I first met Ellen Lorenzi-Prince in the early 2000’s when I sat next to her at a vending table at an American Tarot Association conference in Sacramento. She had just finished the Tarot of the Crone and I was working on the Major Arcana of the Gaian Tarot. We appreciated each other’s work from the beginning, and we had a further bond of being sisters both dedicated to the Goddess, the Divine Feminine.
I’ve been fortunate to see Ellen’s new deck, the Dark Goddess Tarot, as it unfolded over the last couple of years. Each time I visited Portland, Oregon (Ellen’s town), I got to see more of the original art and was thrilled with it. Ellen has made a habit of dedicating each card to friends, and I was honored that she dedicated the Death card, La Santa Muerte, to me.
Now the deck is in my hands. It doesn’t pull any punches! I have found that readings with it are blunt, and clear. You don’t need to be familiar with these goddesses in order to use the deck. My preferred method of reading with it is to ask my question, pull the cards, then take a minute to write down my first impressions of the imagery and what it suggests to me. Then I look up the card in the “Little White Book” and read the short statement Ellen has written for the card. Between Ellen’s sentence and my own, the answer to my question could not be clearer.
Conversation with Ellen about the Dark Goddess Tarot
As an artist and deck creator myself, I love having conversations about the inspiration and creative process behind art and writing projects. Listen in while I ask Ellen about the Dark Goddess Tarot!
JPC: Your first deck was the Tarot of the Crone. Now you’ve created a deck dedicated entirely to the Dark Goddess. Tell me about your fascination with this aspect of the Goddess.
ELP: My deep love and respect for the Crone began with my spiritual, story-telling grandmothers. My love of goddesses began after reading Bullfinch’s Mythology when I was ten. What a cut above the waifs and princesses of my fairy tales! I loved imagining a world where more powerful roles for my future existed. Growing up in the Sixties, I saw the Chicago Tribune want ads listed many possibilities under Jobs For Men, a scant few under Jobs For Women. I wasn’t allowed to deliver papers for money like my brother, though I much preferred it to babysitting. Athena, Artemis, Circe… now they had options!
When I embraced the women’s spirituality movement in my twenties, I felt similarly about dark goddesses. Not that they were above the goddesses who are more gentle and expected, but that they went elsewhere. They went where I needed to go to find power, healing, and understanding. Because there is darkness inside me that I need to illuminate and care for. Because there is darkness in this world that I need the strength to resist.
JPC: What is the story behind this deck? Where did the initial idea come from?
ELP: I had been looking for a new project. From my file of tarot and oracle ideas, I drew one or more cards for several of these. Nothing gelled. I could not sustain any momentum. Pushing did not deliver results. I grew increasingly frustrated. I feared my newly reawakened connection with art would dry up.
Then one Friday night in December of 2011, I attended a simple but powerful public Hecate ritual. Hecate, the goddess whose devotee, student, daughter, sister, and priestess I have been for 28 years. In talking over the event with a friend afterward (over fries and shakes at a nearby pub, let’s call that my equivalent of cakes and ale), I mentioned how I loved dark goddesses best and I had my Eureka! moment.
JPC: How did you bring it all the way into manifestation?
ELP: That same night, that same moment, I saw my first card. Sedna as the Eight of Water. She is the Inuit Goddess of the Sea, the goddess of reaching for deep transformation. I drew for hours each day until she was done. Then I looked at her and thought, this is it.
While researching Sedna, I collected names of other goddesses associated with water. I knew I wanted the suits to be called after their elements rather than their emblems, to give both a primal and universal setting for the goddesses. From this list, I crossed out the names I felt had no dark aspect to them, though I expanded the definition of dark beyond the frightening or painful. With those remaining, I meditated on their qualities and stories, seeking an alignment to traditional tarot card meanings. My next card was Maeve, the Irish Goddess of Intoxication, as the Seven of Water. Sedna’s image is modeled on Inuit carving, Maeve’s appearance on drawings in the Book of Kells. My intention was to honor each goddess, her culture, and her people in this way.
In drawing the cards, I experienced something that had never happened before. It often felt as if my pencil gliding across the paper was not sketching the goddess but revealing her.
In March of 2013 the cards were completed. In May a longtime friend of mine was visiting. She doesn’t have an interest in tarot, but she loved the drawings I showed her. She said, these need to get out there, what’s the best way for that to happen? I replied, self publishing, but I don’t have the money for the printer. She said, well I do, and she wrote me a check!
So incredible, but I still didn’t know how I could make everything happen. I have no graphic design skills or software, and that is just the beginning of the work required to produce a deck. I thought, I can’t do all that. Then I thought, but Arnell could. My friend Arnell Ando could and did. We worked so well together, here we are just five months later with the Dark Goddess Tarot in people’s hands around the world.
The process has been magical from start to, well, I won’t say finish because the journey continues.
JPC: Tell me more about your view of what the dark includes for you, beyond the “frightening or painful.”
ELP: Goddesses who deal with death, disease, suffering, and violence are automatically included, although a few, like Ala of Nigeria holding the dead within her womb, are not thought fearful by their own people. With our sexual relationships so often fraught, scary and strange, sex goddesses are automatically included, as are goddesses who do wild and mysterious things with magic.
Dark is also means kept in the shadow. In the Jungian sense, this is all that is repressed and hidden. Often these are wonderful things, and often these wonderful things are especially denied in women. Someone who speaks up for herself is dark to those who want to see her kept quiet. Someone in charge of her own life is dark to those who want to control her very soul.
I’ve also included goddesses, like the Greeks I first loved, whose primary functions are beneficial but who are perfectly willing to blast trespassers into the afterlife.
JPC: How do you personally use this deck, in your own spiritual practice?
ELP: It used to be a magical process, now it’s become this magical artifact that I am still getting to know, though every experiment with it thus far has proved its wisdom. I expect I will develop specific rituals and meditations for many of the goddesses. Perhaps a Dark Goddess Workbook is in my future.
JPC: I know you’re writing a companion book for the deck. What are you covering in the book? When will it be available?
The book is a tarot companion guide, not a religious or mythological study. The information presented on each goddess introduces her, then focuses on those aspects of her story that relate to her assigned card. With some goddesses having volumes while others have mere sentences available in English, it’s difficult for each to be treated equally. But that is my intention, because in a reading, no one message is more important than another. So each individual card essay is approximately 500 words, the description plus a section on divination which has several suggestions for what to do when the goddess appears in a reading.
The information on working with the goddesses and the two spreads from the deck’s booklet will be included, as well as several other spreads and exercises.
I expect to complete the writing by the end of this year. Hopefully, some desktop publishing help will appear then and it will be available shortly thereafter. 🙂
JPC: What do you most want people to know about this deck?
ELP: I hope people will approach the deck with an adventurous heart and just go for it. Let the goddesses speak and the power grow.
Thank you Ellen!