I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Lucy Cavendish, creator of The Oracle Tarot and Magical Spell Cards. Lucy is devoted to making positive magic a part of everyone's life and to helping people rediscover the healing power and pure joy of magical ritual. She is the creator of Witchcraft magazine, which she edited for five years, and has studied magic, myth, and Wicca.
Janet Hi Lucy! Thanks so much for your time and for creating such a beautiful, positive, and empowering deck--The Oracle Tarot. How were you guided to create this particular deck?
Lucy I fell in love with the tarot is about 1987. Though I had been attracted to it beforehand, I had been nervous and fearful of using it - some of the images and words made me feel the fear factor. I also have lovely conservative parents (well, they were then - they're not any more!) and as I had experienced so many peculiar things as a child, I did not want to alarm them in any way, so I read about religion, myths and spirituality, rather than being actively practising, though of course it's unavoidable if you're naturally intuitive. Repressing that natural quality we all have can make you quite ill. Which I became - I suffered a miscarriage and a relationship meltdown and realised I needed to leave everything I knew in order to find myself.
So when I moved from Sydney to London in 1987, that shift really that opened up so many avenues for me, spiritually. My childhood was very interesting - gorgeous, totally normal-on-the-surface suburban girlhood, full of sporty parents and being teased by my brother and beaches and barbecues, but my "other life" was seeing spirits, feeling energy changes throughout rooms/buildings/natural environments, and waking up every night at 3am to what I thought at the time were very strange and bizarre experiences - who I dubbed The Visitors. My parents were very concerned for me, though I was an excellent student and quite a grounded girl, so I kind of "acted normal" for years to help them to feel safe and not worry for me, and quietly explored these experiences on my own through reading, not experientially, or not in a controlled way! I was actually doing a large amount of experiential learning without any guidelines at all. So it taught me you do have great strength and knowledge within you, if you use your gut.
So when I moved to London much later, I felt free to really explore -- no-one to worry, no-one to judge, no-one to explain to -- so I really went for it, exploring creative visualisation, practising meditation, A Course in Miracles, rebirthing, studying witchcraft and seeing/studying auras and energy dynamics, and of course, my big, big, mad love affair--the tarot. It was a complete fall-in-love experience for me. I was so beguiled, so enchanted and I felt compelled to use them and learn all I could about them, through courses, reading and just using them for study and meditation. I went everywhere with them! I have always been a very big reader, so I also studied and read and read and read! And of course, read for other people.
Janet What led you to create such a positive, upbeat deck?
Lucy For me, at the time when I was given this GIFT of an opportunity, I just did what came naturally to me. There was no brief or agenda, it's a totally natural expression of the tarot that I felt intuitively could really connect with people and lift them up, remove the fear I had experienced myself with some decks and give them joy and introduce a magical and responsible belief system to people without frightening them in any way. Fear and creating fear is such a power trip. I really reject creating fear in this world. Everything that came from me just flowed into the cards. It was not a construction, in terms of, let’s set about creating a very happy deck. I guess it came from my own feeling and beliefs that we have the capacity to be happy, so much happier than we know or dare to dream to be, and the tarot is a beautiful instrument of self-knowledge, mysticism and of positive change, so via this opportunity those two belief systems connected, and out of that connection came The Oracle Tarot. I guess I am an upbeat, positive person (okay, I have my moments, believe me - and my challenges) and so it's a reflection of my personal beliefs and my take on the world and lifetime we are working with. It's not that there's nothing negative going on, or that I'm in denial. The cards are not relentlessly positive or lacking compassion for your challenges and struggles and heartache.
Believe me, me and my family have had massive challenges: I nearly died when I was nine, my father nearly died in a dreadful car accident, my brother suffered massive traumatic head injuries two years ago from which he's making a miraculous recovery and my Mum has cancer. Whoa! I lost a baby through late-term miscarriage...that was tough. I lived an inauthentic life, by struggling to repress who I was and trying to fit in. So please don't get the idea that I don't understand suffering. I do. What I also understand is that we can move through our sufferings and find joy and beauty no matter what is happening, and sometimes in fact because of that suffering we are deeply enriched. So fear is useless in that context. We have a choice in how to view our lives. I truly want us all to both learn from life and to experience joy - it is our birthright.
When I was asked to do the deck, I immediately recommended Melinda (Ayre) for the art work, and for her to do the entire deck, as this would give the cards a coherence that sometimes I feel, and this is personal, that decks can be missing. The energetic imprint is not consistent. That's important to me when working with a system, like the tarot, even when I was making modifications. And I love Melinda. She and I are like sisters, we are very similar in outlook and we have known each other for years, and we work with each other very well. She also understands and lives the beliefs I've spoken of. She's had tough times and great bliss, and she's a great student of the manifesto of living your life wonderfully. She walks her talk. Plus she's so gifted! So it was natural to ask her, and when I saw the first samples, I just gasped. So stunned. Thrilled. So happy. They were so very beautiful: with that fairy tale, allegorical quality that I love so much. You know, we just click. We just get each other. We don't even have to say much at all.
Janet What was Melinda's role as far as card images?
Lucy Melinda and I talked colours, images, influences and correspondences. She focused strongly on the keywords. We sat alongside each other every day for a year working on creating this. She hand painted every single image - every one! And she worked first on the major arcana, then the suits, starting with the cups. I love how they're tea cups - the Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass feel helps you slip into another world when looking at these cards, simply gazing at them gets you ready for reading and for information to flow. There's also a code within the cards that we built together -it is subtle - I'll be talking more about that when the Oracle Tarot book is published. If you look carefully, you'll see the code - the symbolic code. Look closely at one of the cups in the four of cups, for example! Look at everything in the card! Melinda's contribution is immense: she is such a talent and I love her so dearly. We had such fun and worked very hard. She was covered in paint every day, her eyes went all funny, burning from painting, and she just did a beautiful, beautiful magical job. She is talented in many areas- she is a terrific singer and songwriter, too, sounds a little like Dido, and her sister makes intricate fine jewelry, quite mystic, but very original. So she's one of those super-creative people, from a very creative, very feminine family. She's also very connected to fairies! And so am I!
Janet What led you to create a deck that exudes "girl power"?
Lucy Again, that was not deliberate, it simply is what and who I am. I believe that this year, 2004, we are being re-connected energetically with the Goddess, the divine feminine, with the occultation of Venus that is taking place in June. I mean, that vibe in the cards is also simply a natural and true expression of being happy in being a girl/woman. The triple goddess given contemporary expression - because she's here now, with us! The images are also very androgynous, ambiguous in cases - I think roles for men and women are changing and are quite fluid, regarding how we age, how we express our sexuality and our gender, and the power we feel, the energy we feel and how we express it, it's all so exciting because we're changing.. There is so much more joy and fluidity and freedom and, well, fun in how we express our gender today. I hope boys/men use the deck too, to really plug into that joy and that fun that can be had with identity. For men and for women, lightheartedness is actually a very valid path, a way to live your life. Lightheartedness, joy is something I am convinced is a serious and worthy sacred journey. Never underrate happiness, laughter and joy in expressing who you are, and in its transformative qualities!
Janet How is this deck different from your Magical Spell Cards?
Lucy Oh, apart from being magical, and instruments for joy and constructive change, they are entirely different beings! The similarity is my beliefs and the intentions infused with them. They're both about Joy--about taking charge of your own energetic life. Work with it. Make magic! You are a magical being - once you truly get that, you can work with life, interact with it, truly take part. You're living life, it's not living you. And once you get that, you can start the most wonderful love affair with yourself, with the planet, and with other people. It's like the scales fall from your eyes. You wake up. So the Magical Spell cards give you purposeful action through spell crafting, sacred ceremony if you like. The oracle tarot gives you energetic determination of where you are now and what you can consider doing regarding the information you receive.
Janet What were your reasons for excluding the court cards?
Lucy My gut feeling is that the traditional court cards are out of step with our times. I know this is controversial, but truly, consider this: there are three male court cards to every female card - with the exception of the Crowley deck. This is not the social or business structure of our society any more. Never was! But what is? I am still debating whether Melinda and I should go ahead and create new court cards that reflect who we are now, and, where we are going. You see, I don't think we're there yet. The time is not right just now. We have a ways to go before the restructure of our culture really shakes down. We are so in flux - women and men and our roles. The court cards no longer speak to me about who we are now. In fact, they always felt like I was looking at history when I used them. They are beautiful and certainly very worthwhile for many people, but for me, their inclusion without total restructure would have been a jarring element within this deck. So later. Maybe. When, and if the time is right.
Janet What are you thoughts on reading reversals with the Oracle Tarot? With Tarot in general?
Lucy Well the Oracle Tarot works well with reversals. They are inevitable after you've been reading for a while, and after you've really started to hone your talents. The cards will start giving you indications of where and what the real blocks and unlearned lessons in your life are. I’m not a fan of deliberately turning one third of the deck around while cutting and shuffling. To me, over time, your deck will begin to have reversals coming up. I found that when I'm breaking in a deck, I don't get many reversals, but as you use them more and more and you begin to really get to the heart of your issues - and simultaneously you're handling your deck more, connecting with it more, subliminally you'll begin turning cards and they will be very, very significant for you.
So the reversals, I feel, are something that's important to your reading with the Oracle Tarot. Not essential - you don't need to look at a layout and go "bummer! No reversals." Or "wow, no reversals - I'm truly perfected!" However when they come up, and they will come up, that means there's something going on, something that's calling out for attention and really needs your time and focus. With the book I'm finishing up about the Oracle Tarot, reversal guidelines and meanings are given for every card -- though it's the context of the reading-- you know the position of the card and whether it's reversed that will really illuminate your own reading, and really show you your own blocks.
I mean, my blocks? Oh boy. Where do I start! Really, for me, when I get a reversal I consider it to be the tarot equivalent of a sign…or a friend giving me a talk I may not want to get, but it's the one I really need to hear. It's up to you if you do the work or not. We're not always ready to make the required effort to release a block - but awareness is a great start.
With reversals in general, I learned them as a natural part of reading. In other words, I didn't first learn all the "upright" or "dignified" meanings, and then all the reversals. I learned as I went, as cards came up, reversed or otherwise. I think the reversals are important and highly significant: but as I said, I am not a fan of reversing one third of the deck deliberately. To me, it's too constructed. You see, you'll get reversals naturally, the more you handle your deck. When you need to hear them, see them, get the lesson, they'll come after you! However, they're not the "negative" of a card either - they indicate something you're not paying attention to. It's not an opposite, or a negative, but a wake-up call. I have given really detailed reversal meanings in the forthcoming book, but you know that if you get, say, the two of wands reversed, that you're running from your own power, and just giving it away! Or if you have the Change card reversed, you're resisting a transformation that needs to happen. That you're hanging on. And you'll know right away that it can be painful. I love reversals, and I especially love them when they occur organically as part of a reading. I take them as constructive criticism - therapy via the cards!
Janet Lucy, thanks so much for your time and for sharing your insights. I look forward to reading your book based on The Oracle Tarot whenever it comes out!
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