One of the things I enjoyed most about creating my own tarot deck was being able to add my own twist to the traditional images. Even though The Spirit within the Shadows Tarot follows the Rider Waite system closely, I have added details and characters which reflect my life and interests. In most places, this is not immediately obvious. However, I thought it might be nice to look at just a few of the cards from my set and discuss why the drawings I made are special to me.
The Hierophant is a card which gets stuck in the throat of many tarot readers. As a symbol of education and spirituality, this figure (formally known as The Pope) does not represent a religious system which all readers follow. For this reason, many deck creators have changed the title because the worthwhile aspects of this card can be easily overlooked when viewed from a negative standpoint.
I spent some time thinking about where I wanted to go with my own version of this card. I thought about my own spirituality, my spiritual education and the teachers and institutions which guide me. While turning over ideas, I realised that a lot of my understanding of the world has been aided by The Kabbalah Centre.
Of course, we are all responsible for the steps we take in life. However, The Kabbalah Centre has provided me with direction during the ten years that I have been attached to it. It’s teachings have given me sign-posts and much reflection. I use the wisdom and perception I have gleaned through its tutors in every reading I give with the cards. Kabbalah has helped me to see the world more clearly.
With this in mind, I decided to use Karen Berg as my Hierophant. It is written that a Hierophant is an interpreter of arcane mysteries and principles. As a writer, public speaker, and tutor of Kabbalah, it made sense to add Karen to the seventy-eight images, for I consult her own teachings for clarity and understanding on a regular basis.
My card has a similar set up to the Rider Waite version. In mine, Karen stands before a young man and woman. They are both eager to soak up what they can learn from her and listen attentively. This is a nod to both the teacher and teaching aspects of the card. In the background is the Los Angeles Kabbalah Centre. Sometimes, this card will concern an institution or place of education.
It makes a healthy change to find a female Hierophant in the tarot. Even though we know that advisors can be of either gender, it was not until recent times that a woman was given the opportunity to study Kabbalah. Karen Berg (and her husband, Phillip) were pioneers in bringing this wisdom to the everyday person. Karen was physically attacked and threatened for trying to do so. This card respects and acknowledges both her fight and accomplishments.
Some of the cards in this deck have been inspired by people I know. Some were not. The beauty of using silhouettes is that some of the figures look eerily like people I do know, even if it was never intended.
Karen Berg is not the only well-know person amongst the decks landscape though. There are a handful of others. The World is inspired by a photograph of the model Don Hood.
When I worked as a clothing designer, a lot of my job concerned searching through photoshoots and images from catwalk shows. I would create mood boards to inspire the design team and buyers. Since I worked in Menswear, I would pour over the lavish images in the high-end fashion magazines. I adored the pictures (sometimes more than the clothes), lapping up the coffee-table books of fashion photographers and visiting their London exhibitions. Way before my work in design, I was interested in fashion models and fashion photography. My favourite model of the 90s was Keith Martin, who’s look played a big part in adjusting the stereotypical image of male models back then. I loved his style ‘on’ and ‘off’ of the catwalk, so it was a buzz to meet him at a Camden gig some years later, when he’d turned his attention from modelling to singing in a band.
Some models just have something about them. They know how to convey a multitude of emotions, which I believe is what makes a good model. I see this in Don Hood, which is why I decided to place him within the framework of The World. As a person, Don displays health, success, potential and beauty – all things I associate with the card he radiates from. His silhouetted profile also sits at the top left of the card, representing the zodiac sign Aquarius.
Once the picture was finished, I posted it on Twitter and Instagram. Of course, I tagged Don’s name beneath and credited him. While working here at my computer a day later, I noticed that he’d ‘liked’ the picture on Instagram. When I checked my Twitter notifications, he’d left a short message. Of course, knowing that Don saw and liked the artwork makes the card even more special.
There are many people on Twitter who do not have Don’s status or his 8.9k followers. Many people can not be bothered to acknowledge the comments made by those who follow them, but Don did. This is another reason why he is in a class of his own. I am happy to have both his and Karen’s silhouettes in my deck.
© Steven Bright Tiferet Tarot 2014
Illustrations by Steven Bright. Photo of Don Hood by Seth London.
To find out more about Karen Berg, look here
To find out more about Don Hood, look here