A Conversation with Rex, Steve & Andy – The English Magic Tarot

Are you interested in learning more about The English Magic Tarot? Here is a great interview with the creators, Rex, Steve and Andy!


Why did you become interested in the Tarot?

REX: I had a reading from a gypsy woman in St. Ives when I was eighteen. Twenty years on I was struck by the accuracy with which she had foretold my life. I bought an old Pamela Colman Smith deck and was given a Frieda Harris deck and studied both intently. I loved the stories the tarot told me. It was like reading an ever changing comic book.

Did you always want to create a Tarot deck?

STEVE: No, and yet it is no surprise that I have. With my interest in consciousness and human behavior, working with archetypes was very familiar. Carl Jung had much to say on this. He is a starting point for further discussion, interest and research for many.

What do you think is unique about The English Magic Tarot — after all, there are many thousands of Tarot decks in the world?

ANDY: Three things make the EMT unique. First, there is Rex’s artwork, and Steve’s coloring that give the cards the feel of being panels from a graphic novel. The cards contain movement and depth and often feel like they’re leaping from the page. Second, our storytelling approach to the tarot means we encourage people to use the cards as a device to help them discover, and take control of the stories they tell about themselves and their lives. And finally, there is the period in which the cards are set, and the emphasis on English magic.

What is English Magic?

ANDY: English magic is a distinctive, local branch of natural magic. It has evolved through many iterations, from prehistoric times to the present day, and freely blends high and low magic. One constant is that it regards the cosmos as animate, and our place in the world as significant. It calls us to rediscover a magical connection with the land upon which we happen to live, whether that be England or elsewhere. It supposes that through practice and study (not least, of the tarot!) we can attain a greater understanding of the disparate parts of the self, and the magical connections that permeate the universe. Through English magic we can attain a state of gnosis and true knowledge of the world.

When and how did you become involved with this project?

STEVE: Rex and I met while walking across the wild landscape of Dartmoor ten years ago. We have talked and colluded ever since. The tarot collaboration was bound to happen. Rex likes drawing and he knows I like color. Andy arrived in town recently as a musician and writer. It was fortuitous. It was fortune. We were all bound to meet and work together. Things like this happen all the time in this small town.

How did you invent the card images?

REX: I meditated on the cards’ meaning using a drum beat to induce a trance state… sometimes dancing… sometimes prone. When I had imagined the “image,” I broke my trance and drew what was in my mind.

How did the coloring happen?

STEVE: After much discussion and pouring over Rex’s drawings I shut myself away. At no point did Rex say how I should color the cards. He had faith. I devised an entire palette purely on instinct. It had to work for me on many levels. Each card had to work as an individual image, yet they also had to work together. I wanted them to be earthy yet bright, old but relative to today.

Psychologically and emotionally the color combinations had to talk. Color affects me greatly and I hope this shows. I also had to listen carefully to what the cards told me to do. They spoke volumes.

We understand there are riddles and clues hidden in the cards. Can you say more?

ANDY: There are indeed riddles, references, and lore scattered through every card, such as strange writing, books with unusual titles, or letters printed in odd colors. All these are significant and have been placed there deliberately. On one level, they are there simply to encourage readers to look more closely at the cards, and to entice them into a deeper understanding of English magic. But we also wanted there to be an overarching theme to the cards, something that ran through them all and bound them together, something unique to English magic. So the riddles do all point to something. It’s a kind of treasure hunt, if you will, and there is an actual answer at the end.

Why is the Tarot still relevant in the modern age?

ANDY: We regard the tarot as a kind of distillation of Western wisdom. By using the cards you are playing with the building blocks of story. The cards allow us to make sense of our lives, the trials and tribulations we all face, to name and change the stories we habitually tell ourselves.

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Rex Van Ryn is a comic book artist who has worked for Marvel and IPC, producing strips for 2000AD and Scorer, amongst others. He has worked as a storyboard artist for numerous films and TV shows.

Stephen Dooley has worked extensively in Britain and Europe painting murals and trompe l’oeil frescoes. He recently co-produced the Wind in the Willows app for the iPad.

Andy Letcher is the author of Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom (Faber & Faber, 2006, UK; Harper, 2008, US) and numerous scholarly articles on paganism, shamanism, and folklore. He has been a practicing Druid for 20 years and gave his first tarot reading at age 11.

 

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