I was honoured to be asked to write this article for the World Divination Association about my first Oracle Deck and how it came to be. Universal Folk Oracle (UFO) published by US Games, has now been out in the world for its first year. So as I quietly contemplate and revisit the deck it feels fitting I sit down to write on the full moon just a few days away from the winter equinox, perhaps the one I feel most deeply as a Scorpio living in the northern hemisphere.
The deck has had a wonderful first year, which I can only perceive from the very kind messages I receive, it seems that many people have connected with UFO and it fills me with gratitude to see the deck being used or stocked in the most beautiful little boutiques and metaphysical book-stores around the world. The wonders of social media bring a little of that magic back to my door.
So the Universal Folk Oracle began its journey very much via Tarot. I think it was around 2012 when I made my first artworks which were serious contenders for a Tarot Deck. I had just started my art career, rather late in life, after an illness had left me mostly housebound and requiring to change my life path in so many ways. I had always made drawings at every opportunity until then, art was a huge part of my life growing up, but now it was about to get serious and felt like my very survival in the world depended on what happened next.
I think I was aware of some vague "art goals" forming around this time. I was mostly trying to improve my drawing and presentation to break into gallery work. Social Media was new to me and I had avoided it in my adult life up until then, but was very encouraged by the response to my work on both social media and other art platforms online, it kept me motivated and creating during a very isolated time for me.
The goals were still there, they felt "big" but they also felt like a calling too. I decided I would work away on them slowly in between smaller projects. My first calling was to create a Tarot Deck having had a relationship with the cards and divination practices since my late teens. I renewed my interested in Tarot around this time too, or rather began a slow and often painful consultation with the cards and journey into self. It felt like mending broken pathways and circuits, both frustrating (I am sure you understand pulling the same cards for weeks on end) and ultimately healing and restorative (or at least one of the building blocks to my recovery). During this extensive time of exploration and becoming reacquainted with a rather fragmented self, the Tarot art began to take shape and reveal itself gradually.
I was showing these pieces online and tentatively talking about making a deck with no real pressure (I had filed it under “complete for retirement age”). It was important work for me, very personal and I was drawing on a larger size scale, so each piece was incredibly involved and intricate in detail.
I think I got a few artworks into this mammoth task when I was contacted by US Games who wanted to publish my deck when complete. The piece that had caught their eye was my Three of Charms (Pentacles). I hadn't even thought about that part yet but of course I was incredibly excited and a little overwhelmed to say the least. Obviously the timeline for this would reflect the time consuming nature of the work, but after a conference call with the team there (I think I was so nervous that I forgot to breath throughout) I now had a goal and also an actual deadline for my Tarot Deck...AND whilst this was happening they wanted me to write an Oracle based on existing work from my folio. So this is where the story of UFO begins, it was never formed initially but really rather birthed out of this amazing opportunity that the universe presented me with.
As a footnote the team at US Games could not have been more reassuring and absolutely wonderful from the start and throughout. To be entrusted with writing these decks was a big thing for me, perhaps more so than the art itself. I knew I could do it, I just needed to find my voice and a rhythm. Chatting with a creative writer friend helped enormously to get my head around it and since UFO was released my writing has developed in a few different directions again. I enjoy the process almost as much as the pleasure of making art.
So why UFO?
Universal Folk was the working title I applied to these decks and it just stayed and felt right. Universal Folk is the phrase I often use to describe my art style. So really it's not about "people folk" at all but about the "folk art aesthetic" that runs through my artwork. I have an endless fascination with folk design, pattern, textiles and symbols. Like folktales and mythology the recurring themes that span the globe and permeate our ancient artefacts of clothing, pottery and everyday objects speaks of this connection that we can see clearly but seem to struggle with in today's society of fast broadband and quick travel. My Universal Folk Art takes this idea and has evolved into its own micro art language filled with rich textiles, adornments, accessories and jewels. It's a rich fantasy world that my higher self escapes into often, each artwork is like a little mediation in itself.
When I started writing for UFO I wanted to focus on this connection visually and also produce something that would bring very practical medicine into any reading. I decided I could only bring my own perceptions and experiences into the Oracle and hope to connect via the universal themes and threads we all have. I set about selecting the works to write for to begin with and by this time I had hundreds to choose from. Somehow the right ones pushed themselves forward with the ready formed stories already there in my head. There is actually a full set of zodiac artworks in there, some less obvious than others, but I chose to leave that out of the narrative mostly and allow them to be discovered should that be what the reading requires. I see people tuning into those aspects in their spreads a lot and it makes me smile when it's picked up on.
I was aware that the deck may reach a lot of people, so I wanted the messages to be simple to read and be very accessible, but to still have some real juice and depth of substance waiting to be discovered when required most. It was a fine line to straddle and my own relationship with the magical realms/spirit is a long and complex one.
I decided to approach it a bit like stepping into a space, having the message revealed and then having a little toolbox at your disposal to help and heal. Personally I do not have a particular belief system, but try to remain still and open to possibilities. I think from a young age I realised that human perception was deliberately flawed in some way and as I continued my own path that has become more strongly felt and more interesting to me as time goes on. What I can offer forth is things that have worked for me along the way, I think in that simple sense you can acknowledge those things as tried and tested and pass them on in the hope it will help another in any given moment (with the flip of a card perhaps).
To be continued next week..............
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Universal Folk Oracle can be found at US Games (US Retail) and worldwide via Amazon, Wordery, Book Depository and Good Reads as well as independent stockists. I regularly have signed editions in my Etsy shop when available