Every now and then I get asked about a few of the stranger cards in my Tarot deck. This morning I got asked about one that I would swear I have written a lengthy email about before, but couldn’t find in my archives. So I’m gonna write about it again here, and be able to point future inquiries to this.

Aleph-4 is the fifth end of this deck. The other four ends are the Fool (first card sketched, though that rough as abandoned), the Sun (first card finished), the High Priest (the last of the traditional 78), the 99 of Swords (the last of the cards I actually planned to add when doing the additional cards while getting it ready for publication). Aleph-4 is the last card I drew for the whole thing.

And yet it also predates the deck, in more ways than one.

So: March, 2005. I was living in a friend’s living room in Sunnyvale, after my dreams of the animation world had collapsed. One day we took a trip to one of the neighboring towns and I doodled out something that just came to me with no real conscious thought; I soon brought it through Illustrator to become this:

I really had no idea what the hell my subconscious brain was getting at with this image. It certainly felt fraught, like there was Meaning behind it, but it arrived pretty much all at once.

Two years later, I found myself revisiting it.

I was living in Boston with my boyfriends; things were going mostly better than they were in Sunnyvale.

I still didn’t know what the hell my subconscious was getting at with this. Six months later, I found myself working on the Tarot deck that would end up being called “The Silicon Dawn”.

My first sketch of Fortune quite consciously drew from this imagery, and felt good enough that it went into the finished deck.

By August of 2008, I was about halfway through with the deck. The 0 of (VOID) and the 99 of Cups appeared – the former in the same sort of “here’s a thing your subconscious wants you to draw, now draw it” process as the first two iterations of this image, the latter as a joke.

And my subconscious also presented me with the flip side of Fortune:

For what it’s worth, there were a few other titles I played with, preserved off the side of the artboard in the original file: The Story, Narrative, The Querent, Self-Awareness, Timebinding, and Definition.

I still didn’t understand what the hell this image was supposed to be about. Something about defining the universe by telling stories. Maybe.


Somewhere in the beginning of 2008, I took a break to draw this. It wasn’t intended to be part of the deck, but it was definitely intended to be part of this same series. I can’t pin the exact date down as the file creation date has been lost over migrating my data through three or five different computers since then. A post on the livejournal I kept for the deck says “The third, unfinished version was done after contemplating some writing around the Saphir-Whorf hypothesis that (in short) “language shapes thoughts”; any other details of what I was driving at then are gone. I was too lazy to render the ribbon from the mouth turning into wings, much less the archways crashing down around her.

I finished the core 78 cards, and had a gallery exhibition of the whole thing (plus the 0 of (Void), the 99 of Pentacles, and History), then put it away for a while. Until Lo Scarabo decided they were interested in printing it, and would I like to expand it with these extra cards I’d thought about, and maybe use this cool process they’d just gotten where they used spot gloss to accentuate the cards? Ultimately I decided ‘yes’ on both of those, and spent about half of 2011 on the book, enhancing the cards with gloss, and figuring out how the hell to make the dark counterparts to the goofy 99s.

A few extra images popped up during this process and demanded to be part of the deck. Some of them were secret significator cards for friends. And the card at hand? Well.

Because of the way the deck was going to be printed and cut, there were going to be some extra cards that would end up blank. I could put stuff on them if I wanted to. And when I was done with the whole thing, I decided to take this image and finish it up as a personal Secret Personal Significator. Its title was to be rendered only in spot gloss – seen here as a bright blue – and was a sigil I’d designed last year as the Majgickqghal Name of a somewhat insane sex goddess dragon I’d been playing on Tapestries for a while. Her name was “November-4”, which referred to the group of “Impersons” she started out as part of – anonymous perverts chad in full-body latex, all with names of the form [letter from the military phonetic alphabet]-[number]. The card wasn’t originally going to be a fourth-order Cantorian transfinite, but the fact that ‘aleph’ looks a lot like ‘N’ made the private joke irresistable.

Said sex goddess dragon may or may not be my Higher Self/Holy Guardian Angel. My own magical practice is pretty half-assed and jokey. So that’s what this card’s about: transcendence, trying to contact/become that theoretical hyperdimensional being outside of time of which you are just a fragment. Finishing a magical process and starting the next one, because there’s always another thing to do until you’re dead. Phoenix imagery and everything that symbolically represents,

So that’s the story behind this card, and its private dirty joke finally revealed. Mostly it’s just my signature. But it’s also part of this personal narrative of, I dunno, maybe transcending the bounds of reality and becoming a Real Majgicxghian, maybe just wishing I was willing to put in the long boring work to do just that instead of slouching in front of the projection screen playing video games. I mean, I do some of that – I spent four years drawing Decrypting Rita, and you can find the same sigil printed in spot gloss at its climax. And maybe a few other places as well.

(There’s another card in the deck that’s a self-portrait, and if I ever did a second edition of the deck, I’d probably replace it with something else. This one’s much better as a Personal Significator than the 9 of Cups.)

Also notable: there are four Fool cards in this deck, numbered 0-1 to 03, and maybe this one fits into that sequence too. I make absolutely no claims to be a Great Ascended Master Of Magic. I personally don’t consider it a Fool but then again of course I wouldn’t, would I?

Tarot reprint?

Yesterday there was a post about Tarot decks on Metafilter that kinda reminded me mine is out of print. Maybe I should consider putting together a Kickstarter to reprint it; I miss having it to sell at cons.

Not sure I really want to bother with laying out the book and dealing with the box, though. Lo Scarabo did a lot of that for me. I could probably get the printer to do some of it, maybe. Dunno.

Likely tweaks: minor edits to the art and book, maybe a new card or two. Maybe a special extra card for backers. Unlikely tweaks: a new suit, major edits.