A very interesting idea was brought to my notice a few days ago – Tarot card images on Helmets! While exploring the whole thing a bit more, I had a chance to communicate with and have a nice telephone chat with Danielle Baskin, the wonderfully vibrant person who is the brains behind this concept.
Here are some excerpts from the conversation we had (both e-mail and telephone):
[Any errors in the transcription are purely mine.]
Danielle, tell me, how did you get this whole idea?
I [had] never touched a tarot deck until about two years ago when I was sort of ‘conned’ into getting a reading on the street. I was completely skeptical about the whole thing but [since I was] feeling sorta ‘off-track’ in life so [I said] “Okay, why not?”.
What really surprised me was the powerful sense of agency I felt immediately after leaving. It’s like all these hypothetical ideas [that] you didn’t know ever existed started to emerge simply from attempting to construct a story using these enigmatic images as a template. I accepted the idea that the Tarot cards [are purely images] – and didn’t reject it as a form of advice or therapy. The images trigger so much buried information! It’s [the process of] constructing the story that helps clear [the mind] and create patterns of thinking.
What was it about the cards – especially the images on the cards – that really struck you?
When I bought a deck and tried to figure out the different meanings of the cards, I started writing down my immediate reactions to the way Pamela Colman Smith placed the symbols.
I’ve always been fascinated on how different modes of thinking trigger eye movements – and how visual perception relates to storytelling.
- Upper Left – What you’re imagining in your future
- Upper Right – What events have actually happened (Unseeable)
- Bottom Left – Potential area of mental space – not yet broken into
- Bottom Right. What factors are affecting/controlling you
Of course, reversing the images changed the meanings dramatically. For example, in The Magician [card], when the card is reversed, the hand pointing at the plants is more noticeable. This could mean quite literally feeling like a situation is out of your hands and you can’t grasp your resources, you’re blaming something else for your situation. The infinity sign [seems] less important when reversed. His face frowns more. He points at nature. When [upright] The Magician is aware of all his resources and the natural world. He appears to be altering nature, to make it more beautiful using cleverness and manipulation.
[The amazing part is] that the cards were not painted in reverse. I’m not sure [that] Pamela Coleman Smith [thought about the fact] that the images would be flipped while she was painting them intuitively – but I still like the idea of the card possessing dual meanings, but a reversed card might be a stretch of a confabulation.
So what gave you the idea of painting these image on helmets, of all the things?
Well, the idea just came to me suddenly one day. The idea of having an entire deck of Tarot cards cycling around on the streets seemed to really jump out at me. There is a lot of motion involved with the Tarot cards. The images of the cards make you want to take action! I most certainly wanted to, and did!
The idea of seeing connections and attributing causality to chance circumstances is really fascinating to me. – while on a surface level the helmets are ‘protecting people from accidents’, they might [also] be regularly reappearing into people’s lives. It would be fascinating if people run into certain Tarot helmets on their daily commute and if there’s some sort of pattern of thinking (or mental state) that correlates to the times they do see that image – like “Whoa! I’ve seen that before! This is connected to this which is connected to this.”
I think temporarily disengaging from your environment is really important to help crystallize memories and sort of ‘think about yourself thinking’. Noticing symbols are important – because they help you learn about how you think. Not that symbols or omens are more powerful than you – but the idea that you’re noticing them could be more relevant than the symbol itself. It helps you pay attention to your own personal thought patterns and open up spaces for possibilities.
I also like the idea that each card-wearer will be connected to an entire deck. Realizing that he is a part of a whole. And that the whole is always in motion and impossible to capture.
All this sounds pretty interesting if you ask me!
Yes, it is! Especially since the wearer of the helmet always has the card stationary – there would be different ways to think about the card. [And as] the helmet is hemispherical like a brain, I got the idea of purposefully mapping out the images in accordance to the right-brain/left-brain.
Though highly debatable in neuroscience, the dualities that represent your conscious/public behavior (left) and your potential and unconscious thoughts (right) are understandable. The brain doesn’t necessarily work that way – but the two concepts or mental-modes are simple to grasp. I thought about this for a bit while mapping the images.
For example, the character in Justice is on the left side of the helmet hence its a card about public persona and and image you’re portraying. It’s less of a ‘personal’ image. I painted the High Priestess split in the middle in the back because its both subconscious and conscious. I think that card is about information and knowledge. How one can become burdened by excessive knowledge to the point where it blocks thinking. It is really symbol-rich and relates to vision (the occipital lobe).
What are your thoughts about looking at all these images in motion?
As I said before, the wearer of the helmet has the image stationary on his head, while he is moving around. Meanwhile other people may see the image either coming towards them, or moving away from them.
For example, with the High Priestess, if the image is coming towards you it means you have too much information clouding your thinking. You can’t see her from the front of the helmet. If [the image is] moving away from you it means you’re just scratching the surface of the learning experience. You need to examine things more closely. In the High Priestess image, you can see words and letters like ‘TORA’ but its physically moving away so you need to catch up.
What about the colors of the cards? Did they play any role in this process?
Oh, yes! The color choices are also really important.
For example, placing gray around only half of the Hermit (disappearing into a vanishing point) is another intentional choice.
I am planning to make a little informational booklet about each card and give it away with every helmet so that the people who buy the helmets can understand the fantastic symbolism of the images that they have chosen.
Did you get inspired by any particular card when this idea came into your mind? If so, which card was it?
Oh yes! It was The Magician card. He has all these resources on his table which he is using. And the infinity sign on top of his head – its like there are an infinite number of possibilities with the things you have in front of you.
Wow! The Magician is the card that does always talk about creative inspiration and creation. In fact, many creative people often use the image to help them find focus and bursts of creativity within their lives and work. I know I always pull out this card and look at it and carry it around with me, whenever I feel myself losing focus.
That is very interesting. But, funnily enough, it wasn’t The Magician which was my first helmet painting.
Then, which was the first card you painted on a helmet?
It was actually The Wheel of Fortune card. And I had some pretty interesting experiences with that image, let me tell you.
Really? Like what?
When I first started my company I created a Wheel of Fortune card for this psychic I met at a craft fair. I made it for free so I could meet with her to discuss tarot cards. Once I created it I kept getting tons of orders. When I went to meet her to give it to her my wallet was stolen from me on the subway. I actually lost some money when I was giving away the lucky helmet. Who knows what to attribute this to?
Oh yeah! I have had that experience with The Wheel! It is a crazy merry-go-round alright!
Tell me about it!
Danielle and I chatted for a few more minutes after that exchanging our experiences with the cards.
Personally, I found this whole concept quite fascinating – imagine you are going to work and then you spot a helmet with the picture of The Magician card, and then you go to work feeling great and experiencing a burst of creative energy within you! Or seeing the picture of The Hermit card while you go back home from school, and finding that peaceful, solitary place to sit down and grasp some complicated lessons you learnt at school…
The possibilities of the sightings of these symbols is endless – and will only add to the powerful symbolism that surrounds us in our lives everyday! In fact, something like this makes us sit up and take notice of these symbols – which otherwise just go away unnoticed because we just didn’t look.
When I do get me one of these helmets, I plan on getting one with The Fool card .. We have quite an interesting bond, The Fool and I..
Which one will you get?