The Sunday Newsletter (Day 9, 2022)
Featuring a fresh round of serendipities . . . .
I’ve started off the new year with a review of my plans and promises for EP—going back for several months to see what might have been missed.
As to recent promises, here’s the (slightly amended) plan for first quarter of 2022:
The Tarot Time Capsule series begins Tuesday, 1/11, continuing every week.
The Serious Tarot podcast begins Thursday, 1/13, continuing every other week.
The familiar/eclectic Exploration Project newsletter will publish every Sunday.
Method Tarot, a presentation of my personal approach to the study and use of Tarot, begins (as promised!) on 2/2.
In the cycle of holidays, that takes us right up to the cross-quarter day known as Candlemas or Imbolc, and the beginning of Lunar New Year observances in many Asian countries. So the last week of January, I’m planning a thematic focus on pagan Tarot, and during the traditional sixteen days of Lunar New Year celebration, some notes on the relationship of Tarot to Taoism, Buddhism, and Asian popular culture.
Another theme I want to explore this year: Tarot and the seasons. Next Sunday’s newsletter will include thoughts on “The Hermit in Winter.”
And for a quick look further back . . . .
I recently revised/updated the “About” page for Exploration Project, to make it a better reflection of my current thinking. In the process I found mention of long-planned posts that haven’t yet materialized. So look for them soon:
An extraordinary example of conceptual Tarot, in the form of a photographic deck/essay on the counterculture movement.
How three “scholar-activists” created a “Tarot of transgressive research.”
Also in the lost and rediscovered department, two not-written stories I teased a year ago, in the first New Year’s newsletter:
A one-woman art exhibit that presents all 76 cards, in various media
Excerpts from a vintage interview with Tarot icon Stuart Kaplan
To help me keep up with the 2022 schedule for EP, I’ve created an editorial calendar—and a running list of things I want to make sure get covered. If you’d like to see what that looks like, I’ve shared it as a public page:
Drop by anytime!
That’s the “plans and promises” part for now. So—on to the “serendipities” part. These three items jumped into my path while I was doing research for the past few newsletters:
Jef Thompson’s Tarot designs. I decided to illustrate every January newsletter with a “Fool” card, from different, new-to-me decks. A surprise discovery at stock-image vendor Alamy’s site was this card by Baltimore-based graphic artist Jeffrey Thompson:
I finally tracked down a full deck of Thompson’s striking woodcut designs—in fact, one-and-a-half full decks, in a collection at Pixels. The first follows the same minimalist design illustrated above, while the second (which is incomplete) takes a more maximalist Marseilles-inspired approach:
I like the first one very much—but not quite as much as Michael Goepford’s inspired Light and Shadow Tarot, which I plan to write about sometime soon. In the meantime, you can find out more about Thompson’s work on his website.
Bob Dylan and Tarot. I’m not sure where to start on this one, except to say that (yet again) I feel like the last person to know.
To begin with, I came across this blurb:
David Stephen Calonne’s The Spiritual Imagination of the Beats is “the first comprehensive study to explore the role of esoteric, occult, alchemical, shamanistic, mystical and magical traditions in the work of eleven major Beat authors. . . . Calonne introduces important themes from the history of heterodoxy - from Gnosticism, Manicheanism and Ismailism to Theosophy and Tarot - and demonstrates how inextricably these ideas shaped the Beat literary imagination.”
The book was published in 2017, so not exactly hot off the press, but of course I was intrigued. However—it’s priced for university libraries ($95 for 244 pages!)—so I had to make do with Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature. And from what I could tell, there’s nothing about the Beat/Tarot connection that’s not discussed elsewhere.
However, I didn’t know before querying Calonne’s book that Bob Dylan had an interest in Tarot. And I had no idea that a fair amount of commentary has been generated around Tarot references and symbolism in his songs.
Since I’m a Dylan fan only in passing, I wasn’t up to a deep dive on this. But I found three items of interest:
A fascinating deconstruction of “Desolation Row,” offered by Ian Griffin, a Silicon Valley technology speechwriter, and wildly eclectic blogger.
Of course there is . . . a forthcoming Bob Dylan Tarot deck. And I like it!
Bob Dylan and the Cards, a 32-page chapbook published by Walter Van der Paelt in 1997, seems to be unavailable anywhere, but check here for a short description. And if you happen to own a copy, let me know!
Jeff Neves’ Tarot: Landscape of the Soul. While tracking down some Dylan clues on Scribd, I came across this short book, which was published last year. I only had time to scan the introduction, but the approach sounds interesting:
Gilgamesh, L. Frank Baum’s Dorothy, and Wally and Andre in their wonderful film My Dinner with Andre will all be our guides on this journey, as will many of the myths and fairytales from various cultures around the world. . . . These stories are heretical in nature [dealing] with shadow material and are the discourse of “fools”.
You can read the whole text if you’re a Scribd subscriber, but if not, Amazon has an inexpensive Kindle edition available. And here’s a snippet from the first chapter:
A closing note: Last week, in the second New Year’s newsletter, I chose some of my favorites from 2021. Now I’d like to add another to the list: “More about imagination and origins.” After reading it again today, I think this might (possibly!) be the most substantive post of the past year.
As always, thanks for reading. According to my new editorial calendar, I’ll see you Tuesday for the first “Time Capsule” story.
Warm regards, Cynthia