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Keymaster Tarot (2020)

Keymaster Tarot (2020)

When I began this project, my knowledge of tarot decks and cards was limited. I owned the Tarot De Marseille and David Palladini’s Aquarian Tarot in my collection and had some basic cinematic references that were often tailored for specific shows. Initially, I contemplated improvising a metaphysical depiction of the major arcana, using symbols and graphic elements reminiscent of a classic tarot deck. I started with “The Chariot,” but soon realized that my approach lacked depth. I was unaware of the distinctions between major and minor arcana, their meanings, symbols, and their positions in the deck. I needed to gain a comprehensive understanding of the cards and their iconography.

The two decks, Tarot de Marseille from 17th century France and Rider-Waite-Smith from 1909 England, are among the most well-known today. The Rider-Waite-Smith deck is structured similarly to the French deck, with 22 major arcana and 56 minor arcana in four suits. While there are some differences between these decks, the major arcana cards are essentially the same, albeit depicted differently. Often, the symbols and graphic elements represent the same concepts, even if depicted in a different manner.

The concept of creating a tarot deck as an expansion of the House of the Rising Spade project emerged when I learned that the minor arcana had a set of four court cards: Page, Queen, Knight, and King. These faces of the Cartomancer variant possessed an esoteric quality that aligned perfectly with a tarot deck. The name for this deck came naturally and logically. If the House of the Rising Spade project featured the Gatekeeper, the Keymaster had to be the counterpart.


The Fool was the first card to be designed, but intriguingly, it is card number zero. This card is often considered to have evolved into the joker of poker-sized cards. While I’m unsure if this claim holds historical merit, I enjoyed imagining it as a joker initially. Later, I drew inspiration from a painting and emulated the character’s hairstyle in that painting.

Designing all the major arcana cards was a long process. A tarot deck like Rider-Waite-Smith comprises 78 illustrations, each depicting a unique scene. However, the Keymaster Tarot, as an extension of The House of the Rising Spade, followed an alternative path, making it quite distinctive.

In the process of creating the number cards for the Keymaster Tarot, I had a unique idea that, to the best of my knowledge, had not been implemented before.

Given that the Keymaster Tarot originates from The House of the Rising Spade, which uses the traditional spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs as its suits, I faced the challenge of merging these with the more familiar wands, swords, coins, and cups from Tarot de Marseille.

To tackle this, I started with the design of the number cards in the Tarot de Marseille, simplifying them to create a kind of magical sigil. These simplified designs, resembling sacred geometry where possible, were then printed in gold foil on top of graphics featuring the pips from the French version. As a result, a card like the 8 of swords now serves as both the 8 of swords and the 8 of spades.

This concept may not be immediately apparent to those who aren’t aware of the correspondence between the suits. Someone accustomed to reading spreads from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, for example, might find it surprising that the number cards lack illustrated scenes.

The four knights were crafted in a style consistent with the court cards from The House of the Rising Spade, thereby completing the series of all 38 illustrations, including the 22 major arcana and the 4 sets of Jacks, Queens, and Kings.

The Keymaster Tarot was finally launched on Kickstarter in February 2020, right before the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. This timing led to delays and disruptions in production and shipping.
However, the campaign offered three variants and a series of items available as add-ons. These items were related to the use of the tarot deck or served as decorative pieces.

The following variants were available through and after the campaign:

  • KEYMASTER BASIC: Tarot deck in a pouch
  • KEYMASTER SUPERIOR: Tarot deck in a fancy box
  • KEYMASTER ULTIMATE LTD550: Gilded Tarot deck in a box with the miniature of the gate.
  • KEYMASTER MINI: Mini Tarot deck in a tuckbox
  • KEYMASTER STANDARD: Tarot deck in a tuckbox 

The additional items offered in the Keymaster Tarot campaign were:

  • Book explaining the meaning of the cards, texts by Regina Hopingardner
  • Tarot Cloth in Jacquard fabric 70x70cm
  • Card or deck stand
  • House of the Rising Spade card guard in antique gold finish
  • Tarot mini deck in a tuckbox
  • Pin
  • Vinyl stickers: Temperance and The Fool
  • Empty pouch
  • Uncut Sheets (72,5x101,6 cm)


Funded with Kickstarter in 2020
a total of 2269 decks were printed by Cartamundi, Belgium
Miniatures made in Italy

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