We had the opportunity to chat with Attila Blaga, creator of the Papus in a Tin Tarot. The deck is currently funding on Indiegogo, and you can find yours here.
IDR: What was your Gateway Deck?
AB: I started with the Rider-Waite-Smith deck three decades ago. It was a box edition with Wait’s Pictorial Key included, but I was simultaneously also gifted with Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth. So, practically I have read Crowley’s book and used Waite’s deck. Some would consider it quite a bizarre combination but looking back now I think it was perfect.
IDR: What about that deck made you want to stick with tarot?
AB: I do not think it was one particular deck, but it was the Tarot itself. For me, the Tarot is science, and the art is only collateral. Art is subjective while science is objective.
IDR: How did your Gateway Deck influence your tarot preferences and reading style?
AB: I am not a Tarot deck collector. I could not afford to buy decks. However, I collected images of the cards from any deck I could find to study their symbolism. I bought a few decks, but I worked for almost thirty years with the Rider-Waite-Smith deck exclusively. I think people get bored with one deck too quickly and switch to another before they actually get to know that deck. Many people are simply art collectors and buy decks for their artwork while they entirely forgot or disregard the esoteric essence of the Tarot.
IDR: Do you still read with/have that deck?
AB: I only use the Rider-Waite-Smith deck if one client explicitly asks for it. After I published my own deck, I prefer to work with it.
IDR: What are the pieces of you that you’ve imprinted in your cards and/or book?
AB: I developed my own system, and the Unified Esoteric Tarot deck is 100% me. The Golden Hermetic and Fortune Telling Tarot deck, on the other hand, is a re-rendering of the legendary Papus deck. It represents the genuine esoteric Tarot system as it was prior to the 20th century. It was not an actual Tarot deck, but Papus hired the French artist Gabriel Goulinat to draw the 22 cards of the Major Arcana for his last major work, “Le Tarot Divinatoire: Clef du tirage des Caries et des sorts”, The Divinatory Tarot. For the illustration of the Minor Arcana cards, in the book, they used the images from the Etteilla deck. I redraw most of the Major Arcana cards identically, but I also changed the design for a few cards: The Devil, The Tower, The Sun, The Last Judgement and The World. For instance, for The Devil, I recreated the famous drawing of Baphomet by Éliphas Lévi. For The Tower, I used the image of the Black Tower from my hometown. For the Minor Arcana cards, I have created an original geometrical pattern very easy to spot out and read.
IDR: If your friends were tarot cards, who would they be?
AB: People think about themselves that they are Magicians, Hermits, Emperors or Empresses, High Priests or High Priestesses. These cards represent ‘gods’, higher spiritual beings entirely out of our reach, out of our current state of (spiritual) development. The Numerals represent ourselves and our day to day life. So, I would say that we only could be friends with cards such as the Seven of Wands, Three of Cups, Six of Swords or Eight of Disks.
IDR: What is your favorite/most learned from/most drawn to deck?
AB: I prefer the classic decks. Starting from the Visconti-family decks, the Sola-Busca, the original Tarot de Marseille decks, the Etteilla decks, and up till the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, which, in my opinion, represents the transition from tradition to modern decks. I also love the Crowley’s Toth deck. The Death card painted by Lady Harris is breathtaking! However, I have to mention, that the cardmaking till the 20th century was a very special and exclusivist – esoteric occupation. The tradition was handed down from one generation to another, from father to son and from masters to apprentices. For that matter, cartomancy, the art of reading the cards, was also the privilege of the few – once again, it was strictly esoteric. The 20th century and the technological development put an end of these traditions – I would add, unfortunately. Today everybody is a psychic, a card reader, while the market is flooded with thousands and thousands of Tarot decks. Something spiritual was turned into something material and strictly commercial; something esoteric and extraordinary was perverted into something ordinary. There are many beautiful decks out there created by very talented artists, but many of these decks have no esoteric consistency. The Tarot deck is a highly sophisticated instrument of prediction and self-development, but as any practical instrument, it has to be crafted by a master. Would you drive a car built by a carpenter or would you submit yourself for heart surgery to a locksmith?
IDR: What prompted you to create your own deck/book?
AB: I thought it would be easy… LOL It took me over twenty-five years to finish my first deck and write my book. The deck was published, the book still needs a few adjustments. It is a complete esoteric manual. However, I am working on several new decks and editing a couple of new books as well. Actually, I just finished another deck which will be available in two sensibly different versions, and I have the sketches for at least seven new decks. Publishing, on the other hand, is a quite tough business.
IDR: What is your favorite thing about your creation?
AB: I am never entirely satisfied. And this is how things normally should be because not being satisfied make us work harder and make us evolve. My main concern is to create effective and easy to use instruments of prediction and self-development.
IDR: Where do you go for inspiration?
AB: I am a bookworm. Studying, reading, learning is my main and constant source of inspiration and development. However, inspiration sometimes may come from very different sources. From nature, from a movie, sometimes even from some entirely unrelated sources. The surface of a stone or a falling leave can be at the origin of a new idea or a new approach.
IDR: Tell us about your favorite card, please.
AB: I have seventy-eight favourite Tarot cards. Each card is unique and represents a different but equally important aspect of our life and the Universe.
IDR: What deck is at the top of your wishlist?
AB: As I said, I spent a small fortune on books, but not so much on collecting Tarot decks. However, if I would have to choose only one deck as Christmas gift right now, that would be the Kazanlar Tarot.
IDR: If a Deck granting Magic Being appeared at your door, what is the deck you’d ask them for?
AB: To be capable of working more and waste less time resting and recovering. Anyway, I only sleep about five hours a day… LOL On a fantasy approach, time travelling would also be great.
IDR: What is the most difficult card in your deck, and what is the most difficult card for you to read for yourself?
AB: The Unified Esoteric Tarot deck is extremely easy to read. The design is purely technical, and each card has both upright and reversed keywords, plus astrological, numerological and alchemical specifications. The Golden Hermetic and Fortune Telling deck is also very well “equipped.” I put on each card the detailed interpretation of the cards both upright and reversed, and also features useful astrological and cabalistic information.
Reading for yourself is an extremely sensitive issue. It is challenging to be objective, to stay impartial. It is never one card, but interpreting the connections and understanding the whole picture correctly is the most challenging.
IDR: Which card do you most identify with?
AB: Most probably, Seven of Disks. It is my birth card as well, so, probably it is not a coincidence.
IDR: Do you find that tarot pops up in unexpected places?
AB: The Tarot is the map to our solar system, and it is also the melting pot of all the branches of the esoteric sciences. I am always excited when I discover a new connection somewhere.
IDR: What is your favorite part of the creation process?
AB: Any new beginning is obviously very exciting. Just like nothing is more rewarding than getting to the end of a project. In between are much sweating and hard work. However, I am not complaining at all; I love to work!
IDR: Where do your interests lie outside of tarot?
AB: I was part of the music scene for many years. I also was actively involved in the art scene for a long time, I had several personal painting exhibitions and sold my paintings all over the world. I worked as a graphic designer and art director for several companies and media agencies. However, for the last ten years, my only focus is on Tarot and esotericism. Astrology and Numerology are the foundation of the Tarot, but also of Kabbalah and Alchemy. I am also very involved with the Fourth Way of Gurdjieff/Ouspensky. On the other hand, I have studied Astronomy, Geometry, Physics, Astrophysics, Cosmology, Psychology. One thing always leads to another, and all these things are profoundly and strongly interconnected.
IDR: What are things you’d like us to know about upcoming works?
AB: Right now I’m managing the Papus campaign. You can get your copy of this modern and elegant re-rendering of the deck by backing up my project on Indigogo: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/papus-in-a-tin-box
Meanwhile, I have finished another original project which is called the Tarot of Cyclicity, and it will be available in two quite distinctive forms at the beginning of the next calendar year. Two other decks are also at work in progress stage, and I am gathering info and materials for another two decks.
IDR: Thanks, Attila! Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
AB: Support the indie cardmakers and when it is possible, buy new decks directly from the creators or publishers. I know second-hand decks are popular, and they can have very attractive prices, but supporting the creators is an investment in the Tarot’s future. I would only recommend buying second-hand decks for rare and out of print decks.
Wish you all happy holidays!