I like to find nice things for you to look at, usually with the ‘look’ slanted towards the court cards because, well, I’m all about the court cards. Today I’ve got some inside skinny on the Numinous Tarot by Noel Heimpel. Let’s jump in, shall we?
Me: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your tarot background:
Noel: In addition to being a Tarot reader and deck creator, I’m also a cartoonist! My first webcomic finished up last fall and I have another on the way. So my Tarot reading is very influenced by visual storytelling and narrative. Pretty much everything in the Tarot can be worked into a narrative in my eyes. I’ve been reading for over 13 years now, since I was a wee babe of, well, 13. I’ve been practicing magic, drawing, and writing for a little longer than that. I spent all of my life living in various parts of Maryland until I moved to Seattle, WA last year–and I love it. The Pacific Northwest is my heart-home. I’m a white, queer, nonbinary/ genderfluid person and my pronouns are they/them.
I mostly use, and have used, Tarot for myself and my friends in private or online. Recently that’s been changing and I now do readings for my Patrons on Patreon; I plan to offer paid readings to the general public very soon! Despite Tarot being a central feature in my spiritual life for many years, it didn’t occur to me until very recently that it could be part of my profession. I’ve wanted to illustrate a deck for as long as I can remember, and even drew a Major Arcana set when I was in High School featuring characters from the stories I was writing. But I put off doing a full deck until I was in a position where I felt I could keep the art fairly consistent as I worked on it over what turned out to be over three years. That time turned out to be soon after I graduated with my painting degree and, ironically, had no idea what to paint anymore. And now here we are! It’s only been in these last few years that I joined the larger Tarot community and I’ve learned more in that time than I had in the ten years prior.
Me: The Numinous Tarot is scheduled to run as a kickstarter – give me all the info!
Noel: Yes! I am planning to launch the Kickstarter around mid-July of this year (2017). Right now I’m working on the guidebook, but soon I’ll actually be gathering info and setting up that campaign. I have ideas about what will be available through it, but nothing set in stone yet due to a need for more research. I’ve run two successful Kickstarters in the past, one quite recently, for my webcomic Ignition Zero. So this isn’t my first time handling one! I expect it will go well. I would like to have 500 decks printed in the first run, ideally. I will be shipping worldwide and there will be wholesale tiers available for shops.
No promises, but: currently I hope to sell individual decks for USD $35 along with a PDF of the guidebook (physical guides will cost more). Other tentative rewards include tea-dyed spread cloths, maybe deck bags, a special wooden box tier, and original card artwork.
People who want to be notified when the Kickstarter goes live can sign up to this email list here, by the way! There will definitely be some cheaper early-bird specials for first backers.
Me: Am I right in saying that this is a 78-card fully-illustrated Tarot deck – or will there be additional cards?
Noel: There is one additional card (making the total 79) called The Numinous. It represents the very heart of this deck, which is the desire to seek out mystical and mysterious experiences, to explore our place in the world, and those times when we experience things that are beyond description or explanation. When it comes up in a reading, it wants you to remember how magical you are, how magical the world is, and how possible/impossible it is that both exist.
Me: Your suits are Candles, Bells, Vials and Tomes – tell me how they relate to traditional tarot suits?
Noel: Sure! The suits of the Numinous Tarot are primarily inspired by the “bell, book, and candle” often referred to as a basic witch’s tools. Vials were originally Jars, because, well, witches love jars (I love jars). It didn’t sound as elegant as I wanted, though, so a friend helped me rename them and also gave me “Tomes” instead of “Books.” And I’ll be honest: the choice of bells for a suit is heavily inspired by Garth Nix’s Abhorsen series, where magical, weaponized bells are central to the story.
Candles represent the suit of Wands and are (obviously) associated with fire. Like Wands, they represent the creative and social realm where passion, inspiration, and energy are the big players. Candles shed light on things but at the cost of burning themselves down; they need fuel.
Bells are Swords, the air suit. Air is associated with communication, so the fact that a bell rings and makes sound felt right to me. Bells also represent thought, mental energy, logic, and clarity. The sound of a bell is very striking and gets your attention! I also often use bells to clear the air/cleanse spaces in my home.
Vials are Cups, the water suit. They represent the same things Cups do–emotions, intuition, romance, and fluidity. Not only do they hold water, but these Vials contain magic spells meant to bring about the querent’s desires.
Tomes are Pentacles, the earth suit. Books are a physical manifestation of knowledge. With written language, paper, glue, and thread, we take abstract ideas and make them into something tangible. A lot of Tarot guides focus on Pentacles as a representation for money, but I like to read them in a much broader sense of our physical reality and how we make that come about, how we relate to it, how we build our societies.
Me: How would you describe the Numinous Tarot to someone who had not encountered it before? What’s its theme?
Noel: When I began this deck, the “theme” was only that it came from my personal spiritual experiences. What that has evolved into is a deck which is based on and around mysticism in general. The Numinous Tarot embodies the strange, the magical, and the inexplicable in our lives, especially when it is very personal. It wants you to connect to your deepest heart and spirit and understand that you are the strange, the magic, that you are beyond comprehension. Some of the images in this deck are more abstract, like the spirit bear coming out of the figure in Strength, and some of them are very mundane, like the person in the Six of Tomes reading a book from a Free Little Library box. Both of these things, the magical and mundane, exist in our lives and in the world together at any given moment. I wanted a deck that blurred the line between those two things and allowed for both to come up in a reading.
I would also describe it as a queer and trans Tarot deck because of the way it addresses and depicts gender and sexuality. It’s really important to me that people acknowledge this viewpoint, because it’s a vital part of the way that I and so many others experience the world. To be able to truly see ourselves and relate to the images on the cards makes it a better tool, which expands what we can achieve with it.
Me: Tell me about your Major Arcana – I know that Strength is VIII and Justice XI – what have you renamed and re-imagined entirely?
Quite a few things, actually! I have a series of posts about it on my Patreon that I haven’t gotten all the way through yet, but I will talk a little about them here as well. Here’s a list to make it easier:
The High Priestess = The Diviner
The Empress = The Nurturer
The Emperor = The Founder
The Hierophant = The Visionary
The Hanged Man = The Hanged One
The Devil = The Shadow
Judgment = Awakening
I have three basic reasons for the changes: removing gendered titles, removing references to Christianity, and clarification. That last one is mainly for “Judgment,” which in addition to being Really Very Christian in its reference to Judgment Day, I always felt was a difficult card to understand and conceptualize based on its name. “Awakening” for me is a much clearer way to express the meaning of the card as the last step before the self-actualization and attainment of The World.
The Visionary is perhaps the biggest change, because with this one I have also heavily changed the card meaning. In a deck based on mysticism, the top authority in your spiritual life is you, followed by those whose visions you may choose to follow or guide you. It didn’t make sense to have this card as the Pope figure.
To be clear, I don’t harbor any malice towards Christianity in removing the more obvious references to it. I’m not a Christian and haven’t been for most of my life now, so my intention was once again to express my particular viewpoint. I thought other polytheists might appreciate it! And Christian readers can still apply their symbolism to the cards if they wish.
(And I think every deck I’ve owned had Strength as VIII and Justice as XI, although I know they are often switched!)
Me: This brings me on to the Minor Arcana again and the Court cards (my particular field of interest). Your Court cards intrigued me because they are clearly not an afterthought (as so many Court cards seem to be!) and have a great deal of symbolism to them.
Noel: The Court cards are my favorite part of the Tarot! I have heard many people say they’re the hardest part of the deck, but I’ve always felt the opposite. It always felt very useful to me that these cards existed to represent ourselves, our behavior, or other people and their behavior. They’re much closer to home than the Major Arcana archetypes and can really make a reading feel very personal.
Originally I did have the traditional King/Queen/Knight/Page titles for the court, but earlier this year I decided to rename them for reasons you can see here in this post I made about it. As soon as I changed the names on the card images, I felt them come alive. I did think a lot about what I was putting into these cards, because they’re the people of the deck! One of my biggest goals is for underrepresented people to see themselves in the Numinous Tarot, so that made these cards super important. Also, translating them into their new suits required a good deal of thought. I was really proud of some of the things I came up with, like the Explorer of Vials (Knight of Cups) holding a message in a bottle, or the Dreamer of Bells (Page of Swords) ringing out the truth to the world. I want them to be perhaps a little less mysterious, with easier metaphors for their meanings, since so many people struggle with the courts.
Me: Talk to me about the ranks and how you see them working. What you want people to understand when working with them?
Noel: I want people to understand that they are based around a journey of growth and discovery, and each one has a central question it asks. They are set up in a linear manner, but life is messy and we can skip steps or move backwards as well. We will be at different points in this journey in different areas of our lives; for example, we may be the Dreamer of Candles in our career but the Creator of Bells in one of our relationships. When they appear in readings, they may represent you or another person. They may represent a way you are now, or an ideal you for the future, or a you to avoid becoming. Here’s how I define them:
Dreamers: These are the Pages of the deck. So much we do, so much of who we are, starts with dreaming. At this stage we are full of imagination and potential. We’re forming ideas, asking questions, We don’t have experience in our field yet, which is both a pro and a con. While we might not know what we’re getting into, or how to get to our goal, there’s nothing limiting us, either. We have “beginner’s mind,” where anything is still possible and innovation is at its peak. We haven’t done anything yet at this stage, but we sure are thinking about it, and maybe even planning if you’re the Dreamer of Tomes. The question the Dreamer asks is “What do I want to manifest?”
Explorers: The Knights of the deck. This is where we’ve started taking action on our quest. All the wondering we did as a Dreamer has led us to wander in search of answers. How are we going to make our dreams reality? We prod and poke things to figure out how they work. We experiment with our identities, our behavior, our relationships to others. As we explore, we find ourselves in new and different lands. We encounter new thoughts and viewpoints. Like the traditional Knight, there’s movement with these cards. Three of the Explorers have mounts (a jellyfish, a stag, a salamander) and the fourth has wings. The question the Explorer asks is “How will I manifest my dream?”
Creators: The Queens of the deck. Now we have experience and skill to start creating the things we’ve been dreaming of. During the Explorer stage, we’ve been putting all our effort towards our goal, and now we’re seeing it manifest. The book we’ve been writing gets finished. We graduate from school. The organization or business we’ve been building is now established. We find ourselves in recovery after a long period of depression. We can begin to share what we’ve created with others. Our resources, our thoughts, our feelings, our passion. We are sources of abundance and we have the power to create whole communities with it. The question the Creator asks is “Where/with whom does my dream manifest?”
Mystics: The Kings of the deck. Now that our dreams have become reality, we’re at a whole new level of self. We’ve done and changed so much, and now is the time for us to recognize that, and to look back on the journey in contemplation. The Mystic seeks to understand what led them on the journey they took, what they have learned from it, and where it fits in the larger picture of life. We question the original dream itself. How did that dream change over time? What do we think of it now? Where did it come from and what does it say about us? We already gained skill, and now we have gained wisdom. The Mystic steps back and sees the larger picture, the larger context. The question the Mystic asks is “Why do I manifest the dreams I do?”
Me: Which is your favourite court image in your deck and why?
The Creator of Vials! It took me two hours just to paint the hair in that one, but it was worth it. This is the deck’s “Queen of Cups,” which when I was a teenager was my significator card (it’s now the Queen of Pentacles, which in my deck is a self portrait of me as the Creator of Tomes, heh). It’s also typically associated with Scorpio, my sun sign, so I’ve always felt close to it. I had a vision for this card and I absolutely nailed it. The person in the card is so mysterious and powerful and beautiful! I feel like it really sums up the aesthetic and theme of the deck.
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My lovely friend Nick Stewart is a super artist. He conjures glorious, almost cosmic images from fountain pen ink and bleach, like a real life Magician! Nick has created a set of Major Arcana cards Read more…