I was interviewed by Onareo yesterday on instagram for his “Show us your Deck” series. You can watch the replay HERE.
We talked of my own personal Tarot journey and what has led me to deck creation. With the Farewell Tour of Sawyer’s Path Tarot a week away it was the perfect time to revisit this story.
The door to Tarot opened for me in late 2000; probably a bit before that as I was always interested in esoteric studies. I remember most vividly about a trip to Salem I took with my mom. All through my school days, my mother was a self-proclaimed “witch”— not the type who would do scheduled rituals but the magic was there. I noticed the intentions she would put into the little tasks and teachings around the house, the sayings she would teach us and the “old wives tales”. To this day if my left hand itches, I know that money is on the way. If my nose is extra itchy I always hear her words “You’re going to kiss a fool or get into a fight”… and then there was my least favorite inherited belief— “If you see a dead bird, someone close to you is going to pass away.” This last one has been examined time and time again, because of the fear of losing someone close to me. In fact I remember one time when I “bumped” a bird with my car windshield, I immediately called my Mother for fear of this actualization. She chuckled and said that “it could also be nature’s way of telling us to slow down”. Showing me that these phrases could be open to interpretation.
I’m not sure where she inherited some of these sayings or traditions or how deeply she actually believes them; yet they are there. So this brings me back to that October day trip to Salem. We wandered around with the other curious tourists, going on with tours and into the shops. The tours were especially hard for her, she picks up on a lot of energy in liminal spaces. It was only a few years later that we found out we had a distant cousin who was accused and hanged during the Witch Trials. My family immigrated to New England in the 1600s, while looking through my ancestral line, I know we had parties on both sides of that coin. There’s been a lot of old world beliefs, inherited traditions I have done my best to understand and dismantle, that’s another story for another time.
I keep getting off track. That Salem day, we bought some decks and a Book of Shadows. I welcomed the Faeries Oracle into my practice and Mom got a tarot deck that I can’t remember the name. We later consecrated our books and layed out some cards for each-other. The magic is always weaving when my mother and I get in the same space. I attribute that time in my life as the door opening to the world of exploring beyond what can not be seen. It may not have always been forefront, but it was forever growing and developing with/in me.
In the next 2 years a lot of it got swept to the side as I was deep in the throes of my Tattoo Apprenticeship. Laying out the framework for what would become my life’s work. It wasn’t until 2012 that I picked up my cards again and started to make a daily/ weekly practice out of them. That is when I started to read about, rather, explore the archetypes and images further. Making my living doing permanent art, it only made sense that I would get hooked by the mirrored living art world that exists within the structure of the Tarot.
Through the years people would bring me various occult images to indelibly mark upon their bodies… we’d talk about the symbolism and what the symbols may have meant to them. I didn’t begin drawing my first Tarot deck until 2015; it happened after I had tattooed a stylized 2 of cups for a client. (See the photo below— that’s when I went by the IG handle and website “Jammerdesignz” I changed it when I opened my studio… I’ve had many accounts and labels, yet they are all me.)
Creativily Divining. This is getting long winded…
Tattoos and Tarot; Tarot and Tattoos. Those worlds were constant paths running parallel in my life but didn’t merge until I was fully ready. Tattoos came first for me, I’ve been creating them since 2002. I’ve been getting tattooed since 1997.
Even though I’ve been studying and reading tarot for almost a decade now… I do not label myself as a “Tarot Reader”, because to be honest, the cards actually put me on the spot and I clam up when I have someone in front of me... I lose my words—despite knowing what they mean and what they may be trying to say. I often joke (It’s not a joke) that I give my best readings from behind the needle- gloved up in my chair.
I realized a few years ago, before I opened my studio, that Tattooing IS Divining.
It is energy work, there’s a healing space that is created when a person comes to an artist to put something forever in their skin. It was affirmed front and center when I recalled a conversation had with Kristine Gorman. We were talking about the crossover between tarot and tattooing. She shared with me about how her husband, Shotsie, (a legend in the tattoo community) had likened it to a modern day “bloodletting” ritual. I always knew that the connections I made were more than skin deep, that statement truly drove it home. I had named my private studio: Sacred Space Tattoo, as I wanted to acknowledge the ritualistic nature in which people came to me for something so much more than the picture on their skin.
This 2 of cups was the tattoo that launched me into drawing Sawyer’s Path Tarot. The client and I had talked a lot about Tarot and the occult during the session, and it sprouted something in my mind. The image above was based off of the client’s rough sketch, I just brought it to life. This was the spark, the catalyst… how might my Signifier, The Queen of Swords look if I drew her in my tattoo style?
Here she is/was/will forever be in all her independent glory, joined by the Queen of Pentacles and the Queen of Wands. This sketch page, was the beginning of Sawyer’s Path Tarot. This page was what has helped shape and shift who I am today.
I want to take a trip down memory lane of some of the tattoos I have done based off of Tarot Imagery. Some came before the 2 of Cups and many after. I didn’t expect for this post to turn into what it has, but I always honor the flow of divination and what needs to come out.
Here are some other Tarot based tattoos I’ve done through the years, some are obvious, while others are loose interpretations. Tattoos regardless of the subject matter are symbols of protection, accomplishment, reclamation. They are Talismans as well as Amulets.
Due to Covid-19 — I took a semi-retirement and closed my shop in June of 2020. (Which was also smack dab in my personal Death Card year). It wasn’t the end of my tattoo journey, just a much needed pause. I am gently tipping my proverbial toes back into the ink caps, and look forward to some guest spot opportunities in 2022. Truth be told the world is still a very uncertain place right now due to the pandemic, however I miss the healing touch and Sacred Space that is created between a client and myself.
I’m not quite sure what the whole point of this blog post was… it began as one thing and morphed into another. This is why the Devil is truly in the details- All these events and snippets from my life, make up who I am and how creativity is the thread that connects me to the divine. Whether it’s through tattoos, resin, markers, or burnt images on wood—every creation I make has roots in wanting to expand my own personal process. It keeps me connected to the Divine.
I truly believe our lives are constantly unfolding journeys and we spiral out to similar yet different versions of our Self through experienced eyes. For instance when I do re-emerge into Tattooing, I will be similar yet different. I’ve grown in the past 18 months with this break and am willing to show up as who I am today and embrace who I am becoming. (I can’t name dates when this will happen, it’s just a feeling)
Do you have a common thread that you can identify on your path? What pulls you along? What is the thing you reach out for most when you feel a shift coming? How do you honor your details? Do you dance with the Devil? WHo leads and who follows?