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Questioning the Vamp
I have been working on creating my own tarot deck for over a year now using an obsolete Victorian photographic method called ‘wet plate collodion’. This is a labour of love; it is a slow and expensive process so will probably not be completed until some time in 2021.
In the meantime, I started work on another tarot deck as a side project. This has now been completed and the result is a deck called ‘VAMP: the Theda Bara Tarot’ Theda Bara was a huge star of the silent film era. She was the first screen Vamp and is sadly not well known today as most of her films were destroyed in a huge fire at Fox Studios in 1937. The VAMP tarot deck comprises of images of Theda Bara merged with my calligraphy of tarot prose. This prose comes from PD Ouspensky’s ‘The Symbolism of the Tarot’ published in 1913 for the major arcana and the tarot poetry of 15th century Italian Count Matteo Boiardo for the minor arcana.
The deck is currently on kickstarter to hopefully raised funds to finance a small print run. At the time of writing, it is uncertain whether or not it will succeed – I would say 40:60 chance. In a couple of weeks I will write a blog about ‘how to successfully crowdfund a tarot deck’, or ‘lessons learned from a failed kickstarter’. Hopefully the former.
As I really can’t predict the outcome, I decided to do a reading to get some indication or advice from the cards themselves. I have a test deck of VAMP produced by my printer and wanted to use this to question itself about the outcome. Nothing unusual so far, and probably something most tarot deck creators would do.
The interesting thing for me is that the VAMP minors are based on the Boiardo proposal of 4 suits based on the ‘Four Passions’ of Fear, Jealousy, Hope and Love. And this was the first time I had ever attempted a reading using these suits. As far as I am aware, no complete copies of Boiardo’s tarot survive. So potentially I could be the first person in a couple of hundred years to do a reading based on his writings.
The VAMP deck uses majors based on the 22 traditional and familiar characters, it is only the minors that are different. So, I decided to do a reading using just the minors to ensure every card was something new to me. It is possible to read the Boiardo minors by equating them to the relevant traditional minor card. For example, treat and read the Ace of Love as if it was the Ace of Cups. However, I decided to read the cards in their original format.
I decided to do a simple 3 card reading of Past, Present and Future. I thought first about my expectations, and what cards I thought might come up to represent these phases. My own assessment of where I was up to was something like this:
- Past – Hope that the work I was doing to create the deck would result in a successful outcome.
- Present – Fear that I might not get to the funding target
- Future – Love for all the pledgers who have spent their money to support the project.
These are the actual cards I dealt:
Three of Fear. In the Boiardo tarot system, fear is probably the worse suit. Possibly the worse card in the deck is the Ten of Fear which tells of a fear so crippling that it causes physical symptoms. The Boiardo tercet for the Three of Fear reads:
FEAR makes the lamb tremble in the fold
If it hears the wolf outside; and it stays so enclosed,
That the subtlest breeze can hardly reach it.
Three is a low level fear card and a low level of fear is not necessarily a big problem, and hopefully not be too hard to overcome. The card suggests someone in their comfort zone and not willing to expose themselves to new challenges or ideas.
I was expecting Hope for the past, but got the Three of Fear. Okay, this confused me at first, so I talked about it with my daughter. She laughed and said that for the entire project I have been voicing doubts about my ability and general lack of confidence in what I was doing. She reminded me that on occasion I had been uncertain and she thought at one stage I was going to quit the project. So, yes Fear. Fear of failure was a barrier to overcome. That the deck made its way onto kickstarter is evidence that I overcame that barrier. The fact that the selected card is a low number means that it was a low level of fear I was experiencing, but still one that had to be overcome to get to this stage.
I was expecting a Hope card and got the Four of Jealousy that reads:
JEALOUSY, when it comes, it is better not to think
That you can fight it, because it wins everyone:
But it is good to be able to tolerate it.
Deep down I knew what this meant. My kickstarter is a bit behind target and progressing only slowly. I found myself looking at other crowdfunding tarot decks and being a little jealous of some that were sailing away, reaching their target quickly and overfunded several times over. I don’t like admitting this, as I consider jealousy to be a destructive and unpleasant emotion. However, if the hat fits…. I take some solace from the poem on the Four of Jealousy that is telling me not to fight the jealousy. It says jealousy is natural, and as long as it is tolerated and not acted upon, all will be fine.
I was hoping for a Love card here, that would be an indication that the kickstarter had been a success and that I was sending love to everyone who had contributed to making it so.
Instead I was dealt the Ten of Hope. The Boiardo poem for this reads:
HOPE wakes up the poor man who works
Digging, making a mountain, or a lake, flat,
Because he hopes to receive a prize for his efforts.
On reflection, this makes more sense. I have overcome the fear of the past and learnt to accept the jealousy of the present. The Love card I was hoping for would have been a fortune telling wish for the future some weeks away. The Hope card I got now is telling me about the immediate future and what I need to do over the next two weeks. And this is to continue working hard and keeping the hope and faith that this will result in ‘receiving a prize for my efforts’. That prize being a successful campaign.
So, my first reading using the Boiardo suits, and one that I found interesting and useful. And hopefully I will be writing that ‘how to successfully crowdfund a tarot deck’ blog post in a few weeks time……
You can see the kickstarter campaign here: