Into the Underworld: An Interview with Skyweb, creator of the Orphic Tarot

Today, I’m delighted to welcome to the blog Skyweb, creator of the startling, rich, and mythic Orphic Tarot.

The Orphic Tarot caught my eye because… how could it not? The bold and utterly unique black, white, and red artwork, along with the classical mythic figures and ideas it depicts, stood out in tarot world. I’d never seen anything like it! And the more I learned about the deck, the more I thought, this one’s coming to Two Sides Tarot!

Happily, it is now in stock. You can find it here!

With such an original and beautifully executed concept, I was eager to learn from about the deck and its creator, and Skyweb kindly agreed to tell me more about her relationship with tarot, her art process, and the creation of this striking deck.

Hello! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your story with us here at Two Sides Tarot! First of all, could you introduce us and tell us a little about who you are, your work, and your art practice?

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about my project! Well, to put it briefly, I am a Fine Arts graduate originally from Italy but now living and working in Japan. I lead a double life as a language teacher by day and an “artist” (I don’t like the definition for that) by night. It is quite hard to balance these two activities, but in the end it is very much rewarding, as, together, they make me feel whole. It is like finding a middle ground for my apollonian and my dyonisian side: light and darkness, reason and instinct, respectable citizen and quirky outcast.

I also love a tarot origin story! How did you come to be interested in tarot, and how did that lead you to creating your own deck?

I first became interested in Tarot during my second year at the Fine Arts Academy. Upon suggestion of one of my professors of Illustration, I chose to reinterpret 11 of the 22 major Arcana according to my art-style, which was way darker and more monstrous at that time. I found myself captivated by the symbology behind the Tarot of Marseille and I tried my best to gather as much information as possible by reading books and listening to podcasts on that matter. “The way of Tarot” by A. Jodorowsky and later on, all the books by Kris Hadar were extremely enlightening.

It wasn’t until many years later that I tried my hand at actual Tarot readings. I felt I was not ready yet, and besides, my innate skepticisms prevented me from even thinking about it seriously. Finally, it was the alienating confinement of the 2020’s pandemic that drew me closer to the mystery of Tarot and compelled me to create my first deck. I felt like it was a good way of externalizing my knowledge and applying it to the visible world.

One of the many cards featuring Orpheus (here in the guise of Page of Pentacles)

Ok, now, let’s talk about Orphic Hymns! The Orphic Hymns have such a rich history in Western occult magical traditions, and this deck is an absolutely epic marriage between these stories and the traditional tarot. I’d love to know more about your relationship with the Orphic mysteries, and how you came to bring into the world of tarot!

I have always been extremely fascinated by Greek mythology and its universal teachings, since a very young age. I remember being drawn especially to the more obscure, chthonic deities of the Greek Pantheon, during my teen years. At the same time, I was lucky enough to have philosophy as a compulsory subject in high-school, which only strengthened my already deep-seated interest toward Greek mystery cults. I chose the Orphic tradition as the source of inspiration for my Tarot deck, for two main reasons: one practical and the other personal.

First up, I was well aware of the wide acknowledgement that the Orphic Hymns had in the esoteric and occult communities in the western world, and I thought that would make my tarot deck all the more unique but still recognizable by the majority. The other reason was because I had recently lost the dearest person to my life and I was struggling to process my grief. The Orphic tradition, with its cult of the “nekya”, that is the descent into the underworld of our soul to attain the knowledge necessary to be born again, resonated deeply with me.

What was the process of matching up mythic stories, figures and ideas with tarot cards like? Could you tell us a bit about any system you devised to pair certain figures with certain suits, or certain ideas with the Minors instead of the Majors, for example? How did you pull it all together?

My way of perceiving the world outside and creating MY inner world as a reflection, is purely through an endless flow of images. In due time, I have found a way to harness this irrational tendency, which can easily grow out of all proportions, by setting boundaries in the form of extremely articulated projects. So, what basically happened when I set my sights to creating the Orphic tarot was: a) purchasing a good translation of the Orphic Hymns, b) going through each and every hymn and taking notes of the tarot cards whose energy they could match, c) starting a notebook where to scribble griddles over griddles about card-deity correspondences, until I was satisfied with what I had envisioned. Then I would start pursuing my vision, one card at the time, in a rigorous, orderly way (first would come the Major Arcana, then the Suit of -respectively- Swords, Cups, Wands and Pentacles.

By the way, what sets apart the Major and the four Suits is the importance of the deity depicted, within the context of the Orphic tradition. For instance, almost all Majors embody a pre-olympian god or goddess, who often reflects an aspect or a stage of the Orphic cosmogony (mythological explanation of the origin of the Universe). Whereas, the Suits can showcase minor deities, demigods (Herakles being one of the most commonly celebrated), or heroes (such as Orpheus himself and his spouse Eurydice, whose myth is at the very core of the Orphic cult). As for the pairing of certain figures with certain suits, that was dictated by either their attributes or the myth they evoked (e.g: the tragic love Orpheus and Eurydice is showcased in the suit of Cups, whereas spirits associated with wind, like Harpies and the Oneroi -dreams- can be seen in the suit of Swords).

Nyx as the High Priestess and Zeus the Thunderbolt as The Tower

I love that there are extra cards or alternative cards in this deck. What is the rationale behind that, and how would you suggest readers use the extra cards?

The 10 extra Major Arcana cards were not supposed to be originally part of the deck. The idea came to me during the Kickstarter campaign, while going through the Orphic hymns again and thinking it was a pity to have left out some very significant deities.

I would personally recommend using the deck as a whole, since the extra Majors do have fundamentally different nuances that can add further layers of interpretations to a reading.

As is tradition around here, I must ask, apart from your own beautiful creation, what are the decks that have influenced your tarot work over the years? Any must-have desert island favourites?

My top three favorite tarot decks of all time are: the Terra Volatile Tarot, The Dreamweaver Tarot and the Luminous Void Tarot. As for the Oracle decks, I feel a strong connection with the “Memento Mori” by Claire Goodchild, the “Supra Oracle” by Uusi and “Outgrow Yourself” by Akta Spaman. There are many other decks I work really well with, though.

How has working with your own deck (assuming you do!) informed or shifted your own tarot practice, whether for yourself or for clients?

I don’t think it has added much to my approach to Tarot reading, which aims at pointing out, unearthing and processing internalized trauma. I have come to acknowledge myself as a shadow worker, eventually, even though I was unaware of the meaning of such a word until quite recently. The Orphic deck is an excellent tool for this type of work, being essentially based on the cycle of spiritual life and death and material demise and rebirth.

Artemis as Strength, and her brother Apollo as The Chariot

What stories or ideas do you hope folks working with your deck will receive? What messages would you like your work to impart?

As I mentioned in the question above, the Orphic tarot is specifically designed for shadow working. Therefore, I wholeheartedly hope that those who are grieving, stuck in an emotional quagmire, or trying to heal from past trauma will find a useful tool to shed light in the darkness of our darkest hours.

Finally, where can readers learn more about your work? 

Just follow my IG for updates! (@akaskywebtarot). I don’t take my artistic work seriously enough, nor really have the time to set up and look after a personal home page, but, at least, I try to keep a neat IG page.

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If you’re ready to go on an underworld journey, you can find the Orphic Tarot in the shop. I hope it leads you on many fruitful quests!

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