Getting to Know the Lilifer Tarot: An Interview with Marion Costentin

Today on the blog, I’m joined by tarot creator Marion Costentin, who’s here to tell us a little about her newly published deck, the Lilifer Tarot. The Lilifer Tarot is syncretic tarot at its best – combined elements and inspirations from different schools of tarot thought to become something that’s wholly its own. Plus, beautiful watercolours! What more could you want in a deck?

Read on to learn more about the decks that inspired Lilifer, Marion’s approach to the cards, and the two figures that unexpectedly joined the party, mid-way through the deck’s creation.

Hi Marion, 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?

Hi Marianne! I’m a French artist/illustrator and the owner of Little Darkness, a small press with a focus on emotional healing and intuitive art. I’m mostly known for Reclaim, an oracle deck that I created in 2020. I live in Los Angeles, California. I’ve been drawing since I was little and consider myself self-taught because I dropped out of art school at 18 and from that point, I kind of figured things out on my own.

Paintings from the Lilifer Tarot

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?

My first deck was the Great Esoteric Tarot, found 10 years ago at a flea market in Paris. At the time I didn’t know how to read and I couldn’t identify many of the symbols on the cards. This deck made a strong impression on me and while I found it discouraging at first, I’m so grateful to have been introduced to tarot via such a profoundly meaningful deck. Its symbolism is simple, yet so potent and full of magic.

That’s why Lilifer’s minor arcana cards have ancient arab numerals on them instead of the numbers we know today: I like to make the reader work a little, spend time observing the image and count the cups, swords, wands or pentacles. Lilifer relies on symbolism and emotion, so I didn’t want to give it away too soon. I’m getting criticism for that choice because some folks are having trouble identifying their suits. This goes to show that a lot of readers don’t actually look at the image, but look for the “Two of Pentacles” or “Five of Swords” etc, and jump to conclusions. I’m not saying it’s wrong – far from it. But that’s not how I envisioned a tarot reading with Lilifer. Each card is a tiny work of art: it begins with a visual experience. I actually recommend ignoring the “meanings” in the guidebook. What are you seeing? Which detail is calling out to you? How does it make you feel? The answers are in your eyes.

I’d love to know more about the figures of Lilith and Lucifer. What inspired you to create a deck with those figures at its heart? And how do you imagine readers might work with these ideas or archetypes?

I used to be afraid of these two. It took me years to understand they represented aspects of myself that needed to be recognized – my shadow. Working with them has granted me validation, strength and creative stimulation. As a result, I claim these two archetypes as a part of me. Knowing and loving them both equally means knowing and loving myself regardless of imbalances and perceived flaws. When we reached our funding goal on Kickstarter, I saw an opportunity to give them a space to share their message – these two cards were not planned at all! I painted them mid-campaign.

This deck draws on so many different tarot influences, from the classic French Tarot de Marseille, with a nod to the Thoth tarot with the ordering of the court cards, to the Rider Waite Smith. Could you talk about your impulse to combine these different traditions, and in turn create something new?

I think it’s because I can’t choose a single tradition to follow in my own practice. I’m always learning something new because everything interests me. I find spiritual traditions fascinating and I’m very open-minded. But as an artist I can’t help but shake things up a little, which is why I chose to blend different tarot styles. I enjoy amplifying connections that already exist between traditions.

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?

I love older, classic tarots. The Great Esoteric Tarot is my favorite Marseille-style deck, but as an artist I am very drawn to the richly illustrated suits of the Rider-Waite deck. As for modern decks, I love anything by Mary Evans. Her work has helped me think out of the box in regards to how I could share my art with the world.

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

Creating my own system has proven to be a stabilizing force in my practice. I’m very curious by nature and I’ve struggled with identity disturbance, which means I’d often jump from one set of beliefs or one type of practice to another. It was frustrating because I’d often think I had found my “thing” only to lose interest a month later. It still happens today. As a result, my spirituality is an odd blend of various traditions blended with psychology and whatever I’ve learned from my encounters with spiritual entities. Lilifer reflects some of that. If you read the guidebook, I go into detail about a lot of symbols, which is really how the cards are meant to be deciphered. If you know the symbolism, you can interpret anything.

What kind of experience do you hope folks working with your deck will have? What messages would you like your work to impart?

I was very aware of being like a vessel when I was painting the cards, and if I had to paint them again they would probably look very different. Each card poured out of me with such ease, at a time that felt very auspicious – it was partly channeled from a higher source, and I’m not sure what It wanted to say. I think it depends on the reader. Tarot is a universe in a tiny cardboard box: each reading hits us differently, and what we see in the cards today will translate differently tomorrow. It’s up to everyone’s own sensitivities, and timing is hugely important.

Finally, where can readers learn more about your work? 

They can find me on my website www.little-darkness.com and on Instagram @littledarkpress. I also have a new Etsy shop.

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And, of course, you can find the Lilifer Tarot available for sale here at Two Sides Tarot. I hope you’ll love it as much as I do!

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