Our artists love all things magic—tarot cards not excluded. After noticing a ton of incredible tarot-inspired artwork made by S6 artists, we reached out to writer and art historian Angella D’Avignon to tell us a bit more about the history of these psychic tools and the oft amazing artwork that accompanies them.
From an introduction as medieval playing cards to its continued popularity in contemporary spirituality, a deck of tarot cards has been a powerful tool to help its practitioners navigate their daily life and the future. You don’t have to be especially spiritual or spooky to get into tarot, it’s illustrations and symbols are meant to be taken as advice to help steer you to your ~higher plane~.
A Tarot deck comes with with four suits and two arcanas–the major and minor. The suits includes Wands, Coins (other times called disks or pentacles), Swords, and Cups–each suit represented a different energy or realm of one’s life. For example, Wands typically symbolizes consciousness and is associated with the earth element of fire, whereas Cups are related to your emotions and the element of water (cups, get it?). The major arcana (meaning “greater secrets”) often called trump cards (no relation) and minor arcana (meaning, “lesser secrets”) feature characters and iconic elements such as The Sun, The Fool, or The High Priestess and each one of them lend their insight and personalities to help the tarot reader understand what they pulled.
Maybe the coolest part about tarot decks (other than their ability to help you understand your life and see into the future) is that they have a long history of illustration. Tarot was first designed as a card game in medieval Europe then used for divinatory practices by the 18th century. The earliest tarot cards were hand-painted, so the number of the decks produced is thought to have been small. It was only after the invention of the printing press that mass production of cards became possible. A French occultist named Etteilla was the first to popularize tarot divination to a wide audience in the 18th century. He was also the first to reissue a revised tarot deck specifically designed for occult purposes and included themes related to ancient Egypt.
Perhaps one of the most recognizable decks is the Rider-Waite. In the early 20th century, British artist Pamela Colman Smith known as Pixie, collaborated with mystic A.E. Waite to create the iconic Rider-Waite deck first issued in 1909. In the ‘70s, the Hoi Polloi deck redrew Pixie’s classic Rider-Waite illustrations but updated it with psychedelic colors. David Palladini’s groovy Aquarian deck features a more modern, updated images in a combination of Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles. He created a unique blend of colorful, emotive backgrounds with pale faced, stoic characters.
Illustrating your own tarot cards is a practice as old as divination itself and in the original spirit of the hand drawn Tarot card, we picked out a handful of beautiful tarot-inspired illustrations from our pool of super talented artists.