I have been studying the occult since high school. In college, I would give readings for fun to friends with a Rider-Waite deck I stole from my sister’s boyfriend. (You should either steal or be gifted the tarot deck in order for it to work properly.) I am currently a 2nd-degree priestess/witch in the Cabot Tradition. About six years ago I started working on creating a more traditional tarot deck that also has pull tabs. They come with the descriptions of the cards on hand instead of flipping through a book.
After extensive research, I found disparities between certain decks. For example, the Hermit card usually shows an old man carrying a staff with a lantern. This lantern was originally an hourglass and the card represented time relating to the god Cronus or Saturn. The tarot card is the original playing card. The playing card, or form of the tarot card, entered Europe from Egypt around the 14th century. The discrepancies between tarot card packs also varied from region to region. Another reason for these differences is that playing cards were demonized, banned, and pushed underground by Christians. The tarot cards were originally hand-painted, usually for the nobility who could afford to pay artists to paint them. With the advent of the printing press the tarot cards became more popular and in the 18th century were used for divination.
My tarot cards are based on one of the oldest surviving tarot card deck: the Visconti-Sforza deck painted around 1484 for the Sforza family in Italy. The Visconti-Sforza deck gives me great inspiration in part because of its current condition, where paint and gold leaf has eaten away different areas, leaving it up to our imagination. I specifically left people out of my tarot cards with the intention of allowing any person to insert themselves, or others, into the cards without defining the race or overt gender. I want to maintain the authenticity of the symbols but leave out any racist or sexist characteristics of the cards. Additionally, I look at the Rider-Waite tarot deck published in 1910 which drawings were made by Pamela Colman Smith under the direction of A. E. Waite, who was influenced by the teachings of the Order of the Golden Dawn. My most influential and prized possession, The Complete Book of the Occult and Fortune Telling by M.C. Poinsot published in 1945, also influences my imagery. The copy at the Bard Library was falling apart and my friend stole/gifted it to me.
The tarot cards were originally used as playing cards, but that is how tarot cards are meant to be used- we play with the cards and the meaning is revealed. The tarot to me is a series of specific symbols and representations that allow introspection of our subconscious. It is more of a form of therapy – not foretelling of the future per se. I think these symbols are embedded in the collective unconscious, and that is why we relate to them still.