Interview: Pamela Steele

Written by: Chloe McCracken / Inner Whispers

A couple of weeks ago, I featured the Wizard’s Pet Tarot (2014) in the journal prompts here.  It’s such a lovely deck, with so many little details, and I couldn’t resist asking Pamela if she’d be willing to answer some of my questions about it.  So, here is our interview:

1)  I believe your grandkids were your inspiration for this deck.  Could you tell us a bit about that?

In July 2012 my youngest granddaughter, Paige was here for a visit.  She was 9 years old at the time and during one of our conversations she asked me for a copy of the tarot deck meaning the Steele Wizard to which I immediately replied “no”.  My brain began to mentally inventory all the appropriate child-friendly decks as I explained all the reasons she couldn’t have a copy just yet.  The main reason was the other side of her family are very religious and to make a long story short, I knew her having a tarot deck with nudity would cause problems no one needed.  As I finished the explanation (still thinking furiously) she looked up at me with her bright blue eyes and asked “Will you make me one?” and before I could disengage my brain I heard my voice reply, “Of course I will, Sweetheart.”

2)  While the Steele Wizard was a purely Caucasian deck, the Wizard’s Pet is very multi-cultural.  What inspired you in that regard?

I’m not entirely sure.  The Steele Wizard had been brewing in my head for over 20 years and although the people’s skin tones are fairer, I never thought of them as Caucasian.  They are a people I remembered from another time and place and had been the subjects of my drawings for decades.  Most times I didn’t even use a model but drew these people straight out of my head.

When it came to the “Wizard’s Pets, it seemed totally appropriate that all the characters, dragons and people, should be more colorful to better represent the infinite diversity of our world and cultures.

3)  You’ve clearly long had a passion for dragons, there are a couple in the Steele Wizard Tarot, too.  What do dragons mean to you? 

Wisdom.  Ancient and familial wisdom.  I’ve been fascinated by dragons from as far back as my memory goes.  My first spirit guide manifest in the form of a white dragon and is still my go-to ‘person’.

4)  Most of the “people” in the Wizard’s Pet Tarot seem to be some form of fae, with pointy ears.  What was the thought process behind that?

The suits in the Wizard’s Pets are each represented by a race from different lands created in the children’s ebooks I wrote in 2010.  Pentacles are Dwarves from the mountains.  Cups are the Pirates and Merfolk of the coast. Wands are Elves from the Great Forest.  Swords are the Dragon Slayers that populate the countries and terrorize the dragons and their friends.

The Major Arcana are comprised of the main characters from the original series of cartoon drawings (began in 1984) and the children’s ebooks.

5)  As well as the dragons, there are other pets in the deck.  For instance, a Bagpuss-like, orange-and-yellow-stripey cat appears in four of the cards.  Was that based on the English TV character, or was there a different inspiration for it?

 LOL  That’s Jasper.  He was the Wizard’s cat in the original cartoon series and is modeled after one of my boys’ childhood cats, Chico.  They’d brought him home as a 2 week old abandoned kitten and I kept him in the pocket of my jacket when I left the house for 4 weeks to bottle feed him every 2-3 hours.  He grew up to be one of the most interesting fur-companions they ever had…a 26 pound barn cat who believed he was their brother.

 6)  There is also a little pair of eyes peeking out from somewhere on almost all the cards.  Was that intended as a kind of “Where’s Waldo?” element to the cards? 

 That would be Emo the Gremlin.  Another character from the original series.  From the time my boys were toddlers when anything was misplaced we blamed the gremlin.  As the cartoons evolved and we began naming the characters, the gremlin acquired the name Emo.  That was from my oldest, when he was 5 years old, posing the question, “What would you have named us if I’d been twins?”  I immediately quipped “Emo and Jasper.”  He looked puzzled then asked which name would have been his to which I said, “Emo.” He was so horrified the following performance was Oscar worthy.  Hence, when it came time to name the cartoon companions, the cat and the gremlin, they became Emo and Jasper.

 7)  You have left the “scary” cards in this “children’s” deck, and put in humorous touches to gentle them (a stuffed scarecrow figure in the Ten of Swords, for instance).  What were your thoughts in making those decisions?

 Children, both big and little, see enough violence in our society.  Yes, its there.  Yes, its real.  For the same reason I read Dr. Seuss rather than Grimm’s Fairy Tales to my little ones.  There is enough violence and hatred in the world around us to teach them about the more negative aspects of our world.  I’d rather show them it exists in a way that doesn’t give them nightmares.

It goes back to the original series of drawings.  We (my boys and I) were in a very dark place.  My (then) husband had become an abusive alcoholic and as we were 1,000’s of miles from any friends or family, it was just us.  The cartoons helped us find the smiles in situations that otherwise would have been devastating.

Written by: Chloe McCracken / Inner Whispers


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