I had originally envisioned the deck's guidebook to be a lot less substantial than it ended up being. I figured I would be able to write a few lines about each woman, and that would be that. However, like I've always said... I'm not in charge of Our Tarot, it's in charge of me. The 78 history-making women represented in this deck demanded that I invest more, more, more into doing them justice.
So, the guidebook ended up being a dense 260 page tome! I'm so excited for you to see it, read it, and use it along with the beautiful deck of cards.
Since I'm just WAY too eager for you to have Our Tarot, here's the text of the introduction I wrote, which will only appear in Our Tarot's first edition. I hope you enjoy it.
Getting Started Is the Hardest Part
Over the summer of 2016, I sorely lacked direction. I anxiously contemplated the idea of going to graduate school for the second time, while I'd also just been rejected by a person with whom I'd been crazy-in-love. And, worst of all, it appeared that maybe, just maybe, Donald J. Trump would be elected President of the United States of America, my very own country (spoiler alert: that actually happened). It's an old story, really: hard times and heartbreak stirring the pot of creativity, bringing new ideas to the fore of one's mind.
To escape my grief, I immersed myself in two things I found especially interesting: the lives of history's most prominent women, and the mysterious power of Tarot cards. At some point, it hit me: I could connect these two interests and synthesize them into one project. I started to write lists of historical women I found interesting. As I learned more about them, it became clear which Tarot card they should be associated with. I often had the distinct feeling that they were telling me this information, rather than consciously deciding it myself. The name occurred to me almost as soon as I received the idea: my deck would be called Our Tarot, a nod to the 1971 book created by women to inform women about their health: Our Bodies, Ourselves by Judy Norsigian.
Several months after starting work on Our Tarot, I became unbearably angry at the misogynist, xenophobic backlash that had manifested so insidiously in the election of the 45th president. To be quite honest, I thought about giving up the project altogether. Instead, I chose to see if I could get support in order to actually finish it. In late November 2016, I launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for Our Tarot. I hadn't planned for it, and I had little notion of what I was taking on.
In the weeks that followed, my life got turned upside down in a wonderful way. Our Tarot resonated with many people, and the crowdfunding campaign proved to be a runaway success. I still don't have the words to properly thank the people who supported Our Tarot in those early days. For me, very little has been the same since this project became such a beautiful focal point in my life. Its creation has led to me making connections and cultivating my own personal growth in ways I'd never imagined were possible. I owe all that to those who've supported me along the way. Thank you.
Notes About Content: Representation and Artistic Filters
Our Tarot is not meant to be a sugar-coated version of women's history. Not all of the ladies represented within the cards are people I personally admire. Several of them have espoused beliefs or opinions with which I vehemently disagree. However, each one of them has, in no small way, made her mark on the timeline of human history.
It would be willfully ignorant for me to claim that my identity, beliefs, cultural context, values, and so forth didn't affect who was included within the cards of Our Tarot, and who was not. I suspect who Sarah Shipman is has carried over into the cards in myriad ways.
For example, I am a citizen of the United States, born into a white family in the southeastern region of the country. My family has been in the South for over two centuries now; the trappings of this region's lurid history have been ever-present in my day-to-day life. Systemic racism is a disease that affects every corner of the United States, but the South's history as an entity that attempted to secede from the union in the late 19th century is a palpable, violent legacy. While many claim that there were other reasons for the American Civil War, it really comes down to this: people in the South wanted to keep the slave trade alive. The forced labor of African American people was the backbone of the South's economic and social systems. I, myself, am a descendant of people who legally owned other people as slaves. Many folks like me try their best to put a safe distance between themselves and this legacy. It's no use. As a white person in America, I benefit every day from the privileges that my skin color affords me. This is, in large part, a result of my ancestors' efforts to oppress people of color. It's likely because of this self-awareness around my heritage and my privilege, that Our Tarot includes several Black American women who were/are abolitionists, activists, and champions of civil rights. I do not seek to throw a veil over the violence of American history, but instead to call much-needed attention to it, by honoring the lives of these women, such as Harriet Tubman (The Chariot), Sojourner Truth (the Knight of Cups), and Mamie Till-Mobley (Justice), among others.
In this guidebook, I use the proper noun Black interchangeably with African American. I have elected to do so in order to call attention to how the heritage of many African American citizens has been irrevocably stolen. Most white Americans can point to their surnames, their family trees, and trace their origins back many centuries, even to particular countries and towns in Europe. They can point to names--to proper nouns signaled by capitalized letters. This opportunity to "know thyself,” as the old adage goes, was ripped from the grasp of the Black community centuries ago as a result of the Atlantic slave trade. Enslaved peoples were deprived of their cultural heritage and their names. They were deprived of their religious practices, their families, their languages. These all-important aspects of humanity were aggressively, cruelly, and continuously erased by the values of white supremacy, which continue to infect American society from the ground up. Every time I have written "Black" in this guidebook with a capital letter B, I am using the written text to point at the blood-stained pages of history that so many of my peers would prefer to ignore.
Furthermore, I sought to include a diverse group of women in Our Tarot. The ladies represented by these cards are from as far back as three thousand years ago, and several of them are still alive today. The women of Our Tarot hail from many continents and constitute a range of cultures, religions, political persuasions, and socio-economic backgrounds.
How To Use Our Tarot
The wonderful quality about any Tarot deck or spiritual tool is that it can be used in countless ways. How people choose to use their cards can vary from a standard method of "reading" a spread, to a personal method that is unique to you alone. My advice for anyone who is new to Tarot in general is to begin by looking at each card, perhaps selecting a few favorites. Pick the women who really speak to you in that moment. Read about those women in these pages, and contemplate their life stories: what can you learn from them? It might be helpful for you to start journaling your responses to the cards. Each of the 78 entries includes questions to prompt your own personal contemplation, should you choose that path.
For those of you who are familiar with Tarot, you will notice important connections between the traditional meanings of each card and the life stories of the women in Our Tarot. Each of these women has breathed air here on Earth, thus they breathe new life into the Tarot. In Our Tarot, the cards don't only represent universal, spiritual archetypes and energies, but also real people with whom you, personally, can relate.
There is no lack of resources regarding the history and practice of Tarot cards, for those of you who are interested in learning how to use Our Tarot as a traditional deck. Going forward, there will be a continuously-updated, recommended resource list on Our-Tarot.com. Additionally, there will be a list of recommended books, websites, films, podcasts, and other media for every single one of the 78 women showcased in Our Tarot. As you continue your own research, feel free to contact me via Our-Tarot.com to let me know about the wonderful resources you come across so I may add them to this list.
It is my dearest, deepest hope that Our Tarot will become a tool for you to explore history, and to learn more about yourself by doing so. By knowing about the lives of these women, I hope you feel inspired. I hope you access a new understanding of your own abilities. I hope you make history.