Friday, 2 September 2011

Tarot of the Silicon Dawn Interview

I acquired the amazingly innovative and non-traditional Tarot of the Silicon Dawn (Lo Scarabeo 2011), by Egypt Urnash (Margaret Trauth) a couple of months ago.  While it certainly won't suit die-hards of any tradition, there is so much to explore here!  Scans don't do justice to the images, which use a varnishing technique to add "hidden" elements to the cards, including an extra suit of Void, which are entirely black.  There are also 4 extra cards at the end of each suit, the 99's, and a number of extra Majors, as well as a black card and a white card, with just a spiral in the middle.  For a detailed review, Barbara Moore did a 7 part exploration of this deck which starts here.

I decided I would have to try to get to know this surprising deck a bit better, and invited it for an early evening cocktail (tea seemed far too tame).  I expanded the interview spread created by Fireraven and propagated on Aeclectic.   I wanted to cover the basics, but also look at how to deal with the additional cards this deck offers.

What is your most important characteristic?  Nine of Wands

A Fool in a jaunty motley dress and hat strides in, cocktail already in hand - how did she manage that?

"You may not be sure with me whether I'm giving you pearls of wisdom or leading you on a merry dance.  Still, in reality I'm always there in the background, playfully exploring life with you - I've got your back."

"That's good to know, I guess..."

"And I'll remind you that every relationship involves give and take, but it's a win-win situation as both are good.  I'll also always challenge black-and-white thinking, suggesting a bit of green or purple, or whatever..."

"Speaking of challenging rigid thinking, this card doesn't look much like traditional 9 of Wands imagery..."

"No-one will ever call me traditional!  Still, I think what you're getting at is the fact that I associate Wands with Earth, and Pentacles with Fire.  Don't ask me why, that's just the way I roll.  So, the closest card to this in an old-fashioned deck would actually be the 9 of Pentacles - material success, independence and abundance."

"Ah, yes, that's more like what I see here, thanks for clearing that up.  Now, can I ask..."

What are your strengths?  Eight of Pentacles

"I'm fast-moving and modern."

"Why, that's almost an understatement!"

"Cheeky!  Anyhow, you may notice I'm full of energy, with plenty of girl-power thrown in for good measure.  I'll talk to you in a language that is both familiar and strange - rooted in modernity, yet speaking to your soul.  And I don't pull my punches."

I have to say, this feels very true.  The images here are incredibly striking, despite their strangeness (for a tarot deck - many would look right at home in a computer game or tv cartoon show).

What are your limitations?  Fortitude

"Well, I may sometimes be a bit busy being fabulous, and forget to trust my instincts.  But I am so very fabulous!"

"Ha ha, fabulous darling!"

"While you think I'm merely preening, in the background I am holding everything together, so you just have to ignore my pretensions and trust that I'm strong despite my girlish charms."

OK, I can probably manage that.  I guess it's like the gorgeous blonde in films who's also a brainiack, but people take a while to realise...

What can you teach me?  81/2 Maya

Here we have one of the extra cards in this deck - connected with the Fortitude (Strength) card we just saw, and yet going somewhere completely different.

"I can teach you about opening up to uncertainty, hah!  I'll remind you that really everything is illusion, all our ideas and preconceptions about the world, ourselves and others.  I don't do black-and-white, like I said before, despite there being a lot of it - it's another illusion.  I make it seem like there's right and wrong, only to challenge it all.  So, I'll teach you to go beyond what you thought you knew."

"Well, that's quite a claim!"

Still, she is incredibly different...  And that's even without the fact you out there on the interwebs can't see hir butterfly...

How can we best collaborate?  Aleph 4

"Just let me blow your mind!  Ha ha!  As I just explained, I like to explode the ways you see things.  Not just about how you see people, yourself and others, but even how you think about the world, about past, present and future, about location.  You really can change anything if you want to, and I can give you the advice of your Higher Self to help decide what in your life you need to shatter and what structures to keep."

This is another of the extra Majors, connected with X: History and 10: Fortune, by her design, and yet placed by Urnash outside of the normal sequence.  She talks about this card being our Higher Self, where the Fool may eventually get to after the whole Hero's Journey...

What do I need to know about the suit of Void?  Queen of Wands

The suit of Void is made up of a 0 and four Courts, with the 0 having a black background and a little white butterfly.  The Courts have complex images in varnish, which can only be seen under the right light - no point scanning any of these, you wouldn't see a thing!  The Courts in the Tarot of the Silicon Dawn are titled King, Queen, Chevalier and Princess (except in the suit of Void where the final card is titled Progeny, but of course that doesn't change the single letter on the card...)

"Though it may at first seem rather dark and bleak, this suit is actually very playful.  It can nurture, just as the dark of the womb nurtures, and just as we come from the dark of space to explode into all of life."

"So, you're not really all about blackness?"

"Well, some may read me that way, but as with the Death card and the Tower, out of doom and destruction rise new beginnings."

What do I need to know about the 99's?  Four of Cups

The 99's are four additional cards at the end of each suit.  If the 10's are completion, the 99's are described as 'Not just "too much", but so much extra that it can completely change your thinking about the subject.'

"Just when you thought you knew everything, and were bored with it all, along snuck the 99's!  They add a whole new dimension, taking things to the nth degree.  They look like little 'ole cards, but like the lady behind the chair, they're just that bit different."

"So, what should I make of them?"

"Just use your eyes, and your intuition, be willing to see beyond first appearances.  For instance, here it looks like a cocktail party indoors, but there's also someone playing croquet - what do you make of that?"

"Hmm, croquet makes me think of being mean in the most courteous of ways."

"The same with the 99's: they pack a real punch while pretending to be just a joke."

I'll just have to give it a go, I guess.

What do I need to know about the extra Majors?  Six of Cups

"Well, you can drown in the abundance of emotions and variety that are offered.  Still, these little cards are well-balanced and add to the overall structure of the deck.  They bring the potential for transformation, and should be celebrated!"

"I notice that the sun's rays have hands and are copping a feel?"

"Gotta have fun, honey-child, gotta have fun!"

What is the potential outcome of our relationship?  Seven of Wands

"Despite all my brash talk, I will be there through thick and thin with you.  I understand about hard times, so I can stay the course and support you, no matter what.  And I'm pretty unshockable!"

"Ha, yes, more than most, I imagine."

"Once again, even when you think things are clear-cut and just awful, I can dart in with a bit of colour, a bit of challenge to your all-or-nothing mentality."

"That certainly sounds like something I could do with now and again.  I'm looking forward to it."

"Well, gotta be going now, dearie, places to go, people to flabberghast..."

And with that, she's gone.  But I know she'll be back...


  1. Fantastic review! Really want this deck now - love your writing style too x

  2. What an unusual deck. Does that Maya character have a penis AND vagina?

  3. Hi Anya,

    Thanks, that's kind of you to say. I enjoy these "interviews" as a different way to look at a deck. And because this one is so unusual, I added in more explanation than normal, so I guess it did end up being a bit of a review :)

    Hi MM,

    Yep, Maya is a full on hermaphrodite! You couldn't get away with that on a photographic deck *lol* Still, I wouldn't read with this deck face-to-face with someone I didn't know would like it ;>

  4. Wow, hi Peggy, thanks for stopping by! Glad you like it :D

  5. I'm delighted to see that people are enjoying my craziness, and that the deck is saying exactly the same kinds of things I designed it to say!

  6. Hi Peggy,

    LOVING your craziness ;) Really enjoyed my week using it for daily cards, and I'm sure I'll do some more full readings with it, too. Would love to know how you came up with the idea of using that varnishing technique...


  7. After Lo Scarabeo decided to publish the deck, they said "oh hey we have this cool new varnish thing, we did it on the Quantum 2.0 and it was pretty cool, maybe it'd work on the Silicon Dawn too." I was leery at first, then they sent me a copy of the Quantum. I looked through it and immediately started to see ways to go beyond what had been done with the process in that deck, starting with deciding to definitely do the (VOID) court. (It and most of the 99s were just vague notes at that point, I was thinking of doing some stuff with "rich" blacks (black with cyan/magenta/yellow overlaid for a really deep black) against normal blacks, as seen in the 0(VOID)'s titles, but the varnish worked tons better)

    So basically the varnish came to me. n.n

  8. Wow, definitely wouldn't have thought the varnish was an add-on - you really incorporated it in such a way that it's impossible to imagine many of the cards without it. The Fool's wouldn't have their wings to contrast with Aleph 4, for one thing!

    Is it something you would now incorporate in some of your other, stand-alone art?

  9. Thanks! I really worked hard to integrate the varnish with the existing art. The easy route would have been to just highlight something in every card, maybe even varnish the titles, but that felt TOO easy. Harder but more correct was to go through and do a mix of highlighting, adding new elements, and leaving some cards untouched. ("It's like red," I say when people ask me why not every card has varnish. "Some cards have a lot of red. Some have a little. Some have none.")

    I haven't had the printing resources handy to do more of it... but the comic I'm doing on right now does the same kinds of fuligin-on-black tricks that my pre-LS doodles towards the (VOID) cards were in, and if I can interest a publisher in it then I'll certainly be pushing for a little varnish to make them pop better.

  10. That sounds exciting! Is that for your Decrypting Rita? I wish you luck with it! Any chance of another tarot deck or oracle? :) Images like your Halloween gal or Starwatcher would work really well for an oracle! Not that I'm a deck-a-holic or anything ;D

  11. Yep, if you look through Rita closely you'll find something hiding between the panels now and then - if your screen's brightness and contrast aren't cranked all the way up, that is - that'll probably be varnish in a printed volume.

    I haven't really thought of doing another deck of any kind. It's a lot of work and there's only one me! Right now I'm working on the aforementioned comic, plus art for a videogame, a collaboration with one of my comics idols, and a striptease involving a "magic" sword packed full of electronics. Buuuusyyy!

    I DO have a few very preliminary doodles for another deck - a b&w one full of eye-twisting effects like the SD's 2P - but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it. I'm not sure I have more than one deck in me.