April Daily Notes (4.27.23)
From a spooky attic to D&D, and on to Romania . . .
In Tuesday’s note, I mused that there was no point in planning the next day’s content, as there would probably be new things demanding attention in the meantime. But I didn’t realize how right I would be.
To abbreviate the story (this installment, anyway) . . . yesterday I traveled into Dallas for an ophthalmology appointment—another step on my path toward eye surgery in a few months. On the way back, there was a very aggressive rainstorm, and I pulled into a parking lot to wait a few minutes.
To take advantage of the time, I started thinking about what to put in the Wednesday Daily Note. I’d planned (yet again) to cover one of the several posts-that-never-get-written—but then something else came to mind.
I’ve mentioned a few times that there seems to be a Tarot for everything I think about, so I’ve formed the habit of looking for a relevant connection whenever I get interested in a particular topic. And I wondered what would happen if I searched on “Tarot and eyes.”
Which I did when I finally got home.
I’m sure no one will be surprised to hear that there were several results.
Eyes of the Tarot
This YA (young adult) novel by Bruce Colville begins when Bonnie finds a deck of Tarot cards hidden in a mysterious attic:
She frowned. Something about the cards seemed oddly familiar. She looked at them more closely. The top card was face down. The back of it was blank, which seemed odd to her. When she turned it over she dropped it in shock. On the face of the card was a vivid, gruesome picture of a skeleton dressed as a knight in silver armor and riding a black horse. Bonnie shuddered. But she turned over another card.
Something began to stir in her mind. She turned over a third card: a dark queen, holding a sword.
Bonnie smiled. She knew what this was after all: a tarot deck. It was used to tell fortunes. Maybe it had belonged to her gypsy ancestor.
She studied the three cards and once again felt a slight shudder ripple through her. The eyes on all three cards, even the skeleton’s, were extraordinarily vivid; they seemed to be looking right through her, almost as if they were alive.
Bonnie turned over several more cards, admiring the artwork, which was crude but powerful. She touched each card lightly, afraid it might crumble. Yet soon she realized the cards were far sturdier than she would have expected. Apparently the leather wrapping had done its job well.
She gathered up the deck, wrapped it back in the leather packet, and took it downstairs to show to her grandmother.
Colville is a prolific YA author (134 and counting), with many titles in the realm of fantasy and general spookiness. But Eyes of the Tarot is out of print—too bad, because I really wanted to know what happened! Which says something about my reading level, I suppose.
The Deck of Many Things
Searching for more information on Bruce Colville took me by “accident” to the YouTube channel for Matthew Colville, a well-known figure in the world of Dungeons & Dragons. In an episode from several years ago, he shared some insights concerning the use of Tarot cards in D&D, with Kat Black’s lovely Golden Tarot for illustration.
Couldn’t get through very much of the presentation, as I know almost nothing about D&D—but I was intrigued by this comment:
A campaign I've always wanted to run was something we'll call "The 22 Pickup." Essentially, the players find the Deck of Many Things, but something goes wrong and the deck scatters to the winds. Unleashed from its normal limitations, each card picks its own victim where it can do the most damage and evil ensues. Even the good cards are now free to go full Monkey's Paw and spread that benefit where it will sow the most chaos. The players are now responsible for reassembling the deck, with each card essentially causing its own mini-adventure. It would require taking a few liberties, to make the gamier mechanics (like lost 10,000 XP) into something with a bit more narrative punch (like altering/losing memories), but I think it could be an interested grand adventure.
Next Stop, Romania
There are quite a few decks with the word “eyes” in the title, but I didn’t like any of them very much—though the Cat’s Eye Tarot is charming, and I might talk about it another time.
However my search terms took me for now to a site titled “Tarot Through the Eyes of 40 Romanian Illustrators.” And here’s the slightly puzzling lead-in:
Initially, the project started with ‘Măscărici‘ a few years ago, which was born from ‘the meeting between the memory of communist-era shedding-type card games and the love for traditional costumes.‘ The pack consisted of 26 pairs and a Măscărici – trickster card. Every pair was made by a different illustrator and had a uniquely artistic take on the folk costumes of various nations. But in the spring of 2020, ILLUSTRART knew it was time for a new project.
No idea why “shedding-type” card games might have been popular in the Soviet era, and didn’t have time to find out. But whatever the inspiration, this wildly colorful project offers a wide range of Tarot interpretations . . .
For an added touch of serendipity, it turns out the project was coordinated through the Fondul Jazz in the Park campaign. So if you missed the Daily Note on John Zorn’s jazz Tarot, check it out now.
Some unexpected happenings put me a day off track—so yes, this is the post I started on Wednesday. And now it’s Thursday.
We’ll see how tomorrow turns out. C
What a delightful read.