An Interview With Noel, Creator of the Numinous Tarot

Rarely does a tarot deck move me in the way The Numinous Tarot does.

Its colors are brilliant, its illustrations grounded, yet whimsical. The faces staring out from the cards are all of our faces–diverse, expressive, beautiful. The concepts that inform the cards are modern and original, yet still speak to traditional meanings. And after roughly four years, a Kickstarter campaign has finally made this groundbreaking deck available to the masses.

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The Numinous Tarot, Noel Arthur Heimpel, Forthcoming (2018)

Noel Arthur Heimpel is its illustrious creator, and in true fangirl fashion, I asked them if they’d be willing to do an interview so I could spread the word. Needless to say, I was pretty frickin’ excited when they agreed, and I’m even more excited to share their insight into the creative process, their inspiration for the deck, and their journey with it up to this point. So grab a cup of tea and an comfy seat and learn more about the amazing artist and human behind The Numinous Tarot!

When did you decide to truly commit yourself to art, and what drew you to the comic book form?

This is a very interesting question! Like most kids, I started making art when I was very little, but when I was 11 I decided to commit myself to really seriously learning how to draw. I had a lot of stories and characters running around my imagination, and I wanted to be able to make them real. I also started learning seriously how to write around that time; art and writing have always been connected for me.

Art and writing have always been connected for me.

That was the beginning of my journey, and there were a lot of points along the way where I had to re-commit or commit in a bigger way. In high school I was actively discouraged from pursuing an art degree at college, on the basis that I “couldn’t make a living,” so at first I didn’t. I entered university as an elementary/special education major. But I still made art all the time, and eventually, during a very dark time, it became clear that I wasn’t following my heart. I switched majors (I ended up graduating with a degree in painting/drawing/printmaking) and started my webcomic, Ignition Zero, in 2011. This was when I really committed myself to doing art as a career instead of a hobby or “on the side” thing.

As for comics, well, as I mentioned, I’ve always liked to both write and draw! I grew up reading manga and webcomics as a teen, and it occurred to me that hey, comics is both writing and drawing put together, right? Previously, I wrote a lot of novels in high school and college that few people have ever seen, and drew a lot of art of the characters that I then put that online with no context. I realized that more people would have access to the whole of my stories if I made a webcomic than if I waited to get a novel published. Basically, comics allows me to combine two of my biggest passions into one beautiful thing!

What role does tarot play in your life?

Tarot plays a huge role in my life. I’ve been reading since I was 13, so, for almost 14 years now! It’s my favorite tool for self-exploration. As someone with anxiety and C-PTSD, Tarot has been invaluable for managing my mental illnesses, and in my recovery from the trauma and abuse that caused them. It helps me get a handle on my thoughts and emotions, to ask myself important questions and see the world more clearly, rather than through the distorted filter of anxiety or depression.

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The Numinous Tarot, Noel Arthur Heimpel, Forthcoming (2018)

I’ve also used it for communicating with deities and spirits, whether for myself or for others, and in spell casting; Tarot is a major tool in my spiritual and magical practice. And I love using Tarot to connect with other people, friends or strangers, to help give them some perspective or advice on their troubles, hopes, and dreams. It’s a structure in my life, a way I can frame the things that happen to me and how I can move forward in a way that promotes growth and healing.

When and where did the idea for The Numinous Tarot originate?

After I graduated from college, I found myself not knowing what to paint anymore, aside from Ignition Zero. Up until then, I had used art as a way to vent my difficult, painful feelings related to the deep depression I was in as a result of a traumatic event when I was 18. I had been to therapy and seen a lot of progress, to the point I no longer felt depressed any longer. No depression meant no inspiration for my paintings, though!

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The Numinous Tarot, Noel Arthur Heimpel, Forthcoming (2018)

I’d been wanting to do a Tarot deck for a long time but was waiting for the “right moment” when I was “good enough” to make such a commitment. I decided this was the moment because if nothing else, the cards gave me topics to paint during a time when I had no ideas. It began as a very personal endeavor, a deck unique to me and my spiritual/magical/life experiences, but grew into something more mystical and broad as I continued to work on it over the years. I wanted to give underrepresented people a view of themselves in this deck, and to make it a happy, colorful, magical view at that. Basically, what I was at first giving to myself I wanted to gift to others as well.

What was your process in creating The Numinous Tarot?

I had been reading Tarot for about 10 years when I started the deck, so I already knew the cards pretty well. I usually just sat down, thought about how I wanted to draw that particular card, scribbled a few ideas, picked one, and then started drawing/painting! At one point I sat down and wrote out ideas for the entire deck, which I followed for a while and then abandoned after a year or two because things had evolved to a point where I had different and new concepts for those cards.

Making a Tarot deck made me think really deeply about every card, and about the deck as a whole system.

I just went card-by-card, first creating the Major Arcana, then the court cards, and finally the pip cards in numerical sets (first the aces, then the twos, then the threes, etc). Sometimes I did a little research and read up on cards to deepen my knowledge of them or remind myself of details I had forgotten. Around the time I started the deck, I also got involved in an online community of queer and PoC Tarot readers, whose readings and blog posts gave me a lot of new and interesting perspectives to think about! But mostly I based the images on my personal feelings and interpretations of the cards that I’d developed as a reader over the years. It was also really fun to “convert” some of the card concepts for the pips based on the suit—thinking about, for example, how to convey a card meaning with books instead of coins (the Pentacles suit being called Tomes in the Numinous Tarot). Some really good stuff came out of that, like the Six of Tomes featuring a Little Free Library to represent generosity and charity!

Making a Tarot deck made me think really deeply about every card, and about the deck as a whole system. I definitely learned more in the last four years about Tarot than I did in the previous ten I spent just reading with them. It was quite an endeavor to take on!

The Numinous Tarot Kickstarter ends on August 8–if you’d like to add this deck to your collection, pledge now!

For exclusive tarot readings, webcomics, and other witchy awesomeness, visit Noel on Patreon.

Much Love Beautiful People,

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An Interview with Marianne of Two Sides Tarot

When I wandered into the wild world of internet tarot two years ago, Marianne of Two Sides Tarot was one of the first cardslingers I discovered.

I was scrolling through Siobhan’s tarotscopes when I came upon her contribution, and it was immediately apparent that she was talented. I’m always delighted to discover a taroist who’s equal parts wordsmith–so much of what we do relies upon the nuanced and thoughtful use of language, so a reader with a strong writing background is quite the force. As I got to know the woman behind the words, I realized that the powerful kindness, insight, and honesty so prevalent in her writing finds its source in her. I just knew I had to interview her for this series, and to my absolute and utter delight, she accepted.

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetWhen and why did the idea to stock tarot decks in the shop come to you, and what did manifesting that goal require?

It was really inspired by my own desire for all the gorgeous indie, artist-published decks that we’re so blessed to have at this time in tarot history. Most creators are based in North America and Europe, and being in Australia, I was dropping US$20-$40 in shipping fees every time I backed something on Kickstarter or bought a deck from Etsy. I knew this was an expense other Australian collectors struggled with, too, so I thought, since I had the platform and the community already, why not build a bridge between all of these amazing artists and the diviners who want to put their art to work?

From idea to execution it probably took me about a year, but to be honest, much of that time was spent grappling with the fears I had about expanding my business. Logistically, it’s not too hard to contact creators and arrange wholesale, and throw everything up in an online store. The tricky part – at least, I found – was being brave enough to step up and make my business (and myself) more visible. I was pretty abashed at first, reaching out to tarot legends like Kim Krans and Mary Elizabeth Evans, but once I gave myself the psychological permission I needed to own the direction Two Sides Tarot was taking, all of that fell into place.

The tricky part – at least, I found – was being brave enough to step up and make my business (and myself) more visible.

It helps that pretty much everyone in the tarot space is a delight to work with, and I’ve received so much support and encouragement from my customers, suppliers, and peers. Beth over at Little Red Tarot in particular has been such a champion of mine, and offered me so much support, advice, and inspiration. I even have international customers now who say they’d rather have decks shipped all the way from Australia in order to shop with me, which is a total thrill!

I say that I wanted to help Aussies save on shipping fees, but at heart, all the joy of this work comes from community. It’s really an honour to be able to support deck creators, and I love getting to kiss my parcels goodbye when they go in the post, knowing that the recipient is definitely going to have at least one life-changing card reading in their future, thanks to my efforts! Tarot people are a special bunch, and it’s a pleasure to serve them in this way.

As someone who pours over fabric samples before deciding which to purchase for my tarot bags, I have to ask–what criteria do you use to choose the decks?

I imagine at least one of our methods are similar – sometimes when you see a deck, you just know you’ve got to have it! My own taste is, of course, a big part of it, but I have other considerations, too. I’m always on the lookout for decks that are interesting and unique in some way, whether in their artwork or their philosophy. Decks that are LGBTQ+ inclusive, and decks that aren’t solely populated by skinny white people are also always on my shop wish list. Variety is important, too. If I’ve only got about 20 decks in my shop, I want to make sure they represent a broad range of aesthetics and ideas.

Decks that are LGBTQ+ inclusive, and decks that aren’t solely populated by skinny white people are also always on my shop wish list.

I also make choices based on my knowledge and appreciation of a deck’s creator – for example, I’ll take practically anything Mary Evans or Marcella Kroll do, sight unseen, because I trust their work will be resonant. Popular demand is also a factor. I try to keep on top of which decks are coming out and getting a lot of buzz, and my customers will often contact me with requests for forthcoming titles, which I do my best to accommodate. Getting to pick and choose is definitely a fun part of the job!

What first drew you to tarot?

It’s funny you should ask, because I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on my tarot origin story. It’s going to be a letdown, because honestly, I can’t exactly remember! It certainly wasn’t a cataclysmic moment, more like a slow dawning. I came to tarot in my mid-20s, so I wasn’t one of those witchy teenage goths who’s been reading since high school slumber parties (although I was definitely a witchy teenage goth!). It was around the time that I finished my master’s degree, I was a bit at a loose end, and I’d read a bunch of fantasy novels that used tarot as a plot device. At that stage, I was still dedicatedly “un-woo” so when I picked up Robert Place’s Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination, I maintained it was purely for academic purposes. Naturally, about two pages in, I was hooked.

The funny thing is, though, once tarot arrived, it thoroughly took over my life and it was like it had always been there. I’d always been bookish (and in fact, I’ve worked in the book industry for nearly 15 years), and my academic background is in literature, so reading texts of all kinds is my jam. Interpreting tarot cards is not dissimilar from interpreting a novel or a poem, so reading tarot is a natural extension of the interpretive skills I’ve cultivated my entire life. It feels like the perfect confluence of so many things I’m passionate about!

Your writing is gentle yet raw, honest, yet stylized—in other words, you’re an awesome writer. How does this interest/ability relate to your study and practice of tarot?

That is very kind of you to say, thank you! I might have jumped the gun and partially answered this above, but my tarot practice is very much informed by my studies in English lit. Obviously, my tarot readings are not academic in style, but I think many years of essay and thesis writing have given me a few transferrable skills. Also, they say that one of the best ways to make yourself a good writer is to be a good reader, and that’s something I’ve diligently practiced since the Babysitters Club days of yore!

What I didn’t expect was that writing would become so much a part of the intuitive process for me. It’s rare for me to read cards in person; most of my readings are done in writing via email, and it’s through the act of writing about the cards that I’m able to best access my intuition. Often, when I sit down to do a tarot reading, I don’t immediately know what the cards are about, but once I start making notes the messages become clear.

What I didn’t expect was that writing would become so much a part of the intuitive process for me.

I don’t think this is an act of channeling so much as it is just the best method for me to organize my thoughts and listen to my intuition. I can uncover connections and draw out stories by putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) that my mind couldn’t otherwise retrieve. I’ve been an avid journaler since I was about 12, too, so I think writing has always been how I’ve figured things out. I’m glad I now get to use that skill to help others figure things out, too!

I’m basing this question off of a series of hashtags on one of your Instagram posts—is Sydney really a feminist utopia?

Haha! Sydney is by no means a feminist utopia, but we’re very lucky to have Australia’s only women-only ocean pool, McIver’s Baths, where I swim a couple of times a week. It’s so beautiful, I can rarely resist taking a picture for instagram, hence the #feministutopia hashtag! A friend introduced me to it over last summer, and I can’t believe that all this time, the thing ruining the beach for me was men! Obviously, I’m kidding, but it has shown me how precious and magical women-only spaces can be. We’ve referred to it as our feminist utopia ever since.

The baths have been women-only since they were developed in 1886, but many sources – including local women – suggest that the rock pool was used prior to European invasion by Aboriginal women. I’m acutely aware that it’s because of my unearned privilege as a colonizer that I get to experience this beautiful place, and I always try to do so respectfully (which isn’t hard when it’s evidently such a special and sacred space). If any of your female-identified readers find themselves in Sydney, I definitely recommend a visit – you might even catch me in my smalls on the rocks, doing my morning tarot Weather Report!

Be sure to visit Two Sides Tarot to learn more about Marianne and her offerings!

Much Love Beauties,

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