By Shawn MacKenzie
Which came first, Dragons or the Tarot?
Dragons, definitely. When I was barely knee-high to a Vilnius Windwalker, I fell in love with Dragons. I mean, what kid wouldn’t? I read about them and wrote about them; I wandered with them through the wilds of Dragon Country. (On a particularly stormy day I even met Tennessee Williams there.) I’ve even collected a few, though it is not always easy to find a good Dragon these days.
Working with the Tarot came later. I didn’t get my first deck until just after college—a classic Rider-Waite-Smith deck given to me for my 23rd birthday. That was forty-plus years ago, so you could say I’ve been living with both Dragons and the Tarot for a long time. With Tarot of Dragons I had the pleasure—and challenge—of being able to combine my knowledge and passion for both in one place.
How did the idea for a Dragon Tarot come about?
Tarot of Dragons was a gift from my publisher, Llewellyn Worldwide. Three years ago, almost to the day, my third book for them, Llewellyn’s Little Book of Dragons, was being presented at a sales conference. Barbara Moore, Tarot editor supreme, was there and liked what she saw. And she just happened to be looking for someone to do a Dragon deck; so, she asked my editor to reach out to me, see if I was interested.
Now, over the years, I’d often looked for a Dragon Tarot that spoke to me, only to be disappointed. The decks out there were, to my mind, pale or too human, with the Dragons often little more than props or decorative arm-candy. I never thought—nor had the resources—to create my own deck. To have the chance to fill the Dragon void. To create a full-fledged, intensely Dragon-centric Tarot. A deck that would merge the power and wisdom of Dragons with the mystical energy of the Tarot. On a note closer to home, Spring of 2019 was a particularly dark time for me and I desperately needed a new project. So, for reasons both personal and creative, Tarot of Dragons was an offer I couldn’t possibly refuse.
The joy of collaboration.
The one thing that gave me pause moving forward was the artwork. I could design the deck, conceptualize the cards, and write a book about them, but the actual art was lightyears beyond my capabilities. Seventy-eight cards in two-year’s time, not an easy ask. Fortunately, finding an artist was in Barbara’s hands (subject to the approval of myself and our art director), and she found the perfect person: Firat Solhan. Firat is a freelance artist from Turkey (bless the Internet!) who specializes in fantasy and sci-fi art.
For this solo Dragon Country traveler, it was both a little daunting and very exciting to be collaborating with someone. That Firat, for whom English isn’t his first language, was able to take my (very) rough sketches and often intricate descriptions and bring them to life–what a pleasure! He would send me sketches, then I would send back comments, adjustments, notes. He would then do the final card.
While Firat worked on the cards, I wrote the companion book, Wisdom from the Dragon Realms. A brief history of Tarot, interpretations for all the cards, some basics of Tarot reading, and Dragon-related layouts. Words—my comfort zone.
When all was done, one final check to be sure the cards synched with my text. Since Firat was working digitally, if there were any corrections to be made even at this point, they could be done without too much trouble. A far cry from the days of hand-painting. In the end, we had 78 exquisite cards. Just as I imagined them.
Not to mention a beautiful full-color book to go with them.
So, here we are, three years later with a launch just around the corner.
The Tarot of Dragons will hit bookstores in June and is currently available to preorder from Llewellyn, Amazon,Barnes & Noble, and bookstores and occult stores, large and small, everywhere.
Shawn MacKENZIE (Southern Vermont) is a life-long student of the strange and mysterious—myths, arts, religions, sciences, the occult—as well as all creatures, seen and unseen, real, cryptic, great, and small. In addition to Tarot of Dragons, she’s the author of The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook (OP), Dragons for Beginners, Llewellyn’s Little Book of Dragons, as well as numerous essays and fictions. Minnesotan by birth, she now lives in the shadow of the Green Mountains with nine cats, two rats, and an Amazon parrot. They are a constant inspiration. Working with the Tarot has been an integral part of her life for more than forty years.
13 responses to “Tarot of Dragons: A Mystical Adventure”
Thanks so much, Karen, for giving me a platform to talk about Tarot of Dragons. It’s one of those truly exciting projects and, now, just around the corner…I do hope others are as psyched as I am.
Oh, heck yeah, I’m psyched!
I’m psyched too!
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I’m so excited to learn the backstory of the Tarot of Dragons. I’ve got them on backorder and confess I have a lot to learn about both dragons AND Tarot!
You are going to love this, Elizabeth! Fun, informative, and beautifully rendered in words and art.
It was a hell of a project, for sure. So much credit to not only Firat but also the people at Llewellyn who came to me and then found Firat–brought us together.
What an amazing project and Shawn is the perfect person to take it on. The cards look gorgeous.
She is the PERFECT person for this, agreed. I can’t wait to hold it in my hand.
Thank you both for your confidence. ❤
I can’t wait to get this book in my hands. And I’m getting a copy for my 13-year-old grandson, too, who happens to LOVE dragons. We’ll learn Tarot together. GREAT post, Karen! Hugs to you, Shawn.