Interview with Jordan Hoggard
by Bonnie Cehovet
In 2008 Jordan Hoggard, a true Renaissance man (architect, artist, Tarotist) independently published the “Mystereum Tarot”. Created with vector-based technology (from his architectural background), it was built on the concepts of creation and form. The deck has just been published by Schiffer Books as “Tarot in the Land of Mystereum”, with an emphasis on the Seeker using the Tarot to develop their imagination and creativity. It is focused on children, and the child within each of us.
The independently published deck was an absolute phenomenon of form and color, which has very much held in this publishing. I invited Jordan to chat about this project, why it took this turn, and where it is headed.
BC: Welcome, Jordan! I absolutely love the “Mystereum Tarot”, and was very pleased to hear that it was going to be mass produced. How did this come about?
JH: Thank You, Bonnie! Great to be here! I really appreciate your enthusiasm for my “Mystereum Tarot”! I love the story of how Mystereum came to be mass produced. I was at RS09 in New York, Readers Studio 2009, an annual, international Tarot event held by Ruth Ann & Wald Amberstone of The Tarot School. As I was walking across the lobby one late afternoon I spotted Rachel Pollack. We had had some great exchanges on the Internet, and I loved her witty intellect and wonderfully irreverent sense of humor. So, I thought I would swing over simply to say hi and thanks in person. She was speaking with Emily Carding and two others who I did not recognize, though I soon would. I asked if I might interrupt just for a sec, introduced myself to Rachel, smiled hi to Emily, thanked Rachel, something like, “I love your irreverent sense of humor, do not want to hijack your conversation here, but wanted to introduce myself in person.” We exchanged a few words, and I put my hands up to politely excuse myself so they could get back to what they were doing. I turned and as I began to start to walk off I hear, “Uh HEM, Mr. Hoggard!” I turned, and looked down at the nametag, and lo and behold it was Dinah Roseberry of Schiffer Publications! You see, the irony that I “did not know the other two people there”, and simultaneously completing a circle like a life-compass, is that when I orginally finished the Mystereum Tarot in September of 2007 along with a 48 page LWB, Dinah was THE first person I submitted it to. Paul Nagy had sent me an email that they were looking for decks, and Schiffer had risen up as my top priority for a potential publisher. But, they were full up for their Tarot launch at that point. And, so it went that I shopped other publishers until a blessing in disguise arrived. In early Februry of 2008 a certain heavy of a Tarot publisher sent me a rejection letter that had me ROLLING laughing out loud with tears in my eyes I was laughing so loud. Loud and movin’ around enough that my cat started running all around and pouncing like he was on a tear. “We see absolutely no market for this deck.” What? Absolutely? What the heck is an adjective or qualifier doing in a rejection letter?! This is absurd! Someone had to have added that to the form letter! Laughing and laughing, and then POOF, I suddenly stopped dead silent. “They are right,” I thought. “They are right! I should self-publish Mystereum! Heck, I am an architect. Card manufacturer. Book. Sundry this-or-that. Box. I am an architect. This self-publication gig simply equates to consultant coordination. 3 months later, May 5, 2008, I had 125 decks in hand, made the boxes myself, and produced bookletized LWB’s at FedEx Kinko’s.
And, late April at RS09, the 2nd person in that lobby group was Pete Schiffer. Dinah introduced me. He indicated that meeting me at RS09 was one of their priorities, they were interested in me developing my Tarot bedtime stories further, and that I certainly made that one easy to complete. He and I spent several minutes talking business, contract content, sop (standard operating procedures), t’s & c’s (terms and conditions), deadlines, editing, coordination sequencing. . .and then Pete indicated that he had seen my hardcover mock-up for Tarot childrens’ bedtime stories which he was impressed with, and that he would like to have a contract in my hands within 5 days of my return from RS09. The contract came just after I returned from RS09, May 11, 2009. I contacted them to request to extend the signing deadline, then waited 2 days past Mercury going direct, and signed it July 2, 2009. And, as you are aware, it evolved a bit shortly after that.
A rather long story there, but quite a tidy one, really. I relish in how direct and speedily this circle was drawn.
BC: What made you decide to move away from the emphasis on form and move into the areas of imagination and creativity?
JH: As an architect I felt the form had been brought into being with the Mystereum Tarot, and that rather than further continuing to give form to it, I had created something that was very alive, and people began indicating that the cards were alive, actually speaking with a visual voice that was very moving to them. Rather than continuing to give form to it I Paged and Knighted it so to speak. Realized the new energy already formed and moved to further develop and incorporate it, integrate it to expand really. I felt this, and still feeling very engaged with Mystereum, and though a deck + book IS a large undertaking, I literally felt fresh in the way like I had just gotten started. . again. It became another iteration in my story, in Mystereum’s story.
I was somewhat in post partum from creating the deck and booklet, so though I vividly remembered and appreciated statements like that, and they basically disappeared into the vast universe in my head never to be heard of again. Little did I know they were catalyzing the garden of Mystereum to expansively open up and naturalize into The Land of Mystereum. Leisa Refalo mentioned in a July 2008 podcast interview with me that there appeared to be these surreal characters living in this surreal land where one was invited to enter through the portal of the border I had designed, literally, like a stone architectural portal. That was GREAT during the interview! Lively and fun! And, that also disappeared through the post partum sponge into dark and hidden reaches of my mind.
So, the thought was fully conscious that Mystereum had form and was alive, but not until I began writing Tarot bedtime stories did the full-on shift occur. I had been writing Major Arcana bedtime stories in order, and as I came to The Devil I was feeling pretty squirrelly. “HuRRRRROOOO, I AM THE DEVIL!! No, not that one, silly”. . .and I stopped dead silent again, a theme of my inspirations. And, THAT’S IT!!, I said out loud in a Eureka moment! Voices! Play the playwright and let each card speak. Speak each card. All 78! I promptly turned and dumped 25-30 pages I had written in my computer trash, emptied it, and restarted my computer so there was no turning back. I wrote The Devil from the 1st person voice. Went back to The Fool, and began tracking through each card speaking and writing giving nods to one another like a great big family, each one building on the next, recognizing the prior. And, another thing I “did not hear.” In December of 2009 an astrologer indicated in a reading I had that she did not feel I created Mystereum wholly to create a Tarot deck. More that my creative talents were vast, I was born with a foot on both sides, and that maybe I created Mystereum to respectfully build the proper place of a home, with my architectural background for my psychic contents. . and as she leaned in with an impish grin. . . “dare I say your psychic friends? I really admire how much you trust your intuition, and I feel you are just now beginning to see the breadth of it. You are the kind o person it takes a while to come into your own. You always get it, but until now maybe you have not been able to express it fully. Wonder where this is going to go?” And, we talked for an hour+ about Neptune and Mercury in my chart.” She elucidated some things I naturally do, natural faculties I was not paying much attention to as I felt they were normal. “Jordan!,” she said, “This is normal for YOU, but this is not ‘normal’. Explore that. I suggest taking a 3-year pilgramage while Neptune is transiting.” Smart lady! I could not afford to up and do the walkabout, so I thought. Needed a roof over my head. The Land of Mystereum. The Land of Mystereum became my pilgramage. I began moving further along my own particular celestial groove kinda thing. I began reading the form of Mystereum to actively mine my own imagination and creativity.
BC: I know that minor changes were made in the artwork to make it suitable for children. To what extent were changes made?
JH: Well, Schiffer and I decided we should ‘kiddify’ the deck and the language. I designed out the nudity while keeping the integrity of the visual and metaphorical Tarot messaging, even enhancing it in places, evolving the cards basically, and made it a priority to write the book in a conversational tone. About 10 cards had the nudity designed out, a great many others were visually tuned and tailored, naturalized so to speak, as I full-on decided to take a deep next look at the imagery, and then I decided to fully set The Land of Mystereum apart to really respect the 124 other people who had the self-published Mystereum edition as well to make a true 1st edition for Schiffer. I let the entirety of the arch out to complete itself as a full curve of an arch on the upper portion of the card borders. In the self-published edition only the inner band was complete as an arch with a keystone element. It felt fitting to bring the outer, larger band to be a continuous arch. . .over-arching the inner one, bringing them into more of a visual harmony. And, then The Land of Mystereum had a full and completed arch as a portal of color to distinguish itself.
Wonderfully interesting to me, is that I discovered something with these self-imposed constraints and modifications as the deck and story evolved. And, as a writer I personally received something priceless out of this process. I found my voice. So, in short the major change from Mystereum to The Land of Mystereum is that 30 or so cards have been evolved, and I grew the story from a 48-page booklet of pre-symbolic sound card-indications to a full-blown, 192-page Imaginations Primer to further catalyze and enhance your imagination. Certainly not a LWB anymore. One of those, “Dorothy, we are not in Kansas anymore” experiences.
In the overall, my perspective is that the entire voice of Mystereum has developed from crawling stages of building, creating and making form, to the running of Tarot card personalities that express themselves in ways that can gift vital and helpful catalysts for your imagination to inform action. One performance for each card, where the performer throws flowers to you from the stage. . . to you ON the stage of your life.
BC: Each of the divisions of the Tarot (the Major Arcana and the four suits) has a specific type of imagination ascribed to it. How did this come about?
JH: Great question! First off, this was a simple way to express the 5 distinctions of structure and personality across the whole to generate a Table of Contents, though funnily enough the idea to do the Pangea thing of distinguishing lands moving around to form these 5 lands or distinct places occurred about ¾ of the way through the writing of The Land of Mystereum. Each card in a group can then speak from a perspective that originates from their place in a general type of imagination as well from their place of order within that type of imagination. So, that puts a sequence in place to frame the whole work. Then, like mapping lands to further express their character, it gifts each section elemental tenors, elemental patriotism of place if you will, 5 different genius loci, to build and support imagination further as you move from card to card in each section, across each part of the land.
I went with an archetypal bent for Majors and a quality of each suit to generate their land, or type of imagination. These are made up. They may or may not be appropriate for a graduate seminar in Cognition. Then again, I got kicked out of one in college. . . so, I might not be the best judge of that. ;-D
So, there are 5 sections in the Imagination Primer:
Archetypal Imagination is about the Major Arcana with big ideas.
Grounding Imagination is about Pentacles with solid things you can touch.
Fulfilling Imagination is about Cups with flow and how you feel.
Energizing Imagination is about Wands with energy that invigorates you.
Communicating Imagination is about Swords with communication and how you interact.
And, intentionally, these are “essenced” areas as I like to say. For example some people look at the suit of Swords as “troubles.” That is great . . for them. It does not fit in The Land of Mystereum, though. Here, Swords are essenced to be about comms, communications. Mind. Intellect. Conscious thoughts. A thought rather than a sense kind of thing.
“Essencing” is neither positive or negative from my perspective. It is simply about stating a core quality. For example you draw The Tower. Oh NO!! Not THAT card! Wait a minute, now. First, what is the ESSENCE of the card. I say, “world altering.” Neither positive or negative, simply world altering. Now, settle in and divine how “world altering” plays out AS your context and/OR to influence your situation. That is how I utilized the concepts of essenced suits and the Majors to generate types of imagination. Maybe there are more. Less? Like senses. How many of them do we have? Topic for another time. In The Land of Mystereum 5 distinct areas of the land were made.
BC: You entitled your companion book “Imagination Primer”. What exactly does this mean?
JH: Biggee here. The “Imagination Primer” aspect of The Land of Mystereum is THE core idea, and what I feel sets this deck + book apart to provide a new kind of view of Tarot to break new ground, and also I envision to further enhance the Tarot community. The Imagination Primer, literally means a tool to prime the pumper so to speak of your imagination. Like a spelling primer smoothing out one’s a b c’s, the Imagination Primer is presented to make you the boss and more effectively operate FROM your imagination throughout your work or inquiries. For example, “Ok, that is a great idea, now using that. . get back to work.” I find a lot of us feel this at our jobs. Like we are being told to be creative, but when we are creative, we are then told to get back to work, quite a misguided implicatin of compromise understood in the situation. Ideas have value, and there is the implication that the idea, the form-giver of the storyline of a project was child’s-play. . .valuable and though somehow necessary, but guillotined and infused into not what we are being paid to do. Monkeys on a wheel, I say, to those who guillotine the idea and deadhead the blooming bud. And further, I say, try this on for size. . .Keep your imaginative idea flowing throughout your use of that idea that someone noted as valuable right before they told you to get back to work. Do it silently. But, watch watch happens, watch how responsive you can be most all of the time if you continue to drive through to completion of your work when your imagination is ALWAYS present and contributing. Even in repetitive and mundane tasks. Call those discipline, a meditation even. Mundane fundamentals of tasks as the compulsories before an ice-skating event. . .where that warm-up to qualify is not often directly visible in the OMG stunning performance kind of thing.
The Imagination Primer is all about ways to enhance the value of you bringing you in YOUR way to the table in all you do. From a consultant and project management standpoint, I have to say I am thrilled when I am pleasantly surprised by people. And, the top performers? Dang! When people with effective and smooth momentum turn around and contribute even more surprises for effective projects or work. . . DANG! Thinkin’ they started somewhere. I sure did. That is what the Imagination Primer means. Literally, to provide a tool to prime your imagination so you can be the best you can be. I know I rather enjoy the endorphins when vibrant and effective actions. . .come from me. Maybe other people dig that, too? And, when they spread and you can smile as others are inspired?! DANG kinda Yes!
BC: In your companion book each of the Tarot cards has a voice, and a story. How did the decision to present the material in this manner come about?
JH: It started by my beginning to write Tarot bedtime stories. Then, getting squirrely at The Devil card speaking out, “HuROOOOOO, I am The Devil! . . .”, I began to write each card FROM its own voice in the 1st person. Began to layer in each card speaking to you following some warm-up in a chapter about the card prior. Now, this does bring up the question that Donnaleigh DeLaRose asked me on her rockin’ ‘Beyond Worlds’ BlogTalk Radio show. “Jordan, did you channel these voices?” I say no. But, I say that with semantics often being some antics. I do not like the inherent lack of authorship often, not always, but often attributed to someone expressing channelling. Like they express that they simply got out of the way and were a receptacle and conduit for the divinity in the cosmos to come through. This also may be an individual thing from person to person, but I find that these kinds of WOW creativity and expressions come through when I am both in the groove from disciplined work AND am very present, have a fully activated life-force. Again, could be semantics, and I do not mean to denigrate or disparage anyone, but when I see professional channellers, I often feel, *DANG! They are sure in their own celestial groove rockin’ it!* And then, am fully just as disheartened when they pawn it off on something larger taking over. I agree there is something larger. I simply feel that there are then WAY clear comms workedin to connect things larger and about oneself to places within. . . our own inner divinity connects to our celestial groove that is natural and makes for imaginative and creative and life-ful seamlessness. . .like The Portal of the Seamless Segue in the Imagination Primer. Won’t do spoilers on that one, though.
So, the Imagination Primer is presented to literally prime your imagination. . .with a !! towards YOUR way.
BC: What are Imagination Tools, and how are they used?
JH: Imagination Tools are gifts that each card gifts you throughout the book. They are meant to present psychic triggers, catalysts to enhance and develop the effectiveness of your imagination and how you utilize it. What I like most about them is that they are like situations or prompters in themselves, and may provide new and different responses each time they are plugged in to further elucidate a reading. Even more than that? As an exercise utilize The Land of Mystereum’s Imagination Tools AS your reading, where the whole reading, at least to start, is simply making action item(s) for each tool from each card that comes up in your spread. And, I have found that this “simple” reading utilizing only the Imagination Tools. . . is. . . well, simple, but often pretty WOW! in regards to what happens.
BC: I can see many possible uses for this deck in community settings. Do you have any projects in mind for promoting this deck within communities, or in group settings?
JH: Yes. Saturday morning Childrens’ Reading Corners with parents at bookstores before they venture out on grand adventures which might equate simply to lively conversations at their lunch or in the car after. Imagination Primer sessions with interested people. Activity Sessions at Senior Centers. Working with both honors and underprivileged kids to activate opportunities for them to explore. And, I have an intense desire to work with people in Hospice. I have always found them in every case to have amazingly intense perspectives, and I feel they deserve to both be heard and as intensely as they can, live life-fully. I will certainly do readings from an Imagination Primer perspective, and as well I most fully look forward to have the opportunity to work with the aging and dying. They feel to be natural diviners. Rather than being about letting go, they often say things that express how much they value life, wit wisdom. They are often aeons beyond. I can envision myself in a volunteer capacity with them. They still have so much to contribute. I rather like the use of wisdom DURING life rather than predominantly as an end-game phenomena.
I also look forward a great deal to collaborating with people and their ideas for workshops, team-building, and further community service formats with an Imagination Primer focus. I feel that the possibilities are endless. Each of us has a noggin’ and an imagination I believe. I smile at wonderfully not knowing at what people will come up with, I look forward to being pleasantly surprised, inspired even, at further ways people come up with to utilize The Land of Mystereum’s Imagination Primer to enhance their own effectiveness in their own ways!
BC: What would you like to tell our readers about using this deck on a personal basis?
JH: My response is kind of a backhand. And, this applies to ANY deck. This is expressed in the introductory text, but I cannot stress this enough. Please look at the cards, explore them with your senses, take a visual and feeling-sense road trip through each image BEFORE you read the text. Feel into what you sense and feel. Literally, get a feeling-sense for each card first. And, then I suggest to read the card’s voice 1st, then the 1st portion of the text that is generally about the card. in this way the reading sense, the divination form-giver, is sequenced this way: YOUR take; then card speaks; then general card expression. I feel that working with The Land of Mystereum this way it will more intensely provide its benefit to YOUR readings. I cannot stress this enough. The Land of Mystereum is most about finding your voice, speaking clearly with your voice, enhancing your voice, and strengthening your voice. Emphasis is made that YOU are the value in the equation of life. YOU are present rather than coasting with presentee-ism. I suggest to utilize this deck on a personal basis 1st with only the Imagination Tools. It feels that the cards’ voices, and further the context for each card presented in its 1st chapter, will more fully provide regal Counsel to YOU as the born-with-inner-divinity royalty that you are.
To personally experience this, I suggest this: Pull a card. Literally, read the card like sight-reading music. Read the card off the cuff. What comes to mind? What strikes chords that resonate with you? In a once-upon-a-time way, what does the visual tell you? And, once you are present with YOUR sense there, read the card’s voice in the Imagination Primer. Literally, then, begin to converse with the card, and then the cards in your spread. On a personal basis, The Land of Mystereum is about further activating and speaking from your inner divinity. One might say your personality. . . or, . . All similar, each unique. Give yourself some regal credit.
Using this deck on a personal basis is all about the importance of YOUR presence with the cards. The Land of Mystereum is here to provide Counsel to your every action, all of them regal because they are YOURS in your life. The most mundane things can be of royalty. And, your presence can go way beyond your spoken words. The Land of Mystereum is for your whole world to become a personal basis more in ways valuable to your way.
BC: Do you have any last words for our readers?
JH: I want to wholeheartedy thank YOU specifically, Bonnie. You took a very enthusiastic interest in the backstory of Mystereum as it 1st became available. It brings a smile that that is CORE to The Land of Mystereum as lineage! You posited a creative and thoughtful form-giving point there as well a marketing point for me as I realized I had seeded and grown and naturalized a giant garden that can provide inspirational value for everyone. I remember one of your 1st reviews. I remember thinking. “WOW! ‘It is what it is’ is POWERFUL! WOW! Do not lose sight of working from there. Do not digress to get all clever and quippy and quotable and sales-y. This is your work, and it is important! Coolio quotes are fine, but create honestly from the core, period. Besides being kick-butt fun and a lot of work, you may meet a lot of way cool people. Inspiration is a 2-way street. There is a valuable service overall in that. Do YOUR gig!”
So, thank you, Bonnie, for taking interest in the original Mystereum backstory. It has now led to a lineage for The Land of Mystereum with its Imagination Primer as published by Schiffer Publications!! My wish is that the Imagination Primer facilitate bringing people to be more confidently fruitful and effective-in-fun-ways THEIR way!
In closing I would like to let a cat out of the bag. It is my new goal and priority catalyzed by The land of Mystereum. It is called Actionable Imagination, and it is where I am taking The Land of Mystereum from a developmental perspective. What is it that I mean by Actionable Imagination? That imagination fully become a vital backbone of society by 2023, in ways that are rockin’ for each and every one of us. That imagination be further developed as an actionable form-giver throughout creative processes, more than simply creating their inception, beginning, or launch. Sound like pie in the sky? I will simply say . . . from Chiron when he became The Land of Mystereum’s Mascot, “Funny thing. You are each different, and you are each like everyone else.” He laughed and laughed with a great smile. Continuing, he said, “The words for me as your mascot in Mystereum shall be, ‘All similar, each unique. There is a wisdom when you are respectful and considerate and celebrate your ideas.’ ”
Smiling myself, Bonnie. . .Thank You! I appreciate your time to speak with you today about The Land of Mystereum!
I want to thank Jordan for taking the time to discuss this awesome deck with us. Now it is up to us to take this incredible tool and access our creative, imaginative natures, open our minds and our hearts, and write the best life story that we know how to write!
© 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.