few cards.

Marie White has always had a fascination with mythology and theology along with art, and is thrilled that these interests combine so perfectly in Tarot. I asked her if there was a theme or goal for the Mary-el Tarot. She said that the main goal was to create a deck that told universal truths and balanced masculine and feminine strengths.

She writes essays for each of her cards that are very different than most standard LBW interpretations. These essays, according to her website, highlight “pertinent information about the card such as: what inspired it, what it symbolizes, or what was experienced during its creation”. Clearly, White’s spiritual and creative process for this Tarot is very organic and very personal. She told me that she is really enjoying the journey of creating this deck, and feels a strong sense of destiny; that she is meant to be doing this at this time in her life.

The traditional archetypal images that we associate with Tarot are not present in the Mary-el Tarot. It would be difficult to figure out which card was which without seeing its name. Some of the images will be controversial in the Tarot community, and some might be considered inappropriate for certain audiences. For this White is unapologetic. She is firm in her conviction to paint what she sees for each card; to “tell the truth” with each card.

One card that has already caused some controversy is the Hierophant. Ironically, it is one of White’s favorite cards and one that she had some trouble creating. It shows a woman nursing two children, one at each breast. Certainly not a standard Hierophant image, but a striking one!

I can’t quite find the words to describe the look and feel of this unique deck. The art is superb, the images are intense, and completely unlike any Tarot deck I have ever seen before. This will not be a deck for the beginning reader, or for the nervous querent. It certainly will be a deck for the Tarot scholar, for the seeker of spiritual mysteries, and for the collector of fine art. White’s focus on personal integrity in creating this deck suggests to me that, in divination, this deck will tell the plain truth whether or not we want to hear it!

White does not know when her deck will be completed, or who will publish it. She will not be rushed and she will not have her deck “watered-down”. The completed Mary-el Tarot will be exactly the Tarot of Marie White’s vision. In the meantime she begs us to be patient with her process. I am sure it will be worth the wait.