Making the Spolia Tarot

I was in Romania when I got up the nerve to ask the artist Jen May to make a tarot deck with me.

It was something I had wanted to do for a while. I was writing about the tarot more and more, and I had a steady client base for readings. But I had the urge to do a deck of my own, despite my total lack of artistic skills.

What I did have was a collaborator in the collage artist Jen May. We had been working together on a series of pieces about individual tarot cards, and her illustrations were bringing something new to my understanding of the cards. I don’t think we had even met in person at this point, all I really knew about her was her work, and that she was Taurus rising, like me, and a water sign, like me, although she is a Scorpio and I am a Cancer.

She said yes.

“How long do you think it’ll take us to do the whole deck?”

“Oh, I’d say about a year.”

Three and a half years later, the deck is finally complete and available for pre-order.

For years, I had been studying gnosticism, mysticism, alchemy, and the history of magic cults. My head was stuffed with information about the entire history of the black arts. Our process of collaboration was, I would relay that information to Jen, who would blessedly ignore most of it, in order to create something that was astrologically and symbolically aligned with the card’s history and meaning but not overstuffed with nonsense. She took the contents of my head and made them elegant.

Another important part of our process was sending each other silly gifs and pretending those were the cards. Sparkly cats, Keanu doing things, cheesy heavy metal dragons, all of this was very important inspiration.

Jen pulled images from all kinds of sources, spending hours at Kinkos manipulating images on their copying machines. We snuck little secrets, like references to shared love Hedwig and the Angry Inch, into the imagery. And because one focus of my study has been the lost snake goddesses, and studying the link between snakes, sacred femininity, and oracles, my primary contribution to the deck was to say at every draft of a card, “Maybe we should add a snake.” (There are a lot of snakes in our deck.)

We are incredibly proud of our snakey deck, and we can’t wait for all of you to start reading with it.

Because as much as we wanted each card to look like a piece of art, we also wanted it to be very practical and useful for reading, whether you are trying to contact a specific god or just find out why this jerkface isn’t texting you back. The deck is made to answer all queries.

The Spolia Tarot is on Kickstarter now!

About the author:

Jessa Crispin is the author of The Dead Ladies Project and former editor of Bookslut. She is a tarot reader and astrologer who specializes in working with writers and artists. She currently resides in Kansas City, but can be found at

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  1. Meghan says:

    Oh god, I am SUCH a fan of Jessa Crispin, both her approach to tarot and her other writing. (I read The Dead Ladies Project earlier this year and am still foisting it upon everyone I know.) So excited for this deck!!

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