[This month, we sit down with tarot specialist Lyn Thurman. Here, she discusses her relationship with tarot, her new deck Animal Spirits of the Sacred Isle, and the creators who have inspired her own work.]
1. Where did your love of tarot and oracle decks start?
It started out as a rocky love affair. When I was seventeen I rekindled my interest (via purchasing a pendulum at a little, tucked out the way New Age shop) in anything magical and mysterious. I thought my next step should be learning the tarot so I bought an Egyptian style deck.
I just couldn’t understand it so I put it away at the bottom of my wardrobe. And there, along with my new interest, it stayed.
It wasn’t until I was almost thirty that I felt the pull towards tarot again. I bought a Rider Waite deck and I haven’t looked back.
2. What was the first deck you designed? What made you take that plunge?
My first deck I designed was a Lenormand deck. I made it for my own personal use and used images that were meaningful to me, including one of my then-toddler daughter for the Child card.
The first deck I designed that wasn’t only for personal use is the Sea Whispers oracle.
My love of the sea was the inspiration for taking the plunge. I wanted to create a sea-themed oracle and couldn’t think of a good enough reason not to.
3. What inspires you to make a new deck? Do you have a creation process?
Generally, there is some element of water that inspires me. The Sea Whispers oracle and my Wisdom of the Depths tarot both stem from my love of the sea. Water really is my element. I created the Sea Glass runes because my daughter and I are always looking for sea glass when we go to the beach together and I had the thought, “what if the Anglo-Saxon runes washed up on the beach”. That deck is yet to be published though.
My latest oracle – Animal Spirits of the Sacred Isles – was inspired by the walk from my home to the beach. I moved from southern England to North Wales on the cusp of lockdown so I had the gift of quiet time outside while the world shut down. I found a deep connection to the land and took so much joy from encountering the wildlife (mainly birds). I wanted to bring the wisdom of creatures from the British Isles into an oracle.
I don’t have an exact creation process as such. I have to wait for the right idea to come and then it’s tenacious. I create the decks digitally and often the largest part of the process comes from sourcing vintage artwork or the right photography (I use a lot of my own photography in the decks). Then everything seems to flow quite quickly.
4. Are there any decks or artists that have inspired your work?
Oh, so many! I love seeing the artistic interpretations in tarot and oracles – each card is a mini masterpiece in its own right. I have a huge collection of tarot and oracle decks and I try to justify it by claiming them pieces of art ?
I love the watercolour tarot art of Lisa Hunt and Stephanie Pui-Mun Law – it resonates with my Pisces spirit. And I really enjoy the work, particularly the palette, of Will Worthington, who illustrated the Wildwood tarot and the DruidCraft tarot.
For tarot, the biggest inspiration is the Rider Waite tarot. It set the foundation for many modern decks and I’m very grateful to Pamela Colman Smith and Arthur Waite for their contribution to the art of divination.
5. Which of your cards do you identify most with, and why?
That’s a difficult question to answer. Any time I place a seal (the animal kind) into a card, it stands out a little more than the rest to me. There are seals in all of my decks (apart from the runes) – I might be a little obsessed. I had never seen a seal in the wild until we moved to North Wales and now I look out for them every day as they’re often in the sea along my local beach. I’m fortunate enough to live close to a seal colony so I visit a couple of times a year with my camera, particularly to capture the seal pups. Having said that, seal came to me in a dream long before I moved here and in honour of the spirit, I painted it on my drum.
6. What makes a “good” deck, and what makes a “bad” one?
Decks are subjective so I don’t think you can label one bad or good. My husband and I are both readers and collectors, and there are some decks which I can’t understand why he likes them. Obviously, it works both ways.
I have a hard time enjoying oracle or tarot decks that have the meaning printed on them. I like keywords but when there’s a whole sentence or more, then I think it distracts from the reader’s own intuition. To me, oracle and tarot are tools for divination and for flexing the intuitive muscle.
7. What advice would you give to those looking to make their own decks?
Technically, start with the end in mind. Know the dimensions of the cards you want to produce first and then you can fit your artwork into the correct sizes. And when you create artwork, bigger is always better because you need a good resolution for printing.
Don’t let the technical stuff deter you from creating your own deck. You can learn as you go along and other people can help you.
If you feel inspired to create then I encourage you to honour that inspiration. Have fun, learn from the experience and enjoy the process. There are ups and downs but at the end of your creation journey, there will be a beautiful oracle or tarot deck you’ve birthed into the world. And that, is an amazing feeling!
Lyn Thurman is an author, tarot & oracle creator, energy weaver and initiated priestess. She’s a Londoner by birth but now lives in a seaside town in North Wales with her husband and daughter.
Lyn’s latest oracle deck – Animal Spirits of the Sacred Isles – is currently on Kickstarter. It’s an 80-card oracle deck featuring animals, past and present, of the Sacred (British) Isles.