The Black Ink and Interrobang Tarot Deck Kickstarter is going great btw! We got funded on day one, and just yesterday, became a staff pick. The Black Ink Tarot is officially a project we love! Major gratitude to all the backers making this happen--you folx are awesome and I'm so excited to get these projects in your hands. When we get to 100 backers, I'll add a tea & tarot zoom party to everyone's perks after the campaign ends. This calls for a celebratory hangout & card jam.
You can use the title headings to skim through this post. I'll share a preview of the table of contents, the introduction, one of the major arcana card descriptions, and one of the elemental reflections from the minor arcana. This book ended up being the heart and soul of these first two decks. It's 323 pages long, fully illustrated, and dives even deeper than we get to on the blog.
Fortune's Inkwell serves as the guidebook to all three decks in the works, plus the spreads, glyphs, and blog. It sums up the philosophy behind the whole ecosystem here. You can pair it with my decks, or pick it up as a stand alone tarot/occult book to pair with other decks and approaches.
Fortune's Inkwell Table of Contents
Introduction: Enter The Bell House
You step through into a field, where feathered grasses, Queen Anne’s laces, daisy fleabanes, and coy gaggles of evening primrose swish and chatter in choral voice of hidden birds. This is loud, but not as loud as what lies in the center: the shed with the bell. It’s a bright bell for a slight house of wood and weathered paint, equal parts rickety and prim for as long as it’s been, which is indeterminate.
Inside, a fire the color of lantanas and cheap guitars glows in the tiny brick hearth behind measured rows of sloping desks, whose seats each curve like a cross between a park bench and a sleigh. Every etch-able surface of this place is carved in a scratchy palimpsest of names faded illegible, lone words once savored obsessively, and symbols long detached from all memory of their meanings. The inkwells are loaded, fresh, and dark and deep. Wooden floorboards squeal beneath the ghosts whose hazy bodies rustle soft as the barometer’s mercury. A group of child ghosts should be called a cackle. A cackle of students and a whisper of teachers cackle and whisper now for your benefit. They were Fools, all and always. This is how we occult.
A quirk of occult literature inspires each wave of practitioners to bemoan the overabundance of beginner guides burying intermediate to advanced material. I call this a quirk and not a problem because necessity keeps it happening. Markets are driven by curious dabblers. There are more beginning than advanced books in most fields, and there’s no shame in curiosity or dabbling. Besides which, each author must begin with their own foundations, and not everyone signs up to churn out sequels. Dedicated practices grow ever more intimate in time, and therefore more difficult to translate for an audience. Some depth material stays within closed groups and personal practices, not from snobbery or failure on the market, but because the material is difficult to impossible to share responsibly or accurately through written word alone, if at all. Some depth material is private. And finally, the Hive Mind keeps needing refreshed beginner material because our values and understandings keep changing. We fortify foundations together, cyclically, or we watch our architecture fall.
These are not problems, they are needs, and to meet them well is a worthy challenge. Or rather, a cluster of challenges: How to love the basics enough to communicate them well to readers just starting out? How to meld foundation and innovation for those further along? How to say something that’s been said a thousand times over in a way that no one’s heard and maybe someone needs? And how to patch and expand the foundations to uphold what the Hive knows better now than it did before?
In the one-room-schoolhouse, students of all ages, levels, and backgrounds gather in the same hall, to partake of common sources, each at their own pace. Relatively advanced students fill in the gaps of their own studies by breaking down complex concepts for newbies. Beginners absorb advanced material through osmosis. Without the pressure or expectation of total comprehension, challenging lessons wash over, echoing the fundamentals in strange overtones, and gradually sinking in. Asynchrony, individuation, and nonlinear learning patterns are features here, not bugs.
The contemporary tarot community is a lot like a very large one room schoolhouse. In this, the 2020s’ soft-apocalyptic divination Renaissance, new seekers and fools take up tarot everyday, while longterm practitioners trace arcane threads from history and cook up experimental art for perilous new times. No one’s path is uniform, straight, or pre-defined. Novices and lifers alike scope guidebooks for groundings in different voices and systems, and gather to trade notes. Tarot is in many ways the study of life itself; no one invested in breath is done learning.
In that spirit, I’ve designed this text to meet a range of needs as guidebook to the set of glyphs, decks, and blog that currently comprise Interrobang Tarot. We’ll explore a queer, poetic tarot philosophy, with a heavy emphasis on reversal theory, and the symbolic building blocks behind each archetype. (Readers of all orientations are welcome here. This art is for everyone it speaks to. The queering in this outlook has to do with worldview; it includes, but extends beyond gender and sexuality. ) Think of this romp through the symbols as more of a wander than a ladder. The material derives from a blend of longterm study, personal practice, and artistic license. I’ve braided fundamentals and depth material together throughout, so it’s suitable for practitioners of all levels.
I’m seeing more and more occult authors write with the one-room-schoolhouse mindset. Some challenge advanced readers to uncover new layers while revisiting fundamentals. Some like to toss everyone in the deep end, along with some floaties. We’ll employ both tactics here. This book is basically an intermediate to advanced text with the scaffolding of a primer. You don’t need to know anything about tarot to dive in with this book; you know enough about life to visit the deep end. We’ll cover the basics as we go, in ways that I hope may patch some gaps for more experienced readers, and facilitate a deeper connection to the cards’ symbols and archetypes for all. And we’ll acknowledge and depart from tradition in turns.
The Chariot/The Hero
Black Ink Symbol: Two hands in the position of view-finding with one eye gazing between, and horse shoes on either side, one upright and one inverted.
Upright: Connection to community through contribution. Accomplishment, progress, competence. Go-getter, hero, adept. Self-possession set in motion, confidence. Steadily navigating life’s journeys.
The Hero trains their ego into service for community, receiving public recognition in return. They hone their dexterity, endurance, and skills through tests. They win the confidence to control their actions, tackle challenges, and accomplish feats that benefit many.
A feat is meaningless in the absence of the beholder, or the set of outside standards internalized through competition with the self. A Hero is a curated and self-curating phenomenon, groomed for public virtue first through training, then inner critique. They hold themself, as others hold them, to high standards, at pain of discipline and work. When their dedications and services are well received, consumed, and digested, they watch their body become a symbol, at once elevated and flattened. Their physicality and charioteering history make this the card of athletes, dancers, and martial artists as well as adepts in any field. Cue the sports metaphors and training montages. Celebrity culture, activists, and public figures fit here too.
What do you have to contribute? Take stock of your abilities, own your competence. Find power in disciplined practice. Self-awareness includes awareness of all the ways you’re excellent. False modesty can be every bit as wasteful as false posturing. Use your hard-won skills for something great. Find a cause. Volunteer. Go forth!
Reversed: Burnout, meaningless competition, compassion fatigue, paralyzing fear of failure. Second-guessing, imposter syndrome. Roadblock, change of plans, re-orientation. Trials along the journey.
When the Hero places all self-worth in achievement, they fall into perfectionism, and self-protective egotism. Excessive competition strains the Hero’s compassion, and distorts their sense of what is truly needed. Our culture champions grandiosity and rugged-individual specialness; overlooks unglamorous, reciprocal exchange; and scorns mundane and idiosyncratic needs, to our detriment. There is something exhausting, for all parties, about splashy acts of heroism in situations that call for small, persistent, low-key acts of care. And something irresponsible in sales-y, slapdash deliverance without longterm investment in community.
The reversed Hero burns out on dishing the snake-oil of right action. The spent Hero feels like a rudderless imposter, questioning both worth and cause. The underground Hero watches the peoples’ demigods submit to mortification, dismemberment, and burial on their way to the sky. The crashed racer, fallen soldier, and spiraling starlet echo this ritual sacrifice dramatically. Pop culture feasts on the demise of its darlings. We all feel tiny echoes of this pattern when we cut ourselves into so many pieces to meet outside expectations.
What actually is the point? What do we owe to one another? When questioning prompts recalibration, the Hero can re-center their goals, or find a new cause to serve, having earned, along with skill, the wisdom to question the place of heroism in a healing world. As Tolkien’s Galadriel models, sometimes the most heroic and self-possessed thing one can do is willingly “diminish.”
Time for a gut check. Do your actions align with your values? Are you going through the motions or caught in a zero-sum game? Remember why you’re doing this. Find a better purpose if your old goals no longer serve. Take time to rest and reflect. Accept help. You don’t have to be a total rockstar at whatever you’re trying to do here. Besides, even champions need their own heroes. Re-calibration is a part of navigation. Concentrate and reduce your efforts instead of cutting yourself to pieces. Regroup, re-learn, re-think, or redirect your energies.
Cups & Drops
A cup is a receptacle—an open, upturned, hollow thing, designed to hold a liquid marked for swallowing, or offering. Once it’s gotten so far as to land in the cup, the drink me bit’s implicit. The cup is the middleman between succor and receiver—every shining dish a tool of sweet libation. Teacup, juice glass, jam jar, wine bottle, goblet, flask, and chalice. A cup can slosh, pour, clank in a toast, or tip over and spill. A drop can’t do any of those things, for where the cup is the vessel, the drop is the thing in itself—one modest unit of beverage. A drop can condense, fall, meld, gather, spray, be tossed, tantalize, and when generous, slake a thirst.
A tarot drop could be of many things, each with water as its backbone: milk or honey, tea or coffee, wine or whiskey, medicine or poison, salted ocean spray, falling rain, the fountain of youth, the elixir of life, moonshine, or vicious snake oil. Drops gift us soothing intoxicants, healing tinctures, and nourishing drafts.
The ocean is the biggest drop in a cup we’ve got. Deep marine worlds seem as alien to us as the stuff of sci-fi, but they may be where we began, billions of years ago, in the translucent, microscopic, jelly ripples of single-celled creatures that split. Our own cells carry some memory of this as they swim in our bodies. We came from water, and carried it far onto land as living pitchers. We perish without water, and experience thirst as a craving tinged with longing and homesickness.
Watering holes draw flora and fauna alike, via thirsting root networks and winding herds, crossing paths in temporary truce. Every game trail and highway follows the contours of land sculpted by water, leading eventually to river, lake, and stream. What are cities but the tattered, floozy outskirts of their ports? Wherever we find water, we find the dance of life and death. Moving waters expose the roots of trees camped too close to shifting banks—little cousins of Styx parting the curtains off windows to the Underground. Even the stillest waters roil with green and pungent things, feasting on decay, stirred endlessly within by tadpole, minnow, and muddy catfish. Even the murkiest, bottle-brown waters reflect the light, blinding silver upon the surface.
We had two mirrors before the likes of glassmaking and metallurgy: the water, and each other. Water is the element of intuition, nonverbal gnosis, and relationship. The suit of emotion is the suit of the looking glass and the prism. Water scatters light in a beautiful distortion of information. What bends the light enchants and enhances it. Percussive as melodic, water is the wellspring of earthen music, and so the patron and carrier of human emotion and sentiment. The suit of interconnection and bonding is also the suit of melancholy. Hopefully, we do not relate for purely selfish reasons, but only through interaction’s revelations, and the complex feelings they evoke, do we begin to understand the self. The exchanges that reveal us to ourselves emerge between so much more than human companions.
A fluid may take the shape of its container, but there are no passive elements. Water is stirred as much by wind and lunar tide as held by stone, and so rests in constant motion, infinitely variable, ineffable in shape as any other force. In fickle, tidal, rainswept churning, drops push back against their keepers, shaping the land, carving canyons, pounding stone into sand, egging on lichens, belching terraforming life, quenching fire, and ever evaporating to complicate clean air with weather. Water corrodes, erodes, and accelerates decomposition, reclaiming whatever it contacts. Every element shapes the others in turn, and the craters’ blurry mirrors reflect them all.
Where fire consumes, expends, and exhausts itself, consumed water is carried elsewhere, to return to ground eventually. Water dried is water risen. Water moves in cycles, promising nothing but shifted shape, and water returns in time, but no guarantees when. So the suit of loss is also the suit of renewal, and vice versa.
I gave the Ace of Drops the feather of a downy goose, a triple citizen of land, sky, and water. Their feathers are their wet suits, keeping them warm and dry while buoyant. If you know geese, then you know not to fuck with geese, though you may enjoy to feed them. Excellent parents make fearsome neighbors. Geese represent long flights, over and through varied waters, with a homing instinct as wide as a continent.
I hope you've enjoyed this little preview from Fortune's Inkwell. For a few hundred more pages of the like, snap up your ebook copy on Kickstarter, or stay tuned for the independent release coming up in March, 2024. Thanks for reading, and take care!
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