I met Ellen Lorenzi-Prince via the Comparative Tarot elist. I was able to watch as her fabulous, innovative and deeply powerful Tarot of the Crone took shape. I was also lucky enough to spend several hours in a car with Ellen and Brigit Horner on our way to the Toronto Tarot Symposium (during which we created the junk food Tarot) and believe me after 20 hours in a car you feel very close to your traveling companions. Her Tarot of the Crone is like no other deck I've ever seen. Ellen takes a completely different look at the cards and offers us new insights into the Tarot, the power of the Crone and ourselves. She is currently working on the Pandora's Tarot. (Both decks can be seen on her website, Croneways.com.) She is also working on a companion book to her Tarot of the Crones deck, which offers some interesting ideas on how people have used this deck for readings, mediations and other spiritual explorations. Ellen is a spiritual, powerful and amazing woman who was kind enough to take the time to answer my questions.
DL: What first drew you to Tarot?
ELP: The Motherpeace deck and a woman named Barbara. I saw the curious round cards in her hands at a women's spirituality retreat I attended in 1985 and asked to see them. When I turned over the card of Leopard Woman (the Magician), I was struck. She was what I'd become in my trance journey earlier that day. Holding that card, I felt like the magic and vision from my inner world had found a way into the outer world, into something I could hold in my hands. In that moment I was hooked.
DL: Do you read or collect decks?
ELP: I read with them. I read most the decks where I find that magic, that sense of recognition, when I pick a card. Other decks I keep to study or look through. I buy new decks when I want to see what the creator has done with the images and themes. I look for beauty, originality, and coherence in the artist's vision.
But what I really want to do with decks isn't reading or collecting them, it's creating them.
DL: What inspired you to create your deck? And what sources did you use?
ELP: It began with an itch, I guess. It wasn't so much dissatisfaction with what was out there, but an itch that happens when you're so steeped in Tarot you see it everywhere. But the catalyst came out of an online discussion group. The thread was what Majors might be the Maiden, the Mother, or the Crone. I imagined the Ancient One in so many cards that I rashly said, “I could do an entire deck for the Crone.” And someone responded, “Let’s see it then.”
Now I did not have to rise to that challenge, but the idea rang in me like an iron bell, deep and not to be dismissed. I thought, you get a call like that, you’d better listen.
For tarot sources, I know that every book, every deck, and every reading has added to my knowledge. But two works that particularly provided the background for mine are Crowley's Book of Thoth and Rachel Pollack's Shining Tribe.
For sources on the Crone my reading was wider still, from Robert Graves to Mary Daly. I've also relied on the teachings that my grandmothers and great grandmothers shared with me. And I've used my own spiritual experiences of Crone energy.
DL: How do you feel your personal & spiritual beliefs impacted on your deck?
ELP: My beliefs impacted my deck in every possible way. I am personally devoted to the crone goddess Hecate as muse and teacher. I created the deck as an offering to her. And I created the deck as a tool the Crone might speak through, to me and maybe to others as well.
DL: When you began creating your deck did you have any intention of publishing?
ELP: Not really. As I designed and painted, I might think of other people looking at the image, or how the card might read in a layout. But I never thought farther than that.
DL: How have your ties to the Tarot community (online or in the real world) impacted on your creation of this deck?
ELP: The support of the Tarot community made getting the deck out possible. It wouldn't have happened but for the encouragement of many people I met online and through conferences. The deck was such a personal project that I was nervous at first about posting the cards to the internet. But through sharing, I found that the Tarot of the Crone spoke to a variety of people in a variety of ways. And the idea that the deck might be bigger than I'd thought gave me something to strive for. As the deck and the relationships developed, a few members of the Tarot community directly inspired certain images, and I dedicated those cards to them.
DL: What other Tarot decks are you drawn to?
ELP: I've already mentioned Thoth and Shining Tribe. Some of my other favorites are PoMo, Alchemical, Blake, Halloween and New Orleans VooDoo.
DL: What advice or suggestions would you give to others out there interesting in creating their own deck?
ELP: I think everyone should create their own deck! There is nothing like the creative process for deepening your understanding. If you want to make an entire deck, give thought to the medium. Don't choose something you'll get tired of working with after 10 cards. And don't use something in short supply.
As far as publishing goes, other people know much more about it than I do. For self-publishing, Arnell Ando has good advice on her site. For the traditional route, look at the sites of the publishers for submission guidelines. You can find links to these sites at Tarot Passages.
The most important aspect about creating your own deck is to put yourself into it. That's what makes it real.