The Cult of Weimar Tarot

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Joan Marie

The Cult of Weimar Tarot

Post by Joan Marie »

My name is Joan Marie and I am the creator behind the self-published Tarot deck Cult of Weimar Tarot

I started work on the deck in 2015 but my interest in the culture of 1920’s Berlin began long before that.

Like a lot of people, I was introduced to the era by the widely celebrated antics of one Miss Anita Berber. Anita’s legendary talents on the stage and screen as well as her talent for attracting scandal has made her, for many, the go-to symbol of the excesses and styles of Weimar Berlin in much the same way the fictional Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan (stand-ins for F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald) became the symbols of the lifestyle of 1920’s New York.

Anita Berber as The Fool, The Empress, Page of Swords & 2 of Swords

The more I learned about Berlin during the Weimar Republic, and I learned a lot, amassing a sizeable collection of books, magazines and other artefacts, visiting several museums all over Germany and of course online research, I started to develop a picture of an incredibly complex world where deprivations, shell shock, and political and economic upheaval gave birth to some of the most important artistic movements of the 20th century and nurtured the talents of some of the most diverse and controversial performers and writers and artists of every kind. Everything was political in Weimar Berlin. Just like the world today.

Cabaret Artist and Champion of the Working Class, Margo Lion
standing atop The World singing while in the background
barbed wire from the WWI trenches of Verdun France.
The trenches and barbed wire are still there today.
What you see here is from a photo I took myself

Artists then, as they are now, could not help but be influenced by the political and social climate and to react to it. There are so many parallels between then and now. Sexual (gender) politics, Race issues, Refugees and displaced people, War veterans in need, epidemics of drug use, technology advances, loss of faith in social institutions, the list goes on and on.

4 of Wands
Hungarian twins, The Dolly Sisters, were a very popular stage act in the 1920s.
This is not them.This card features the Norwegian twin brothers,
Leif and Paal Roschberg, who impersonated them as The Rocky Twins.
The background is from the set of the film, "Metropolis."

6 of Cups
Conrad Veidt (right) plays Paul Körner in the 1919 Richard Oswald film,
"Anders als die Andern," (Different from the Others).
It is considered to be the first film ever that portrays gay characters compassionately.

The Lovers
The lesbian population in Berlin in the 1920's was large enough
to support nearly 100 nightclubs and social clubs.
The two ladies are from the cover of the 1927 lesbian novel,
"Die Klugen Jungfrauen" (The Clever Virgins)
The background is an illustration of a Berlin nightclub, The Rio Rita.

3 of Cups
These three ladies were billed as the "Negro Revue"
at the Nelson Theater. As performers there, they were
part of one of the most important cabaret troops in all of Berlin.

And this became fascinating to me, the role of artists in modern society to help people survive, to help them understand what’s going on. (I’ve written a blog entry on my web page called, Finding the Spirit of a Time where I discuss this more)
This was, in short, the inspiration for The Cult of Weimar Tarot.

To create the deck I chose to use the method of collage which I did using a camera, a scanner and Photoshop.
In working out what kind of collage work, what kind of look I was after, I developed a style that although it is obviously a collage of disparate elements, somehow it almost looks natural like it could almost be a photograph.

Ace of Swords, Ace of Cups, 4 of Swords, 8 of Cups

I stayed true to my goal of using only images and objects from the period of 1918 to 1933 and from Germany. For the wands I used 3 antique Hatpins, for Coins a genuine 3 Mark coin from 1922. Backgrounds are made from actual newspapers and advertisements of the day or photographs of street scenes. And the characters are 100% Berliners, artists of the cabaret, film and occult (sometimes all three!)
(One slight exception is The Star card for which I used a star from a necklace that belonged to my mother, but she was born in the 20s and her father was German, so I think that was close enough)

The Star, The Moon & The Sun

I didn’t realize it at first, but keeping track of the elements of each card became important and it was a real hassle to go back and identify things. I worked out a naming convention for every element with the name of the card it was on, where I got it (Book and page # for example) and a word or two description. This became invaluable for me. I realized that people who owned the deck would be interested in who the people on the cards were and what the different objects were.
I put all this information together on my web page as a reference. So you can click on a card and get information about the elements on it. Here is a direct link to that.

I also attempted to make the images and the people not only fit the card visually but whenever possible, thematically as well.

The Hermit
Gustaf Nagel, (1874-1952) often called The Barefoot Prophet.
He lived for a time as an honest to goodness Hermit.
He became a preacher of sorts rejecting the artificiality
of modern life and encouraging people to return to the rhythms of nature.

The King of Cups
Sebastian Droste, most famous for being the
2nd of 3 husbands of Anita Berber.
He was a dancer, a poet, a designer, choreographer, writer, anything he needed to be.
He was also a creative genius.

The general motif is dark and the cards have a black edge because it was nightlife that ruled so I thought that fit.

I created the cards one-by-one in the order I was inspired. When I saw some image that made me think of a card, that was the card I worked on.
The cards follow, in their own unique way, the symbolic motifs of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. I decided on that because I like it. And because I didn’t want to re-invent Tarot. I’m not that clever. RWS gave me a kind of framework or parameter to work within and I liked that.

9 of Swords, 10 of Swords, 3 of Swords, 7 of Wands, 3 of Coins

I worked on the deck for a little over a year before I sent it off for printing. I really enjoyed the process, choosing images, scanning them, colorizing all those black and white photos, cutting them out and placing them into scenes. I was a little sad when I was finished and no longer had the project to work on.

But then I went to work on my web page to support the deck, which has proven to be a different kind of work, but very enjoyable and creative also.

I think The Cult of Weimar deck has a special relevance. I’m not sure if everyone sees that clearly or if there is just a sense when using it that these people, though from a far away time, were struggling through and enjoying life in conditions not so different from today.

We are all products of our times, though we never realize it because we are in the midst of it. People in the middle ages did not know they were living in the middle ages, or the Renaissance or the Depression or Post-war Europe. People were just living. And surviving. And loving and creating and dancing and singing and suffering. It’s only later when we look back we see the kind of character that was created by the circumstances. The we label it and file it away and think we understand it. But there was a time when it was all happening…when it was the present...


The Cult of Weimar Tarot deck is available directly from the artist and comes with a signed numbered certificate.
It is only available from the artist's website:

Last bumped by Anonymous on 13 Apr 2018, 06:07.

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