This new Tarot deck can help you navigate the 21st-century’s New Normal / by Karen Frances Eng

Futures design studio Superflux has revisioned the medieval Tarot’s major arcana archetypes to prompt new narratives for today’s challenges.

The origins of Tarot cards are still somewhat shrouded in mystery. It’s generally believed that they evolved in medieval Europe as a form of entertainment, and came to be used as an occult divination tool. But can the ancient archetypes of Tarot be harnessed to reimagine the world we’re in now? London-based futures design studio Superflux has created a Tarot deck based on the traditional archetypes of the major arcana — but with a 21st-century twist. TED Fellow and Superflux cofounder Anab Jain takes us through a few of her favorite Instant Archetypes — which has already almost sold out its print run—and tells us why we need an analog tool to think about the digital age.

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Why do we need a Tarot deck for the “new normal” of the 21st century?

Instant Archetypes is a deck for anyone looking to navigate the complexities of today and tomorrow’s tech-saturated reality. It’s based on the traditional Tarot’s 22 figures in the major arcana, but reimagined for the 21st century. The Lovers become The Designer, the Chariot with the Drone, the King with the State and so on.

Who’s this deck made for, and how would someone go about using it?

We designed the deck to be used by anybody interested in understanding what the heck is going on in our world today, where everything about what we thought to be truth and reality is being challenged. It’s a great tool for designers, technologists and researchers, as well as artists and students — basically anyone who’s juggling a problem or question. As a business tool, it can be used while working with a client to jog new ways of thinking about things.

At the simplest level, Tarot works just by pulling out cards, looking at them and rethinking problems or questions through the lens of the symbols and narratives they offer. There are lots of methods of pulling, placing and reading cards — you can do a reading with just a single card, or three, or eight. We offer ideas for how to do readings in an instructional foldout that comes with the deck.

  The Hacker (reinterpreted from the Magician)  “I like this card not just for its striking illustration but for the archetype it represents and its layered meaning. Today, it feels like the Hacker has their finger on the pulse of the world—manipulating, communicating, connecting, translating. The Hacker whispers in the languages of meat and machines—twisting logic like pretzels. But the Hacker’s face is a mask, mediated by the magic of a native network: their identity (and motive) is always obscure, and their alignment might change at any moment. The Hacker is a powerful if capricious ally, but a fearsome enemy. How long will your agenda overlap with theirs?”

The Hacker (reinterpreted from the Magician) “I like this card not just for its striking illustration but for the archetype it represents and its layered meaning. Today, it feels like the Hacker has their finger on the pulse of the world—manipulating, communicating, connecting, translating. The Hacker whispers in the languages of meat and machines—twisting logic like pretzels. But the Hacker’s face is a mask, mediated by the magic of a native network: their identity (and motive) is always obscure, and their alignment might change at any moment. The Hacker is a powerful if capricious ally, but a fearsome enemy. How long will your agenda overlap with theirs?”

What drove Superflux to devise this deck?

As a futures design studio, we work with organisations to prototype different possible futures, to make better decisions today. We felt a Tarot deck could be one helpful tool among numerous methods and toolkits we use. Also, quite often our projects are based on a specific brief: we create big, experiential installations, such as Mitigation of Shock, an installation envisioning what it might be like to live in London in 2025, while the world is in the throes of climate change. (Read “An unsettling peek into the reality of life in 2050” in the TED Ideas blog.) In contrast to projects like this, we wanted to see if we could create something smaller, more tangible and accessible to bigger audiences.

  The State (reinterpreted from The Emperor)  “The State — sometimes known to its enemies as The Patriarchy — is hierarchy, control, regulation, stability, order, discipline. The State is  an organization , but it is also  the urge to organize , usually from the top downwards—the State establishes and protects order. But to maintain order is to do battle with entropy, that deathless and infinite enemy — and order often requires the suppression or sacrifice of difference and novelty.”

The State (reinterpreted from The Emperor) “The State — sometimes known to its enemies as The Patriarchy — is hierarchy, control, regulation, stability, order, discipline. The State is an organization, but it is also the urge to organize, usually from the top downwards—the State establishes and protects order. But to maintain order is to do battle with entropy, that deathless and infinite enemy — and order often requires the suppression or sacrifice of difference and novelty.”

Did you closely follow the traditional meanings of the major arcana as a jumping-off point?

We started off following the traditional meanings closely, then we became very interested in understanding how those archetypes could be reinterpreted and took off in other directions. It ended up being very much about the current capitalist, technological society that we live in, representing our current world.

Were there any particular decks that inspired you?

We steered clear of looking at too many Tarot decks, as there are so many! Instead, we always had a couple of really traditional, old-school decks with us — such as the Rider-Waite — that we would refer to occasionally. Having said that, we also wanted to avoid being too closely associated with a traditional deck so that our deck could be accessible to people who have no idea what Tarot is. Everyone should feel like there’s something for them.

  The Whistleblower (reinterpreted from The Hermit)  The Whistleblower understands that knowledge is the domain of power because they pay the price of Prometheus for redistributing the former against the wishes of the latter. They are forced out to the edges, where they might better be hunted down or run to ground. The Whistleblower is an enemy to their native State, and so may find their enemy’s enemies to be friends, if only temporarily. But are the secrets they tell the truth, whole and nothing but? For The Whistleblower soon learns that a secret loses its value when shared.”

The Whistleblower (reinterpreted from The Hermit) The Whistleblower understands that knowledge is the domain of power because they pay the price of Prometheus for redistributing the former against the wishes of the latter. They are forced out to the edges, where they might better be hunted down or run to ground. The Whistleblower is an enemy to their native State, and so may find their enemy’s enemies to be friends, if only temporarily. But are the secrets they tell the truth, whole and nothing but? For The Whistleblower soon learns that a secret loses its value when shared.”

People have weird feelings about Tarot cards, magic and so on. What attitude does the deck take to such things?

I myself have weird feelings! I think the thing to bear in mind is that Tarot is not actually about predicting the future, but about the opening of possibility. So you can’t ask, “Will I be successful in this project?” and get a yes or no answer from a reading. Tarot is also not instructive, saying “Do this, then this.” It’s never as straightforward as that.

Regardless of how one feels about occult magic, it’s useful to view divination traditions such as tarot and the Chinese I Ching as tools for considering problems from new perspectives. It’s open and allows for imagination, interpretation — all those things that we think are necessary for people to think about the future, to remain open to otherwise unimagined possibilities.

  The Designer (reinterpreted from The Lover)  “For obvious reasons, I like The Designer. The Designer is a problem-solver, an aesthetician, a craftsperson. But The Designer is also an engineer of choice: through their work, they shape the ways in which any thing might be used, constructing the interactional options through which we navigate. And — importantly — The Designer has to make choices to provide choices. The Designer is always a solution wrapped up in a dilemma…except when they’re a dilemma wrapped up in a solution. Which would you choose?”

The Designer (reinterpreted from The Lover) “For obvious reasons, I like The Designer. The Designer is a problem-solver, an aesthetician, a craftsperson. But The Designer is also an engineer of choice: through their work, they shape the ways in which any thing might be used, constructing the interactional options through which we navigate. And — importantly — The Designer has to make choices to provide choices. The Designer is always a solution wrapped up in a dilemma…except when they’re a dilemma wrapped up in a solution. Which would you choose?”

Source: https://fellowsblog.ted.com/this-new-tarot...