Hartnett opens up about road to his Evolutionary Tarot

5 August 2016

His Kickstarter failed but that didn’t stop Richard Hartnett from continuing his tarot project. He wants brainchild, the Evolutionary Journey Tarot deck, to be published anyway. And indeed, it seems as though this traditional, yet ‘revolutionary’, piece of art is going to see the light of day. You can jump on that moving train and be a part of it. An interview with its conductor.

One of the new cards in the deck: The Teacher. This is one of the more important additions to his tarot.

One of the new cards in the deck: The Teacher. This is one of the more important additions to his tarot.

What made you decide to make your own deck?
As I studied Jung’s work, I started to identify how each of the Major Arcana cards were archetypes. But as I looked at them closely I began to feel something was missing. So I started to look around at Oracle decks and other sources to see if I could find other archetypes to add into the classical tarot deck. Because I was reading professionally I had lots of opportunities to try out my new ideas. I first started working on this concept back in the mid nineties. I was very excited to discover the new cards I came up with *did* work and they added depth to my readings. My clients seemed to like them as well.

What inspires you in tarot art? Did that have any effect on your creation?
I struggle with most of the tarot art that I see. I am bothered by how much gets left off of the cards in the name of artistic license. I am a die-hard fan of Rachel Pollack’s 78 degrees of wisdom (I am on my fourth or fifth copy of that work). That book gives an in-depth interpretation of all the symbols on Pamela Colman Smith’s original artwork under the direction of Arthur Waite. So the Rider-Waite deck is my go-to source. I will say I like the B.O.T.A. imagery and some of Paul Foster Case’s illustrations. I am *not* a fan of Crowley’s deck.

With whom are you working on your own deck at the moment?
My number one artist is well known in the fantasy art-community. His name is Dan Frazier. He and I have been good friends for over 25 years. If you are familiar with Magic the Gathering you know his work. I have three other artists that I am working with.

From the looks of it, the art and contents are very fateful to the Waite-Smith. In what way does it differ from any other tarot deck and in what way is it the same?
Instead of attempting to replace the Waite-Smith you will find that to a significant degree I am faithful to its symbolic imagery. I like to think that I am expanding it with some new ideas. My deck differs because I have worked very hard to align the cards with numerology. That means some cards have different numbers and don’t follow the same sequence as the traditional deck. I am not the first person to move cards around: Justice and Strength had their locations swapped in the past.

19 Dark Angel Interview Richard Hartnett's Evolutionary Journey Tarot

06 Healer Interview Richard Hartnett's Evolutionary Journey Tarot

01 Magician Interview Richard Hartnett's Evolutionary Journey Tarot

The title evolutionary points out the fact you think there has been an evolution in tarot which qualifies for the extra cards and changes in the deck. Could you be more specific?

Yes, that is true but it implies more than that. Sallie Nichols wrote about the Fool’s journey through the Major Arcana as a spiritual journey. I think it is that and more…. I believe each step is a necessary step on a journey in which we evolve. When one arrives at the Sun card, it is a moment of enlightenment. A moment in which one’s consciousness has expanded and as a result you have personally evolved. Each time we take this journey we expand our awareness and evolve.

Which cards did you add and why?
I started out with The Teacher card, The Healer card, the Soul card and (jokers) Humor card. I had a very powerful spiritual teacher as a young man and in so many ways he lit my inner flame and woke me up to a deeper level of reality. He taught me how to think, not what to think. So, I knew that was important. Healer was obvious. So much of what we do is about getting our wounds healed. The Soul card gives us a foundation to stand on when we are trying to change our ego. Humor will get you through hard times and difficult challenges. There is more, but it’s too extensive to cover all of it in one interview.

A sketch for The High Priestess.

A sketch for The High Priestess.

What, in your opinion, does your deck add to the ever growing pile of new releases?
Honestly, most of the new releases appear to be just artistic variations of the classic deck. At the risk of sounding self-promoting, I think my deck is really different because it’s not an oracle deck that is a completely new system or a deck with cards added at the end. My deck is more than just new cards. It’s a complete system that is highly structured and highly thought out. It’s too much to go into here, but an example is the fact that my Major Arcana is organized into three rows. Each row has a theme, but each column (nine total) as well. And I’ll look at the Minors by numbers instead of by suit. My book on the Minor Arcana [there will be a part 1 and 2, ed TQS] will feature all the Aces grouped together, all the two’s grouped together etc etc. That will be a different way of looking at the Minor Arcana as well, wouldn’t it?

My deck is more than just new cards. It’s a complete system that is highly structured and highly thought out.

If I just like the art of the deck because I am looking for something close to traditional, could I take out the extra’s?
Of course you could. I have honored *all* of the traditional Major Arcana cards and their use could be just like with any other deck. Their numbers might be different, but most people don’t pay any attention to the number of the card while reading. But I would suggest you give my deck a try. If, maybe in a year or so, you still feel that way then drop the additional cards.

Which is your favorite card and why?
My favorite card is the Teacher card. There is a great deal going on with that card, if one is willing to take you past the superficial reading to the deeper issues that are at play. How do we move a client off of the trite question, such as ‘is he going to leave his wife to be with me?’ to the deeper problem of what’s going on in her life, that what put her in such a powerless situation? Seeing the deeper truth can help the client to regain a sense of control in their life. The Teacher card is all about identifying the deeper truth.

14 Wheel of Time 07232016 FINAL
11 Joker'sHumor07012016 FINAL
12 Love 07232016 FINAL

I understand, but I work exactly like that with an existing deck. I would get The Hierophant in this case, so what can the Teacher give me extra?
In my deck system the final three cards in the first row are: The Hermit, the Hierophant and The Teacher. The process of investigation into life’s lessons begins with The Hermit, The Hierophant represents conventional wisdom or understanding, but some information is withheld. The Teacher represents the integration of both the Hierophant and the Hermit into a new state of consciousness. Here you’ll learn how to think rather than what to think, to access one’s soul. He teaches us how to bypass ‘your’ Hierophant to find our own *unique* connection with that source. That’s the personal power or empowerment for me.

A sketch of the Death card for the Evolutionary Journey Tarot. Courtesy of Richard Hartnett & designer Dan Frazier.

A sketch of the Death card for the Evolutionary Journey Tarot. Courtesy of Richard Hartnett & designer Dan Frazier.

Do you expect some negative feedback from tarot readers because of the changes you made?
Yes, absolutely I expect negative feedback. It would be easier to call this an oracle deck and completely reinvent the whole thing. But I guess I would rather shake things up. I have said this many times before and I am sure I will be saying it again and again: This is not meant to replace Rider-Waite. I use classic Rider-Waite all the time. This is meant to offer an expanded alternative. If part of what I say or do with this deck doesn’t work for you then it’s not your tool. I have to say, I buy new decks all the time and just as often people give me decks. Most of the time I end up selling them or giving them away because they just don’t work for me.

So, on to the question everyone wants to know: when do you expect to publish?
My hope is to have a complete deck and a companion book on the Major Arcana by the end of the year. If we do not complete the Minors in time I will release a partial deck of just the Major Arcana (A Majors Only deck, ed TQS) together with an ebook and paperback called The Evolutionary Tarot that explains the changes to the Major Arcana first. Anyone who buys the Major Arcana deck will get a reduced price on the second part (the partial Minor arcana deck) so it will end up costing them less if they are willing to support this project by buying partials instead of waiting for the whole deck.


mini RH headRichard Hartnett; minister, counselor, published author and professional reader. He began his spiritual quest in the early seventies, is inspired by Jung and his archetypes and has taught many a student how to read tarot cards: Next step: seeing his own tarot deck come to fruition.

NB. UPDATE APRIL 2017: Hartnett is self-publishing the companion book and deck. To know more about it, follow him on Facebook: Quantum Spirituality. As suspected, Hartnett managed to publish the deck and it has been released quite recently. To order it you can mail him at Quantumspirit(at)ecentral.com