The origin of Tarot de Paris is an amazing tale. Deck creator J. Philip Thomas graciously took the time to answer a few of my questions, as well as sharing some insights into the deck itself. He lives in Maui, Hawaii, and is about to send off the drafts of his upcoming book The Paris Lines.
Janet Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview. What are your thoughts on Tarot in general?
JPT Tarot is a tool, one among many others, that can assist those whose need to know supersedes their desire to believe. Also of concern is that I don't restrain the Tarot to the dogma of Christian and Cabalistic traditions. In my insignificant opinion, the Tarot is an idea - not a deck of cards. I view it as moving pictures on a wheel that has never ceased to turn. It is important to note that since Tarot began its current incarnation as an Italian game (or moral flash cards ), there has never been a time when the images, sequences, titles, or meanings, were not undergoing change.
Janet Your deck is absolutely stunning. You've renamed quite a few Majors! Why the changes?
JPT During the making of these cards I literally 'trekked' across Paris-probably more than 100 kilometers. The Tarot de Paris is a 'found' tarot not a work produced in an artist's studio. The inner work required the assemblage and comprehension what I had been shown or 'found'. That experience presented me with several 'new' interpretations of cards that I would otherwise not have considered. Their 'essences' are inherent but the themes and settings are unique. Semantic triviality is not intended here but...in truth, the question of 'Why?' did not participate in the creation of this deck-only the more productive catechism of 'How?'
Janet What led to changing Knight and Page into Stallion and Spirit?
JPT The Tarot de Paris was dropped on me, not handed to me as some editor's idea for a tarot. The task was to work 'with the city' to discover the tarot it contained. Factually, in Paris, a great deal of artistic effort has produced a host of glorious equestrian statues (that happen to include the riders). Surpassing that theme, the entire city is populated and animated with anima figures of muses, spirits, nymphs, goddesses, heroines, and verities. I worked with what was there. The same was true of the decision to end the tired old hassles of what symbol assumed what element-the city showed me its many ways of expressing the elements of water, fire, earth, and air.
Janet Why Paris, do you think?
JPT There are many correlations between the Tarot de Paris (and my next book The Paris Lines) and the mega success of novel The Da Vinci Code. Let's just say that Dan (Brown) told a good tale and finished it on the spot where I started in 1981, before the Pyramid was even conceived. By the way, he makes a gross error on his first mention of tarot. First he says there are only 22 cards and then he starts into a description of the 'pentacle' (from the minor arcana) as a Tarot symbol meaning the 'divine feminine aspect'. Again he 'borrowed' the myth about the Glass Pyramid having 666 panes of glass from a well known tourist guide! Anybody that cares to take a calculator and 5 minutes can look at any picture of the front of the Pyramid and deduce it has far more than 666. But...he tells a good tale that people will read because its presented as 'fiction'...which it truly is! Personally I enjoyed it and I'm pleased that people will pause to reconsider their 'beliefs and 'faiths' and who knows they may even be moved enough to allow that 'curiosity' to take another moment to actually investigate for themselves!
Janet By the way, hanks for allowing me to use images from your breathtaking deck in my review!
JPT Interesting choice of cards you made. There is also an extra major arcana card that I felt needed to be installed between the XXI and the The SOURCE. I called it 'The SPINNER'. She represents one of the Greek -Three Fates that spins the thread of life for our entry into this plane. It seemed only fitting that such a task should be credited after passing through The SOURCE (Fool) and prior to being regenerated in INITIATION (Magician)? But, alas, there was no space in the book for such a last minute innovation. Still, with or without her justly earned recognition, she continues with the work of making more threads.
Janet I appreciate the time you've taken for this interview, J. Philip. Best wishes for your upcoming book!
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