Unalaska Artist Creates Unique Alaskan Tarot Deck
People have practiced tarot for centuries, turning to the cards for guidance and reasoning.
And today, you can find an unlimited number of themed tarot decks, from cat tarot to Star Trek tarot, small tarot and tarot for children.
But local artist Mariza Tovar is putting together a tarot deck filled with humpback whales, grizzly bears, red-faced cormorants and seaweed – a deck unique to Alaska.
“Courage, determination, patience and tolerance, kindness, the softer power of a loving approach,” Tovar said. “I couldn’t think of a better being than a humpback whale for this tarot card. The rainbow is the cosmic force that we all have within us.
Tovar orients her tablet, gesturing softly as she frames the image of a humpback whale draped in a rainbow. She recites the description of the strength card, which features the humpback whale. It is one of the 78 cards that make up the tarot deck that she has been illustrating since July.
“Our oceans are suffering from rising temperatures and acidification,” Tovar continued. “These gentle giants with their grace and mass – every time I get the chance to see them, they remind me of their gentle resilience. This piece is a full heart. Hope you like it.”
Tovar calls his deck “The Gentle Tarot”. She created it, in part, because she’s been a tarot practitioner herself for many years and couldn’t find a deck with artwork that reflects the unique support and warmth she seeks every day. by practicing.
While she said the idea had been germinating for a long time, the concept took shape when she was counting sockeye salmon at the Cape Wislow fish weir this summer — about 20 miles from Unalaska, in Reese’s Bay.
“Anytime I’m at a weir, it’s a super creative time of year, probably the most creative time for me,” Tovar said. “And I used to do a lot of music at the weir. You’re off the grid, you have no reception, no distractions.
Tovar currently works for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Dutch Harbor, but has spent about three summers working on weirs in Kodiak, one summer in Orzinski Bay on the Alaska Peninsula and now two summers near Unalaska, Cape Wislow.
She says she is inspired by what surrounds her. And while much of her tarot deck features Aleutian landscapes, she hopes to depict other parts of Alaska as well. Tovar said she was happy to draw on a variety of flora and fauna from her experiences across the state, and especially to incorporate larger animals, like bears, which are not found on the islands. Unalaska or Amaknak.
“I feel an energy, and I’m like, what animal would that be?” said Tovar. “So it’s good to have more options.”
Tovar’s creative process is based on patient reflection and research. She said that when working on a card, especially when she’s in the dam, she often reads one or two descriptions of a specific card before bed and then lets that narrative ‘soak up’ her thoughts. , overnight.
“And then in the morning, it’s almost like it pops into my head,” Tovar explained. “And then I’ll do some more research, like, why am I seeing a humpback whale? And then maybe I’ll learn more about humpback whales. It’s like we know how to spell a vocabulary word, but we don’t even know what it means, but it’s there somewhere. It’s a bit like that.
Tovar said that while the bridge is an exposition of what immediately surrounded her in recent years, it also conveys a unique representation of the practices and ceremony she grew up with as an Indigenous woman, which center on the balance and respect for nature. . And she said she hopes her deck will inspire similar harmony and reciprocity for those who end up practicing tarot with her deck.
“Like the image of the Two of Thunder, where she’s underwater, it’s like she’s at home in the ocean,” Tovar explained. “It’s mutual. She is being held and cared for there. And we also have to hold and take care of the ocean. I want it to be fluid, the connection.
Tovar uses kickstarter to fund the tarot project. She said she basically had 33 days to reach her goal of $12,000. And she hopes that at least 300 people will commit to buying a terrace.
Although her artwork can be found across the island — at the Aleutian Museum, the Grand Aleutian Hotel, and even on Etsy — she said it was her first major project and her first use of the crowdfunding. She said she hopes to have the project in production by mid-October and have the final deck, which will come with a unique tarot guide written by Tovar, in hand by December.
Tovar said she will donate a percentage of proceeds from her Gentle Tarot to ocean and climate change research and plant two trees for every pledge she receives.