Ending 2015 With a Bit More Progress

After completing the final assemblage piece yesterday, I decided to finish off the year by knocking another goal off my production schedule: sending the Tarot of Bones book manuscript to an independent editor. We’ll spend the next few months passing the manuscript back and forth to polish it up so it’ll be more presentable when it comes time to print it this summer.

I’m very grateful to myself for keeping up on writing each individual card’s entry in the book as I completed its assemblage. Not only did it let me write out my thoughts on the card while it was still fresh in my mind, but it also helped me to have the manuscript essentially done by now. All I had to do was put a few finishing details into it and clean it up a bit, and it was ready to send on.

I’m taking the next couple of weeks off from Tarot of Bones concerns, as I prepare to run the third Curious Gallery here in Portland. This two-day arts festival that I run every year is the reason I wasn’t able to start the assemblages til mid-January 2015; if you’re in the area, I invite you to join us for a weekend of curiosities, presentations and art!

And Happy New Year to everyone, too!

Tarot of Bones Book Update!

So I am currently on the Oregon coast taking a solo writing retreat for a couple of days in a little cottage overlooking the ocean. (Yes, it really is as awesome as it sounds, and much-needed–I haven’t had time off since June!) I am pleased to say that, other than the entries for the card assemblages I haven’t yet completed yet and adding a few more resources to the bibliography, the manuscript for the Tarot of Bones companion book is done! I fleshed out the introductory material a bit more, and finished creating a few sample spreads. There’s also a section dedicated to ideas for further exploration with the deck beyond divination. All in all, while the majority of the book is dedicated to entries on each of the cards, I’ve tried to add some supporting material that isn’t just a rehash of “here’s how you read a card”.

I still have plenty of work ahead of me, though. I’m still writing the entries for each card as I complete the assemblage, but with over a dozen to go there’s typing to be done yet. And then we start the editing process, which is its own special set of challenges, and then laying the manuscript out so CreateSpace recognizes it as a book–oh, and did I mention I’m designing the cover, too?  And that’s also not including all the work that’s left with the deck itself–finishing the last assemblages, taking final photographs of all of them, cropping and image editing and layout, uploading to the printer and waiting for proofs…

…have I mentioned there’s a special flavor of workaholicism that prompts a person to undergo this sort of project?

I have no doubt the final (tear-and-blood-stained) product will be awesome. In the meantime? It’s going to be a busy winter…

An Excerpt From the Tarot of Bones Book


Note: This is an excerpt from the first draft of the Tarot of Bones companion book, which will be released with the deck in Summer 2016. Please note the edited version may be different. Thought you might like a preview of what’s to come!

Also, if you like my writing, you can read more for free at my blog. Or consider picking up one of my currently available books on nature spirituality!



Card Description: A female black-casqued hornbill skull nests in the walled-up hollow of a tree, her unhatched eggs her only companions. In her bill she holds a fig, passed to her through a tiny opening in her cell by her mate.

My Inspiration: In the creation of the Tarot of Bones, there were a few cards that practically created themselves. The Hermit is one of them. The figure of the Hermit is frequently portrayed as an older, bearded man, walking in solitude across a rocky landscape with only a lantern to guide him and a staff to steady him. There are plenty of solitary animals in nature, but the one that really stood out to me as an analogue to the Hermit was the hornbill.

There are several species of hornbill; the skull I chose for this card was that of a female black-casqued hornbill. Like other tree-nesting hornbills, the female black-casqued hornbill selects a hollow high in a tree. She then walls up the opening with the exception of one small hole through which her mate gives her food and water. She also molts all of her flight feathers at once, leaving her unable to fly even if she did leave the nest. And so she stays until the eggs hatch, her feathers regrow and the young are old enough to be left alone while she forages for food.

This speaks strongly to me of the Hermit’s path: deliberate isolation and ascetic living conditions, but for the purpose of gaining something greater. For the Hermit it’s wisdom; for the hornbill, it’s bringing forth the next generation. Both are valuable additions to the community each may return to. The Hermit has his lantern to keep him on the path; the hornbill has her tiny window. And while both may be separated from others for now, they each rely on something from the outer world. The Hermit’s lamp may have been a gift from another person; the hornbill lives on the figs and other fruit her mate brings to her periodically.

The Hermit is a card of meaningful isolation. So when this card comes up for me in a reading, it’s often telling me that I need to have some productive “me” time. Maybe I need to schedule a few days alone in the woods or at the coast to do some writing, meditating or self-care. Or it could be a great time for me to hide away in my art studio for a week and see what comes of it. The hornbill emerges from her time in the nest both with her new family members and a beautiful new array of feathers that will allow her to fly once again. And I come out of my alone time with amazing creations and a lighter heart.

When I get the Hermit reversed, it’s a sign to come back out of my isolation for a while. Otherwise I run the risk of curling in upon myself too tightly, losing contact with the world and people around me. I am naturally an introvert, but even I need my social time. So the reverse Hermit is generally a “Hey, come out of your shell!” message for me.

It can also signify an unwanted time of loneliness. Perhaps everyone close to me is busy, or maybe I’m too busy to go see them. In this instance I need to make an effort to reach out to others, even if it’s just through an email or phone call. I also may need to sit with my loneliness and learn to not let it get to me so much; the Hermit has plenty of patience, something that I’ve always struggled with.

Two of Wands, and Natural vs. Synthetic Materials


I just uploaded pictures of my newest assemblage piece–the Two of Wands! I’m quite proud of this piece; it’s one of the nicest paintings I’ve done. And the two gray wolf fibulae create an inviting archway into the sunrise-lit dawn. It’s a positive card, to be sure, full of the excitement of a new adventure or other endeavor. However, it’s also a reminder to make sure you’re fully prepared for the experience. Reversed it can be a warning you’ve forgotten something, or that you’re sabotaging your efforts to get going. Take a few moments to focus and check your list again, then set your feet confidently on the path.

I also made a post at my blog, A Sense of Natural Wonder, that may be of interest to Tarot of Bones fans. Plastics, Resins and Foams: On Trying to Be an Eco-Friendly Artist in an Era of Synthetics talks about the environmental reasons I have for using real bones and hides in my work rather than synthetic alternatives, which goes well beyond this project.

And, as always, the Tarot of Bones IndieGoGo is still live through May 19 – if you haven’t yet backed this campaign to help me defray the significant costs for the Tarot of Bones, now’s a great time. We’re 165% funded at $8265, but the more, the merrier 🙂

So Where Are We On The First Day of the Year?

Good morning, all! So I’ve officially unveiled the Tarot of Bones, and figured I’d give a quick status update so you know where the project is.

For the past couple of months I’ve been doing a lot of preparation work. This website was actually one of the last things I did; I’ve primarily been collecting supplies for the assemblage pieces, and brushing up on my tarot know-how as it’s been a number of years since I read it rather than my totem card deck.

I admit that I love shopping for art supplies, so having a project where I have the excuse to buy more just makes things all the better! The skulls (both real and replica) have been primarily bought new, as Goodwill generally doesn’t have a taxidermy section! However, I still have a lot of osteological specimens to buy, so I will likely end up with at least some secondhand pieces from private collections. In case you’re curious about the skulls in the picture, the big one is a javelina, the smaller mammal is a raccoon, and the bird is a black-casqued hornbill with a small amount of damage. The other two bird skulls are resin casts of raven and burrowing owl skulls. The smaller bones in bags are mostly opossum and coyote.

But what about that tray, and the bamboo mat rolled up to the side, and the plumb bob and roll of lace-adorned burlap? All of those stemmed from a recent trip to a Goodwill outlet here in Portland. I am an avid thrift shopper, and I’ve found everything from big bags of dried moss to deerskin leather there. Yard sales, antique shops, and the infamous Portland “free box” have also yielded good fodder in the past.

And I’m also a scavenger of natural materials, too. Look at all the dried leaves, ferns and other plants in the title graphic for this site–I collected all of those from around Portland. Most of them were fallen leaves on the sidewalk (also a great place to pick up sticks coats in moss and lichens after a storm.) I also got permission from homeowners to pluck a few fern fronds and other goodies from their gardens. And I pressed them all in a series of out-of-date old biology textbooks whose pages will also be making appearances in some of the assemblage pieces.

In addition to materials gathering I’ve also been researching the tarot. I used to read it several years ago, but eventually set my tarot cards aside to focus entirely on totem readings. I’ve been looking back through some books on the historical meanings of the cards. While each assemblage piece will be a combination of my own interpretation of the cards and the bones I use, I’m also inspired by the commonly-used archetypes of the tarot. So expect some of the old, some of the new, and all aimed at helping you discover your own interpretation of the cards themselves.

So yes, right now everything is in pieces–but they’re pieces that are coming together in my head. I am the sort of artist who lets things percolate in my brain for weeks or even months, and then lets it all out in one glorious creative frenzy. Because most of my time and effort are tied up in my other Big Project, Curious Gallery, an arts festival I’ve organized here in Portland for January 10-11, I’ll probably not be able to work on the first pieces until later in January. By the end of the month I’d like to have a few of the assemblages done, and if I’m going to have all 78 finished by the end of the year, I need to average 6-7 per month.

Wow–sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? I’m not worried, though. Keep in mind that I am a full-time self-employed artist and writer, and I routinely juggle several different projects and obligations at once. So you should expect to start seeing art manifest after January 11. In the meantime, I’ll keep you posted on materials acquisitions, ruminations on the symbols and archetypes I’ll be working with, and other pertinent news.

And thanks for going on this adventure with me!