Interview with Joaly Nicole, a partner in creating the Superlunaris Tarot
Recently, Indie Tarot interviewed Jess Schuler and Jacob Schaffer, the creators of the Superlunaris Tarot and soon to launch on Kickstarter, the Superlunormand deck. During the interview, Jess and Jacob shared that an important part of creating an inclusive tarot deck was to consult with members of the communities that were being represented through the artwork. One of the people that they partnered with is Joaly Nicole of Queen Machete Tarot.
Indie Tarot reached out to Joaly for her perspective on the collaboration with Jess and Jacob in creating the Superlunaris Tarot, as well as the companion guidebook that is due to be printed towards the end of this year.
Joaly, it's great to spend some time with you to get your perspective on the Superlunaris Tarot. I suppose the first question that comes to mind is, what drew you to this project in the first place?
Jess contacted me initially. I was not aware of the deck before she reached out. Once I took a look at the cards that were presented to me for review, I instantly fell in love. I was left breathless because it was the first time I felt truly represented in a tarot deck. I have been studying tarot since 2008, and one of the things that really left me feeling disconnected was the lack of representation. When I looked at the Superlunaris, I saw myself and people like me depicted in a way I have never seen in my life. I am aware of other afro-centric decks, but I had never seen a truly multicultural deck done right. The cards spoke to me, so I enthusiastically gave my feedback, and I am sure Jess and Jacob felt my passion.
Was there a particular card from the Superlunaris deck that resonated with you?
I was especially drawn to the 4 of Pentacles. That card made me really emotional. I could not have imagined something like that being in the public domain alongside so many other different types of people. It did not feel forced, it felt authentic.
It sounds like there was an immediate connection for you to the cards in the deck. You are now currently working with Jess and Jacob on a companion guidebook. What has that process been like, particularly looking through the lense of diversity?
Though I have studied tarot for over a decade, I had never written a guidebook and it definitely had to come from a new place within me. It is one thing to comment on a card or two, but to tell a coherent story of both arcanas was a huge undertaking. I was intent on ensuring that the diversity in the deck wasn’t a gimmick and that it came from an authentic place.
As I began writing, there were many conversations in my circles about gender inclusive language. Initially, I did not know how to incorporate gender inclusive language because in my personal practice I definitely use gendered terms to describe the archetypes and the cards. With that being said, I took on the court cards initially, because I figured, if I could describe the court without using gendered terms, I could take on the rest of the deck. It definitely affected how I write, and I had to work on it so I could get the flow and not have it read like a series of bullet points. But, once I got in the groove, I was able to reach into the archetype itself and tap into what is universal and allow the images to speak for themselves.
This was definitely one of the hardest parts of the project, because I wanted to stay true to who I am as well as do justice to the entirety of the deck. It wasn't just a series of pictures of diverse individuals and circumstances, it was also a tarot deck and it had to function as one especially in how I presented the archetypes and the cards. I took special care to make sure the diversity was embedded in the words and not a talking point.
I notice in these kinds of processes, that people experience an expansion of who they are. It’s not either be performatively inclusive OR be true to myself... It’s an act of becoming more spacious, more inclusive. Does that resonate for you too?
It actually does. I am working on another tarot related writing project with a partner and I realize that I rely less on gender when describing the archetypes because for the Superlunaris I didn't use any. The way I see it, archetypes are living things, the explanations expand and evolve in the same way we do as a society. I am so honoured to lend my voice to the collective understanding. It doesn't always have to stay the same over time, it can include modern day experiences and understanding. I have definitely grown from this process and it has helped me better communicate with my own clientele in my private practice as they are representative of the entirety of the gender spectrum. At the end of the day, tarot is a universal story and it is the application that is personal. I am most definitely a better reader now, and possess more depth in my comprehension as a whole.
After the journey that you have been on with the Superlunaris deck and guidebook, what advice do you have for other creators concerned about diversity and representation in the creation of their decks?
In order to be diverse and inclusive, you have to be diverse and inclusive. Work with people of different ethnicities. Make sure you include different voices. Understand that true inclusion and diversity is not always harmonious.
I believe if you do not include different types of people, it can be appropriative. And that is just real talk. Sure you could come out with a visually diverse deck but if you do not include the voices of the people you are depicting you are quite literally profiting off diversity as a marketing point and it can be very harmful. For example, if you are not a person of color you may not know how to describe us. The last thing we want is to be compared to chocolate or a cappuccino and it seems as if white people are unaware of that when they write about us. That would completely kill a deck for me.
Also, having multiple eyes allows you to respectfully depict people. Because if you are not a member of that culture there is no way to really know.
It is also important to understand that there are inherent risks and you will not be able to please everyone. It's just not possible. But you can always be respectful, offer revisions, explanations and host conversations that allow people to be appropriately represented and heard.
I really resonate with this point of who actually gets to tell their own story in their own words as well as who profits from the story. It’s so important to actually listen and collaborate with others to better represent a variety of experiences.
This idea of collaboration makes me curious about how you experienced the collaboration with Jess and Jacob.
Honestly, much of this was intuitive. There wasn’t a lot of time that any of us had to talk and meet up, our art had to connect in a way that was non verbal. We were very kind and compassionate with one another and that went a long way. I am so incredibly busy as a mother, a business owner, a student, and an activist. My life is often chaotic, and riddled with inconveniences as I attempt to elevate myself and my family in a better position in the midst of personal and societal hardship. Obviously the pandemic did not make it any easier. I personally went through a series of unfortunate events and oftentimes felt really down on myself and my ability to come through. Jess and Jacob were the best cheerleaders. They were so compassionate and supportive.
Do you have plans for future projects together?
I loved working on this and Jess and Jacob are amazing people. I just went through a huge move, effectively out of the country and I am just now getting settled. I am definitely open, willing, and eager to continue collaborating because I truly feel respected and seen by these individuals. Like I said before the connection is intuitive, often unspoken and just arises from the art itself. And anything and everything they need me for in the future I am available and more than willing. I am so passionate about tarot, about cartomancy in general, and feel we took on Mt. Everest with this project and came out on top. I look forward to what the future brings.
You have mentioned that this has been just one of many projects that are in play at the moment for you. What are some of the other projects that you are involved in?
Right now, I am committed to maintaining and growing my community STAR: Society of Tarot & Astrology Readers as well as my private practice on my Queen Machete site as well as my Patreon. I am also working on educational products with my business partners at Nebula Media and am excited to debut that in early 2022.
I recently repatriated to Puerto Rico with my long time partner and 3 year old daughter. We are working on creating content documenting our life and activism in the Indigenous Taino community here on the island. Our company recently published a comic centered around Afro-Indigenous issues called The Machete Clan. You can support us at the Machete Enterprises Patreon, and if you go there you can see that we are working on as a family. My fiance, Luis Machete Rossy, is an actor, author and musician, recently starred in an Indigenous movie called Woman Who Blooms at Night written by my brilliant close friend Camaray Davalos and we are really excited to debut that.
You have a lot of amazing things that you are involved in, thanks for letting us know about them. Before we wrap up our time together, is there anything else you would like to share?
I am really thankful for this project and for this opportunity to share my thoughts on something I am so passionate about. As little as three years ago I could not have imagined being in this position and am overwhelmed with gratitude at the chance to live my dream. I would lIke to thank Jacob & Jess, my family, and my community for assisting me in getting where I am today. Thank you so much.
Thank you, Joaly, for being willing to share your time and thoughts with our Indie Tarot community.
You can read our interview with Jess and Jacob here.