How the transformation of tarot is pushing the minds of creatives across the world

words by Cheyenne Bholla

Christina Foisy pictured (Credit: Christina Foisy)

Tarot has become somewhat of a normality in North American culture.

At the age of sixteen, Christina Foisy’s godmother gave her the first 78-card tarot deck she would ever own.  

Her godmother knew Foisy was into all the gothic movies and had interest in witchcraft, much like many girls her age.

But it was deeper for her. 

“I was around five months when my mom passed and so I never knew her,” Foisy said on video call, her eyes diverting at the uncomfortable topic. 

“I had always been kind of interested in the occult or New Age spirituality because I really wanted to figure out how to communicate with her or how to have a relationship with somebody that had passed.”

She wouldn’t fully acknowledge this until she was older, but her attraction to the artwork on the cards was an extension of her desire to connect with her mother, who was an artist. 

“I thought it was like an interesting way of using imagery (as a) metaphor — kind of storytelling to intuitively connect with the spirit world.” 

Throughout the years, Foisy did readings and tried to expand her understanding of the archetypal stories instilled in each card, such as the Hero’s journey. 

The mother of pentacles card from The Wild Unknown tarot deck. (Credit: Christina Foisy)

This story represents the obstacles that one faces on their way to fulfilling their destiny or purpose in life. 

Links are drawn between archetypal images and Carl Jung’s works in analytical psychology, which he famously founded. 

Jung was the analytical psychologist that coined the term archetypes, according to biography.com.

The collective consciousness is how Jung named symbols and archetypes that are the root of human narratives seen in cultures, religions and literature, according to popular tarot site Labyrinthos. 

The mother. Transformation in death. The fool. 

These are present in the human psyche. 

As a student in English literature, Foisy was drawn towards these universal stories. 

“The first tarot card is the fool, zero, which is linked to the hero. The fool is not necessarily someone who’s ignorant, it’s someone who doesn’t have life experience, and who’s just kind of getting started. And so the fool kind of leaps into this journey of life, and is just exploring life and is coming up with a series of encounters with, let’s say, the terror or other kind of life events that are challenging, which is a metaphor for our own human experience on Earth.”

The Fool card from the popular Rider-Waite tarot deck. (Credit: Pixabay)

At 38 years old and in a full-time role with CAMH, the dust collects on her now four-deck collection after years of readings, questions, and self-reflection.  

In tarot’s recent boom in North America and the public’s new willingness to embrace the practice, it’s been co-opted to fit the needs in different areas of people’s lives.  

While the practice has been known as a tool for self-awareness, exploration into spirituality and fortune-telling, it’s being used for much more today.

“Almost like a journal prompt, I will reflect upon the meaning of the card, and then that could launch into a writing exercise. I’m a writer, a poet. So for me, that’s really great, too,” Foisy said on a video call with a smile in her eyes.  

Foisy loves her Motherpeace deck most for its bright colours and unique round shape.

Each one of the deck’s 78 cards has a white ring encompassing stoic drawings which remain soft, despite some intense blues and reds.

Although she doesn’t use her decks much anymore, she said they helped strengthen her storytelling abilities, as well as trigger her creative intuition. 

The Magician (top left), the Star (top right) and the High Priestess (bottom) cards from the Motherpeace deck. (Screenshot from Motherpeace website)

“Sometimes you’re feeling stuck, you don’t have anything to write about. And it’s a great entry  point that way.” 

The Motherpeace deck was published in 1983 by Karen Vogel and Vicki Noble, two feminist women from California. They began creating the artwork after Noble had a supernatural experience, seeing a vision of “Goddess of energy and the transmission of ancient wisdom,” according to the Motherpeace website. 

“The Motherpeace cards became more than a divination tool for us: they were and are a fundamental healing process for reaching beyond the limitations of gender, age, race and class roles found in our society,” reads the origins page of the site. 

This deck is only one of presumably hundreds that exist today. With each deck, these archetypes are translated and reproduced. 

With the endless possibilities for interpretation of the images and archetypes within tarot, it’s not surprising that within the cards there also lies an unlocking of one’s creativity. 

Through Foisy’s Toronto-based business doing readings called Stick and Stones, she learned how to tie meanings together between the cards. 

“When you’re weaving a story for your client, and you’re looking at all the cards, you’re trying to interconnect the different cards into something coherent that they can understand and be like, ‘oh, yes, that’s impactful,’ you have to use imagery,” she said.  

Matteo di Pascale is seen in a screenshot from a video posted to his blog describing his collab with representatives of tygdigital, David Robustelli and Simon van Cleeff for an Intùiti app.

“You have to use analogies, almost like when you’re teaching. It’s like using your imagination to  weave the meaning together. And it’s not just for yourself, it’s also for the person you’re working  with.” 

Translating this information from the cards helps the person getting the reading understand what it could mean or how it applies to their life. 

Matteo di Pascale saw this calling in the cards. He would do readings solely to understand the  archetypes embedded into the imagery of each card and each deck, working to fully understand the universal stories. Di Pascale wasn’t interested in any fortune-telling uses of the tarot.  

“I bought (my) first deck when I was seven,” said di Pascale. 

“I used it a little bit when I was a kid. Then I stopped for a while. And I took it again when I was around 18 (or) 19.”

After putting the cards down for a few years again, di Pascale went back when he was around 22 years old after he met famous copywriter Alessandra Mazzucchelli who would end up being his mentor. 

(Creativity) is not something that you can create an equation to understand or to ignite. But you could use some other kind of incentive, probably a more magical incentive. That’s why I focused on intuition.  

After realizing that his professors at Polytechnic University of Milan were expecting surface-level creativity in his design program, he decided that he would venture on his own to dig deeper.  

In di Pascale’s corner of Italy, this is where Intúiti Creative Cards were created.  

“(Creativity) is not something that you can create an equation to understand or to ignite. But you could use some other kind of incentive, probably a more magical incentive. That’s why I focused on intuition.” said di Pascale. 

“I thought that there was some kind of magic in the fact that we create things. At some point,  you have an idea. And you don’t know why you had that idea because you were under the  shower. And suddenly, something came up.” 

Each one of the 78 cards in the Intúiti is said to mix tarot through archetypes and imagery, design and Gestalt psychology, including the principles about the difference in perception between each person. 

The Intùiti deck of cards is seen in a screenshot from the company’s website.

The cards are divided into primary and secondary texts which correspond to the major and minor arcana of tarot. The major arcana represents large transformations in one’s life while the minor arcana reflects day-to-day ongoings. 

While being funded by Kickstarter to launch the project, Mazzucchelli mentored di Pascale using tarot cards, teaching him how to transcend the traditional introspective and mystical uses of the uniquely illustrated  decks.  

While on a video call, di Pascale held up the Empress card or The Laughing Vagina. 

The card resembled a peach exploding in the setting of greenery. 

Di Pascale explained the card as representing birth. Birth of a new idea. The happiness associated with children-bearing. 

“This is pregnancy.”

The whole deck is the same in its bold colours and sharp, simplistic symbols. 

Di Pascale said the key to building one’s creativity and intuition through the cards is the same that Foisy acknowledged.  

The archetypes.  

He said in a world where creativity is manufactured amid the non-stop field of creative directors,  marketers and more, an emphasis must be put on authentic creation for feeding one’s soul.  

He hopes that others will find inspiration in the card designs, which he produced himself.  

Brandon O’Brien is pictured. (Brandon O’Brien)

Di Pascale didn’t know that across the ocean, Brandon O’Brien was writing daily poems using his Intúiti deck that he bought in 2018. 

O’Brien would draw the first three cards on the deck and take a second to contemplate the images and meanings within the book that comes with every Intuiti deck. 

“If an image didn’t give me something that I thought was interesting or valuable, then (I would) go into the rulebook and see if I could find something more inspiring. I would do that perhaps once or twice a day.”

The tabletop game designer, writer and poet from Arouca in eastern Trinidad and Tobago wasn’t initially attracted to the cards because of any creative drought. He simply loves to shuffle cards. 

Before he drifted off of using the deck, he also saw it as something to incorporate into his game design. 

During the few months he wrote poems inspired by the cards he would pull, he pulled the six of  air, five of fire and knight of fire which led him to create his favourite poem, Come Hither

“The fire suit in the deck is very attached to desire. And it had been a while since I (had) written  in that space. One of the things that I had settled on at that point was what if the thing that the  persona of that poem had desired was not something sexual or romantic for someone else, but  some general kind of deeper understanding or longing for one-self expressed romantically,” said O’Brien.  

“That’s the mode that I wrote that poem in and I think that it’s very interesting as a result, it  fulfills that poetic purpose. And as a result, it’s also perhaps one of the sexiest ones that I’ve  ever written.” 

In 2019, O’Brien was at a game convention with some friends. At that point, his friends became his test subjects in a mini experiment he wanted to conduct with the cards. 

Everybody had absolutely different answers and I felt like the answers that they gave were also very telling about the things that they valued   

He pulled the deck out of his bag and began to shuffle and draw random cards. He began asking them what they thought of the cards he pulled. His friends were going into this test blind, because O’Brien didn’t explain what the deck was beforehand. 

He just told them that whenever he picked a card, tell him what it meant. 

“Everybody had absolutely different answers and I felt like the answers that they gave were also very telling about the things that they valued, or the things that they were afraid of in those moments,” O’Brien said recounting his experience.  

“It was very interesting and very thought provoking for everybody at the table because everybody was discovering different things. And I feel like that’s what’s genuinely interesting about it — I believe, for any two people to look at the same Intuiti deck or the same individual card and react the exact same way every time.”

Something that he enjoyed about the deck is that, in the end, interpretation was all left up to  him.  

He compared this to tarot cards where pre-established meanings of the archetypes can intrude on one’s ability to formulate their own, independent ideas within the cards.  

He said that although tarot is also meant to be interpreted in its context, “every so often, in  public people will encounter cards or the meaning of cards that they learned from a TV show or  that someone else told them that’s what it means. That has solidified that objective meaning of that thing, regardless of its context, in ways that limit the capacity for a lot of people to be  really intuitive about the tarot.” 

The World card from the Intùiti deck is pictured in a screenshot from the company’s website.

O’Brien said his favourite is The World or The Totality Card. 

On the card is a mixture of circles, triangles and a diamond wrapped around each other in somewhat of an optical illusion. 

The card represents unity, fullness and completeness, according to the Intuiti website. 

“I love that it’s a knot of impossible shapes. I love that,” said O’Brien. 

“Every once in a while I will go looking for this card in particular, just because I think it’s that cool.”

Although O’Brien sees tarot as somewhat limiting, Christina Foisy said tarot has helped her  strengthen her intuition and imagination in much the same way.  

“It just helped me connect to my inner self,” she said.  

“The unconscious thinks in images. We dream in images. And I think that’s why tarot is really  powerful on the unconscious level because it speaks to you on that level.” 

In the end, everyone is different and it’s all left up to which tool helps each individual best  expand their creative mind.  

“I think it could be really helpful for people to develop their imagination. This is a great way to  build a relationship with your intuition and your higher self, higher self-consciousness. That part  of you that is undying, and like that will live on forever in different forums.” 

Although Foisy, Di Pascale and O’Brien reside in different parts of the world, they all have one thing in common. 

They all use some variation of tarot as a tool to peer into the depths of their minds.