- What was your Gateway Deck?
My first deck was the mini version of the Hanson-Roberts Tarot that came as a little kit at Barnes & Noble! I was 13 and had gotten a giftcard for my birthday. I was about to check out on my own, without any supervision, and immediately grabbed it from the rack by the register to buy while my mom wasn’t looking (she ended up being supportive of me reading Tarot but I kept it secret for a while). I loved the soft colored pencil drawings that were pretty much identical to the RWS but a little more my style at the time.
I think my first indie deck was the Wooden Tarot, though. I remember seeing it on Tumblr when it was still a majors-only deck and drooling over it, but not being able to afford it. Then later it became a full deck and I immediately splurged! This was right when the current indie deck surge was just beginning and I remember being very excited that there were decks coming out that were so unique and beautiful.
- What are the pieces of you that you’ve imprinted in your cards and/or book?
I laughed when I read this question because the Numinous Tarot and its guidebook feel like they’re a full extension of myself, and at the same time, completely contained within who I am! Certainly my various identities and the experiences they’ve brought me are what shaped the deck the most.
Being queer and nonbinary are perhaps the biggest visible ones—I took gendered associations out of the cards, the card titles, and use they/them pronouns throughout the guidebook because it makes space for me in that way. As someone who is on the asexual & aromantic spectrum, I also took care to make room for all the cards to be interpreted without sex or romance, to deconstruct the relationship hierarchy and amatonormativity that makes those more “important” than friendship, platonic partnership, family, etc. As a polyamorous person, I wrote interprations and drew illustrations that could include that as well. The Lovers card and its interpretation is the easiest example of all of these things come together, which is probably why it’s the most popular one by far!
Also, the guidebook is very much written from my experience as a child abuse & trauma survivor who has used Tarot on my path towards healing. Overall, I wanted to impart into the deck a sense of honesty and compassion that I feel has been crucial to me in that journey and growing as a person. Putting that into the deck is my way of extending those things to others, for sure.
- If your friends were tarot cards, who would they be?
The core similarity all my friends have is that they are very kind and compassionate, but also fighters who stand up against injustice and actively put a lot of really wonderful, creative work out into the world. So I think of them as Justice, The Empress/Emperor, the Three of Cups, The Star, The Sun…cards like those! I also actually did literally put some friends into the Numinous Tarot illustrations. My friend Chris is on the Four of Bells, my friend RoAnna on the Three of Vials, and my friend Bea is the Creator of Bells.
- What about that deck made you want to stick with tarot?
My gateway deck? I’m not sure if the deck itself had much to do with me wanting to stick to Tarot, although I definitely enjoyed it and had a good rapport with it! I had this idea in my head as a teen, for no reason I can identify, that you could only own One Deck and barely knew there were already hundreds (thousands?) out there at the time that I might like even more. It was the early 2000s and I didn’t have much access to the world of Tarot until I was in college, honestly. But I did love the illustrations, and I loved the way it helped me work through a lot of my thoughts and feelings at the time, many of which I didn’t know how to deal with as a young person experiencing traumatic things.
- Do you still read with/have that deck?
Sadly, no! I lost one of the cards while I was still a teen and figured I couldn’t use it anymore after that. I turned it into an art project where I decorated my wall with them, and bought a different deck to use for readings. I have thought a few times about buying a new copy, though, the full-sized version.
- What is your favorite or most learned from deck or deck you’re most drawn to?
This changes all the time, especially since there are so many new decks coming out now! My favorite deck is honestly my own. Because it’s so personal, because I created it, it’s incredibly easy to read with, almost like having a conversation with my ideal self. I never have to look things up with my own deck. Outside of that, my current favorites are the Sasuraibito Tarot and the Circo Tarot. Both are very vibrant and simple in a way that draws me in immediately.
The deck I’ve learned the most from, honestly, is my own—creating it, that is. Creating a deck and writing about it made me think more deeply about Tarot in the four years that took than in the previous 10 years I’d spent reading. With other decks, though, the Wildwood Tarot taught me an incredible amount. It was my first deck that went outside the bounds of the RWS and had differently named suits, which got me thinking about Tarot in new and more expansive ways. The suit of Pentacles in particular—the fact that it was called Stones instead and had interpretations outside of money/wealth was very enlightening and had a huge influence on the Numinous Tarot.
- What prompted you to create your own deck?
I’ve wanted to make my own deck ever since I started reading Tarot. As a visual artist, it just made sense! I even dabbled with doing the Major Arcana as a teen using the characters from the stories I was writing. But I kept putting off doing a whole deck until I felt I could be consistent enough from start to finish in the artwork.
That time finally came right after I had graduated from college in 2013. I was having a crisis where I didn’t know what to paint anymore. I decided that starting work on a deck would at least give me subjects and prompts to work with so I could keep painting. Once I got into it, things really started taking off and the project gained its own life and motivation and joy. I thought that it would be nice if I could sell it to other people one day to use, but that wasn’t my goal at first. I just wanted to make a deck for myself and maybe, possibly, have one printed that I could read with. Over the years though it gained a lot of attention, I got more into the online Tarot community, and found the support and resources I needed to make the deck real for everyone and not just me! The personal things I was putting into the deck and structuring it around—like making it nonbinary and queer—turned out to be things that a lot of other people needed in their lives, and so I became motivated to make it for them, too.
- What is your favorite thing about your creation?
Decks all have their own distinct personalities, and I was really curious what the Numinous Tarot’s would be like. I intended for it to be compassionate and supportive, but also honest and unafraid of shying away from hard realities. To my delight, that seems to have come through! I feel it when I use the deck to read with, and many other people have told me as much in messages and reviews. This is my favorite thing about it because it truly feels like I have reached out and given this support to all the people using the deck. The compassion and honesty I have received from others in my life and my recovery journey have brought me where I am today, and this feels like my chance to give that back.
- Where do you go for inspiration?
Nature and my personal mystical experiences are my biggest sources of inspiration. I especially love flowers and the meanings we ascribe to them, but the cycles of the Earth, the Moon, the complexity of all different ecosystems, biodiversity, and how we fit into all those things is very inspiring to me. I am very curious about the way the world is all connected and love to explore that in my personal magical/mystical/religious practice as well as in my work. I read a lot of both fiction and nonfiction and the different points of view or fascinating facts I learn there all end up in the things I make and the way I think about them.
- Tell us about your favorite card, please.
My favorite Tarot card overall will always be Death. It’s one of my birth cards and its theme of transformation and rebirth is one that’s been very front-and-center in my life. A lot of people are scared of this card, and so am I sometimes, but I also find it very comforting and powerful. Even when the very worst happens, we are capable of renewing ourselves. We never have to stay one thing forever; we’re always shifting and growing and becoming something new, which also requires of course that old things and ways die off. The illustration for the Death card in the Numinous Tarot is also one of my favorites out of the deck, to be sure. I put a lot of love and thought into it since it’s a card I feel so closely aligned with.
- What deck is at the top of your wishlist?
I guess it’s off my wishlist since I backed it on Kickstarter, but since it’s not here yet, the Blood Moon Tarot by Sam Guay! I have a soft spot for any deck done in watercolor, of course, and this one promises to be gorgeous and magical and deep. I also adore the suits chosen for this deck: Songs (cups), Skins (wands), Dreams (swords), and Honey (pentacles). It’s just so dreamy and I can’t wait to have it in my hands!
- If a Deck granting Magic Being appeared at your door, what is the deck (real or imagined) you’d ask them for?
Probably the aforementioned Blood Moon Tarot, magically before it’s even been finished, haha.
- How did your Gateway Deck influence your tarot preferences and reading style?
The Hanson-Roberts Tarot keeps all of the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith imagery and meanings intact, and so those are pretty much burned into my brain as far as Tarot goes—I never tried learning Thoth or anything like that. Even though I’ve distanced myself more over time from the RWS, you can still see its heavy influence on the Numinous Tarot and I do still prefer decks that have it as an influence as well, especially if they don’t have an accompanying guidebook to explain new/changed imagery.
- What is the most difficult card in your deck, and what is the most difficult card for you to read for yourself?
It depends on what you mean by difficult, I suppose. It is difficult to receive cards like the Nine of Swords or The Tower in a reading, because they spell out a lot of despair and anxiety and the like, but I feel like they are not that difficult to understand. Although I will say that The Tower is probably the most difficult card to read for myself, because I’m trying to unlearn that knee-jerk fear reaction to suddenly wonder what terrible thing is going to happen to me in the future when it comes up. It has a lot of other meanings than that, especially in context with other cards.
I actually think The Hanged One is the most difficult card in my deck, and a difficult card to read in general. I used to struggle with it a lot, wondering exactly what “letting go” was supposed to mean and not at all connecting with the typically forlorn depiction of the card. It made the whole idea of accepting a stuck/stagnant situation or moving beyond it feel tedious and unwelcome. This is why in the Numinous Tarot, The Hanged One is a calm card with a beautiful cherry tree and a figure who looks at peace, despite being strung up by their ankle. I wanted people to associate the message of this card with peace and release rather than distress as it moves into the realm of the Death card—but this might be at odds with the way other people have learned to read it and the way we’ve all been socialized to see change as a negative thing.
- Which card do you most identify with?
The Creator of Tomes (Queen of Pentacles) in the Numinous is actually a self-portrait of me! It’s been my significator card for a very long time, and so I always associate it with myself. I also currently identify a lot with Temperance and the Nine of Pentacles as I’m learning how to find balance and healing while navigating a new and exciting part of my career. Stability and abundance are big themes in all three of these cards, things I have both struggled with and have joyfully found DO exist in my life when I open my eyes to them or learn how to create them with help from others.
- Where do your interests lie outside of tarot?
I am also an indie cartoonist—I have one completed webcomic (Ignition Zero) and a new one on the way (The Thread That Binds)–so that comprises a lot of my other interests! Both in writing/drawing comics and of course in reading them, watching cartoons (Steven Universe, Bob’s Burgers, and OK KO! are my current favorites), talking about visual storytelling with others, etc. I love to cook and I recently started learning how to bind books and weave on a loom. Basically, I like things that keep my hands busy and leave me with a physical result! I am a big fan of tea and a bit of a snob because I worked in a high end tea shop for a little while. Reading books takes up a lot of my time, too, especially if I can do it outside at a park when the weather is nice. I love speculative fiction, memoirs, and nonfiction about a huge variety of topics.
- Do you find that tarot pops up in unexpected places?
At this point it’s such an entrenched part of my life, I couldn’t say it’s ever really unexpected! I do encounter it a lot but it’s always a delight and feels like synchronicity.
- What is your favorite part of the creation process?
Definitely the actual act of painting. I work in watercolor because the process itself is something I find both engaging and soothing. It’s a puzzle to be solved that results in a wonderful reward—the finished piece! The act of putting the paint on paper and learning to manipulate it in all different ways is intellectually stimulating in a calm and satisfying way.
- What are things you’d like us to know about upcoming works?
I have a new deck in progress called the Threadbound Oracle! It’s a 50-card oracle deck themed on books, bookbinding, storytelling, and connection. It has a story-based “Major Arcana” (not sure what to call it yet) plus three suits: Paper, Ink, and Thread. I created it for the fantasy world my upcoming webcomic, The Thread That Binds, takes place in—one of the main characters is a card reader and this is the deck she uses, but I’m also creating it as a real life deck using linocut/relief printing. You don’t have to read the comic to use the deck, but they are definitely meant to go together and enrich one another.
As of writing this, I have just one card officially finished, the Ace of Paper. I’ll be posting all of the new card images on Twitter, Instagram, and Patreon as I create them over the next year or so—and on Patreon it will also include an exclusive look into the meanings of the cards, for subscribers. The first chapter of The Thread That Binds will go up on Patreon in November and for the public (for free) sometime in early 2019. It’s about a found family of queer bookbinding witches healing from a loss, building relationships, and also protecting their magic library from being taken over by a fascist.
The Numinous Oracle, a companion to the Numinous Tarot, is also planned for the future after I finish the Threadbound Oracle. It’s a ways off but, just so you know…!
- What are some misconceptions or illusions you think people have about creators’ lives?
I think there’s a perception that we always know what we’re doing, haha. I was learning a lot as I went when I was making the Numinous Tarot and I didn’t always have a good grip on things. I made some mistakes. Things turned out fine anyway. I was also working at an either full or part time day job while making the deck, as well as working on Ignition Zero for most of that. You don’t have to be a “full time professional artist” to make art and things. It just takes you longer and you have to be more careful with your energy. Sometimes you don’t have any and you have to take a break. Art is both very time consuming—only about 50% of the time I spend on any project is actually MAKING it, the rest is planning, promo, emails, etc—and takes a lot of physical and emotional energy. There were a lot of times when I had doubts and thought about stopping. You can’t always be 100% sure during the process, or even after it.
- What advice do you have for a new deck creator?
Pace yourself! A deck is a very big project. Personally I find it important to break up large projects into manageable chunks and then reward myself whenever I finish one. With the Numinous, I did the Major Arcana first, then the court cards, then the aces, twos, threes…I got that little burst of “Yay, I did it!” fairly frequently that way, which is very important to internal motivation. You need milestones to help you towards the ultimate goal, since it can often feel so far away.
Also, trust your personal vision! I worried a lot that people would find the Numinous too niche or not understand what I was going for with some of the changes I made. Those turned out to be the parts that people love the most. I also worried that, despite reading for over a decade, I wasn’t “qualified” enough to make a deck and write a guidebook. I talked about this briefly with a friend, Lottie (@thesacredcocoon on Instagram), who is the creator of the Sacred Cocoon Oracle and other decks, who was also having the same doubts. We came to the conclusion that we were both actually very interested in hearing the other’s individual take on Tarot!
There are so many books out there on the subject already, so trying to be “accurate” and conform to some monolithic, traditional idea of what Tarot is can be very intimidating. Tarot is a living, breathing system that needs constant refreshing. So instead, I tried to focus on what I personally wanted to say, no matter if it went against conventional interpretations or not, and found it rewarding in the end. I definitely encourage others to do the same.
My website: http://noelheimpel.com
Mailing list for Numinous Tarot updates, including when the second Kickstarter/print run will be available: http://eepurl.com/
My shop for prints & Tarot readings: http://noelarthurian.