Our Imagekind store which formerly handled all print sales has been closed permanently and will be replaced with offerings here at abrahadabra.com in the very near future.
Because Imagekind does not watermark smaller images it has lead to a large amount of small scale theft which is not ok. Closing the account will save us time as we won’t have to chase down as many thieves every day (the ones that don’t credit m1thr0s or Abrahadabra.com)
We hope you will enjoy the new sale system and as always any questions can be directed to the Contact Us page.
After showcasing our timeline album over at IMGUR of The Mutational Alchemy Tarot a few people asked me to cover the publishing process from start to finish. I’ve seen a few Kickstarter projects asking for absurd amounts of money for low runs so in my opinion transparency is a good thing here.
Publishing a tarot is easier than you might think, especially with the ease of access to resources via the internet. While in the past hand cut decks were popular, they are very time consuming and thus they are very limited in distribution, numbering between 15-100 copies. Large factories can handle tens of thousands of copies as long as you can pay for them, and offer a wide array of services like gilding and different paper types.
The first thing you need to make sure of is that your art is of a high enough DPI, or resolution. The bigger the image the higher the quality of the final printing.
If you are painting or constructing the images digitally you’ll need to make sure that you’re painting with CMYK in mind, the inks that a printer uses. The computer you’re using has access to a lot more colors than a conventional printer, and more than even some of the advanced industrial printers you’ll possibly be sending your images to.
If you are painting traditionally you will need a good working knowledge of cameras, lighting setups and have the equipment itself, either rented, borrowed or owned. If you don’t wish to deal with this you can also hire a photographer to take pictures of your work. Expect to shell out at least $20 per photo for the photographer’s time, if they are professional. Make sure you get a high DPI digital version, and not prints. You can put this images in a photo editing program to make adjustments later on or send them directly to the printer.
I shouldn’t need to mention this, but under no circumstances should you ever use someone else’s images in your work. Whether it’s the likeness of a celebrity or a photo you cut out of magazine and painted, it’s stealing. (see http://www.aeclectic.net/tarot/cards/heart-of-stars-tarot/ for an example of what not to do – this is literally a crime and could never be picked up by a publisher or printer legally) If you use photo manipulation please make sue the image has the proper creative commons release or is in the public domain. There’s nothing wrong with that and it doesn’t hurt anyone’s livelihood or infringe on their individual rights. If you put a likeness of your friend in the tarot, make sure they’re okay with it first.
Getting it Published
Finally when all of your images are done and they are in digital form, (JPEG with at least 300 DPI resolution.) what do you do now? You can send it to a local printer if they have the equipment to handle a tarot deck. Most printers in the USA do not – they will print a sheet for you and you have to cut it yourself. There is a niche market for such handmade decks. Other times you’ll find that the quality is lacking and it can get expensive testing one printer after another.
Tarot cards used to be exclusively hand pressed and painted, so it is definately a real option for one-off’s especially, and well done lithographic tarot can become extremely sought after.
Some go with the publishing route, but if you do this you need to widely publicize your work on the deck during its creation and target a niche audience that represents the common occultist – highly advanced or innovative decks will not do well and publishers will rarely take a chance with them. As an example, we wrote to two publishers before deciding it would be in our best interest to retain all ownership rights. US Games told us outright that while they could see it was based on the Thoth, the nudity would offend their customers.
Llewellyn just ignored us despite writing to them twice.
Small Local Printers and Hand Cutting
Our first real option after this lull of publisher rejection was offered by a student of m1thr0s’s, MythMath who already had a lot of experience making homemade games and had made playing cards before using a corner rounder. We had been working on the pack for nearly five years at that point and he wanted to get The Mutational Alchemy Tarot printed right away, and ordered some difficult-to-source poker paper to get it done locally. The paper was luxurious, durable and flexible but the images were noticeably off center. The printer wasn’t equipped to handle cards and it was extremely cost prohibitive. To make one deck would require an investment of $200, and I knew there had to be a better way, considering companies churn out decks for $15 a pop over and over again with few major problems with centering.
If you want highly professional service dedicated to tarot printing alone, on state of the art machines, you will have to go to Los Angeles, New York, or…Asia.
The TwinStar Orders Us Around
In 2014 that taskmaster the TwinStar began pushing me hard to get the deck published en masse. Its urgent demands were something I knew could not be ignored, nor would it be overly difficult for me to obey them as it probably already had a printer lined up. You have to work with the TwinStar for a few years to begin to understand just how perfect it is in action and conversation – it’s never wrong, it always has your best and highest interests in mind, and it’s not worth arguing with it, as you will lose, badly!
I started researching possible companies to self publish, and found Make Playing cards.com, which was very expensive at $15.00 per deck and while the colors looked good the paper stock was flimsy like a run of the mill massmarket deck according to other users. I uploaded all of our images and ordered a test copy to see if it was worth ordering a big batch. They wrote us back stating they had a policy against nudity! I couldn’t believe it. There was no other option in the USA for wholesale printing jobs.
Ali Baba and the Forty Tarot Factories
Asia was a labryinth, but m1thr0s and I absolutely wanted to get our cards printed in China for magickal reasons. Navigating the maze of trade liasons, importers, manufacturing companies and factories however, was daunting and indimidating. Sending thousands of dollars halfway across the world is even scarier, since it was a business loan and there was no way we could afford to do it again, especially since we wern’t sure if it would pay for itself. It was an investment in the long term for TAI itself, so that the website, annual taxes and licensing would begin paying for itself at least, and m1thr0s and I could gift the ownership of the MAT to TAI to help any future leaders of it.
I did some research and found out that dealing with factories directly was more cost effective, while the alternatives such as importers who go to factories on your behalf are more expensive, but supposedly more reliable.
After reading an article on the topic of doing business in China I decided to seek out factories. I started on Ali Baba, the trade hub of the world for everything from handbags to 3D printing machines sold wholesale. I hung my signpost out that said I was looking for a publisher for high quality art cards with nudity “not porn”, hoping to avoid any surprises later on.
I got quite a few responses and had to take days looking at all of them, talking to agents about what I needed and what they were willing to do. I sorted them out by weeding out people who seemed to abrasive or hasty, people who didn’t represent the factory directly (they call these importers or trade liaisons, and while they can be very helpful I was trying to cut all of the extra costs to put everything into the decks) factories that seemed to focus only on poker cards instead of oracle and tarot, and finally I was left with my choice, Shenzhen Wanjing Printing Co. They had a very nice website on Ali Baba with lots of photos of their staff and factory, a very responsive and polite agent as well as lots and lots of details about what they could do. The pricing was up front and they took the time to give me quotes based on what I asked for, instead of just throwing a cheap number at me without any details on the weight of the paper and packaging options.
I was lucky in that I didn’t have to make any compromises, except for paying more than I would have going to another company. We got exactly what we wanted, from the neat tuckbox to the black bleed-to-edge border. We did have to resize each image very slightly to fit their template, which was a little bit bigger than what we had planned, although this was actually a plus. Everything cost about $5,000 for 500 decks. It can go a lot lower for lower quality paper such as the kind you find in mass-published tarot decks which are seemingly never more than 300 gsm. (ours are 350 gsm art paper)
email@example.com is the email address of our contact Fanny Yeung at Shenzhen Wangjing and they are the best. If you decide to use them tell them The Abrahadabra Institute and Izi sent you. They are very reputable and are used by big publishers as well.
Even if you can pay for it, can you afford it?
We hadn’t been recieving very much financial support for our work on Abrahadabra even though people would come to us constantly with questions and requests for advice. This was very upsetting to our local busines advisor and she told us to stop doing it. We had to put the entire amount on the credit we had built carefully over the years. m1thr0s was on disability since he was hit hard with COPD around the time I was familiarizing myself with his work. I had been working on the deck for 5 years while doing customer service and freelance on the side at very low paying jobs to support him and the entire Institute, so we didn’t have any savings to put towards it. There just isn’t enough time to work on these important scholarly subjects and work at a full time typical career job, that’s the bottom line, especially with m1thr0s needing more and more assistance physically at home due to his poor health.
Both m1thr0s and I are highly skilled artists, so I knew we would be able to sell them once they were published. I know a lot of occultists want to publish a deck but if your situation is fragile like ours usually is you shouldn’t dump everything into publishing a deck that might not sell. I knew all of these risks and the reality of the situation well before I started on the project, but after talking with others involved in the Abrahadabra Institute I knew it was important to have a graphical representation of the kind of ideas we are always going on about in a fun form factor.
Shipping is very expensive from China for heavy boxes and you should expect to tack on at least a thousand dollars for every 500 decks. They initially wanted to send it to a port but I couldn’t get any of the ports here to explain how to pick it up, so the easiest option was by air with UPS. The best part of choosing Shenzhen Wangjiang is that they reassured us and guided us every step of the way, and we ordered everything sight unseen without sending a quality controller. This is very risky but I had to trust that since things were going so smoothly my spirit lodge helpers were managing everything as they always do.
m1thr0s is way more marketing savvy than I am having been the chief director of marketing at the Anarchist-Chaote publisher Loompanics for years before being hit with COPD. First he had us notify our clan at Abrahadabra, asking them to check out the deck and give us reviews at Aeclectic which one person did. The rest of our loyalists who had eagerly been awaiting the deck to hit purchased one and we rewarded them with signed cards from the first printed copy as well as free shipping.
We posted ads on Facebook, Reddit and locally and received quite a response. A customer asked for us to do a video review and I did so using my smartphone which wasn’t hard. It’s pretty easy to do marketing like this, we could probably go harder at it by advertising in magazines and such but I don’t feel like it’s necessary at the moment due to selling them pretty quickly as it is. The biggest tarot site on the internet is Aeclectic Tarot so we felt like we should put the pack in the directory there, and generated quite a bit of activity surprisingly. Aeclectic tends to be a Rider-Waite crowd but it is inexpensive and important to register there as they are basically the only directory of tarot on the internet aside from Amazon. If you can’t afford anything else at least get on Aeclectic.
Whether you are looking to publish your own oracle deck for personal use, or you are an artist looking to make a name in tarot, I hope this article has been useful for you. As always feel free to ask questions in the comments and support us by buying your copy of The Mutational Alchemy Tarot!
One of our members, Tyler Annis, contacted us about building a 3D model of the TwinStar for use in metal printing. He told us he had been wanting a physical TwinStar for some time. The first file he sent us needed some work as it had a couple of problems.
m1thr0s sent him a batch of large original files that illustrated how the TwinStar lines up on the Tree of Life with the Abrahadabra Grid, so that he could build the model right on top of the original proofs. The new model looked amazing.
Once Tyler worked out these first few kinks he put in an order for two and he kindly sent us one.
When I tore open the package the bronze Mahakala mask in our hallway which has been hanging on the wall for over two years peacefully immediately crashed to the floor with a loud clang. I guess it was the TS’s way of saying hi. The three of us have observed a significant energy field near it and look forward to experimenting.
m1thr0s had me attach it to his personal binary loop necklace, and it looks amazing. This will really help get the memberships move forward as we wanted to make it available to all members once we kick them off officially and we can’t thank Tyler enough for what he has done.
Every year around the world at the time of the week long Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year, Feng Shui (pronounced FOONG-SOY) practitioners look to sage advisors to dispel the wrath of the ruling so-called “Grand Duke Jupiter”. He shows up in one area of the Lo Shu square, the basis for all Feng Shui along with Hexagrammaton and Bigrammaton (the I Ching). Most people don’t think about Feng Shui beyond following the advice to not disturb the ground or make loud noises in the sector that the Grand Duke is residing in. However aside from such tantalizing superstitions, as Mutational Alchemists, it is interesting and helpful to look at the underlying mathematics of the Ancient Chinese practice of Feng Shui. Twelve times five is sixty. The five elements multiplied against the twelve zodiacal mansions, or the five visible planets which were assigned to the five elements, or vice versa. Listen to the below video as Derek Walters, the translator of the most popular Tai Tsuan Ching theorizes about how the Chinese elements were assigned their colors and nature.
Jupiter, green in color in the sky, is associated with the Wood element. Wood, or Air as I prefer to call it, is the element of creative growth and potential. The renewing purifier of Chi, it is the element which is most like the sacred Jen element in Trigrammaton represented by the Tridosha.
In China the twelve (in the 12×5 formula) are ascribed celestial animals, whereas in the West they are the twelve celestial symbols – centaur called Sagittarius, virgin called Virgo, water bearer named Aquarius etc. There are sixty different Grand Dukes, each a famous general from China’s long and glorious history, and they extend across the span of the sixty Celestial Animal/Element combinations.
(In a bizarre coincidence, one of China’s leading generals currently shares the same name as the ruling Tai Sui, or Grand Duke Jupiter for 2016, Guan Zhong. )
The Taoists, like the old Pythagorean mathematakoi, began their work in much the same way Abrahadabrites do today, using math, geometry, science and meditation together. Over the centuries a kind of slippage has occurred where Feng Shui practitioners and other Taoists have forgotten the origins of these methodologies completely. It isn’t discussed anywhere in the world why these methods are held in high esteem or where they came from.
In Feng Shui belief, the Grand Duke Jupiter, which is a personality separate from the mere Celestial Animal/Element combo, is given power over Earth during his year, and that some Taoist sects hypothesized that the ordering of the cosmos included a “shadow” orbital pathway, that ran in opposition to the planet itself. This path is the path of Tai Sui. It is curious that the Chinese placed such an importance on Jupiter.
If we look at Vedic astrology we find a kind of conflict between Mercury and Jupiter which isn’t found in the Western ideas of these archetypes. Here Mercury is called Budha, and Jupiter is called Brihaspati, by the Puranas the son of Agni the Lord of Fire. Luna, or Moon is called Chandra. The goddess Tara, who is a Boddhisattva in Buddhism, and a goddess or devi in Hinduism, and sometimes regarded as the supreme personality of the Earth, has an affair with Chandra and becomes pregnant with Budha. This angers Brihaspati and a great war is stopped by the wisdom of Brahma, and Tara is taken away from Chandra and given back to Brihaspati. The child Budha, the personification of the planet Mercury, feels he is left with a karmic debt, and so performs yugya (sacrifice) to Vishnu. Budha has a green tint, not unlike the physical appearance of Jupiter as was demonstrated in the Five Elements and Five Planets lecture earlier.
Tara is said to have begun her journey to Boddhisattva status millions of years ago on another planet, and she is significant in that she made sure to always incarnate as a woman from the time of her earliest relationship with her chosen Ishta-dev on this other planet, because she was encouraged to be reborn as a man by foolish monks. It was then she realized that there were less Buddhas who chose to manifest in the Yin form.
It is easy to see for the experienced occultist the hint of the hidden but obvious affliction of the Magus in this world. Mercury is of course the Great Magus, the patron of Alchemy himself, his symbol is of the rooster and the dolphin (via his child by Aphrodite, Eros), two animals intimately linked with Abraxas and Logos, those two great Heavenly Yang principles. While not entirely a match, the affair between Hermes the intelligence of Orange Hod and Venus, Green Netzach arranged by Zeus, Blue Chesed is interesting in comparison to the Vedic planetary myth.
“Mercurius [Hermes] stirred by Venus’s [Aphrodite’s] beauty, fell in love with her, and when she permitted no favours, became greatly downcast, as if in disgrace. Jove [Zeus] pitied him, and when Venus [Aphrodite] was bathing in the river Achelous he sent and eagle to take her sandal to Amythaonia of the Egyptians and give it to Mercurius [Hermes]. Venus [Aphrodite], in seeking for it, came to him who loved her, and so he, on attaining his desire, as a reward put the eagle in the sky [as the constellation Aquilla].”
Various people have attempted to reason around the problem, to grapple with the hows and whys of it, but I, someone who has wanted to be an occultist all of my life and who was raised in the tradition of a globally aware Magus, have known a great deal of well travelled and educated Mages, none of them exceed both in wealth and knowledge and wisdom. Aleister Crowley himself is a great example of someone well-heeled and funded who worked very hard all of his life and fell to the curse.
In 2009 m1thr0s explained his theory that it had something to do with Jupiter, not just from the physical manifestation in his own life but from performing readings, scrying the worlds and so on. I didn’t agree that it was universal, but he didn’t either. Was it possible that there were unwritten rules we could never be consciously aware of until encountering them, and which could not be proven? The only thing that could easily explain it is the Computer Program Universe theory, which is both attractive and horrifying, if not merely cheap and easy.
But who knows? Infinity is a long time and there’s all kinds of weird games one might invent along the way to stave off the most deadly threat: boredom. Could we be playing on a two sided game, with the “Gods” or “Higher Selves” on the other side merely partners on our team, and “Demons” on the enemy team? We may never know. But more compelling to me personally is the idea that the universe is examining itself through us, that we are the computing power. Also comforting and sensible is the idea that none of this has ever been done before, which is why it all seems so painful at times. That’s the only kind of evil I can bear to accept: that which is unintentional and non-repeating. At the level of Yin and Yang at their purest most sacred form anyways. Even a vicious and unrelenting sorceress like myself cannot see a point to suffering past Victory. That is the code of Budo.
I have not been fully convinced, but I do think that the TwinStar or Tetraktys of the Decad is the Tao, as it meets all of the qualifications for it. You can ask it yourself, but it tells me that while there are rules to life, it isn’t a game, and it’s as real as anything, no computer simulation. But there are still a great many mysteries humans cannot afford the solutions to yet.