Paulina Tarot Sneak Peek Preview of a Deck Now Published
Tarot World Magazine
Artist Paulina Cassidy has made it easy for us to get a sneak peak at her forthcoming Tarot Deck, Paulina Tarot. Her website, Restless Moon Gallery, has digital images of all 78 cards. Her darkly whimsical drawings made me curious about this soon-to-be-published Tarot, and so I had a conversation with Paulina Cassidy on the phone from her home in Chattanooga, Tennessee. We talked about Tarot, art, and this exciting new deck.
Paulina Cassidy can’t remember a time when she wasn’t an artist. From the time she was a toddler, she had only one choice for a profession. As a young adult working under her maiden name, Paulina Stuckey, she began writing, illustrating and self-publishing storybooks and creating art prints that feature fanciful characters. With the launch of her website in 1999, she developed a world wide clientele.
When Cassidy speaks of the creation of Paulina Tarot, it feels like a truly magickal experience. Cassidy says that she had no real theme in mind when she began designing the deck. In fact, the deck began as a study tool. While she had been interested in the Tarot for many years, she began the fifteen-month project with only a rudimentary knowledge of the cards. "The process of me learning the Tarot was for me to actually create each card." She told me. “I’d focus on one card at a time, and interestingly enough, when I’d choose a card (I didn’t actually do them in sequence) it felt like it corresponded with an important event or turning point in my life, and then that card became a guiding point.”
Cassidy told me that as she let her subconscious mind guide the design of the cards, the images that resulted were closer to the traditional images and meanings than she had realized or planned. One of the cards Cassidy struggled with was the Five of Wands. “I think I created four or five different images for that one.” It’s no surprise that a card that speaks of conflict might create conflict in its creation!
Cassidy’s primary medium is watercolor and ink. Her work is reminiscent of Tim Burton, Dr. Seuss, and Edward Gorey, three artists that she counts amongst her influences. “But it’s not just art that influences me,” she says. “It’s music, it’s places, it’s a combination of so many elements that affect us and create the style that we have.”
One of the places that clearly shows its influence in Paulina Tarot is New Orleans. Paulina and her husband lived there until 2007, and it was there that work on Paulina Tarot was begun. Many of the characters in the deck are dressed for masquerade, and there is a “Mardi Gras feel” to some of the cards. Harlequins and ballerinas dance their way through the deck. Sweet-faced girls wear magnificent ball gowns with intricate patterns. There are people with wings, and people riding on large birds. There are mythical creatures such as unicorns and mermaids. There are animals such as the world has never seen, like a flying lion, and a cat with the tongue of a snake. When I asked Cassidy who these creatures were and what they meant, she said, “I really don’t know- I wish they’d introduce themselves to me.” Cassidy says that her creatures do talk, “according to people who can hear them.” She says that she can only sense them. “I’ll be sitting there and suddenly something’s hilarious, and I don’t know what it is but I have to run to the drawing board and draw it.” Cassidy says her Tarot is peopled with creatures from her own subconscious, who “found out I was working on this Tarot deck and said ‘Hey, I want to be a part of this!’”
But lest you decide that this deck lacks true symbolism, or is simply an “Art Tarot,” take a deeper look at the cards. You’ll see the Devil, who has enslaved himself. Look at the Queen of Cups, whose gown is the ocean. While each element of each image does not always have a symbolic meaning, each card as a whole does speak its traditional meaning quite clearly.
Many of the characters are in poses similar to their Rider Waite Smith counterparts. Like many of us, the trusty deck in the yellow box was Cassidy’s first. As visually different as Paulina Tarot is, it still sticks to the basic RWS conventions. There are some obvious breaks from the familiar, but none that are out of the ordinary for a modern deck. The Magician and the Hermit are both female, for instance, but their poses and interpretations remain traditional.
As we closed our conversation, I asked Paulina Cassidy to speak directly to the many Tarot readers who will be purchasing her deck. “Just have fun with it,” she said. “Let yourself be amused and entertained and moved by what you see. That means the world to me.”
Paulina Tarot will be released by U.S. Games sometime this year. It will be a standard size, and packaged with an LWB written by Paulina Cassidy. Until the deck is available, we can admire it at Restless Moon Gallery, http://www.paulina.ws/.