Death and Resurrection As Muse: Stirring Your Creativity in Times of Crisis with Tarot’s Forgotten Iconography, Symbolism and Storytelling Power
4 week online Morbid Anatomy course
Saturdays 6, 13, 20 and 27 March from 3 pm to 5 pm
PLEASE NOTE: All classes will also be recorded and archived for students who cannot make that time
Taught via Zoom by Morbid Anatomy Programing Director Laetitia Barbier
Why isn’t the Death card the last card of the tarot deck? Does the devil card announces damnation or celebrate irreverence? Is the Magician a creator, a shaman, a con-artist, or all of the above? The twenty two cards forming the Tarot’s major arcana have, for centuries served as a visual oracle, an iconic and adaptable muse to seekers, artists, occultists, film makers, pop-stars and high fashion, with influence stretching from the artworks of the Surrealists to TV’s Twin Peaks.
Together, the powerful images that make up the Tarot’s major arcana form a compendium of symbolic representations crystallizing the hopes and fears of the western world, a reservoir of images with roots stretching back to Neoplatonism, the Black Plague of medieval Europe, profane folklore, and fin de siècle occultism. Each card evokes and draws on powerful archetypes whose meanings have shifted over the centuries, adapting to new symbolic needs. Combined, they form an alchemical allegory of metamorphosis and reinvention, in which one learns how to vanquish pain, fear and death itself.
Tarot was born of the confluence of two very human impulses: playing games and finding meaning in randomness and chaos. In these times of quarantine, as our minds oscillate between lethal boredom and fear of the unexpected, let’s gather and playfully contemplate six centuries of historical cards, losing ourselves in their beauty, playing games and trying to understand, through the lens of art and historical context, why these images continue to fascinate and inspire us today. By examining this incredibly rich, eternally evolving repository of icons, we will learn to reignite our imagination, reinvent who we are, and stimulate the creator within us.
In this month-long class, we’ll examine each card of the major arcana one by one. Students will be introduced to a rich variety of cards dating from the 15th Century to the present. Together, we will unpack their history and symbolism, with an eye towards investigating the archetypal ideas that animate these powerful images. Students will be given weekly assignments in the form of parlor games and journaling prompts, as well as an access to a virtual library of books, texts and cards archive to inspire and guide their research. For the final project, each student will create their own revisioning of a card of the major arcana, or a new major arcana of their own creation. This could take the form of any work of art in any medium. Students will leave class with a completed artwork, and a deep, intimate knowledge of the Tarot’s major arcana to take with them in future readings and tarot investigations.
French-born Laetitia Barbier is an independent scholar, as well as professional tarot reader and teacher. She earned a Bachelor Degree in Art History from La Sorbonne University Paris in 2009. Laetitia has worked with Morbid Anatomy since 2011 as a programming director, Head Librarian and occasional curator. She is currently working on “Tarot and Divination cards, A Visual Archive”, a large illustrated book to be published by Abrams in Fall 2021. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Image: Lithograph of two allegorical figures: a skeleton holding a scythe and a ball of fire stands next to a female figure, circa 1880. Via Wellcome Images.