Interview by: Steph Engert, Starlight Dragon Press
What made you decide to design your own Tarot deck?
The idea first found me in a quite mixed period of my life. I could not find my place in the world, or with my arts in the art scene, I was not fitting anywhere- I did not find the place and right thing to give and the feedbacks were reflecting this unmatched connection. Thanks god, I was still very sure I have a lot to do with my pictures and have a lot to say about them, to share my ideas behind them and something universal as well. After Christmas evening, while we had a rest in my hometown with Matthias (whom I consider the 'father' of The Gypsy Palace Tarot) asked why am I not designing a Tarot deck from them, if I have such an interest in tarot too? True, I loved reading the cards and I knew enough of them to face this challenge, but it never came to my mind before to match these. But what really made me decide to start on this way was that very sure feeling, coming from deep inside- I meant to do it. These were my exact words- let's do it, this is the right thing to do. We had no idea how will it work out, we never had experience in creating an oracle, and basically a product, but we agreed to put all our energies in this project.
What was your very first idea about it?
The very first idea was simply to create an artistic deck from my artworks. The idea grew on me, I immediately started to connect my pictures to one or another card and I was very glad to see they were fitting! Of course in the final version does not contain any of these pictures, that was just the first fire... but I drew new ones, so much better ones and after months of intuitive creation, I realized, they are very special and hold so much more than just eye-catchy illustrations.
There are strong influences of Gypsy, and more generally folk culture influences, Eastern European and particularly Hungarian, but also Asian, Indian spiritual traditions – what do these different strands mean to you?
Well, I wish I could give You a more regular answer than this: because that makes me feel home, makes me inspired, enchants me. This is where I am authentic, true. In some remains Hungarian folk influences are present in my deck, but I would never say that it is typically Hungarian, because it is absolutely not. I was never in Asia, India and I am not even gypsy. What is more, I did not even study arts. Of course, I always had interest in these things and I love to dive deep these areas, still, I believe some of these impressions are possibly coming from deeper than the experiences of my 24 years... unconscious, intuition, inheritance? Maybe the answer is very simple, but it is still a mystery for me.
The idea of nomadism, of traveling, of being on the road – physically figuratively, socially and spiritually - seems to me the metaphor guiding your deck . Can you expand on that, please, i.e. explain the title Gypsy Palace (which is an intriguing contradiction truly triggering the imagination!) and what being on the road “in all four worlds” means to you and the Gypsy Palace?
The metaphor of traveling is very important to embrace the idea of the deck. But to make the idea complete, we will need to use another metaphor: Home. Traveling and home? A traveling home! The Gypsy Palace. When You travel, everything is constantly changing around You, the need will appear to have a centre, a base, a home. And I am not talking about something physical... Your house can be your body, but your home is your spirit! We are all traveling homes, traveling spirits experiencing, sharing this life with each other.
My spirit could be a Gypsy Palace, that is what I experience, what I can share, where I can invite You- and my art is the manifestation of this spirit. My spirituality is my home and my home is a palace... and most of all, being present in the moment is the most important substance of finding your home!
Being on the road, meeting between caravans and horses around a fire and the starry sky, immediately conjures up story-telling and the exchange of stories. Tarot cards are very good at story telling through multivalent symbols and layers of meanings. The Gypsy Palace is particularly strong in telling stories, some of the cards seem to ‘burst out’ with the amount of stories told in your pictures (for example the Devil card, on which you pointed to the variety of pictures and stories in another interview) . Would you care to choose another card and point us to its stories?
There are a lot of ways to share our story. It can be through art or verbal communication, or even with the blessing or translation of an oracle. Actually, when it comes to story telling, I love to entertain children with a just-made-up story together with my pictures (and I encourage everybody to do so and use the cards freely). I am so curious what they see on a picture, and they always bring spontaneously new twist to it ... I try to reach this sensitive layer in adults as well, the one which makes the imagination borderless and the trust to maximum. Adults maybe rather tell their stories through Tarot, which keeps them creative and present. I have my stories for each of the cards and the wonder is that you will also find yours if you are open to communicate with them.
The card of The Death for example has deep wisdom to our society, it is important to understand the message here – though life and death are the most natural things the man of nowadays and ancient cultures had a very different view on this issue. I believe we keep an unnatural and scaring distance with everything what is dead, what reminds us about our worlds evanescence. In my image you can separate The Death's image vertically to three parts, but notice that these parts are connected to each other. The upper part shows a human being, with a suffering, sad expression on her face, waving with her hand- and the lowest part shows a man from behind, lying, holding up his hand in a waving goodbye expression as well. Between these parts a black cat is positioned, also holding up the paw and tail in the same way plus a human face in an orange triangle.
The cat has a huge role in this picture, as usually animals in my pictures, she is a translator, here between the happenings of the two parts. You may already found out, that the upper part is alive and the lower part is not- at least not in the same meaning. The lady's hand shows five fingers, the passing persons like four and a half fingers and finally the cats shows four fingers. As I talked about it in my article of The Magician, five is the number of creation, to create something from four to a higher level is five, to connect the four elements or to connect the four corners of a square. But here the process is the other way around- five will reduce to four, it turns back to its elements. It is returning to what it was created from, the stripes of red, oranges and green show the disintegration's direction, down to the earth.
But as our cat here has something like a ladder between her tail and neck, you will see that although the material returns to the soil, but the soul, the spirit transforms to something higher in another direction- to the orange face, which is actually a sail and the cat is the ship.
If you pay attention to the dead person's mouth, you will find out wonderful realizations. The mouth is the door, the entrance of a human being. The disintegrating creature has no face anymore, only a mouth remains, which melts into the darkness. This open door is only leading to the ground, the soil. But his soul, which is represented on the orange sail has a face and the mouth, his mouth, the souls entrance is melting together with the cat, the guide of the eternal soul. This entrance leads to another world, another dimension, where the cat is heading to. This ship is the symbol of traveling, going to a journey, what every soul does time after time, from one body to another.
But look at his hand, it still leaves seeds, tears or blessings behind- this is what he can leave behind in the upper world. Death is something material, but I intend to show this transitional period as well, which leads to eternity.
Can you please expand on the meanings of the colours you use: In other interviews and in a text which you wrote on the Magician, you explained your meanings for some of the colours you use. Can you expand on that and especially your attributions of colours to the elements?
You might experienced that every colour is very attached to the others in a way that every combination carries something new meaning, impression. Even if one colour would carry just one meaning, their meaning would change immediately when another one accompanies it- the same as Tarot cards. Each of them have different meanings in different levels and it also depends on the context!
But I would love to give here a brief introduction, mainly based on very simple nature observations. Blue is the colour of the sky and also of the sea. In other words air and water and even further it will become intellect, mind and transcendence, emotions. Blue can calm you down or can even make you depressed, truly inspires your imagination, definitely spiritual. But we can look at blue as the opposite of red- red, the colour of fire, blood, libido, burning life energy. It can symbolize birth and death, passion and danger, but mostly connected to materialistic issues. Two opposites, what indicate purple, the balancing colour of wisdom between them. Green is also a beautiful expression of balance, the colour of nature, harmony and wild-life. It is the mixture of blue and yellow- and yellow is the colour of sun, light, gold. We can also frame it like yellow stands for god, highness and respected, warm power. Let's add red to it and we can close the circle with the colour of creation and enthusiastic energy, where passion and the bless of god meets: orange.
I am very intrigued by your depiction of the elements in the Aces. They really convey the idea of being the root, the seeds of the elements. They remind me of the traditional conception of the ‘elementals’ such as undines, sylphides and yet they express an entirely bold, new different ‘take’ in these figures which are abstract and concrete at the same time.
The Aces express the pure, elemental energy of the suits, they are almost like ancient sculptures- with their colour, their movement, their character and even with their hair. I actually use the symbol of the hair a lot in this deck, as they are a lot of female characters represented. Their nudity here stand for the purity, not for provocation. It is just a little reminder of that wonderfully common, still hidden, but obvious fact, that under our clothes we are all naturally naked.
If you look at the Ace of Wands you will notice she is like an explosion- her feet doesn't reach the ground, she is in move, in action! As her expression shows, she is excited, surprised, her hair is twisting and floating in the air, says freedom and passion. Her left hand mirrors the hairs movement, every part of her body is moving to a different direction.
Not like the Ace of Swords! Her hair is hidden under the bright turban, which guides your attention to her head. There is no need for temptation here- the intellect dominates. Her eyes are focusing at something far away, what a philosophic lady, her blue skin is holy- but cold at the same time. She stands on tiptoes, with a spiky connection of shadow to the ground, in her strange, but very conscious balance. And surprisingly she has two left hands, one is pointing to her throat, referring to verbal communication and makes the point of insisting with her fist's powerful movement to the knee.
The Ace of Cups is not alone (you may noticed this duality on the court cards too), the cups for me are somehow suggesting the union of two things. She is upside down- and why not? Her hair are the cups, where the young man is drinking from, both eyes dreamingly closed- their experiences here are beyond vision!
And Ace of Pentacles with her dark purple skin, shiny eyes, golden jewelery is shown closest to us- she is not floating, she is already rooted, the green life is going beyond her borders, it is growing, it is alive. Her hair is like a rainbow, expressing her fertility.
In my earlier view of your deck, I pointed to the inner contrast beween your exuberant, lively colours and an underlying melancholy or tragic trait, for example in Fool or the World and I interpreted this an expression of wholeness. Would you please comment on this idea?
In The Gypsy Palace I celebrate the beauty by showing the weary side of the things, as something what makes them even more precious. This is what you see for example by the missing teeth of The Fool and the half closed eyes of The World or on the painful expression on The Death card. They've been through a lot, they are experienced and life can be rough on you sometimes.
The idea of traveling has a let's say tragical or melancholic side as well, because as things always change around you, you will experience to let go and to loose. You have to let go every unrepeatable moment for something unknown. Even when the loss of something is cleaning up the space for something new, and even if this makes the world complete, leaving things behind on purpose or unwillingly, this can hurt- and it is important to be aware of it and embrace it.
We may loose things on the way physically, but we will be always richer by an experience. And that experience will make you even more complete.
Some of the traditionally very highly regarded, let us say ‘holy’ cards are very down-to-earth in your deck, in an ‘inoffensively disrespectful’ manner. The High Priestess, for example, looks like a moody girl making the point of her displeasure, the Emperor and the Hierophant look like guys you might meet in the street. What made you do so?
I really like this expression: 'inoffensively disrespectful'... they are a bit provocative, aren`t they? Here is what I miss about holy things: that they don't let you to touch them! But these characters somehow provoke you to touch them, to connect to them. They are gods dressed in human costumes, they act and behave like this to reach you, to fool you and to teach something new by showing holy ideas can take shape in unexpected forms... they are not afraid to go beyond the surface of traditions and to play, get a bit dirty! Anyways, I sometimes feel they have their own rules in The Gypsy Palace, they are already their own masters there.
Animals, particularly horses are prominent in your deck. But there are also cats and the Über-animal dragons. What do these animals mean to you, say the blue horses in various cards the red horses in the Star, the dragons in the Chariot...
Yes, animals of every kind are very frequent on the cards. Horses, cats, foxes, birds and fish, frogs, snakes and even an alligator! Animals carry so much attributions and qualities that they truly add to the deck. But I somehow see them as translators between humans and … always something else.
Horses are prominent in traveling, they are powerful, cooperative souls who serve us by transportation, carrying us. Traveling with them must be the real feeling of partnership, as your 'vehicle' is alive it requires sharing and caring, to experience tiredness, hunger, freedom together in a silent way of communication. And when I picture them for example blue, this will add some 'blue attributions' to them- a reliable, cooperative, strong partner, who carries you on your spiritual journey.
Birds have great importance as well, they are the connection between earth and sky, between human and god, they are the symbols of soul and freedom. Flying is their privilege, they can enjoy the view from the clouds- that's what they mean in my art. And still, the peacock ,the owl, the chicken or the golden oriole- they are all translators of something different, but based on these qualities. As the horse rides horizontally, birds fly vertically.
Fish- the creatures of water, which introduces another type of moving: swimming, going with the flow. Water represents the unconscious, knowledge and to deepen things. Fish are also the ancient symbols of fertility- and squama as a pattern also appears on many cards, referring to them.
And dragons... for me they are the mixture of every animal, yes, like an über animal, a super animal with the plus extract of gods wisdom and immortality. This gives the strength to the card of The Chariot.