Interview with DJ Conway
by Darren Varey
DJ Conway is the co-creator of the Celtic Dragon Tarot and Shapeshifter Tarot, and author of Moon Magick, Animal Magick, Wicca: The Complete Craft, Maiden, Mother, Crone and many more.
Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Could you please describe for me your first experiences with the Tarot?
Some of my family used regular playing cards for divination for several generations. They didn't call this psychic and avoided the term. I first personally experienced Tarot cards in the mid-1960s because I was trying to re-open the psychic doorways I had closed as a child.
What first prompted to take on the task to design the Celtic Dragon Tarot, and the Shapeshifter Tarot?
The Shapeshifter idea started as Sirona Knight's idea. She asked me to co-write the book for the deck, which I agreed as I like new challenges. Celtic Dragon Tarot was my idea.
In both of your decks, you worked with fantasy artist Lisa Hunt to do the actual drawing of the cards. What first led you to her?
Lisa Hunt had done book illustrations for several of my books. I got to know her as a person and an artist, and liked what I saw. It was easy working with her as so many of our thoughts meshed right away. She is also a very talented person who can take a verbal description and create what I saw in my mind. I wasn't certain anyone could paint the dragon shedding her skin, but Lisa did a fantastic job!
In the Celtic Dragon Tarot, you changed the names of the Major Arcana Crads 5 and 15 from the Hierophant and Devil to the High Priest, and Chains. I was wondering why you decided to do this?
I didn't want any Christianized ideas in Celtic Dragon as I was portraying a time before Christianity influenced the Celtic societies. The ancient Celts didn't believe in the Devil and would have understood the term High Priest, but not Hierophant.
Also in the Celtic Dragon Tarot, suit correspondences for the Wands and Swords differ from the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith suit correspondences. I was wondering why it was decided to change Wands from fire to air, and Swords from air to fire?
I'm not the only magical person who has the opinion that Wands connect with Air, thoughts, and purpose, while Swords connect with Fire, action, and physical will.
In The Guide Book to the Celtic Dragon Tarot, you uncluded some simple candle tarot spells in the appendix. What prompted you to do this, as not everyone practices spell work?
The publisher suggested this addition. I see no problem with it. If you don't practice spell work, just skip that chapter.
Has the Celtic Dragon Tarot been designed to be used with, or to accompany you previous book Dancing with Dragons?
No, Celtic Dragon Tarot is a separate entity from my book.
Why were extra cards added to the Major Arcana in the Shapeshifter Tarot?
The 3 extra cards in Shapeshifter were suggested by Sirona Knight. I agreed since the 3 cover shamanistic actions cards weren't addressed by the regular set of Major Arcana.
Why were reversed meanings not given in the book for the Celtic Dragon Tarot?
I've never read cards reversed, nor did I teach my students to read them in that manner. I feel, that if read correctly and in connection with surrounding cards, the reversed meanings are covered quite adequately without having to learn a second set of definitions.
Finally, do you have any advice for people using these two decks? Do you have any advide for people just starting to use Tarot?
For beginners, choose a deck that "speaks" to you, that makes you feel comfortable when you handle them. In no circumstances should you choose a deck because you think you should or someone demands it. Shapeshifter Tarot will usually appeal to those interested in Celtic or Native American shamanism, or those into animal helpers and totems. Celtic Dragon Tarot has a wider appeal beyond the dragons. If you notice, all scenery and costumes suggest early medieval Celtic culture. Also the cards portray a wide range of age groups.
© Darren Varey
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