While scrolling through my Instagram feed two years ago, a wily, blue-black cosmic raccoon crossed my path.
The artist captured the essence of the raccoon perfectly; face turned, its cover blown during its nightly escapades… This raccoon seemed to be slightly scolding me for observing it.
“Oooo!” I immediately thought and quickly double-tapped my appreciation for it.
Raccoons have a special place in my heart. Their oh-so-human-ish-ness with their opposable thumbs is fun to watch. Their ability to adapt and thrive in urban environments despite habitat encroachment and loss is impressive and inspiring. And I really loved reading Ranger Rick magazine as a kid.
After liking the midnight bandit, I read through the description and saw that the artist, Tanya Casteel, was on her ninth watercolor animal painting out of 100. I thought to myself, “What! She’s painting 100 of these animals!? I’ve gotta see what other ones she’s done!”
I quickly pulled up her profile and scanned her other (totally stunning) pieces. It suddenly dawned on me that I had just found the perfect artist to collaborate with on a longtime vision…
Almost four years earlier, my wife Lola and I had a profound spiritual awakening. For weeks we received streams of inspiration about projects, ideas, phrases, perspectives, etc. One download was to pursue Lola’s gift for reading and interpreting animal energies in people. She sensed the spirit of Tiger in me, something I initially resisted—I was unable and unwilling to fully acknowledge my own, tiger-like potency. (Eventually, I embraced it so fully that I legally changed my name to Tigre.)
As Lola began offering animal energy readings coupled with drawings we co-created, we thought it would be awesome, someday, to create a complete tarot deck of animals. But, we had a lot on our plates already so we wanted to collaborate with another artist. So, we put it out to the universe to send us a sign when the time was right to connect with that person.
That sign arrived on March 1, 2017 in the form of that sneaky mapache (Spanish for raccoon) we opened this story with.
I was so excited about Tanya’s art that I immediately sent her a message asking if she was available to collaborate on some animal art projects.
Tanya replied that evening with, “Yes, and I’m actually painting these animals to raise funds to travel to Perú with you this fall!”
Universe, you have spoken. Thank you!
It turned out that the very art that I was drawn to was being created specifically to earn money to join Lola and I (of all people!) on our healing retreat to the Peruvian Amazon rainforest!
The synchronicity still leaves me in awe.
Over the next two years, Lola, Tanya and I began to create the Wild Messengers Alchemical Tarot.
Lola thoughtfully aligned 78 animals with the traditional tarot structure of Major and Minor Arcanas. Tanya masterfully produced the artwork and sent the animals our way.
We strongly felt that the caliber of Tanya’s artwork deserved more than a tiny booklet. We wanted to create a unique, fresh tarot experience incorporating the animals’ messages to communicate to the reader what they needed to hear. We envisioned people deeply connecting with the wild world around them, seeing themselves as part of it, and coming away with tools and perspectives to help them live with more empowerment and aliveness.
That meant lots of writing for our author Lola… writing that honored the traditional tarot while also updating it to be more inclusive, non-binary, and modernized.
By the summer of 2018, we were ready to start production on our deck and book.
As Lola began writing, I started on the deck layout using Tanya’s cosmic animal art. I am trained as a graphic designer, but I’ve never produced a deck. I poured hours of research into self-produced decks, asking many questions.
While laying out the individual animal art for the fronts, I turned my attention to the card backs. I experimented with a few different back designs, and finally ordered three prototypes to see how they looked and felt in hand.
For the back design, I illustrated and designed a seamless pattern of entwining snakes which were chosen for a variety of reasons:
Snakes are amazing creatures. Limbless, they are sometimes lightning fast, incredibly powerful, elegant, sleek, and deeply rooted in our human psyches. For thousands of years around the world, the snake has played both mythical foe and sacred hero.
After reading Jeremy Narby’s The Cosmic Serpent—and having experienced Ayahuasca first-hand many times—I wanted to imbue the cards with Snake’s positive, creative and life affirming energies.
After receiving and evaluating our three prototypes, it was immediately apparent that we had to choose the embossed UV snakeskin texture—which is now featured on our final deck design.
Now, as you shuffle and hold these cards, you can feel the supple ridges of the snakeskin texture on the backs and tap into that cosmic energy as it weaves through everything in an infinite helix!
With a flurry of prep and activity, we launched our Wild Messengers Alchemical Tarot Kickstarter on October 11th. It was time to see if other people were as excited about our creation as we were!
Within just four days we reached our initial funding goal! Thankfully, more and more backers joined—428 to be exact, thank you!—and we reached our final stretch goal that allowed us to enhance the book with color printing, holographic debossing, and a sweet bookmark ribbon.
As anyone who runs a Kickstarter knows, the moment the campaign ends is when the real work begins.
Lola worked feverishly on finishing the book content for our editor to review. Tanya cranked out our two Wild Card paintings, more watercolor animals, and artful additions for the book. I perfected the card art, layout, communicated with printers, and wrangled the book format into shape… All while running our other businesses and caring for our wee ones. It was a crazy time!
Now, two years after our first online encounter, our small and mighty team printed the decks! The book is currently in pre-press getting its final quality-control inspections before hitting the presses. Hopefully, barring any hiccups, decks and books should be shipping no later than mid-April 2019.
We cannot wait to see the final results of many hours of laborious love and inspiration. We hope that you are inspired to order your own deck and guidebook and see what wild messages these beautiful animals have for you.