Origin & Intent

Deck front coverThe day I decided to become an artist was a sunny, beautiful day in northern California. My elementary school banked up against a hill that curved at its base and sent my vision around its velvety green form up and into a canyon hosting lush grass and oak trees. Horses belonging to the neighboring ranch grazed there, tails flicking, ears revolving, and jaws chomping steadily. Their own curving shoulders and flanks, their varied coats of dappled grey, warm reddish-brown, sandy tan, and dark chestnut provided visual and spiritual sustenance to my challenged mind. School-learning did not come easy for me. I was a dreamer. I was sensitive. I was easily embarrassed if I didn’t know the answers. But I loved being with other kids, in general, so school was a mixed experience for me. I lived for Fridays that particular year because my beloved teacher, Mr. Burton, allowed us to focus on the arts that day. We sang. We made art. We read stories. I was in bliss on Fridays.

One day, and I don’t honestly remember what prompted me to do this, I asked if I could take crayons and paper out with me during lunch recess. I’d always loved running around and playing during the mid-day break, but that day I felt the call to make an attempt to capture the beauty I saw beyond the playground. The hills, the blue sky, the oak trees and the horses were visual music that I felt compelled to join. Making art was like dancing with abandon to beautiful music. That was the day I consciously became an artist.

I also remember rainy winter days spent happily at home. My dad loved Classical music and was a philatelist in his spare time. So, on days when my friends weren’t available, I would make up stories and illustrate them. They were often inspired by the music my dad had playing on the stereo. This, also, would become a life-long passion, but how it would turn, later on in my life into this project, I would have never guessed.

Another aspect that emerged early on as a vital resource and personal interest was dreaming. I dreamed fantastic things, scary things, strange things. I remembered them vividly. No one else in my family seemed the least bit interested in them, but I seemed to have a unique sensibility about them. It wasn’t until I was in college and exposed to the worlds of psychology, philosophy, world religions, archetypal symbols, myths and metaphysics that my curiosity about the nature and value of dreams began to flourish.

Many years later, in the mid-90’s while on an extended sailing voyage with Paul, my now ex-husband, did all these talents and interests meld together in a project. I had had some exposure to Tarot decks, but it was not a pursuit of mine, so I was slow to realize the nature of what emerged.

Purchase the Traveler Deck & Booklet

Paul, and I decided to live into a big adventure of travel by sailboat. We left the U.S. by way of the coast of Florida not knowing how far or how long we would live aboard. We owned a successful business in Seattle, which kept Paul flying back periodically to check on things there. While he was away, our boat, Shalako, would be anchored in a bay of a Caribbean Island. I stayed on board, tending to the boat and happily doing artwork and dealing with day to day chores. There were always other boats in these bays, and I would get to know some of the other yachties (as we called ourselves), and a few local folks.

While Paul was away there were many hours of creative isolation that I filled doing collages down in the salon, or reading. I had not done much collaging prior to this, having become a prolific painter with watercolors, acrylics, and pastels. But for some reason, making the very first collage, something clicked-in.

One of my enduring passions and interests has been the development of greater states of consciousness and psychic ability. During these regular intervals of alone-time on-board, I read more about these things and continued to create a collection of collage images. But, at the time, I didn’t think anything of it. Afterall, I’m an artist, so of course I’d continue making art on our trip, as time permitted.

By the time we landed in Trinidad, at the bottom of the entire Caribbean archipelago, I had a significant collection. One day I invited a friend on-board who commented, upon seeing the work, “Wow, Nancy. These look like Tarot cards! I can see water, air, fire and earth represented.” I blithely dismissed the remark, not really relating consciously at the time to this comment. But not long after that I had a dream. In the dream I received a paragraph of information about a particular card. I awoke and immediately wrote down the paragraph I’d received like dictation (See “The Way On”).

I then realized that these images were not just singular pieces of art like I’d done before. This was a whole body of work wanting to come through. I also realized that this was the body of work that was going to bring my art, writing, and interest in consciousness together for the first time. This was a project the likes of which I’d never done before. I was pregnant with it, and felt very keenly that it deserved my full attention and was the next journey I felt I must take.

About that time we were also beginning to be ready to sell our business, so Paul and I made the decision to sail the boat back up to Florida, sell it there and return to Seattle. Once back home, we did indeed sell the company, and I rented an art studio, spending the next two years making art and completing the first edition.

The imagery always came first, and I think that makes this deck a very unusual one. Somehow, just like I trust my dreams to show me what I might not be conscious about, or what I need to see; the images led the way. Interpreting them was the much more daunting task, and it has taken a decade to deepen the comprehension.

I’ve spent much time with them, field-testing them, as part of my own seeing practice; but that doesn’t mean that the exploration of their meaning is finished. There are still new insights I gain from using this deck, and I expect others will have valuable insights and understandings to offer as this deck moves out into the world. My hope is that the Traveler Oracle, as this second edition of the work is named, will stimulate conversations, awakenings, new awareness, and healing of all kinds. I also hope that those using the deck will share these experiences and understandings so that others may benefit as well. That is the intent of this web-site. It is an invitation to share, connect, encourage, and grow.

The world is in a high degree of trouble. We are killing, destroying and ravaging Mother Earth. We need to awaken, heal and re-direct our awareness, our energies, our choices toward new ways to live. This deck has proven itself to be a tool that can help, and I encourage anyone who uses it to share insights and awakenings so that others may be encouraged and inspired too.

Nancy AshmeadAbout the Traveler Oracle