This is a guest post shared by Felix Kawitzky, creator of the new Tarot of Many Doors deck.
When I was six, I remember being abducted by aliens.
I wondered if they were taking me home, or away from home.
When I was twelve, I was branded a witch after being found with a spell book.
When I was nineteen, I stole my first pack of tarot cards from an abusive partner. The cards and I both left. They’ve been loyal to me since.
The connection between science fiction, magic, trauma, and storytelling is a powerful one.
For me, reading sci-fi and fantasy stories, and practising tarot have opened up new pathways for making sense of the world, and helped me access alternative ways of being alive – ways of existing that are otherworldly, subterranean, liminal, or otherwise not-quite-human.
I decided to start making this deck once the friction between the positive experience of reading cards, and the negative feelings evoked by their heteronormative depictions of gender, became too much.
This process has been a tonic for gender dysphoria and PTSD, giving me ways to re-imagine my own body, possible communities, relationships, and political systems that seem impossible in the face of global capitalism. The many worlds depicted in this deck come from an impulse to look through and ahead towards revolutions that threaten the current world order.
I wanted the Tarot of Many Doors (TMD) to combine these ways of looking into and trying to predict the future, as well as ways of examining and telling stories about the present.
The Many Doors Tarot is a deck for interdimensional divination and storytelling. It’s a deck for tapping into the possibility of parallel dimensions and alternate worlds.
The imagery in the TMD is an amalgamation of references from fictional universes, inspired by the writing of Octavia Butler, Joanna Russ, Ursula Le Guin, Ann Leckie, N.K Jemisin and others.
The Tarot of Many Doors is an anti-capitalist, anti-hierarchical, queer tarot deck aligned to the principles of anarchy and the bizarre. Each card is a window into another dimension, and each spread maps out unique constellations of meaning with the radical freedom of science fiction.
The court cards; Queen, King, Knight, Page; have been replaced by the Reader, Speaker, Walker and Dreamer, trying to retain the essence of the original cards while remaining firmly anti-royalist and avoiding gender essentialism.
Three of the four classic suits have been changed in the Tarot of Many Doors for greater resonance with the realms of fantasy and sci-fi. The suit of Pentacles is now Dice, Chalices is now Potions, Swords are now Wires. Wands remain Wands because I will never not love a wand. These changes to the suit names are heavily influenced by my experience with tabletop roleplaying and fantasy games, but have also been chosen with considerable thought into how the re-named suits relate to their original names.
All of the overly gendered card names have been reconsidered, and are now open to more flexible interpretations of gender and sexuality.
Many of the character designs in this deck are the result of drawing through dysphoria to finding new, non-normative and ‘alien’ bodies to experience gender with.
The Tarot of Many Doors has a minimum of lifeforms immediately recognisable as human. It has a proliferation of beings made of blood, light, metal, slime, stone, soundwaves, tentacles, shadows, bone, data … all existing in other planes, dimensions and worlds.
Below, I’ve shared a few favourite cards. Most of these cards were drawn as I was reading the books that inspired them. Each card is a door to another world, and another way of being.
‘Lie here with us,’ it said, speaking alone, ‘Why should you be down there by yourself?’
[Lilith] thought there could be nothing more seductive than an ooloi speaking in that particular tone, making that particular suggestion. She realised that she had stood up without meaning to and taken a step toward the bed.
She did not pretend outwardly or to herself that she would resist Nikanj’s invitation – or that she wanted to resist it. Nikanj could give her an intimacy with Joseph that was beyond ordinary human experience. And what it gave, it also experienced.
– Octavia Butler, Dawn*
The first card I ever drew for this deck was The Lovers. It was around the time I had read Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis/Lilith’s Brood trilogy. I began to think about the potential that alien minds and bodies could unlock for different kinds of sexual and emotional intimacy. Butler helped me imagine alien organs, hormones, chemicals, ways of fucking and loving, ways of making homes that don’t rely on the limitations of human bodies, or human conceptions of gender.
Above is an excerpt from the first book in the trilogy, “Dawn”, in which Nikanj, who is neither male nor female, but ooloi (“it”), draws Lilith and her companion into an inter-species, inter-neural, multi-sensory threeway
(*A note: some of the sex in this trilogy is definitely coercive on the part of the ooloi, which is explored thoroughly by Butler herself)
And day to day, life’s a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. You need distance, interval. The way to see how beautiful the earth is, is to see it as the moon.
– Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed
In The Dispossessed, a group of anarchists move off of their lush Capitalist planet to start a new society on the planet’s moon. In doing do, they create a kind of mirror image, where their old planet becomes their new moon – abstract, distant and mysterious.
In the spirit of The Dispossessed, my approach to The Moon began with adding an ‘s’. The Moon is a card about indecision and illusion, and the cryptic workings of the subconscious. Its depiction in this deck points to the possibility of parallel worlds – each choice made creates a new reality, and each path not taken wavers in between reality and fantasy.
“When we say ‘the world has ended,’ it’s usually a lie, because the planet is just fine.
But this is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
For the last time. “
NK Jemisin, The Fifth Season
The Death card is the great equaliser, symbolising the inevitable end of all things. In the TMD, the abandoned human skull, and the flag behind it, point to the futility of material acquisition – of claiming land that will outlive you. This is, amongst other things, an expression of the anarchist positioning of the deck. It depicts the death and decay of the human body, being inspected by two curious space-rats – non-human lifeforms getting along just fine in the absence of humanity, after the fall of colonialism, governments and their flags. (I am very into transcending human bodies).
Every week on the TMD’s Instagram (@manydoorstarot), a new card is revealed and explored in relation to its counterpart in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. The crowdfund will be active until October 7th, 2017.
In the meantime, The Tarot of Many Doors remains, as I do, suspicious of humans, hostile to hierarchies, and interdimensionally queer.
About the author:
Hi! My name is Felix. I am a South African non-binary trans artist, writer and performer. I’ve been reading tarot for six years, and reading science fiction for a non-linear stretch of time (because time is a circle etc).
In elementary school I was teased for being a witch. I’m not a witch; I’m an alien.
My research is in the field of science fiction, fantasy and roleplay gaming, all of which had an enormous bearing on how and why I conceptualised this deck.
I write Live Action Roleplays (LARPs), and run fantasy campaigns as a dungeon master (DM).
I believe that collective storytelling can be a radical, revolutionary tool.