Katelan Foisy is many things: a writer, a painter, a designer, a speaker, a tarot reader, a devotee of Lucumi and a dozen other things besides. The one constant about Kat is that she never fails to surprise me. I asked her to write to you about whatever was in her head today, and the following epic arrived this morning:
Wherein we all become legends, archetypes, and characters.
Once, while standing in the former apartment of William S. Burroughs, I put an apple on my head. His godson pretended to shoot it with his dead rifle. We were young, drunk, and in love. That same year we broke into an independent news station with a crowbar and slept under the news desk. It was Valentine’s Day and Dr. Whiskey held us in his caring grip.
We built an altar to his godfather and filled it with vodka and Mardi Gras beads. We slept on a mattress and lit rolled cigarettes with altar candles, while I told him stories of the Lwa and the Orishas and drew veves on the floor. “Words of Advice for Young People” played in the background.
“How many cards are in a tarot deck?” He asked.
You have to be eighteen…
You’re not eighteen…
You are seventy-eight.
Old fool sold his soul for a strap-on.
I wrote “78” on the floor in cascarilla. “You should really make a tarot deck,” he said.
And so the seed was planted and the story began. I started to realize we create the stories of our lives. I started to think about characters, and how we become legends, archetypes, and characters in those stories. Even going back through my book Blood and Pudding, I don’t see that girl as me anymore. I see her as a character. A part of me that disconnected and moved on.
If we think about it, most people do become characters. Hunter S. Thompson became a parody of his early writing, and so did William S. Burroughs, a man who left behind a legend. There’s an ongoing rumor that most people that claim to be fans of Burroughs haven’t actually read his work. They’re more intrigued by the legend than the writing. They want to know about the man who shot his common-law wife and fled the country; they want to know about the drug abuse, the sordid love affairs, shotgun paintings or his fetish for venomous snakes and sword canes.
I took this all into consideration when I finally started to create the tarot deck. I remember talking to Warren in London about it and asking him to be a card. I still didn’t know what direction I wanted the deck to take. I just knew the card I wanted him to be. He agreed over whisky, and whether he now says so or not, that yes is binding.
And then there was the night that changed everything. I had gotten some good news about the deck and some bad news about some other things. Yet, that very night I felt a lot of passion. I lit a candle on my boveda and started to paint. I started to trance out, dancing with color, texture, and symbolism. That night was born the Magician, the card of having everything you need to succeed, if only you just tap into it. The whole deck changed and became a small magical town where everyone I paint has a unique purpose. It’s a matter of finding out how they relate to me as well as to each other. It’s a matter of embracing the odd quirks of this town and tapping into my own power. The people in my deck are my friends, they’re people I’d give my life for, people I admire and respect. Each has a distinct personality, a certain talent, and each plays an important role in this chapter of my life.
It started with the Magician, Sxip Shirey, and if you’ve ever seen Sxip play, you’ll understand why I made him the Magician. He taps into something special on that stage. It’s the same feeling you get right before a summer storm is about to blow in. There’s a sense of magic in the air. The day after I finished that card, I found myself dancing around my living room to “Knockin” with the grandson of Cab Calloway. He said my apartment reminded him of Josephine Baker’s place in Paris. Who says magic can’t be made by pulling a card?
After the Magician, I began Feloche, the subject for my Temperance/Alchemy card; his music has provided me with the soundtrack for the deck and a few surreal experiences. Jill Tracy is a double Pisces, and with all that moon energy, how could I not paint her as the Moon. I finished the card just as the moon itself grew big in the belly. The Lovers came from my very apartment, and one road ended while theirs began. My Scorpio partner in all things witchery became the Death card, this one with a hint of Salome. The Five of Coins I did long, long ago in a moment when I once again found myself the wounded healer. Peter James, a Capricorn and master of the pentacle became my Rogue of Coins, and let us not forget The World, a special card indeed. The person embodying that card is Miss Molly Crabapple herself, who with all her passion and finesse will make truth of it. I’m sure of this.
I’m still painting. I have many cards to call into being, many more people to transform from friends to archetypes, many more faces to paint to populate my town.
And of course, there’s still that Burroughs’ altar and that old beatnik ex boyfriend. He’s volunteered himself as the Fool.
“In the magical universe there are no coincidences and there are no accidents. Nothing happens unless someone wills it to happen.” -William S. Burroughs
- THREE PANELS: Molly Crabapple (warrenellis.com)
- GUEST INFORMANT: Si Spurrier (warrenellis.com)
- GUEST INFORMANT: Catherynne M Valente (warrenellis.com)