Cassandra Snow

Magickal. Practical. Radical.

Cassandra Snow is a tarot card reader, writer, and theater artist professionally. This website is focused on her life in tarot, with substantial references to witchcraft, LGBTQ+ community, and chronic illness.

Filtering by Tag: independent tarot deck

Heart and Hands Tarot--Support Now!

Good Afternoon all! I once again feel myself compelled to apologize for a lack of posts but I'm excited to be back, and SO excited to be writing a tarot deck in the works. Liz Blackbird contacted me about her upcoming Heart and Hands Tarot and the IndieGoGo making it all possible. I'm always happy to support queer creators, and I was additionally intrigued by the black and white art. As I watched the video on the campaign's page, I was moved by the unspoken but strong healing energy that went into the deck. I responded and told Liz I was eager to learn more. Here's our Q&A and some info about how you can support this great deck:

Tell us about yourself, first!
My name is Liz Blackbird (she/her/hers). I’m a visual artist, fiction writer, and poet currently based in Brooklyn, but I’m about to move to Ohio to pursue an MFA in creative writing. I’m originally from Michigan, so this will be a bit of a homecoming!

Prior to printing this deck, what was your relationship to tarot?
I’ve been interested in tarot since I was a teenager. I grew up in the suburbs of Flint in the 90s and generally felt a little unsatisfied with the environment around me, like it was kind of a bad fit, like there had to be something better out there. So I think I was predisposed to be attracted to all things magical. I was not raised religious, but my mother’s family was Catholic and evangelical Christianity was a strong (and often oppressive) force many of my friends’ lives, so I’ve also always been resistant to organized religion. A lot of my friends at that time felt similarly and were exploring wicca, neopaganism, and other more open-ended spiritual practices, and I initially learned about tarot through them. Many of us would ultimately come out as queer, and I think that had a lot to do with those initial feelings of discomfort with the status quo and the “bad fit” it seemed to be for us that led us to seek alternative spiritual paths in the first place.

The tarot attracted me as an artist, because I love the way its meanings are conveyed visually through mysterious and evocative images. It also nested nicely with my general agnosticism – whether or not I believe that I am being guided by supernatural forces, I can still trust that what I “read” in the tarot represents my truth on some level, even if it’s just tapping into something I already know about a situation but have been afraid to admit to myself, or giving me a framework to think about a situation in a different way. I generally only read for myself or close friends, so I’m usually pretty intimately acquainted with the lives of people I read for.

What stands out about the Heart and Hands deck? Why did you want to create this deck specifically?
The genesis of this deck was different than most, because it initially began not as a commercial endeavor, but as a personal project that I undertook to help me develop a new artistic direction at a time when I was feeling a little blocked. I had decided not to focus on studio art in college, and was regretting that decision a little bit. I had a really inspiring art professor at the time, Jyung Mee Park at the Maryland Institute College of Art, who essentially told me not to force it, that your art should stem from something you do naturally. In my sketchbooks, I had been doing a lot of casual black-and-white free-associative drawing, so I decided to try to take on a project in that style to see where I could go with it. I was already interested in tarot but didn’t feel that my knowledge of the cards’ meanings was very strong, so I decided to try designing my own deck to both stimulate my creativity and get to know the cards better. This, of course, turned out to be a much bigger project than I expected! It took me ten years to complete the illustrations. Though I had initially expected the project to remain private, as the years went by, so many of my friends saw my drawings and asked about how to get a copy of the deck that I decided I had to print it. I named it the Heart & Hands Tarot as a reminder of the power of our hearts to dream new possibilities and our hands to put those dreams into practice.

Ultimately, I think the black-and-white illustration style I developed is very unique and makes the deck stand out. I also think that my intention to enact a kind of creative “rebirth” through creating these cards really permeates the deck and comes through in the lushness and exuberance of the drawings. I also tried to create images that communicate the meanings of the cards in a direct and relatable way without requiring prior knowledge of other fields, like astrology and Kabbalah. But in general, I think my slow and meditative composition process—the fact that I didn’t force it—is what makes this deck special.

How does your deck speak to marginalized and queer audiences?
Because I identify as queer, and because queerness was so bound up in the way I first became interested in tarot, I tried to design this deck in a way that that avoided presuming heterosexuality or a male perspective, and that included people of color. Many of my figures, especially my Lovers, are very androgynous, and my number cards are all zoomed in to depict only the figures’ hands to avoid ascribing them a fixed identity. For my court cards, I chose to use a Prince and Princess rather than a Knight and Page to have gender equity within the court. There are also two major arcana cards that depict genderqueer figures – Justice and the World. In general, I wanted to create space in the designs for readers to be able to ascribe their own gender and sexuality interpretations to the cards.

Another big element of my work is in helping people heal so they can get to the part where they can be inspired and empowered. How does your deck speak to the healing process?
I think that in a lot of ways, creating this deck was a form of shadow work. Being a visual artist was a strong part of my identity as a teen, but because I did not focus on studio art in college, I found it harder and harder to maintain a creative practice in my 20s. Working on this deck was a big part of what kept me connected to that creative part of myself even as I was trying to make a living in other fields. Also, because the tarot is, among other things, a compendium of archetypal personalities, situations, concepts, and developmental states that we might experience throughout the life cycle, I found that working on parts of the deck that corresponded to issues I was dealing with in my life at the time was a great way to think through those issues in a broader, more distanced, more insightful way. 

Thank you so much for taking time to tell me more about this wonderful new addition to the tarot canon. How can we find out more or support you?
I’m currently running an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to print the deck, so please visit my campaign page to support the project and to check out the "perks" (including copies of the deck) available for donating. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/heart-hands-tarot-deck/x/14290775#/ The campaign will be live until August 14th! I'm also launching an Etsy shop, ThirteenWaysToLook, so that I can make the deck available there after the campaign ends. It should be active by the winter of this year.

Thanks so much to all of you, especially Liz. Now, go support indie decks!

Blessed Be.

Tangled Roots Oracle Review

A little while ago a wonderful witch friend gifted me an Oracle deck she wrote and made the art for. It's a first run of a locally made deck, with the added bonus of Leora gifting it to me out of love, and so I was inclined to like it anyway--but as soon as the deck hit my hand I was surprised by how right it felt that I owned this deck. I rarely connect with oracle decks that aren't slightly creepy or fairy-laden (and even those I'm picky about), so I was really excited to see what transpired as I went through it.

This gift, the Tangled Roots Oracle, was created by local artist Leora Effinger-Weintraub, and her website as well as more about the deck is here. I wasn't officially asked to do a review, which makes me feel even warmer and fuzzier about the gift, but decided to do one anyone because I truly love this deck.

Overall inspiration and connection I've already touched on this quite a bit. Originally I sat down with Leora and asked a million questions about the how and why of the deck, and it originally started as just a way for her to have a deck she truly connected to. Her spirituality comes from a certain line, and she's a woman who's soul runs very deep, and so it was hard for her to find THE one. I think it's fascinating, and confirms the adage I hear about art and story-telling, that the more personal something is, the more universal it is. Leora may have created this for herself and those like her, but something about this deck runs really deep and digs right into your own soul.

The Artwork on the Tangled Roots Oracle is so simple and beautiful. That's very true to the artist's style--she does a lot of work with lettering and simple things that make a big statement. I'd seen some of the early illustrations and knew they gave a lot of ideas in a very concise manner, with the reader's knowledge and ability to suss out symbols being pretty key. The finals in the deck added a lot of color for what seems like interest but is incredibly mood-focused. Her use of symbols is great, and since this is a deck meant to be incredibly personal, I love that the picture is of just, say, a raccoon, for example. If a raccoon means something drastically different to you than it does to Leora, it doesn't matter--there's not anything to contrast your vision on the card, so it gets to speak to you as it needs to without being confused. Simple decks are one of my greatest joys in life, don't let my Prisma Visions and Tarot of the Silicon Dawn addictions confuse you, and this is one of the best I've seen in this vein.

Card Quality: If you've been keeping up with my blog or even just hear me talk about tarot a lot, you know this can be a touchy subject for me. I don't let poor card quality ruin a deck for me, but I do find it incredibly disappointing on otherwise flawless decks. So I am very happy to report that these simple but powerful images are seated comfortably on durable but flexible cards. One of the first things I said out loud about the deck was "Oooh, good cards!" by which I meant the quality.

Overall Inclusivity is a non-issue with this deck. Leora designed this with herself and immediate inner circle in mind, but she is a proud social justice warrior like myself (I know that term is supposed to be derogatory. I just don't find it to be.) This deck relies so heavily on suggestion, symbols, and shrouded figures that I don't think anyone would feel left out by this deck, and if anything, I think the way she uses her artwork does include and pull pretty much everyone into the fold.

The Queerness Quotient then is also stellar. Leora is a queer woman, so much like the Fountain Tarot, while not an explicitly queer deck, that piece of her identity runs through it in a way that those of us looking for a deck with queerness will be satisfied. That being said, the ambiguity of this deck makes it even more welcoming of those marginalized even within our community. While the deck was designed through a certain lens, she does a really lovely job of making sure that's not the only lens it can be seen through.
 

Guide Book and Ease of Learning also hit a home run in this case. Because this is a low cost self-published deck (a rare thing in and of itself), the guide book is a simple folded pamphlet with brief interpretations of the cards. It's very straightforward, and makes it doubly clear that this deck is very Pagan and very personal. The book offers very short interpretations which further allows for the reader to build from the building block she's laid out for us. My one sort of complaint or criticism is actually that I wanted more of Leora's voice in the book. Not necessarily in the interpretations of the cards, but she had such beautiful things to say about the deck's conception and creation that I thought a thicker pamphlet with more info about the deck would've been so valuable, esp to those who might just pick it up at an event or online. This Oracle deck is very easy to learn in comparison with others. I know tarot so well that I sometimes struggle with oracle decks, but the Tangled Roots Oracle goes in a logical order, and allows for free-thinking in a way that makes it easy for anyone to at least read for themselves with.

Leora Effinger-Weintraub's Tangled Roots Oracle sounds like a vague concept, but the information if gives can be as ethereal or concise if you need it to be. I've used it for everything from a "Mind, body, spirit" check-in to a question about a practical business issue I was facing and it gave me the information I needed in all cases. There's one or two cards that did take me aback--I expressed my concern about the deck's use of wedding bands to stand-in for commitment in a day and age where that particular symbol is often still seen as one of super traditional nuclear family lifestyles as opposed to how I, and many, queer people feel about romantic and other commitment. I have the deck's first run, and the artist is taking my feedback as well as that of a few other people into account. Ultimately though, even if nothing changes on the second run, Leora has created a really sweet, beautiful deck that is deeply rooted in Pagan beliefs but still offers incredibly valuable insight regardless of your identity and faith. I can't wait to get fully "off book," and this may be one of the first oracle decks I ever use for clients. It's that good.

Again, the website is here, and I am sure those that follow it will be among the first to know when sales go live again.

Blessed be, and thank you so much to Leora, her wife Eli, and all of the amazing queer Pagans doing amazing things in their communities.