Interview with Londa Marks
by Darren Varey
Londa Marks is the creator of the Londa Tarot, Crow's Magick Tarot, and the Alchemist Tarot
Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Could you please describe for me your first experiences with the Tarot?
When I was growing up I found an ad for The Rosicrucians and sent away for their free catalog. I thought they were interesting and started paying more attention to secret types of society, especially positive ones like them. Not necessarily to do with tarot, but it was my first insight into a different way of living and individual belief system such as tarot is. While growing up, I had always been fascinated with the occult, astrology and that artistic side of life that was mostly "forbidden."
In 1986 I was in a magic shop in Woodland Hills, CA looking at the great magic props they had and found a deck of tarot cards, Cagliostro Tarot. I had to have it. I really loved the artwork, the descriptions and astrological info on each card. That was my first tarot deck.
Your Tarot decks are very unique. What prompted you to create your own decks?
After I was divorced in 1990 I had a strong desire to find guidance and answers to a lot of questions that I was overcome with. My first path of searching was toward Native American Pow Wow's or connecting with Native Americans in any way I could. The last 17 years of my life I had spent working with my ex-husbands rock groups as a creative, designing costumes, props and doing their stage makeup. The style I centered it all around was considered glam but I derived my designs from Native American art, clothing and war paint. Naturally, I wanted to keep on a familiar artistic path after the breakup with my ex. My thoughts were that possibly finding a Native American friend would also bring my chance at trying peyote and finding extraordinary guidance outside the world we physically live in. I wanted my mind to leave the norm, the routine thought process, so I could purely see who I was, possibly what direction to go and maybe get some unearthly advice.
Since I could not make a Native American connection, I decided to get lost in my art with my secret society of characters (characters that just came from my mind and heart). They were a sector that I felt comfortable with. I can get lost there, create my own world, my own friends and really force my own mind to get answers from my original characters.
As I began to create and paint my friends into life I went out in search of inspiration in my spare time. This was 1990 so you had to go buy books and research materials since the Internet was still an embryo. In my search for books and pictures of art I decided to go to the Psychic Eye Bookstore in Sherman Oaks, CA where I lived.
I had always been interested in tarot like it was a natural part of me for some reason and this store was the real deal for finding anything to do with tarot. Just the word, "tarot" alone seemed like I knew what it was all about before I really did. Anyway, I bought my second tarot deck. I believe it was the Ryder Waite deck. And, honestly, it seemed a little too generic and I couldn't relate to the characters. So, I bought another, and still couldn't connect with any of the characters. While buying deck after deck I kept thinking that, "I could design a better deck than any of these. At least, one that I could relate to." So, I asked someone at the Psychic Eye where they bought their decks to sell.
I proceeded to put together a package to send to U.S. Games. The package I put together just sat on the side of my drawing table for a couple of weeks because I figured that I wouldn't get any interest at the publishing house anyway. When I had to go mail some bills I thought I'd just go ahead and mail it since I had nothing to lose by doing so. A week later I was sitting on the couch very depressed looking at floating homes for sale in Sausalito, thinking about moving up north. I answered the phone like, whatever, yea, "hello." The voice said, "This is Stuart Kaplan, I am calling from U.S. Games and we would like to publish your deck of tarot." I said, "really?" Are you the owner (trying to be sure this wasn't a prank call), and the voice said, "yes." He also said, "Do you have a name for your deck?" And, basically, I was trying to decide if I had fallen asleep and was dreaming this whole thing or the call was real. So, I just said, "no, haven't thought about it." Stuart said, "What about Londa Tarot. Your real name is Londa, right?" I said yes, of course. Well, a week later I received a contract from U.S. Games and immediately moved to San Francisco and spent a year and half doing nothing, and I mean nothing but developing the Londa Tarot deck.
After completing the Londa Tarot deck. I moved back to Los Angeles and just continued painting and trying to come up with more tarot decks. I was hooked and found an outlet to create more and more "Londa Worlds." I had finally found a world to exist in and wasn't so different anymore.
When Los Angeles had the big earthquake in 1995 I couldn't take the aftershocks so I decided to go to Phoenix for a couple of days until they subsided. When I got there I drove through Scottsdale and fell in love with the area. It was January so it was still disguised by cool air, not the corner of hell that it really is. So, I decided to just live there, rented an apartment and took to the desert. While there I worked on psychic phone lines and painted and went to my first Pow wow. It was so overwhelming to me that I got lost coming home from it one night. No peyote, just an auditorium filled with true Native Americans in war paint and full dress. It was shortly after that that I started thinking about designing another deck of tarot and since it got hotter than I ever imagined it would on earth I kept yearning for San Francisco so I moved back there. As soon as I got there I began designing Crow's Magick. My year in Phoenix around the Native Americans really sparked my connection I had been seeking even though it was just a Pow wow in an auditorium, the Magick that happened there among the Natives entered me fully.
So, in answering your question about what prompted me to design my decks, well, it helps to illustrate the above to show you the events that happened to set me in motion but I believe the real answer is as simple as, I was born to design them. You know, we are all born to do certain things in life and we just do them. Like in a movie I saw, someone said, "You do what you are." The other person said, "No, you mean, you are what you do." The reply back was, "No, you do what you are." That's pretty much it. However, there's more to what prompted me to develop Crow's Magick, as you will see as you read on.
I am continuing designing more tarot decks. My next one is, The Alchemist Tarot. However, it's going slowly because I'm creating a real tarot world, one in movie form, a deck, and a hardback book. This project is going to finally put the tarot into the proportions it should be in: Life Sized. I'm working with a screenplay writer and tarot and astrology historian, Kathleen McGowan. We are really creating an alchemical world; the type of world that I originally set out to create utilizing the tarot; not just on paper but my characters and their messages will finally come alive. The tarot world will exist now.
I have fans that have already been doing that. If you visit this page you will see how these wonderful people who love my work, have diligently worked hard to create themselves into Londa Tarot characters including face makeup, clothes and even props from my cards. They even won an award doing so!
Basically, the tarot is a world. It's filled with characters who try to convey certain directions for each of us willing to listen, analyze and incorporate into our life. The premise of The Alchemist Tarot, through mine and Kathleen's movie, book and deck of cards is this: "The Alchemist shows you how to turn something worthless into gold. That's what all alchemist's do."
What was your inspiration for the Londa Tarot? The Crows Magick Tarot?
Life in general. But, music, different areas of the arts like Italian and European art, but above everything, a strong yearning to create my own world where I feel that I fit in.
The figures in the Londa Tarot are very unique and original. When and how did you develop this style for the figures?
From before first grade of school I began creating my own characters. Of course, I was inspired by old world costumes and Native American costume. I passioned them out. You know? I really have desire to create unique characters, people I relate to. How I developed the style? Well, it's your signature, you know, it's me.
In the Little White Booklet (LWB) for the Londa Tarot, you included some of your poetry. What prompted you to include these in the book?
Poetry is an essence of your passion. It doesn't particularly make sense, but it expresses your feelings and fantasies in words. In a sense it's the same as tarot creators. Each artist that creates a deck of tarot is expressing their ideas of how a world should be. Mine includes words of passion.
In the Londa Tarot, you included the card titled "Who are you really?". Why did you include this card in the deck?
Oh, that's an easy one. It sums up the tarot. It's my main question to everyone. Even though we do what we are, what we are is made up of our everyday choices. The interesting part about life is figuring out who you are. Are you who you thought you would always be? Are you living the way you've always wanted to? Are you living the way others think you should be living? Are you a puppet or are you an individual? What you show to everyone is who you are? Really? If not, why? It's so strange how we want to be loved so much that we sometimes live our little bit of our allotted lifetime for those whom we want to get love from. And then when we figure we've done what they wanted us to do they say, "Oh, I told you to do that?" Then realization sets into us after having spent all that time living up to what we thought their expectation were. We become depressed because we can't get that time back, or we hate that person because they convinced us somehow to spend all that time living for their cause. And so on... All I am saying on that card is, Be Your Individual Self, if You Aren't, Then Why. It's not selfish to be all that you are about. It's a waste of your life to not be. But, it's your choice. It's always your choice.
The Crows Magick Tarot has a pagan feel to it. Was this your intention when designing the deck?
I went through grades one through nine of Catholic school. That pretty much made me wonder about the principals of religion. I debated the nuns constantly about saints, Jesus, and all the other idols (like I knew what I was talking about!) Funny, I remember going to church weekly and sitting in this magnificent dwelling laced with marble, filled with gold chalices, richly painted plaster saints, ornate lighting and an atmosphere of pipe organ music. And, at certain times in each ritualistic mass appointed people collected money from poor families to keep it all going. To me, this was a great business on how to have a problem with your sexual identities and teach naive kids, wear cool costumes, live rich and get others to pay for it all. Pagan means, one who has no religion. I find religion to be a crutch. As Szandor LeVey said, "Christianity has been in business all these years because of the devil." Think about it. Religion is a business. However, if by now you hate me because I don't accept religion I tell you this, to me Jesus was a great guy who tried to teach how to live as an individual. As they say, he didn't give people fish he taught them how to fish. Mainly, that's what my tarot does. Teaches people how to be their own fishermen. If you get that from my tarot decks then you get what I'm about, what I try to convey. I don't create religious or non-religious decks of tarot.
The only hidden meanings or intentions of me, my art, tarot, movies about tarot or anything related to my art and tarot are these meanings:
1. Be honest.
2. Be an individual, create and develop your own person.
3. Own yourself, do not let others own you.
4. Do not want to own anyone. You can't.
5. Don't be deceitful and hurt others in the process of developing yourself.
6. Find ways to be positive so you can bloom not become a force of evil.
7. Turn negatives into positives.
8. Show others how to be successful and you will be successful by doing so.
9. Don't say you love someone unless you love them unconditionally.
10. Constantly learn new things, use your mind, exercise your mind.
11. Be flexible and open minded. Life is not a narrow path it has many detours and roads, explore them.
In the Crows Magick Tarot, animals are used on the cards more than humans. Why did you use animals instead of humans?
This deck is a tribute to the animal kingdom, crows and Edward Nichols. Here is a first story told to anyone because I highly respect Solandia and Aeclectic and love how they have showcased the tarot with high regard. I am also grateful to you Darryn for asking this and contributing to Aeclectic. Here is the reason and main inspiration for Crow's Magick Tarot.
When I was 19 years old I had a son. I had to give him up to adoption because my parents would not allow me, an unwed mother whose musician boyfriend left her after finding out she was pregnant keep her child. I had no job, and was fairly stupid, just an artist with no idea how to survive aside from letting my parents take care of me as they always had. Okay, to make a long story sort of short and not too sappy...while I was giving birth to my son I was under the powerful drug, ether. During the delivery process I was hallucinating on this stuff or maybe a better way to put it is that I had a prophetic vision. I saw a line of black wires like telephone lines up to my left with many crows sitting on it looking down at me. They kept flying down one by one and biting at me.
I never forgot that and thought of my son every day for the last 30 years. It was the most painful experience of my life. I begged my family to let me keep my child. It was in 1971, a time that being an unwed mother in a strict Catholic home was not accepted. I tried and tried to find my son over the years to no avail. So, in Scottsdale, the place where I had my first and only Pow Wow experience is where the first thought of developing Crow's Magick occurred and I thought about my son a lot then too. Although the Crow's Magick developed in San Francisco completion happened in Los Angeles when I finished the book in late summer of 2001 in an apartment. I had lived in tiny little apartments or rooms over the last twelve years working on my art, kind of in a nest so to speak. In November of 2001 the Crow's Magick book was released. I moved to a house in January of 2002 and in February I found my son. He now lives with me in Los Angeles. He has coal black hair and many crows surround our house daily. Edward has had so many animals including cows and horses that he gave up to come out here from back east. He grew up on a farm loving animals. He came back to me right after Crow's Magick was complete and on his 31st birthday I took him to San Francisco for our first birthday celebration together to show him where I created Crow's Magick.
By the way, Edwards's birthday is May 26 and mine is February 26. He is Gemini with ascendant Virgo, I am Pisces with Taurus ascendant. I added up Crow's Magick lettering to see if anything was similar in how it's spelled numerically and the only thing I came up with is it equals number 2 if you add the letters per the number in the alphabet. We are each an 8. Also, if you add up the year I was born it comes out to 71, the year he was born. Anyway, I don't know that much about numerology but I think it's probably got something to do with something. I cannot figure it out. If anyone does, please let me know. Also, Edward is a medieval wood wright. He builds medieval reproduction furniture. His website is at www.medievalmasters.com. He is also the only child I ever had.
As I have shown Edward around California we have encountered many animals out of the blue like, an old wild fox at Big Bear, a mountain lion in the Sequoia Forest that came down to see us at the edge of a freeway as we pulled up, and a wild deer on a busy road. When we get home I look up the meaning of each animal in my Crow's Magick book and in Medicine Cards book too.
So, the crow is a powerful entity as all animals are. At least it has been to me. And, although, I had some knowledge of why I was developing Crow's Magick, little did I know the amount of Magick that it held for me.
There is a lot of colour in the Crows Magick. Was this important to you in trying to convey the meanings of the cards?
Absolutely color is important. The colors we surround ourselves with dictate how we feel. They can provoke us or, they can soothe us, depending on the color. Each color combination that I chose relates to that cards meaning or that particular suits meaning. For example: predominately red with yellow for the suit of Wands, the fire cards: Aries, Sagittarius and Leo.
Do you have any advice for those readings with these decks? Do you have any advice for those just beginning with tarot?
Buy decks that you feel a connection with, that you can relate to. Once you find it, or them be truly open minded and you will find the right guidance come to you. Beginner tarot readers will find that in Crow's Magick tarot each card has a couple of basic card meanings on them. On any other tarot deck I really think it's a good idea to just work with the deck and see what cards fall out while shuffling or you feel a strong connection with then look up the meaning. Some people receive tarot decks as gifts. Accept them as that, a gift. They are. Even if they are not what you like at first or don't feel a connection with at first, you will find something about them at one point or another that you will see why they were given to you.
As for doing readings. Each reader has to make a choice as to how they read for someone. My advice: Be honest.
© Darren Varey