Interview with poet Mark Hannan about “Incantations” in Light & Shadow Tarot

tarot of light and shadow incantations aletheus interview mark hannan

Destiny Books, division of Inner Traditions in Rochester Vermont, released their newest (1996) Tarot deck and book set this month. The Light & Shadow Tarot is a collaborative effort from the late artist, Michael Goepferd; author, Brian Williams; and poet, Mark Hannan.

Michael Goepferd spent much of 1992-94 creating, carving, and printing the 78 linoleum cut block prints that make up this unique, black and white Tarot deck. Brian Williams has previously created and published The Renaissance Deck and the PoMo Tarot Deck. Mark Hannan, a student in the Integral Counseling Program at CIIS, has been writing poetry for the past 17 years and has published in several periodicals. His first chapbook, After Many Years Absent (Studio Press, 1993) also featured block prints by Michael Goepferd. Mark gave the Inner Eye some history of his involvement in the project:”I had taken a break from writing after the chapbook came out and wanted to concentrate more on visual art. Several of my friends were painters and I began producing shows for their work, both in my home studio and at local galleries. Michael came to my studio during Open Studios. That was the first time I had included some of my own work; some assemblage sculptures I’d been making. These “doll wands” appealed to Michael’s mystical side and a few weeks later he asked me to join him at Fire Thorn Studio on Valencia Street here in the City. That was such an exciting time for us. Watching the progress of the deck, and how Michael opened himself up to the Tarot, was inspiring. I learned so much from him during that time, about art, creativity, pain, life and death. This deck is very special to me. I miss him.
light and shadow tarot incantations aletheus mark hannan
The Incantations that are included in The Light & Shadow Tarot came out of my work with the Tarot over the previous four or five years. I found that I could never quite remember all the attributed meanings to each of the cards, and, I wanted to begin using them as meditative objects. Poetry was a natural choice; the line, the rhythm, the brevity. I am so grateful to Angeles Arrien for her Tarot Handbook (Arcus, 1987). That, along with the work of Aleister Crowley, Paul Foster Case, the Cicero’s, and Dion Fortune, firmly grounded me in the historical traditions. At the time, I had been working closely with Starhawk and the Reclaiming Collective and so my magical side was quite “up” for me. I began using the Incantations as magickal mnemonics for the Tarot. I was so thrilled when Michael invited me to contribute to this publication. Recently, I have developed a method of using these poems directly in readings and with dreams and dreaming. It’s quite exciting. I’ve developed a new Tarot spread called the Pentacle Spread and this deck works really well with it. There’s probably another book in all that.”

Brian Williams writes in the introduction: “The Light & Shadow Tarot is both a traditional Tarot deck, respecting the structure and symbolism of an ancient tradition, and an entirely fresh and original creation. It embodies the contrast between light and dark, heavy and light, feminine and masculine, expressed in a lively, linear idiom of black-and-white graphics. This contrast, though, does not mean a Manichean duality of good battling evil, order against chaos, darkness striving to drive out the light. Instead, Light and Shadow celebrates the balance and synthesis of contrasting forces. It honors the significance and interplay of both extremes. Think of the classic symbols of yin and yang, each teardrop shape begins along side the fullness of its opposite, and then, as it reaches spherical perfection, the seed of its opposite is born in its heart.

Michael discovered the Tarot first while traveling through Goa, where he met people who were deeply involved with the cards and other esoterica. Years later in San Francisco, during conversations with writer Mark Hannan and others, he began to think about interpreting certain Tarot images as individual artworks: the Endless Dance of Death, the Sun, the Magician. Light and Shadow Tarot began gradually, but Michael soon felt as if he were sliding into a kind of happy quicksand. The process started with the images of the Major Arcana, and each new card led to the next, though they weren’t created in numerical order. When the time came for Michael to carve the Queens, the process had become so intense that the archetypes appeared to him in dreams to announce how they should be portrayed.”
The Inner Eye, Vol.XXXIII, Number 10; Nov. 11th, 1996

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