My first exposure to Oli StarFrosting’s work was through his self-titled zine. I knew I’d found a gem of a writer and artist when I found myself swept up in passages like these:
bone deep in my blood is magic, I am a Witch too and breathe in mana with each breath, know the knots and tides of magic as my birthright, feel the presence of G-D Herself pouring out through the moon the trees the cold pulsing ground, know with an immediacy and intimacy the Divine gathered in all things, know the array of water and fire and earth on my altar as crucial to my taking my rightful role in creation which is nothing other than G-D Herself becoming cosmos…
The spiraling stream-of-conscious style through which Oli expresses his magical practice, like a kaleidoscope joining a jumble of disparate elements into a breathtaking whole, is what makes his new tarot deck, the Hidden Light, so wonderful to work with and so difficult to write about. The deck consists of Oli’s illustrations juxtaposed with collage work, with several themes emerging across the cards: the pentacles suit, for instance, features multiple photos of shelves laden with bottles of Florida water and 7-day novenas, while the Fool, the Wheel of Fortune, and other cards have a nautical theme with ships and astrolabes. The colors are as pleasing to the eye as an expertly decorated altar, and many of the cards have enough subtle details that one card can offer up an entire spread’s worth of information.
Like many modern decks, the Hidden Light discards patriarchal imagery in favor of new interpretations. One of my favorite cards is the Emperor, which is depicted not as the traditional kingly figure, but as a honeycomb full of bee larvae. What are we to make of an emperor depicted as a batch of grubs? Nascent power? Humility? Collectivism? Each reader will see something slightly different, and therein lies the beauty of this deck. If you’re the type of novice reader who relies on a booklet or manual to feed you the meaning of a card (don’t worry, we’ve all been there), this deck will force you to turn inwards instead and wake up your intuition.
When I first got the deck, I worried that the fullness of each card would lead to busy, confusing spreads, with the many details muddying storylines and symbols. Luckily, that’s not the case. Take, for instance, this sample spread, which I pulled in response to a question I commonly get from clients: What should I do about my love life?
The 9 of pentacles, on which the pentacles rest on a collection of occult supplies, leads to the 10 of wands, which are fanned out against a backdrop of trees. This suggests a progression from gathering resources to going out and using them, but refraining from acting prematurely. Once in motion, though, the client should take calculated risks, as the knight of swords, a man holding a knife aloft, suggests. The supplies at the bottom of the first card seem to erupt into wands in the second, with the client riding that eruption in the third (since the knight’s pose echoes the position of the wands). Perhaps the client should have a charm made, let it cook for 10 days, and then open up OK Cupid. Or maybe they should call a moratorium on dating until they recuperate from a breakup or an abusive ex. This is a hypothetical reading, of course, but the point is that the illustrations tell a clear, nuanced story.
The only problem with the deck is that the card titles and numbers can be a bit hard to read against their backgrounds. Whether or not that’s a issue for you will depend on your reading style. If it’s important for you to know which card you’re working with–if, say, you incorporate numerical significance or the Fool’s Journey into your readings–then it may take a bit for you to familiarize yourself with the deck. If you work with pictures alone, though, you probably won’t notice.
You can get the Hidden Light at Oli’s Etsy store, along with an accompanying zine. I love this deck! The cards themselves are well-made, satisfying to handle, and printed in New York City, and I’m thrilled to add the deck to my collection.
Cross-posted at Pagansquare.com.
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