When I was 8 years old, my sister and I set up a little stand at the edge of our driveway. She wanted to be a Wiccan at the time, and so instead of selling lemonade or cookies, we were offering tarot card readings for a dollar. Not surprisingly, no one stopped.
If we were using the beautiful deck and guidebook created by Aleisha Fitz and Bronwyn Walls, founders of Mesquite Tarot, maybe someone would have.
"I thought it was more of a fortune-telling tool or something … I kind of coupled it in with crystal balls, or a Ouija board, those kind of things," says Walls. "I didn't realize that you could have your own tarot deck and use it all the time as a therapeutic tool, as a tool for self-reflection."
Walls and Fitz got the idea for the project when they were living together. They would often wake up in the morning and sip coffee, talking about their dreams, their ambitions, how they were feeling. They started pulling tarot cards during this time and pretty soon noticed tarot imagery recurring in their respective artistic mediums. So they decided to make their own deck – Fitz would write the guidebook, and Walls would illustrate the cards.
"When we started this project it literally just started flowing out of us. We talk about it now and it feels like it happened to us. It just came out," says Walls.
Both of the women are primarily freelance artists. Walls is an illustrator while Fitz is a writer and editor. It felt like they would make a good team. But it's not like there weren't challenges. Tears were shed, and they both struggled with the weight of doing justice to the tarot community and trusting themselves as artists. But ultimately, they came to realize that they didn't have to approach making the deck as experts. It was just a chance to offer their own interpretation. And Austin felt like a good place to do it.
"Austin is our home. We're really grateful for the sense of community that we feel here, and the fact that people are receptive to art and 'making,'" says Fitz. "We felt a lot of our time and place in the making of this deck. And our sense of place is here in Austin, here in Texas, under the shade of the mesquite trees."
The illustrations and writing were inspired primarily by the natural world – Texas landscapes, vegetation, and wildlife. But the Mesquite Tarot deck is also decidedly nondiscriminatory. It's filled with neutral figures that aren't necessarily masculine or feminine, white or black. The deck's design allows each person a chance to project their own thoughts and experiences onto the card.
"We wanted something very soft and gentle," says Fitz. "A lot of tarot decks out there, even the traditional ones – the cards are very busy. They can feel overwhelming. The colors can be really intense. We wanted to do something different."
Even though tarot has been around since the 15th century, Fitz and Walls see it as particularly relevant today.
"If people can meet themselves with compassion, I think they're more likely to meet others with compassion … and that feels really important," says Fitz.
"I think it's a healing tool ultimately," says Walls, "and the world is really hurting right now. If people on an individual level can start to work through that, I think as a collective we can start to heal."
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