Interview With Elizabeth Hazel
by Bonnie Cehovet
Liz Hazel first came onto my radar screen several years ago when I joined the Tarot-L Internet group. I found her witty, entertaining – and highly knowledgeable about a wide variety of subjects. More than able to hold her own with the cast of heavy hitters that were members of the group at that time.
Liz works professionally in the fields of Astrology, Tarot, and Runes, both as a reader and as an author. As Lady Vala, she creates incense, perfumes and other products that are astrologically correct – as well as smelling good, and being fun to use!
Her first book, Tarot Decoded: Understanding and Using Dignities and Correspondences, brings astrology and the Tarot together in a blockbuster manner. Nowhere else will you find the information that Liz presents in one place. This is definitely a Tarot reference library “must have”.
Her latest effort is a stunning deck entitled The Whispering Tarot with a companion CD entitled “The Whispering Tarot: Softly Spoken Secrets”, and a newly released print version of the book. Independently produced, it is quality personified.
Liz has graciously agreed to speak with us, so I am going to turn the lectern over to her.
BC: Liz, what was the impetus for you to create the “Whispering Tarot,” and can you tell us about the “monks rules” that you put in place for its creation?
EH: I wanted to create a deck that was fresh, modern, and free of symbolic dust-bunnies and esoteric hair balls. The monks rules were necessary. I had to put limitations on the drawings in order to produce a deck with a unified, cohesive feeling. So I set deliberate limits on the tools and size. The size of the originals and the artistic medium have a direct impact on the end result.
BC: The process that you used was pen and ink line drawings, followed by Prismacolor ink coloring. What did this process bring to the deck for you?
EH: A crow quill is the smallest nib available. It’s almost like using a needle. I love to do embroidery, and using the crow quill was like embroidering a bare piece of paper with India Ink. The pen and ink originals were 4” x 6” on Bristol board. This means I was working tight, and the tiny quill pen allowed me to add incredible detail.
I lost interest in working with colored pencils, but using the crow-quill ink pen just got better and better. Unlike technical pens, the lines are alive. It’s a fun tool to master, although you can’t make any mistakes with India Ink. It was a very careful, painstaking process. I learned to make every line in the drawing perfect before I transferred it onto Bristol board and inked it.
When all of the ink originals were done, I started the colorizing process. Coloring is not my favorite job. After trying a lot of different mediums, the Prismacolor markers were the best choice. The wide variety of colors satisfied my desire for an exciting color palette.
BC: How did the reaction to your prototype deck that was presented at the World Tarot Conference in 1999 help you to move this project forward?
EH: The reaction to the prototype deck was sensational. I could feel the love! But it didn’t translate into placing the deck to a publisher. The project was completely stalled by 2003, and only got revived in 2008 when I decided to self-publish the deck.
BC: How did you come to use the attributions (in the main) from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn?
EH: When I was learning to use the tarot, I tried working with all of the major attribution systems. The GD system is the most astrologically astute, and is the most useful when combining tarot with chart readings. Most importantly, it is the system with the fewest flaws in it from an astrological standpoint.
Mathers and Wescott, and later Crowley, knew their business when it came to astrology. Crowley was a crackerjack astrologer. It’s too bad he didn’t bother to write a book focused on using zodiacal attributions. On the other hand, the lack of Crowley-esque dogma on that subject leaves room for a person like me to take it up a notch and not get stoned in the public square for heresy!
Ultimately, people have to tackle the same discovery process I went through. They can choose to use astrological or kabalistic attributions with the tarot, or not. Each person has to find their own rhythm and recipe for success with the tarot. It’s an intensely personalized thing. Tarot teachers can offer a myriad of options, but the student has to use trial and error to figure out what support systems, if any, suit their style.
BC: Please tell us about the development of your divinatory meanings, and how you would suggest that the reader work with them?
EH: I started reading in public in 1982, although I had been studying and reading privately long before that. Doing psychic fairs and tarot parties is a trial-by-fire situation. People want to know about their lives, about love, health, family, money, and their careers, and they don’t care diddly-squat about esoteric meanings or attributions.
The divinatory meanings in the “Whispering Tarot” book are things you can tell a client that they’ll understand and be able to apply to their own lives. These DMs come from working in the trenches for over twenty-five years.
BC: I love the CD (as opposed to a written LWB or companion book), and like the fact that the deck and the CD are separate entities. How did the decisions to work with a CD, and to present the deck and CD separately, come about?
EH: CDs were a lesser evil than no book! Printing the tarot deck cost a bomb, and I couldn’t afford to print the book at the same time. CDs were an affordable alternative. Some people like them, others were miffed. Due to high demand, the print edition of the book is available now. I hadn’t planned to print it until the end of 2008, but people were clamoring at my door. Shades of Frankenstein’s castle! Scythes and torches!
I wanted people to be able to choose to buy or not to buy the book along with the deck. Since the deck is designed for doing readings, it may need to be replaced if it wears out. A person only needs one copy of the book, but might need multiple copies of the deck over time.
BC: The spreads that you present on the CD are thought provoking and entirely unique. They gently lead the Seeker into serious inner work. Can you tell us a little about the process of their creation?
EH: The Vala Cross is in my book “Tarot Decoded”. This is the spread I use the most. The other spreads were ones that I’d designed for various uses over the years. Sometimes clients need specific information, or I needed a smaller spread to use at a fair. Necessity is the mother of invention at my house.
BC: On your CD, you have also included “Ptolemy’s Table of Essential Dignities and Debilities of the Planets”, as well as “Notes On Essential Dignities for Tarotists”. I found these to be immensely helpful. What was the impetus for their inclusion?
EH: For the past decade or so, I’ve been fascinated with Hellenic astrology. The traditions of western astrology almost died during the Age of Reason. Modern astrology is an amalgamation of mangled ancient techniques mixed in with modern western psychology and squiggly, crunchy bits from the Hamburg school. The revival of Hellenic astrology is restoring lost techniques and methods. Ptolemy’s Table of Dignities is part of that tradition, and it won’t hurt tarotists to know a little more about it, even if they don’t use it.
BC: What new things should we be watching for from Liz?
EH: First, the print edition of “Whispering Tarot: Softly Spoken Secrets” is available, so please put the torches and scythes away! I’m looking into secondary marketing possibilities, because I want a Queen of Wands mug with “Flaming Bitch” underneath. Deborah Oberndorfer is designing custom wood tarot boxes with designs from the “Whispering Tarot” on the lids (contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org to get more details about her gorgeous boxes). She’s resizing her boxes to fit my deck.
My next big print project is a revised and expanded print edition of “Vala’s Little Book of Sabbats”. It should be available on my site soon.
There’s always another issue of the ATA Quarterly Journal in the pipe. The Fall 2008 issue is packed with superb, high-quality tarot articles by top-notch writers. What more could an editor want?
I’m also gearing up for my annual autumn laboratory production frenzy. Beaker was always my favorite muppet! There’s a side of me that is pure mad alchemist, and I’m constantly developing new fragrances and groovy witchy products (at least, when I can get good aspects for it). I just made a fabulous batch of Four Thieves Vinegar and packed it in purple spray bottles. How cool is that? I have a mind-blowing new scent called “Witching Well.” My shop is in the front of my house, and if I answer the phone, the store is open. People just seem to show up. I’m not sure this stuff will ever get on my site; the product list is in a constant state of flux. The best bet is to show up or call, and see what I’ve got on hand.
BC: What wisdom would you like to impart to those that want to take the Tarot beyond divination?
EH: Creating a tarot deck compels a person to think deeply about the symbols they connect with. When a person looks through the cards in a deck, they should examine each card to see which symbols resonate with them, no matter which card it appears on. Colors and background items can also be symbolic triggers. If a person finds that the symbols they connect to are changing, it’s an indication that something inside of him or her is in a process of change or growth.
This is most noticeable when allegiance to a particular significator card changes. Over the years I’ve gone through periods of relating to different Queens, one by one. In the past couple of years, I’ve landed on the Queen of Cups for the first time. (I should give fair warning, however, that people who expect me to cook are taking a risk!) Significator shifts indicate that a new facet of self-image is developing, and that one’s personal focus is undergoing an elementally-driven restructuring. It also shows that what others see or notice are changing as well.
I want to thank Liz for taking the time to talk to us. You can find out more about Liz, and place an order for “The Whispering Tarot”, or for “The Whispering Tarot: Softly Spoken Secrets” (CD or print version), on her website.
© Bonnie Cehovet
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.