An Interview With Noel, Creator of the Numinous Tarot

Rarely does a tarot deck move me in the way The Numinous Tarot does.

Its colors are brilliant, its illustrations grounded, yet whimsical. The faces staring out from the cards are all of our faces–diverse, expressive, beautiful. The concepts that inform the cards are modern and original, yet still speak to traditional meanings. And after roughly four years, a Kickstarter campaign has finally made this groundbreaking deck available to the masses.

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The Numinous Tarot, Noel Arthur Heimpel, Forthcoming (2018)

Noel Arthur Heimpel is its illustrious creator, and in true fangirl fashion, I asked them if they’d be willing to do an interview so I could spread the word. Needless to say, I was pretty frickin’ excited when they agreed, and I’m even more excited to share their insight into the creative process, their inspiration for the deck, and their journey with it up to this point. So grab a cup of tea and an comfy seat and learn more about the amazing artist and human behind The Numinous Tarot!

When did you decide to truly commit yourself to art, and what drew you to the comic book form?

This is a very interesting question! Like most kids, I started making art when I was very little, but when I was 11 I decided to commit myself to really seriously learning how to draw. I had a lot of stories and characters running around my imagination, and I wanted to be able to make them real. I also started learning seriously how to write around that time; art and writing have always been connected for me.

Art and writing have always been connected for me.

That was the beginning of my journey, and there were a lot of points along the way where I had to re-commit or commit in a bigger way. In high school I was actively discouraged from pursuing an art degree at college, on the basis that I “couldn’t make a living,” so at first I didn’t. I entered university as an elementary/special education major. But I still made art all the time, and eventually, during a very dark time, it became clear that I wasn’t following my heart. I switched majors (I ended up graduating with a degree in painting/drawing/printmaking) and started my webcomic, Ignition Zero, in 2011. This was when I really committed myself to doing art as a career instead of a hobby or “on the side” thing.

As for comics, well, as I mentioned, I’ve always liked to both write and draw! I grew up reading manga and webcomics as a teen, and it occurred to me that hey, comics is both writing and drawing put together, right? Previously, I wrote a lot of novels in high school and college that few people have ever seen, and drew a lot of art of the characters that I then put that online with no context. I realized that more people would have access to the whole of my stories if I made a webcomic than if I waited to get a novel published. Basically, comics allows me to combine two of my biggest passions into one beautiful thing!

What role does tarot play in your life?

Tarot plays a huge role in my life. I’ve been reading since I was 13, so, for almost 14 years now! It’s my favorite tool for self-exploration. As someone with anxiety and C-PTSD, Tarot has been invaluable for managing my mental illnesses, and in my recovery from the trauma and abuse that caused them. It helps me get a handle on my thoughts and emotions, to ask myself important questions and see the world more clearly, rather than through the distorted filter of anxiety or depression.

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The Numinous Tarot, Noel Arthur Heimpel, Forthcoming (2018)

I’ve also used it for communicating with deities and spirits, whether for myself or for others, and in spell casting; Tarot is a major tool in my spiritual and magical practice. And I love using Tarot to connect with other people, friends or strangers, to help give them some perspective or advice on their troubles, hopes, and dreams. It’s a structure in my life, a way I can frame the things that happen to me and how I can move forward in a way that promotes growth and healing.

When and where did the idea for The Numinous Tarot originate?

After I graduated from college, I found myself not knowing what to paint anymore, aside from Ignition Zero. Up until then, I had used art as a way to vent my difficult, painful feelings related to the deep depression I was in as a result of a traumatic event when I was 18. I had been to therapy and seen a lot of progress, to the point I no longer felt depressed any longer. No depression meant no inspiration for my paintings, though!

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The Numinous Tarot, Noel Arthur Heimpel, Forthcoming (2018)

I’d been wanting to do a Tarot deck for a long time but was waiting for the “right moment” when I was “good enough” to make such a commitment. I decided this was the moment because if nothing else, the cards gave me topics to paint during a time when I had no ideas. It began as a very personal endeavor, a deck unique to me and my spiritual/magical/life experiences, but grew into something more mystical and broad as I continued to work on it over the years. I wanted to give underrepresented people a view of themselves in this deck, and to make it a happy, colorful, magical view at that. Basically, what I was at first giving to myself I wanted to gift to others as well.

What was your process in creating The Numinous Tarot?

I had been reading Tarot for about 10 years when I started the deck, so I already knew the cards pretty well. I usually just sat down, thought about how I wanted to draw that particular card, scribbled a few ideas, picked one, and then started drawing/painting! At one point I sat down and wrote out ideas for the entire deck, which I followed for a while and then abandoned after a year or two because things had evolved to a point where I had different and new concepts for those cards.

Making a Tarot deck made me think really deeply about every card, and about the deck as a whole system.

I just went card-by-card, first creating the Major Arcana, then the court cards, and finally the pip cards in numerical sets (first the aces, then the twos, then the threes, etc). Sometimes I did a little research and read up on cards to deepen my knowledge of them or remind myself of details I had forgotten. Around the time I started the deck, I also got involved in an online community of queer and PoC Tarot readers, whose readings and blog posts gave me a lot of new and interesting perspectives to think about! But mostly I based the images on my personal feelings and interpretations of the cards that I’d developed as a reader over the years. It was also really fun to “convert” some of the card concepts for the pips based on the suit—thinking about, for example, how to convey a card meaning with books instead of coins (the Pentacles suit being called Tomes in the Numinous Tarot). Some really good stuff came out of that, like the Six of Tomes featuring a Little Free Library to represent generosity and charity!

Making a Tarot deck made me think really deeply about every card, and about the deck as a whole system. I definitely learned more in the last four years about Tarot than I did in the previous ten I spent just reading with them. It was quite an endeavor to take on!

The Numinous Tarot Kickstarter ends on August 8–if you’d like to add this deck to your collection, pledge now!

For exclusive tarot readings, webcomics, and other witchy awesomeness, visit Noel on Patreon.

Much Love Beautiful People,

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