Updated: Sep 17
The Occult Ornithology deck by Katie Whittle is a majors only tarot deck with beautiful artwork featuring birds.
To pre-order, click here - Occult Ornithology
Where in the world do you call home?
Liverpool, United Kingdom
What was your first experience with tarot and when did you fall in love with it?
When I was a teenager, probably 14/15 I bought a deck which came with a beginner’s tarot book! It was a simple Rider Waite deck with nothing fancy about it. I loved my deck though. The book advised making a bag for the deck (which I did, out of velvet) and also told me to not let anyone else touch the deck besides myself, which to this day I’ve stuck to, besides the manufacturers and myself, that deck is untouched!
What made you want to create this deck? What was your inspiration?
I’ve always wanted to make a tarot deck honestly, I’m a sucker for symbolic art and having had decks for years it’s something I’ve toyed with. I’m currently working on a vulture book, and originally I was going to do the major arcana with vultures as there are 21 species and it seemed like a perfect fit (the wheel would have been a nest like now), but planning it out it just didn’t fit right, it was after taking a break and thinking about how birds in general fit the archetypes more that it finally felt right to make this deck! When designing it I didn’t actually plan on releasing it though, It was something to take my mind off the stress of lockdown with no pressure of having to finish it.
Aside from your own deck, do you have a favourite deck? If so, which one?
My wish list is a lot longer than my list of owned decks sadly, I have a simple Tarot de Marseille deck I love just because I love medieval art, besides that I have a copy of The Last Unicorn tarot, it’s so beautifully made that I find myself looking through it daily and can’t not choose it!
Do you have a favourite card (either from your deck or just the card in general). If so, why is it your favourite?
Oooo tricky! I love The Moon card because it suggests mystery and deception, the idea of hidden meanings is what draws me to tarot anyway so in a way this card embodies it.
As for my favourite card from my own deck, Temperance because the card itself looks like something from a sci-fi magazine and also because having a lesser flamingo in the deck was a curve ball on my part, I’ve tried to pick unusual or interesting birds as well as ones that fit into classic archetypes and I feel my flamingo might be the more interesting.
What have been your challenges in creating this deck?
Balancing traditional themes and iconography, deciding which elements of the Rider Waite were essential and had to be present and finding suitable substitutions for symbolism.
What is one thing you really want people to know about this deck?
It’s an absolute passion project, it’s not often that I get to mix my interest with occult art with my interest in animals in a way that is both informative and spiritual! I hope this deck will be educational on all the birds featured as well as a nice tool for divination.
It’s interesting that you have chosen birds as your theme. How do you think birds relate to human spirituality?
Oh man I could write a book. Every single culture has mythologies surrounding it’s local bird species. Romans had augerys and Greeks had ornithomancy, both ways of using birds for divination. Alchemists held up Pelicans and Phoenixes as pathways to creating philosophers stones. A theme that is repeated in modern dystopian fiction is the disappearance of birds and their songs. I think birds are so prominent in arts, legends and historical documents because they embody a lot of traditional archetypes in society already, the idea that owls are wise and that magpies are thieves is fairly common. It felt very natural to me applying the tarot to birds!
How will you celebrate when your deck is finally published?
It’s lockdown here in the UK so my celebrations will be limited to a £5 UberEATS voucher and some cider. When I have the physical decks I’m excited to smell the fresh print smell though. I was going to say maybe take a break from art for a while but I’ve never felt so inspired to create more!
What is on offer for people who pledge? I’ve tried to make the deck as luxurious as possible, so I’m offering a deck that has foil on the front and back as well as gold edged cards. They will come in a really high quality book box because it’s quite important to me to store cards in something beautiful. Higher tiers will be able to get a 48 page perfect bound full colour guide talking about the card's meaning and about the birds depicted (all tiers will also receive this in digital form). At the very highest tier I’m offering to create people’s own personal piece of artwork based on their own card idea. At the time of writing this we’ve also hit 2 stretch goals, so everyone will be getting a free bookmark and a free foiled notebook to accompany the deck! We’re edging towards stretch goal #3 so hopefully everyone will get a nice enamel pin as well!
To pre-order, click here