On today’s Biddy Tarot podcast, I’m speaking with Maree Bento, the creator of the Antiquarian Tarot.
The Antiquarian Tarot features handmade collage art with an antiqued aesthetic that brings together beautiful 19th century photographs & older artwork into a modern usable deck. Each card was lovingly and attentively crafted to form a functional working deck as well as an engaging work of art.
The deck includes two bonus significator cards and draws inspiration from both the traditional Rider-Waite deck and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
I met Maree at the Northwest Tarot Symposium this year and I just loved the unique look of this deck.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- All about the Antiquarian Tarot
- The process for releasing this Tarot deck into the world
- Maree’s journey as a Tarot reader & healer
Let's get into it.
- Get your hands on the Antiquarian Tarot Deck
- Learn more about Maree at divinemuses.net
- Free Tarot Tutorial – 5 Simple Steps to Read Tarot with Confidence
You’re listening to the Biddy Tarot Podcast, and this is Episode 87: The Antiquarian Tarot with Maree Bento.
Welcome to the Biddy Tarot Podcast, where you'll learn how to connect more deeply with your intuition and live an empowered and enlightened life with the Tarot cards as your guide.
Listen as Brigit and her guests share their very best tips and strategies to help you read Tarot with confidence. Now, here is your host, Brigit Esselmont.
BRIGIT: Hello, and welcome back to the Biddy Tarot Podcast. Today, I’ve got a really special guest who I met over in Portland earlier this year at the Northwest Tarot Symposium. Her name is Maree Bento, and she is the creator of the Antiquarian Tarot.
Now, Maree showed me her deck when we caught up in Portland, and I was just taken away with the absolute beautiful look and feel of this deck. It’s a gorgeous, gorgeous. It’s self-published, and it features handmade collage art with an antique/vintage look and feel to it.
What Maree has actually done is she’s found all these beautiful old photos from different kinds of vintage stores and so on, and she’s brought it together to create this gorgeous Tarot deck, and it has such a lovely energy to it—that really nice old-worldy feel and a bit of mysticism involved with it as well.
What’s neat about this deck is that it includes two bonus significator cards, and it really draws its inspiration from the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith deck and also the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. You’ll hear in this interview that Maree talks about how, as part of your initiation originally into the Golden Dawn, you would be required to create your own Tarot deck, and I think this is such a wonderful way of really getting up close and personal with the Tarot and understanding how it plays out in your life and so on—and that’s really what inspired Maree to go ahead and create this deck.
Now, of course, she’s selling the deck on Etsy and through her website and also using it in her own readings with her clients. It’s an absolutely beautiful deck. If you want to check it out, have a look at some of the imagery. Come on over to BiddyTarot.com/87, and you can have a look at some of the images of this deck, and it will give you a sense of what we’re talking about, and you’ll also find those links to Maree’s website, where you can buy the deck if you feel called to do so and also get the transcript for today’s call.
So, without further ado, I would love to welcome Maree Bento, again, creator of the Antiquarian Tarot, to the Biddy Tarot Podcast. Welcome, Maree.
THE ANTIQUARIAN TAROT WITH MAREE BENTO
BRIGIT: Well, hello, Maree! How are you doing today?
MAREE: I’m wonderful! How are you?
BRIGIT: I am very, very good. Supposedly, it’s wintertime here, but it is sunny, so it’s a very, very good day. And you’ve just come back from an amazing trip overseas—whereabouts did you go?
MAREE: I was in Portugal for a month. I spent a lot of time in Lisbon, and on the last week, I went to the Azores, where my family is from.
BRIGIT: Awesome. I was just having a little look at the photos of that island. They look amazing! So, you're very lucky!
MAREE: It was so fun and beautiful.
BRIGIT: Beautiful! So, tell me a little bit about yourself. And for those who don’t know you, what’s been your journey, especially as it comes to Tarot and even Lenormand cards?
MAREE: OK, well, let’s see… To start, I’m a Sagittarius, with a Libra Rising and Moon in Capricorn. I consider myself a practitioner of the healing and mystical arts in Oregon for going on 17 years now.
My journey… I started reading cards with my brother. Gosh, I was a teenager. I think I’m going to say about 13. We had a Ouija board. We had this book on how to read with playing cards. So, we learnt how to read with just a regular pack of playing cards with each other, and I also had a palmistry book that I got from the library. It was this old palmistry book from 1905.
I guess reading has always just been interesting to me in different forms. I got my first Tarot deck when I was about 18 or 19, and I went with a friend to a New Age shop, and there was this section of used decks. I was really drawn to one, and I had to buy it. It was the Karma Tarot—do you know that one?
BRIGIT: No, what is it?
MAREE: It's by Birgit Boline Erfurt. It came out in 1983. It's this really psychedelic deck. It has this dreamlike quality, and there are these modern (at the time) illustrations. Marilyn Monroe is in one of the cards. It's this pretty interesting deck. I was just mesmerised by it and absorbed it like an art exhibit because each one… It was just out there—very colourful.
I was in college at the time for psychology, and I eventually switched to art, but I don’t think Tarot had anything to do with that, but I do remember being fascinated with that deck and feeling this vibe from it.
I went back to that New Age shop, and the woman there referred me to the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, and she highly recommended this newly released book by Rachel Pollack, which was the Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, had just been rereleased into one volume. Yeah, I picked that book up, and that was the beginning of diving into Tarot.
BRIGIT: Yeah, excellent.
MAREE: I think that’s kind of the start.
BRIGIT: Yeah, and at that point, were you mostly doing readings for yourself? Or when did you start reading for other people?
MAREE: I was mostly doing readings for myself, and then I went to massage school, and I got my license as a massage therapist and Reiki Master. A little bit shortly after that, I started doing readings because I had a collection of Tarot decks and Oracle decks in my massage studio. I would leave them out. Before a massage or after a massage, if a client wanted to pull a card, they could pull a card, and it can kind of help with whatever healing process they were going through. Sometimes instead of saying, “Read the entry in the book,” I would describe the card for them, so that turned into readings with clients because I have been doing massage for going on, I guess, 14 years now.
So, it just evolved into this thing where people knew I was reading cards, so I had regular clients who wanted to book longer readings with me. It just kind of turned into that.
BRIGIT: Yep, and what a nice thing to do alongside with doing massage and what cards are coming up because you often store so much in your body. Do you ever see that as you were working with your clients in both realms? Did you find that there was quite a connection there?
MAREE: Oh, yes! Just being a healing practitioner and knowing a lot of healing practitioners in Portland, Oregon, where I live—there are just a tonne of healing practitioners, acupuncturists and naturopaths—and just speaking with other people…
Because my experience was that the more I worked with people and did body work on people, I felt like my intuition deepened. That is certainly the case with people who aren’t working with cards or doing that in the field, they feel that their psychic, if you will, channels start to open, so information starts to channel into you about the person that, “Oh, so this is coming in. There’s this thing that’s bound up in your body, and I just got this intuitive thing that came through.” And people are usually pretty surprised at that, especially when I speak to other practitioners, too. That happens to them as well. So, I actually think they do go hand in hand really well.
BRIGIT: Yeah, absolutely. Just recently, I’ve had a few massages where it’s actually been more like an intuitive reading at the same time. I’m like, “Yes, I love this!” I wish more people were opening themselves up to that experience. So, maybe this will inspire a few folks who can do Tarot and massage to bring it together. That would be really neat.
MAREE: Yeah, it does work.
BRIGIT: Yes. So, tell me a little bit about this journey towards creating a Tarot deck. What brought you to that space where you thought, “Yes, I’m going to create a Tarot deck”?
MAREE: Well, I think it started with that first deck. Like I said, I was in college for psychology at the time, and I really don’t know that changing my degree to art… I’m not really sure that Tarot did it, but I always thought that I wanted to create a deck. When I saw that first deck, I just wanted to make my own. Obviously, it’s kind of a big journey and huge endeavour, so I just kept collecting decks and enjoying the artwork of each deck. I’m sure you might know—you just become so absorbed by each deck. It’s a complete art exhibit in a deck.
One year, actually, my friend Esmeralda Rupp-Spangle, who I don’t know if you know the Silent Tarot?
MAREE: She created this amazing deck, and it inspired me to just make a Lenormand deck at the time, actually, because I had recently been introduced to the Lenormand, and I thought, “You know, 36 cards? I can do that.” With Lenormand being more direct, it felt like a doable project. So, I just, one card at a time, did it.
Then, when I was done with that, I was like, “Well, I could do that! I think I could do 78 cards!” So, I went ahead, and I just dived in. I just started with one card. It took about a year.
BRIGIT: Yep. I have so much respect for people who can create a Tarot deck. I just don't have that… I couldn't imagine it because I just don't have the patience to work on something for that long, so I think that's amazing. Did you get any help, or was it fully created by you?
MAREE: I did that all myself.
BRIGIT: Wow. Yeah, that’s neat. With the Antiquarian Tarot, it’s this beautiful vintage deck using older photos almost in a collage kind of way.
BRIGIT: Tell me—what was the inspiration for that? Why vintage style?
MAREE: Well, I collect old cabinet cards and ephemera, and I just love that kind of feel—distressed and old things. In my house, I have a curio cabinet that’s just full of old pictures and little knickknacks. I just really appreciate that era, too, of photography. Actually, when I was in college, I studied a bit of photography, too. They’ve always really captured me.
MAREE: And it's pretty easy to publish, too, because of the public domain laws and all of that. It makes it easier to create a deck like that, too, because they're before a date that… In the U.S., you can use any image previous to 1922. That's the law, and then there are other laws later that have to do with the artist's date of death and all of that come into it.
BRIGIT: Yeah, absolutely. I think that is so smart actually because you can run up against a lot of issues around copyright, so if you're able to get around that legally, then that’s great.
BRIGIT: Where do you find these photos? I’m always curious. Is it in op shops? Do you guys have op shops? Do you know what I mean by an op shop?
MAREE: I don’t know! What is that?
BRIGIT: Oh man, I can’t remember what you call it in the States. It’s basically where you take all of your stuff that you don’t want anymore, and then charities sell everyone’s unwanted stuff, so you get lots of old stuff in there. What’s that called in the U.S.?
MAREE: What we have here are flea markets and antique shops.
BRIGIT: Yeah, it could be.
MAREE: There are thrift stores, too, but I definitely have never… I actually have found a couple items that are hanging on my wall. They’re bigger items that are old portraits of people that I have on my wall that I have gotten from thrift stores, but most everything I’ve picked up from antique shops, flea markets, but also online. Oh gosh, the name is escaping me. It’s the Library of Congress—they have a… I don’t remember what it’s called. It’s a multimedia library. So, you obviously have to do your research and make sure that the images are usable, but I would just go through the Library’s archive. There are image archives.
But I like to try to collect items and use them. There are a couple of items that I used that were the original item that I got from an antique shop, and I felt so guilty after using it. I was like, “I should just scan them!” I thought I was destroying this… Not destroying, but you know, taking an old piece and glueing it and painting on it and stuff. So, I decided that I would just scan those items and print them and use them in that way… I don't know—just for posterity!
BRIGIT: Yeah. So, was that the kind of process you would actually physically create the image and then take a photo of it, and that would become the card? Is that how you worked?
MAREE: Yeah, I would actually just scan the image. If the image had a little bit more 3D on the backside, then I would have to… I have a friend who works somewhere that has a really nice scanner. With those, she would scan them for me.
BRIGIT: Yeah. Ah, excellent! What else was I wanting to ask? Oh, yes! Obviously, you're working with old, old pictures. I’m so curious if you connected in with the energy of those pictures in a certain way.
BRIGIT: Did you ever get intuitive connections with those photos as you were working with them?
MAREE: Well, yeah! Before I would even work with them, there was definitely a ritual. During the process of it, I built an altar, and I would sit with the card the particular card that I wanted to create. Sometimes I had an idea for a card, so then I would go through my box of images and ephemera. I would gather all the images and things. Sometimes I would bring in crystals and other objects and stuff and place them on the altar as divine inspiration.
So, the image had to speak to me in way. If I was working with the Ten of Cups, I would go through my collection of cards and say, “Oh, do I have something here? Is there something that speaks to me that will fit into the energy of this card?” If I didn’t have something, then I would scour the internet and see if I could find something, print it out, and then put all the pieces together in that way.
BRIGIT: Yep. Were there any cards that you found particularly challenging to create in your deck?
MAREE: Yeah, actually. I think the hardest one was the last one that I did, which was the Seven of Swords, which is kind of a difficult card sometimes for people to interpret. I was trying to figure out “How do I get that conniving, sneaky energy from that card?” That was one that took me a long time. Some cards I could in a day or two. That one took me a couple weeks because each card, like I said, I gather the pieces I need to put it together. The Seven of Swords was a tough one, but then I found this image, and I was like, “Oh, that one is kind of silly and fun, and it had things going on behind someone’s back, but then there’s this sweetness with it.” Anyway, I guess you’ll just have to see the card to kind of get what I’m talking about.
BRIGIT: Yep. So, you also included an extra two significator cards in the deck. What was the thinking behind that?
MAREE: Well, I liked having the option of not having to use a court card or another card in the deck. You hear this with a lot of readers where they was to be able to keep everything in the deck when they’re shuffling to bring it out, but having a card that you can charge that says… I have a male and a female, and it’s just a way to stand in for the energy. Some people would use a picture of the person, bring a picture, or bring an item of yours when you're reading with playing cards… Bring an item that I can use to charge to go in with the reading. So, it’s just a way to charge the significator without having to displace a court card or another card.
BRIGIT: Yep, I see. Yep, that definitely makes sense. When it comes to actually using this deck, do you find that there are certain readings or questions that it just really gels with and then others not so much? How are you seeing this deck playing out when it comes to actual readings?
MAREE: Well, what’s interesting is before I made the deck, I always had… When I was at a Halloween event, for example, I would have all my Halloween decks and be like, “Which deck do you want to read with?” People would choose. I could read with them all pretty equally.
Now that I have my deck… At these events, I’ve gone back and done a couple Halloween parties, and they know me, and they’re like, “Oh, you have your deck now!” So, they just want me to read with my deck. What I find is I really do get the deepest readings with them because I just know them inside and out. I feel like I could do any reading with them. If I happen to be reading with another deck, and I feel stuck, I can get my deck out and pull a card, and it just helps me.
So, I guess I would just recommend… As you probably know, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn required its members to create their own deck as an initiation process. For me, I feel like I went more deeply into this wisdom of Tarot. It’s very sacred for me, and the process of making the deck was pretty sacred and very divine for me, so using it is just… I can just use it all across the board. I feel like some people I’ve talked to who have created their deck who say, “Oh man, I can’t read with my deck. I’m so bored of it now…” So, I might just not be at that point yet because it came out in 2014, but I still use it all the time. It’s the deck I have on my altar.
MAREE: I know that I have other decks that have specific uses for them, but mine in particular, it’s my baby!
BRIGIT: That’s interesting, actually, just talking about the relationship that you have as the creator with your deck. Like you said, I’ve spoken with other folks who I kind of get the feeling they just want other people to use their deck, and that’s good—get it out into the world, happy days.
So, it must come down to the process and whether that was a really pleasurable process perhaps or more of a challenging process to create the actual deck, so it’s good to hear that you feel that really strong connection to the deck. It’s nice.
Now you have this deck. Three years later, how are you getting it out into the world? Where are you selling it through?
MAREE: I have my website and Etsy. I have an Etsy shop called Divine Muses, and I have a couple local stores that had it. I think one of the stores still has it, and the other one sold out. Like I said, I just got back, so I’ll have to get it back in, but just a couple of local shops and my shop and my website.
BRIGIT: Yep, fabulous. Have you ever thought about getting it published or distributing it even on Amazon? What are your thoughts around bigger mass market versus more of a nice, little, niche market?
MAREE: Honestly, I really don’t know because I’ve never been approached, but I like being able to sell it. I like packaging it and sending it locally. I mean, I have a printer who ships it worldwide for me, but I don’t know. I’ve heard mixed stories from different people who said, “Oh, I shouldn’t have done that.” But then I hear people who are tired of doing it themselves. But yeah, I never really thought about that.
It came up because I ended up writing a companion manual for the deck. The deck was out for a couple of years, and people kept asking me if I was going to have a companion manual. For the longest time, I didn’t know. It took me a year to write it, but when I went to bind it all up and print it, people… One of my editor friends was talking to me about “Oh, you should put it on Amazon! You’ll sell it.” She was talking about “Get an ISBN number, and put it on Amazon.” I thought really long and hard about it. I don’t really want to be on Amazon right now.
I really like Etsy. Etsy works for me really well. My website really works for me, but with Etsy, I’ve done really well. So, I guess if it isn’t broken, I don’t think I need to fix it, I guess.
BRIGIT: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s such a fine line between “Do you get your Tarot product out in front of a really huge market but potentially lose a bit of control around how that might be distributed or the quality of it—those kinds of things?” or “Do you give it 110% of love and energy and perhaps distribute it in a smaller way?” I think it’s a real challenging decision to make between the two because there is certainly benefits and disadvantages with both approaches. But it sounds like you’ve found your nice space where it feels really good for you and in alignment, so that’s beautiful.
MAREE: Yeah, I like that, and I like the… I don’t know. I feel like whoever is meant to have my deck will get my deck, and I also will vend at the Tarot Symposium. There’s a Northwest Tarot Symposium in Portland every year, so I figure I get it out there. People who are really into Tarot will know about it, and if not, you’ll find it if you're looking for Tarot decks on Etsy or online. If you bump into my deck, and you like it that much that you want to buy it, then I figure the people who are meant to connect with it will.
BRIGIT: Yeah, absolutely. Awesome. We’ll definitely post some links and some images of the deck on the Biddy Tarot website. For you who are listening, you can go to BiddyTarot.com/87, and we’ll have all the links and images of the cards.
Now, Maree, I bet that there are some folks listening who are thinking, “Oh, I wouldn’t mind creating my own deck! That sounds kind of fun.” What advice would you have for someone who is thinking about creating their own deck?
MAREE: My answer is going to be more spiritually based. Like I was talking about earlier, with the Golden Dawn, it was a rite of passage. It’s a divine act of magick and manifestation, and if you treat it that way, you have created a potent divination tool. Also, create a deck that you will love for yourself. Make the deck for your personal use, one you would use, I guess. I guess I feel that sometimes… Also, be careful not to post too many pictures on social media during your process. I feel that it can take away from making it yours. What I have found is that people want to insert their opinions on your work and what they want to see in your cards, plus in my practise.
Really, in my opinion, with any magickal practice, it’s just important to keep things contained. Revealing too much can take away from your creative process, which is magickal, in my opinion.
And also, the other advice I would add is to write or have someone write a companion manual because that was the one thing that people always asked about. “Are you going to have a companion book? Are you going to have a companion book?” That would be the other thing that I advise if you are an artist, and you want to create a deck, and you want to partner with someone who is a writer or vice versa.
BRIGIT: Yeah, I would definitely put my vote in for having a companion book. I don’t know, I always see these beautiful Tarot decks, and then there’s barely anything that goes with them, and I’m like, “I want to know what the artist is thinking and feeling as they’re creating this.” I think having that companion book is really, really important just for getting the maximum potential out of the deck. So, I’m glad you eventually added one to your project, too! That’s good.
And it’s interesting, too—your advice around sharing on social media. Maybe you can share, but to what extent do you listen to the feedback? I notice that even in my own work, when I get too absorbed in what other people are saying or thinking or feeling about what we’re putting out in the universe, sometimes it can distract. I think, “Oh no, maybe I just need to put my blinkers on and just do what I know that I’m called to do.” So, I can see how that plays out also in the deck creation. That’s some good advice.
MAREE: Yeah, because I know it’s tempting to want to share everything, too. To me, it’s twofold. It kind of protects you from people who say, “Oh, I wish you would have done a Queen of Cups that was warmer.” If you're doing spiritual practice, I guess that advice is not using it to contain its potency might not apply, but I don’t know. It’s so easy with social media to just want to share everything, so things can get kind of dispersed and confusing, at least for me as an artist when I’m trying to create something and stay focused. Like you were saying, it’s kind of distracting.
BRIGIT: Yeah. Even if just one person has one small criticism, even if it’s constructive, you’re like, “Oh my gosh! I’ve got to go and change that!” And then you're like, “Hold on! There’s a hundred other people who love it, and this is one person who might not like it. What am I doing?”
MAREE: Yeah, and they’re the ones that will say something to people… And the people who really love it, they might say something, too. But for me, I always hear from the people who didn’t like something, you know?
BRIGIT: Yep. I think we all do that! We all know we shouldn’t be doing that. I would think, ultimately, if you are in full alignment with your truth and with spirit and source and all that good stuff, then you will create exactly what you're meant to create. Sometimes I think it’s good just to keep those blinkers on and just keep realigning and reconnecting to source, and that’s where you're going to get the magick. All of the thoughts, ideas and opinions can come at a later stage once you’ve created your magick. Yeah, it’s just about being conscious of that and thinking, “OK, if I’m going to post it on social, what kind of boundaries do I need to set for myself so that I can maintain that alignment?” Yeah, it’s neat.
MAREE: Right, right.
BRIGIT: Maree, what’s coming up next for you? Are there more decks? Are there books? Readings? What’s coming up for you?
MAREE: Well, I’ll continue to do readings. I do events. People hire me for events here. I also work with for the Portlandia Fortune Tellers, so I’ll continue to do events with them this year. I also have been gathering images and ideas for another deck—the Divine Muses Oracle I think I’m going to call it. I haven’t started on it yet, but in Portugal, I found some really cool, old, antique photos and ephemera that I’m excited to incorporate into the project. I’m really excited to get started on it.
BRIGIT: Yep. And what a perfect trifecta—Tarot, Lenormand and an Oracle deck!
MAREE: It had to be next. I’ve had people already asking about it.
BRIGIT: Yep, excellent. And whereabouts can people find out more about you and your work?
MAREE: I have a website. It’s DivineMuses.net, and I also have an Etsy shop called DivineMuses—all one word. You can find my Antiquarian Tarot and companion guidebook at both of those sites as well as the Antiquarian Lenormand.
BRIGIT: Awesome. Again, we’ll make sure that we post all of those links at BiddyTarot.com/87. Awesome, Maree. It’s been such a delight to have a chat with you today and learn more about your deck and your inspirations and your process and all that good stuff. So, thank you so much for joining us.
MAREE: Thank you for having me. It’s been wonderful.
BRIGIT: So, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed that conversation between Maree and I. I always love talking to folks who have created their own Tarot deck just to get an idea of what that process was, what the inspiration is. And even if you go on to use the Antiquarian Tarot in your own Tarot practice, now you have this beautiful, deep insight into what energy and what intention went into that deck.
So, do check it out. You can see those images over at BiddyTarot.com/87. Plus, you can get the links to Maree’s website, and you can also get access to the show notes and transcript for today’s call.
Now, if you want to learn how to read Tarot with confidence the easy way, then make sure you sign up for my free workbook. It’s the Five Simple Steps to Read Tarot with Confidence. Inside this free workbook, you're going to get five awesome exercises that you can use each day to really deepen your connection with the Tarot. The neat thing is you don’t have to be a Tarot master to make the most out of this free workbook. It’s designed for those who are new to Tarot, those who have been working with Tarot for a while—really anybody who wants to create that deeper connection with the cards. Now, you’ll find this over at BiddyTarot.com/5ss.
Awesome. Make sure you download that. I’m sure you're going to love it. You’ll also get our weekly newsletter with the Tarot card for the week, which is great for insights of what you might expect in the week ahead.
Speaking of which, I hope you have a great week ahead, and I can’t wait to chat with you next time on the Biddy Tarot Podcast.
Bye for now!