In the Beginning There Was Anxiety: The Emotional Flashcards Creation Story

I have been working on creating a set of tarot cards, and alternative interpretation of the major arcana. This has essentially been a process for me to work through the stress and confusion I began to experience during March of 2020, as the threat of the global Covid-19 pandemic became a reality. I found I was unable to focus on the creative work I had before me at the time, which had created a kind of Catch-22 loop: I was stressed and anxious, and needed to spend time on creative projects to engage with the healing flow state of creativity, but I was too stressed and anxious to focus enough to engage with the healing flow state of creativity. We were all there, in that dog-chasing-tail reality, in one way or another. Even now, over a year  later it still lingers.

What I found was that I was able to work out some of this stressful creative conundrum by making small paintings about what I was feeling. I had done two or three of these paintings earlier, which involved identifying a feeling I was experiencing, naming it, and then allowing an image to come into my mind to illustrate the feeling. Since my early pandemic experience was all about these types of raw emotions, I started working again in this way, without any specific plan, creating a series of images I referred to collectively as Emotional Flashcards. Instead of learning my multiplication tables as I had as a child, I thought I could use these flashcards to learn how to navigate my emotions.

Once a few of these images gathered together as finished paintings, I started noticing some similarity in the themes of my paintings with the archetypes present in the major arcana of the tarot. These little forays into my subconscious were spontaneously coalescing themselves into a set of tarot majors while I was busy soothing myself with thoughts of color and line and watercolor effects. With this realization, I made a thin outline of a plan, careful to avoid left-braining myself away from what was magical about this process. I then set about pulling the remaining paintings out of the dark corners of my emotional mind to form an alternative take on the themes of the tarot.

This project was an enormous help for me – the combination of exploring and naming my feelings, the creative outlet, and the process of embodying the archetypes of the tarot – all helped me manage the many stresses of the pandemic. The project gave me a grounding I needed, and an outlet for processing some of my feelings about this global tragedy.

I painted these images as they came to me, in a range of styles and a variety of materials. Collectively, they are varied and eclectic, but in the interest of just letting this series of paintings emerge I allowed each image to find its own visual representation rather than worrying about creating a collection of stylistically similar images. This is something completely out of my comfort zone, but the pandemic essentially eroded any ideas I had about what I considered my comfort zone, so it was easier to just let this set of images have its way.

These cards have helped me, so maybe they will help you too. In that hope, I am working now to turn these images into an actual usable deck of cards, printed on traditional tarot card stock. As I work through the logistics and all the clearly left-brained details that this involves, I thought it would be nice to share this story of all the right-brain feelings that brought this project into being.

It turns out, then, that this is a creation story, and it starts with:  “In the beginning there was anxiety . . .” But happily, it doesn’t end that way.

Lisa Laughy
In 2018 I began studying the tarot as a tool for self exploration and healing, and the creative work that has been inspired by that journey fills the pages of this site. For now this website is still in its construction phase, but before long there will be artwork and imagery to explore, blog posts discussing the process and symbolism of my work, and opportunities to bring some of this work into your tarot practice, homes, and altar spaces.

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