Big Magic in the Little Fields of Mexico: Creating a tarot deck for children

Photo by Robert Thiemann


Years ago, I read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Gilbert wrote the popular book “Eat, Pray, Love” that was subsequently turned into a movie with Julia Roberts. Lesser known is her intriguing book on creativity, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. In the book she writes about disembodied ideas looking for hosts to midwife them into the world. These ideas, or “energetic life-forms” as Gilbert calls them, are propelled by the strong and simple desire to exteriorize. “And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world” shares Gilbert, “is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.”

I loved this line of thought. For a long time, I wondered about what kind of disembodied entity would want to collaborate with me. Would I recognize magical inspiration if it tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear, “I pick you”? And then back in March, I met a big one.

As we all know, March 2020 saw the closing of schools and businesses around the globe. The world began going into lockdown as COVID disrupted just about every part of our lives. During this time, the only place I regularly visited was the soccer fields where I could let my dog run. My dog, a Red Heeler rescue named Yara, had befriended Poppy, a rescue dog belonging to a charming British woman, Nicola Allan. The dogs would play, and we would talk.

At 35 years, when one is building a career, Nicola was unsure about her commitment to law. In fact, she didn’t want to work as a lawyer anymore and had her heart set on children’s illustration. I know how she felt. Two and a half years ago at age 50, I had walked away from a perfectly respectable career as a research librarian. I just couldn’t engage in work that didn’t capture my imagination anymore. Despite raised eyebrows, I had sold my belongings in San Diego to hang up my shingle as an astrologer, tarot reader and (as of late) talisman maker in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Nicola and I had a lot in common. We were both willing to take a chance on our passion as we rooted in a new country. As our dogs ran around the field and we got to know one another, The Creative Muse entered the space and began eavesdropping on our conversations. I believe at some point, she decided we were the midwives that would bring her into the world. Nicola’s law work was drying up and she was more than ready to illustrate. I finally had a project to pour my years of tarot experience into. When Nicola shared that she had always wanted to illustrate a tarot deck, I had no control of the words that blurted out of my mouth: “Why don’t we do a children’s deck together?”

I like to think that in the imaginal realm, where disembodied ideas flitter from human to human, a great celebration ensues when an idea has found its person, or in our case, people. It’s been an unlikely collaboration: a lawyer turned illustrator meeting a librarian turned astrologer at a soccer field in Central Mexico. But I believe magic operates in the currency of the unexpected and synchronistic conversations.

Tarot cards go back to the 15th Century where they were enjoyed as playing cards. Today, folks use tarot as a tool of self-reflection and understanding. Pictured above: Justice & Emperor, two cards from Faunabelle Tarot.

Faunabelle Tarot launches on Kickstarter December 19, 2020

As far as the project goes: Nicola and I will launch our deck December 19, 2020 on the crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter. If successfully funded, this will be a gorgeously illustrated indie tarot deck for children and the young at heart. The words are inspired by the gentleness of Pema Chodron, like warm honey in traditional tarot tea. Our goal is that this tarot deck simply exists. We’ve named her Faunabelle Tarot. Faunabelle’s goal is to engender more kindness and self-compassion in children and their parents.

Take a look and/or follow Faunabelle Tarot on Instagram! Please consider supporting the Kickstarter; gift certificates are available as well. If we succeed, Faunabelle will make her grand debut in the material world in June 2021. I imagine there will be a spectacular cosmic Quinceañera upon her success.