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The Tarot Garden Library

About the Authors

Ann Trump has been engaged in various metaphysical studies for the past twenty-five years. She studied fine arts at Seton Hill College. She is certified in the Edgar Cayace/Dr. Harold J. Reilly technique for massage therapy. Ann has taught art classes, been published in a new age periodical, worked as a private spiritual councilor and tarot reader, and currently cars for abused animals at a farm sanctuary.

Dan Pelletier is the co-owner of The Tarot Garden. An accomplished tarot reader with over thirty years of experience, Dan has also contributed to such publications as Aeclectic Tarot and Body Mind Spirit magazine.

Spirituality, Saints, and the Cards:
A Tarot Garden Interview with Ann Prioletti

Dan: Tell me a bit about Karen and Ann...where are you from? Where did you meet?

Ann: Karen and I are first cousins, born and raised in western Pennsylvania. Karen lived in Greensburg. I grew up about eight miles away in New Stanton. My mother and her mother are sisters and probably best friends, as well, so we played together as children.

We come from a large Italian family. Family bonds are strong, so until we were adolescents, everything that we did was with each other.

Our family has always been religious, but with a hefty dose of superstition added to the mix. From the very get go, Karen and I were exposed to stories about the evil eye, spirits of dead relatives coming back for a visit or to give a message, real witches that could curse or cure you, the merits of astrology, fortune telling, and dreams. Like a pot of soup made from scratch, with just about anything thrown in, we were also versed in the power of prayer, the importance of attending church, and the reliability of Saints.

Dan: Tell me a bit about your spiritual development, and how it may have varied from religious development. Was your closeness to each other a part of that growth? Did you "pick and choose" before you found your path, or did you both "know it?"

Saint Deck: TheresaAnn: I was born and raised Roman Catholic. I went to Roman Catholic school and Roman Catholic Church, yet because of the way I was raised, as I mentioned before, I never separated religion and spirituality. Sometime, during my high school years, I began to question the policies of the Catholic Church and why it seemed important to attend. I started to recognize that people were showing up on Sunday all smiles and duty, yet were fighting and arguing among themselves during the week. I came to the conclusion that church doesn't make the man. It was the essence of the religion that mattered to me. Due to work and a teenage schedule, I stopped attending mass on Sundays. I never felt guilty, because I felt close to God and I personally didn't need church to maintain that closeness.

In college, I took a few world religion classes and became interested in all religions. I saw a connection. I saw "the truth" was everywhere I looked. I became interested in meditation and yoga, and to this day maintain those practices. I never made a conscious choice to "abandon" Catholicism; I just started to integrate spiritual practices and principles that worked for me, including those of the Catholic Church. I didn't concern myself with labels or boundaries. I just followed my interests. I kept what worked and dismissed what didn't.

As a young mother, I wanted to give my children a foundation. I saw it more as a spiritual foundation, rather than a religious one. But we went to church and they got all their sacraments, all the while, mom's reading tarot cards, and interpreting dreams. So, in a sense, I raised my kids like I was raised.

In the meantime, after high school, Karen joined the service, later we both married and had children, but as we "came together" as adults, we found that our interests were very similar.Geographically, we were separated, but our spiritual paths seemed to parallel with each other. We had both expanded on our earlier upbringing. Remember, we were raised with "new age" principles. Thoughts of spirits roaming the halls, or dreams, predicting the future were commonplace. So "new age" was really old stuff to us.

Dan: Tell me a bit about when and how you discovered the Tarot. Who first? What led up to it?

Ann: When I was 13, my mother ordered a set of Time/Life books called Man, Myth and Magic. I devoured them. It was there that I first read about and studied the tarot. Shortly afterwards, I got my first deck. It was so easy to read cards that I actually amazed myself. I read everything that I could find on Tarot, but this was more for my own entertainment, because when it came to "reading" the cards, it just happened. I never referred to books.

Interestingly enough, I did not start with the Rider-Waite deck. (A first deck for many, many people) My first deck was a Swiss deck called Swiss 1JJ Tarot deck. I used this deck for years. The same deck, over and over again. I read for friends and myself, and eventually family. This went on for years and years and I never charged a dime. I would just read for whoever asked me to.

It was not until I was in my early 20's that it started to get out of control. Apparently, word was spreading that this girl over in New Stanton does free readings. People were calling me that I had never heard of and finally I stopped doing it. I limited myself to people that were close to me. I had not thought of charging for it. As a teenager, I had read a superstition, that said if money is exchanged the gift of divination would be lost. I just bought in to that, I guess. Meanwhile, I was paying to get readings now and then for myself...go figure.

Saint Deck: ElmoIt was actually Karen who talked some sense into me about charging for my services. She was living in Florida at the time and doing quite well doing readings in metaphysical stores. I was working as a massage therapist, but this was way back when massage was not a household word. I was doing well with it, but I felt like I still needed to supplement my income. Karen was inspiring for me and also made me realize that services are services and it's all right to be compensated for them. So I launched a new business, and the rest is history. As for the, I haven't lost the gift, but I do believe that there is such a thing as exploitation and greed. I am appalled at what some people charge for a reading. And I think it is important to maintain a heart-centered intention. To remember why you are doing the readings, that's the important thing. There is still a tiny part of me that believes that if it's only about the money... well, then, you may be taking your chances.

Dan: The approach that you took in your cards -- the use of the Saints -- was at the time a serious departure from the Tarot, and even other Oracle decks. Can you give me a broad time-line of its development, and what was happening in each of your lives (what you are willing to share), so that we can see how your own personal lives, and life events, helped bring about the Saints Deck.\? For example, when each of your first talked to each other about the deck‚ there had to be some fermentation going on already -- what year was that? What happened next?

Ann: Oh good Lord, Dan... let's see... I'll just let the rambling begin...

The deck was copyrighted in 2001 and it took approximately five years to be birthed. So, we must have talked about it in 1996.

It was Karen's idea. We were having a phone conversation and it led into designing our own deck. For years, I had toyed with the idea and even considered buying one of those blank decks and designing my own Tarot, just for me, although Karen didn't know this until this conversation. My background is in art, so this idea never seemed daunting. But we got to talking and she said she had the idea about doing a deck using saints. Well, I got very excited... I could see it already! As we brainstormed, it became a real possibility. I told her I would do a few sketches and see what I could come up with. From there on in, it became our passion.

The illustrations took a year and a half to complete. The rest of the time was spent just figuring out how to publish and what to do next.

Saint Deck: NicholasWe were pretty green. I knew a tiny bit about submitting work, because I had written several children's books and was working on a fictional autobiography -- a new genre that I invented (just kidding) -- and was trying to get these published. So I had a starting point. We were so passionate about the saint deck and I know that's what drove us . Little did we know that it would take five years.

My life at the time was busy. I was working part time, but I was a full time mom and took it very seriously, even though my kids were in their teens at the time. My life was changing. My kids were getting older and I was going through a transition period where I was trying to move from "work for money" to "laboring with love." I was investing more time into looking into what I loved and what I needed and I what I wanted to do. I was spending a lot of time writing and doing random art. This was my therapy. Also, at this time, my mother was facing breast cancer and I was facing the possibility that I might lose her. It was an emotional time for me. Lots of issues were coming up for me to look at, old stuff. It is not surprising that The Saint Deck is jam-packed with emotional cards. It also has quite a few health cards.

From the moment of its conception, The Saint Deck took on a life of it's own. Literally, we handed ourselves over to the saints and let them direct our course. And they did.

Each Saint revealed themselves to us along the way. There were several of our "favorites" that we knew had to be in the deck, but others would come through in surprising ways and let us know they wanted to be in the deck. Each illustration is divined from that particular saint. I invoked each saint individually through prayer, novenas, meditations, dreams, candle work, etc. Many times, I had an idea in mind as to what the drawing for a specific saint would be, and I would be shown otherwise. Believe me, there was struggle at times. It was a major lesson in letting go and trusting. All along the way, we were directed. The right people would show up. One move led to the next. And the saints consistently confirmed that they were helping us. But, it wasn't easy and there were moments when I doubted. But only moments. You'll notice Thomas is in the deck. He was the doubter. And Peter, who nearly drowned. And let's not forget Jude, patron saint of lost causes! Always, the very saint that I was working on reflected issues I was currently dealing with in my own life. Karen confirmed this for herself as well. The saints are powerful teachers for anyone who cars to learn!

Getting turned down by big name publishers...

Ah... rejection!  Well, it's a hard pill to swallow, but I do believe it tends to toughen you up! The entire process of submission is daunting.  So much energy goes into it.  And most publishing doors are closed and bolted tight. It is also a catch-22 in the way of protecting your ideas. For example, you have to tell them the idea, if you want them to consider you (and they encourage as much detail as possible), but they can reject you and then use the idea themselves, with one of their "already published" authors. This very thing happened to us...

Armed with the passion of our project, I first sent out a few query letters. No bites. Once the drawings were underway and the deck and book were assuming a life of their own, I seriously put together a major query package including copies of the drawings, the book idea, and an outline.  The whole idea was laid out perfectly.  I sent it out to the biggest deck publisher, assuming, like all enthusiasts, that we had a shot. We were politely rejected. During the next year, as we worked on completing the deck and book, that very publisher came out with their own Saint deck from one of their in-house authors.  That's when we decided to self-publish. 

Dan: What is Nanta Bagg?

Ann: The Nanta Bagg is the name of our company. The Nanta Bag is what the Italian Strega witches carried. It would contain little charms and potions and such. It is a bag of magic spell making. We added the extra "g" in "bagg" because it was auspicious numerically.

Dan: Okay, the bad question: why do I, the non-Christian, want the deck?

Saint Deck: FiacreAnn: The deck is non-denominational. What that means is that anyone, from any, or no spiritual background, can tap into the power and energy of the saints. No one "owns" the saints. Just like no one "owns" angels. They are there to work with any one who chooses to call on them. This is an extremely powerful deck. Each saint was invoked for each card. The illustrations are a collection of figures, animals, and symbols. This came as a surprise to me, since traditionally Saints are represented as figures. I believe that the drawings came out the way they did so that all people would be interested in working with them.

This deck breaks the mold for saints. It is our belief that the saints worked through us in this untraditional way, so that their guidance would reach everyone, regardless of religious background. For example, St. Fiacre, who is patron saint of gardeners, is represented in the deck as two dragonflies. One of his miracles was that he cleared a lot of land single-handedly in one day, and later built a hospice there where many people were healed. I had envisioned the card to be of a man in a field clearing it with a scythe. As soon as I invoked Fiacre for help with the illustration, which included prayer, candle work, novenas, and meditations, I was enveloped with a child like feeling of wonder and awe. I felt very light and happy and even whistled a little tune. This feeling lingered for days as I worked with Fiacre, yet, I could not come up with a drawing that was pleasing. At this same time, dragonflies started to show up every time I went outdoors. They would swoop around me and accompany me on walks. Still, I didn't make the connection. It was not until days later, when I became especially frustrated with Fiacres' illustration, that I beseeched him while I was walking my dogs. Immediately dragonflies appeared and followed me the entire time. Like a light turned on, I realized what I was to draw. That day the illustration came effortlessly.  When the illustration was finished, the dragonflies disappeared.  There you go...dragonflies are not associated with any religion. But St. Fiacre's card can represent, among other things flying to new heights, new opportunities, or some burden in your life being lifted. One woman at a show I was attending bought the deck because she pulled one card and it was Saint Fiacre. She had recently started working with dragonfly energy and was astounded at the synchronicity (something that often happens when working with saints). She had no prior knowledge of saints.

I have had many people buy the deck just because they liked the illustrations. One man said to me that when you buy Tarot or any divination deck, you are really buying art. I liked that. It was so important to me to keep the integrity of the illustrations. I wanted the colors to remain bright and vibrant. A lot of decks are very pastel colored. Color is energy.  When you see the deck, you can feel the energy and power of it.

Dan: ...And I think that's why I'm glad to have The Saint Deck in my collection. Thank you for your time, and the love.

Ann Trump and Karen Prioletti's Saint Deck is available in the Tarot Garden Boutique -- click here for details.

© Ann Trump and Dan Pelletier
15 December 2004

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