Barbara Vogel's Journey Home

By Flash Silvermoon

Editor’s note: We are sad to hear of the passing of Barbara Vogel, illustrator of The Wise Woman’s Tarot. She will be greatly missed by the Tarot community. We thank Flash Silvermoon for sharing these very personal thoughts about her friend.

It is with regret that I report that Barbara Vogel, known to most as Vogel, has passed on after a long battle with cancer. We have not been in good touch for some years; however, her work and artistry in rendering the illustrations for The Wise Woman's Tarot added beautiful and empowering visual representation for my text and visions.

For this contribution to my work and the evolution of a Goddess Centered Tarot, I will be forever in gratitude for the images that were as powerful and as beautiful as the Goddess in her many guises.

I first met Vogel back when we were both Lower East Side Dykes [NYC]. She and my first partner Pandora were part of the same lesbian CR group back in 1972, so we bumped into each other from time to time. Even then, she was starting to make some progress as a visual artist.

Many years later, she came rumbling through Melrose for some reason, and wound up staying in my house for a year or two before moving to Massachusett, and then finally to Key West where she settled into the Sugar Loaf Key women's community.

I had been searching for a year or two for just the right artist for The Wise Woman’s Tarot. Vogel came over to visit and contemplate her new life path after Corky's Croning. As we sat under the open arms of the Grandmother Tree, I remembered that Vogel was indeed an artist; however, she had all but retired from her passion for some time.

My friend Ffiona Morgan, who created the Daughters of the Moon deck, had warned me to only ask for five pictures from each potential artist, so when I realized that Vogel would possibly be a good illustrator for my deck, I suggested that she only do five cards to see how she liked doing it. Vogel asked if she liked it, if she could she do the whole thing, and of course, I was elated.

The first card that I gave Vogel to do was the Lovers card, and I had a small design that I had worked out that was important to reveal the meaning of the card. She executed that concept beautifully and loved the process, and from then on, it was a go.

I gave Vogel the text and often some designs to follow, and in the text there were exact descriptions of what was to be placed in each card. She would take what I gave her and sometimes do a little more research, but mostly, what I gave her was all that she needed.

Some decks simply did not pay enough attention to the details of herstory and ancient cultures, and Vogel and I both shared that intention. I felt her renderings were strong and potent like the text and information that I was trying to impart. 

As she began working on The Wise Woman's Tarot, she encountered the envelope of the archetype. By that, I mean that particularly with the Major Arcana, but not exclusively, she discovered that whatever energy her current card held, she began to experience it shaping her life. For instance, when she worked on Pele, Revolution/Revelation, which is my equivalent of the Tower card, she walked around angry a whole lot of the time until she finished the card. I experience that same thing when teaching the cards.

We both loved and processed a lot about the Isis Card, the first one shown here, as it was to be the signature card for the deck as well as the book cover. The Amazon was one of Vogel's favorites because she loved to draw horses (and we have many in this deck). Her ability to show the power and strength of these dynamic animals was special. The third card here, Morrigan, was another of her faves, and the last card that was done as she finished the illustrations. She definitely preferred doing the very Amazon archetypes, as that was a part of her that she identified with. On both the Amazon and the Morrigan, she illustrated every little detail that I researched regarding type of armor, weaponry, etc., and this would lend a layer of authenticity that few decks offer. She would also study art and sculpture of the time and place of each Goddess and God. 

The one area where we consistently differed was in the area of color intensity. I always wanted them brighter and more vibrant, and most of the time she relented. On a few occasions, she held to the more pastel shades, and I believe she was right in those choices.

We were both committed to showing these images in all their power and in fine detail with herstorical authenticity. It is not enough to show a dark skinned woman to represent an African deity; she needed to have the tribal dress and the correct racial features. Needless to say, we both worked very hard to make sure that these images were perfected.

Vogel’s work with The Wise Woman’s Tarot seemed to be just the springboard that she needed to plunge her back into her art front and center. From that time on, her artistic accomplishments flourished.

It seems like there is a history of Tarot deck creations which tend to separate the creators, and we did unfortunately follow in that tradition. All that being said, the world has lost a powerful Amazon artist, and I wish her Goddess speed on her next journey.

Blessings Vogel

All images shown are used with permission.

All submissions remain the property of their respective authors. 

Tarot Reflections is published by the American Tarot Association - Copyright (C) 2009

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