It’s an open secret that I love the Granny Jones Australian Tarot above all others. I got to thinking earlier this evening about why that was so, and there are some things I can talk about. I love the naive artistic style, which conceals great depth in great simplicity. I like the way Rebecca Jones, the Granny of the deck, has deliberately used her pastels in a childlike way, as if she were using crayons. It gives the work an accessibility that a more sophisticated style wouldn’t, allowing us to access our inner children without guilt.
I love what emerges about her character with exposure to this deck: her gentleness, her kindness and her optimism. I relish her visible, glowing love of her family, the community she lived in (Richmond, Tasmania – the bridge and the church reappear in various cards) and her tenderness towards her animals.
I love how she demonstrates what I’ve been trying to explain for decades, that profound spiritual experiences are to be found in simple household tasks – in her case, while hanging up laundry outside to dry, or grooming cats, or pouring a cup of tea.
I love the fact that the threatening presence in the Devil, a giant spider, seems to be as terrified as his victim. It’s one of the images that make me chuckle warmly when I see it, despite its wholly serious message, and without taking away from that message.
I love how Granny Jones travels seemingly randomly through around fifty cards of both the Major and Minor Arcana, in important and less important roles, and I love how some crucially important figures are obviously portraits of good friends instead of self-portraits ( for example, the Empress, the Queen Cups, the Queen Buttons), family members (the Emperor and the male in the Lovers, the Queen Wands and the Queen Swords, and sundry babies and small children scattered through the deck), whilst other figures are clearly imagined people rather than actual living people she knew.
I love her “shorthand”: a few of examples being winged light globes and banknotes for incoming money and ideas, the Three Flying Birds for the blessings of the Triple Goddess, three snow-capped mountains in the background for distant hardships, bicycles for movement and so on. I love her renaming “Pentacles” as Buttons: not all Earth-based people are rich enough to own great discs of solid gold, but all of us, rich and poor, have buttons in constant use.
And I love the two mistakes in the deck: in the Five Cups and the Four Cups, she forgot to erase her pencil guide-lines in places before the printing process (she obviously drew the outlines of the deck in pencil first to get them right before applying the delicate thin black ink-line).
I love Judgement, though I think she was totally lost in space when she designed Justice. And I love-love-love-love-love Temperance! Temperance is the card in which she most directly emerges from the card and meets us on our own territory, making real eye-contact, and really listening to us when we need it the most. Oh, and despite the fact that my mother is alive, Temperance in this deck is the only real Motherly figure I’ve had in my life in many, many years if ever, and I love her for that.
What I don’t love: Justice. And the fact that Granny was not a writer, and the accompanying book is an anagram of carp. I would have loved her to explain things like the symbolism of the three flying birds so that other people than me would notice them (no one ever does until I mention it, sadly). I would also have adored it if she had explained who the Empress, the Queen Cups and the Queen Wands actually were in her life – I’m certain that the Queen Wands is either a daughter or a daughter-in-law, but I’d love to have heard her say that. The other two I just named were Granny’s own generation, and I’d have loved to know how long she’d known them, if they were still in her life or only memories, if they were related or not … all that sort of thing.
I love that when ever I read Tarot and quite often when I’m holding Tarot-based conversations over the internet, she is quietly with me, and fairly frequently chuckles at me in her unique kindly way. I only wish I could have met her in the flesh.
Oh, have I ever mentioned she turned me from a lifelong coffee-drinker to a frequent-daily tea-drinker and only occasional social coffee drinker?
Took someone special to do that.