In our latest interview, Patrick Spargur, creator of The Fox's Wedding Tarot, gives us an insight into the interweaving of art with tarot and explains why his deck is best used on a daily basis rather than as a deck to tell your future.
Unfortunately, this kickstarter did not reach the required funding level.
Where in the world do you call home?
I live in Novato, California, a small town in Marin County 30 miles north of San Francisco. Marin County is home to many musicians, a thriving spiritual community, and hundreds of miles of forest and ocean.
What was your first experience with tarot and when did you fall in love with it?
I started playing with cards when I was very young. My grandmother and I would often play Concentration and that was my first experience with really listening to the cards and paying attention to the relationships between cards. This naturally led to ‘cold reading’ which I still love to do. There’s no more raw way to read than grabbing a deck of playing cards off someone’s shelf and doing a reading on the spot. There’s an underlying structure in a deck of playing cards that makes it an incredibly useful story telling tool, that story creation and story telling is at the heart of Tarot. When you really dig in on the inferences of the suits and the path and patterns moving from Ace to King it’s a very powerful experience.
When I was 22, back in 1989 I received my first real Tarot deck The Voyager Tarot which had just come out (coincidentally it was also created here in Marin County.) My roommate was Wiccan at the time and she thought I’d enjoy it for its very modern approach to Tarot. I still have this deck and use it daily. I’ve had James Wanless (the Voyager’s creator) read for me and weigh in on my design journey as well. This deck has been with me through all of my experiences and travels and is still my go to deck when I’m reading for myself.
What made you want to create this deck? What was your inspiration?
I think everyone who reads considers creating their own deck in order to add to the community of Tarot. It took me a long time to believe that I was ready to start down this path. As I connected with the online Tarot community I was really floored by all the energy and creativity going on. There are decks for any viewpoint and some of the simplest, like Kawaii are actually the most powerful. The community on Kickstarter, Reddit, Instagram & Discord is incredibly creative and I really wanted to contribute to it. I’m from a family of painters, I’ve spent a LOT of time in art school so that was a natural starting point for my deck. There are so many evocative stories, personalities and images embedded in art history that transcend time. These formed the perfect raw material for me to construct my own story.
The artists whose work I have co-opted to make this deck were all big influences in my life as well. Singer-Sargent, Millet, Rodin, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, William Morris and the Arts & Crafts Movement, Turner’s landscapes, all have inspired me throughout my life. Their works capture and stop time for the viewer, many of them look directly at you and want you to intuit their story. A woman from Norway recently told me that my deck seemed to sit outside of time, it wasn’t current or dated it was simply timeless. I loved hearing that.
Before the pandemic hit I had a very long commute to work each day, just over 1 hour in each direction on a bus. So I had a LOT of time alone to research and work through the first few cards from my iPad. Once we all switched to working from home I found I had even more time to dedicate to the deck and that’s when this turned from a personal journey to actually wanted to publish it via Kickstarter.
Danielle Noel’s Starchild Tarot, Arthur Wang’s Trueblack, Sullivan Hismans’ Tarot Sheet Revival, James Wanless’s The Voyager Tarot and Natalia Silva’s playing card designs all used innovative approaches to design and production to create an entirely unique experience and they motivate me to explore what else could be done. The community on Discord; Ammers, Starsailor & Twist The Leaf and the rest all provided great unvarnished feedback along the way.
Aside from your own deck, do you have a favourite deck? If so, which one?
I have two go-to decks now for reading. First is James Wanless’s Voyager Tarot which has been my main deck since I started reading over 30 years ago and I think really kicked off the Tarot revival of the late 1980s early 1990s. The other deck I’m finding really insightful though is from Sullivan Hissmans Tarot Sheet Revival’s Jean Dodali deck. It’s an extraordinarily meticulous recreation of an original Marseille deck from the 1700s. The creator started with wood block prints from Bibliothèque Nationale de France and the British Museum and recreated the deck faithful to the original, these are then printed on paper he made himself and hand painted. To me his decks create a direct conversation with the past which is a critical step in learning Tarot. Sullivan has created a number of different historic decks from the 1400s – 1800s and each one is like discovering a new root that underlies everything you’ve learned about Tarot.
Do you have a favourite card (either from your deck or just the card in general). If so, why is it your favourite?
The King of Cups has always been my favorite card. In a deck of playing cards he is the King of Hearts or the Suicide King, some choose to carry that into Tarot and others don’t but I think it’s very romantic. The reason I love it is he represents that sort of creative drama around following your passions at any cost. He’s a passionate and emotion driven drama queen but he knows what is beautiful in the world and will stop at nothing to create it. To be clear, the Suicide King never commits suicide, he just loves creating drama.
What have been your challenges in creating this deck?
First has been finding time, I work a full time job and I’ve had to squeeze in my design time late at night, early in the morning and anywhere there is space between other things. Because it’s all digital though I have had the opportunity to take notes wherever I am, grab a photo if I’m in a museum or on the road and capture them all then go back to those ideas later when I have a minute.
The other has been pulling my ego out of the deck and letting the imagery speak for me. This deck isn’t a way to show off what a good painter I am, it’s to capture the history of painting and culture and reshape it into a Tarot story.
What is one thing you really want people to know about this deck?
First, I come from a white male, western background and that is really the only honest viewpoint I can have. Other people from other viewpoints are creating incredible work and I don’t want to ‘bandwagon’ on their message by falsely sprinkling in dishonest diversity within my deck. There is a bit of gender fluidity within the Major Arcana, and cultures other than white and western represented in the court cards, but I am aware that it comes from a white western male point of view because that’s just who I am.
I encourage everyone who uses The Fox’s Wedding to use it as a tool to hone your intuition. It’s important to build a foundation of Tarot meanings but also to listen to your intuitive voice. The Major Arcana are designed to elicit an immediate, emotional, subconscious story in your mind. Listen first to this story and make sense of it before turning to the guidebook. Because it’s a Marseille based deck the minor arcana is even more challenging. They are naturally more abstract but there are layers of number and pattern woven within and meaning behind each card that elicit a subconscious response. That primal response is more relevant than the traditional meaning. So use the deck frequently, and trust in your intuition as you work with it. You will develop your own stories over time for each card that will make your relationship with the cards entirely unique.
You suggest that we use the deck as a daily divination tool rather than looking to the future. Can you explain why your deck is best used this way?
As I was starting down the path with this, a friend of a friend asked me if she was ‘going to end up a spinster’. As readers, and I am very uncomfortable with reading, we hear these types of questions a lot. People living in fear of a specific outcome but not really focusing on the small choices they make that create those outcomes. Terrence McKenna said that if you look at life from one day to the next it all sort of seems the same, you can’t discern the pattern. But if you look at decades, or centuries you see the stark contrast and arc of history. It is the every day choices, habits, and decisions we make that shape that larger arc. Nothing in our past or our future is written until we write it with our own actions.
My favorite daily reading is to write on a piece of paper (In a positive way) what I want to create. Then on another piece of paper write down why I can’t create it, what are all the things standing in my way. The positive one goes to my right, the negative one goes to my left, and in between the two I place my one card for the day. That card isn’t meant to be a psychic prediction of whether or not I’ll end up in a happy place, it instead shows me the approach, the way to go from where I am today – the paper to my left- to where I want to be- the paper at my right. Do I need to act like more like The Emperor? Do I need to ‘find the others’ and take The Lovers approach? Or is a walk alone in the mountains the right course of action like The Hermit would do? Think about the path vs the outcome, and think about embodying the message of each archetype vs being afraid of its negative or positive portent.
How will you celebrate when your deck is finally published?
I don’t have any special plans yet, I think what I’m really looking forward to is hearing how people who have the deck are using it and what they’re discovering from it. I’ve seen a LOT of interest from Australia, Turkey, Argentina, and Mexico which is already giving me new ideas about creating this in other languages. The best things in life are the surprise outcomes of your efforts that you never expected. I can’t wait to see and hear how people engage with my cards.
What is on offer for people who pledge?
I’ve created a very affordable version of the deck that is being printed by Expert Playing Card Company. This is a beautiful linen finish deck that is not too large so it is easy and comfortable to work with even if you've got smaller hands.
I’ve also created a silver edged version of the deck that feels and handles very beautifully. I’m seeing a lot of decks coming out that have a factory applied gilt edge but some of the samples I got were flaky or felt wrong. For this version I’m having a company that only does gilt edging for books, cards and invitations do the edging after printing. This will create a true gilt edged deck that handles beautifully but will also endure for decades. I’m a big fan of using your deck every day and carrying it with you, I really want this deck to be that durable.
For higher level backers I am working with a fine art printer in San Francisco to create larger format prints of select cards on archival quality paper.
All decks will come with a digital guide in several formats so you can search and browse through them easily while reading, and longer term I’ll be publishing an in depth guide that brings more of the history of the chosen images into the understanding of the deck. Depending on how the Kickstarter goes I may add the printed guidebook as a stretch goal that is included for at a certain level of backers.