I've been a fan of James' writing for a while now and thought it would be great to have him on the blog to answer my interview questions! He is the writer over at Left Hand Tarot and the creator of The Satanic Tarot deck and book. Check out what he had to say!
Hello, can you tell us about yourself? How did tarot find you?
I'm a Tarot reader and a stay-at-home dad, but depending on the day it might be more of one and less of the other. I got started in Tarot in the 5th grade when a friend gave me the Egyptian Tarot by the Comte de St. Germain as a birthday present. I had no idea what Tarot was, and I don't think he did, either, which is why I suspect he intended it as a gag gift. That deck is long gone, but I guess the joke was on me because probably if not for him I'd have never got started in Tarot at all.
If you could remove any card in the deck, which card would it be and why?
I'd remove trump 11. Most folks call it Justice, but I call it Inequality because justice has always been, is now, and will probably forever be marked by varying degrees of inequality. For many readers, trump 21 is the end of the sequence, but for me Inequality is the fundamental point around which everything else revolves. This means that the struggle against inequality and the challenge of living within an inequal system are what encourage change and movement in the world. It's only when inequality is tolerated and accepted that things really start to break down. Trump 11 is a daunting card for me to read, and it creates challenges wherever it turns up.
What's in your tarot toolbox?
The only thing in my toolbox is my Tarot cards. I like to use a red tablecloth where I work, but that's really only because it spares my wrists and elbows from banging against hard wood. Once upon a time I had some black and white candles, a little collection of foreign coins, some handsome crystals, and an incense burner, but because my Tarot parlor is also my downstairs living room where both of my cats as well as my 5-y/o daughter love to play with anything that gets left out, I've become habituated to working with just the bare essentials.
What do you think the Empress would say to the Emperor?
"Oh, hunny-bunny -- don't listen to those idiot doctors who try to tell you what you can't do. I know your health's not real good in your old age, but if you want to climb Mt. Everest, then I believe in you! You deserve this, sugar-lips, and I want you get everything that's coming to you. Say... It just occurred to me that it's gonna be a long journey, so why don't you go ahead and sign this power of attorney and I'll keep the bills paid while you're gone? Oh, and the insurance adjuster sent this boring, old paperwork yesterday. Something about increasing your coverage in case of accidental death? Oh, I'm sure I don't know what it is, but the point is that I know you can do absolutely anything if you put your mind to it!"
What or who inspires you the most?
Frank Herbert's Dune Saga, and specifically the Mentats who are human super-computers capable of making "prime computations" and using their human awareness to factor in nuance and tie together an infinite number of separate threads in order to see what nobody else could figure out. They're kinda like Sherlock Holmes on brain-steroids, and this idea of being able to reveal the unknown through intellectual analysis is a big part of my personal mythology.
If you could be any court card, which would you choose and why?
I'd be the Queen of Clubs. In my eyes, she's discerning and intelligent, but also patient and able to sustain long-term plans for the future. Yet even so, she's vital, passionate, and really knows both who and what she loves in life. These are qualities which I often feel I lack.
Which deck could you absolutely not live without?
A deck of playing cards. I could be persuaded to give up the additional four faces and the 22 trumps of a Tarot deck, but for the love of fantasy just leave me my playing cards! The pips and faces are everything to me and I regard them as much more important than the trumps because it's them that provide the fine details and nuance in a performance.
If you could go back to day one of your tarot journey, what would you do differently?
If Sherman and Peabody loaned me the WABAC machine and I could tell my younger Tarot-self one thing, it would be to not revere the Tarot. There's this old Zen expression that, "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him." In that sense, I'd tell my younger self that the Tarot isn't holy, sacred, or divine, and that he should kill it. I mean, just brain it with a rock until it's dead, because it's only after murdering the Tarot-God that I ever made any progress. If I had learned that lesson at the very beginning, it would have saved me a lot of time.
What tarot habits or quirks do you have?
I like to be the first one to laugh at myself. It happens once in a while that the message coming out of the cards for my sitters is to not take advice from strangers, and seeing as I'm a stranger giving them advice, that's pretty funny to me. So many Tarot readers take themselves way too seriously, and I know from personal experience that if they'd just get over themselves they'd be better performers and their sitters would have more fun, too.
If the Hierophant had a favorite curse word, what would it be?
"Herpe-gono-syphil-itis!" I mean, that's as bad as it gets. It's just the worst.
Do you think the Hermit prefers decaf or regular coffee?
Well, hermits are often health fanatics, and given the benefits of caffeine, plus coffee's ability to, uh -- "cleanse the body," shall we say? -- 20 to 30 minutes after consumption, I'm pretty sure he's a "regular" Joe, if you know what I mean.
Lastly, do you have anything you would like to share? News? Event?
I just launched The Satanic Tarot and I've chosen to make it publicly available through a Creative Commons attribution/share-alike 4.0 license so that people can read, share, discuss, and even build upon the principles and practices I discuss in the book. The companion Tarot deck I created for the book is also available under the same license, and is available alongside the book at SatanicTarot.cards. I had a hell of a time writing the book and creating the deck, and I hope that people have a hell of a time reading the book and using the deck.