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Madame Laveau The Soothsayer (2023)

Madame Laveau The Soothsayer (2023)

In 2023, I began working on the design of Madame Laveau The Soothsayer, driven by two primary factors. Firstly, I noticed the series lacked a female character, presenting an ideal opportunity for her introduction. Secondly, a unique concept had already taken shape for this character, rooted in my research into tarot cards for the Keymaster Tarot. This research revealed strong connections to astrology and esoteric practices.

The world of astrology and esotericism is intricate and diverse, with varying interpretations and depictions of tarot cards. There’s no universal standard that applies across the board. Tarot decks themselves differ in terms of card placement and symbolism. For the Odd Fellow Madame Laveau, I chose to follow a specific system.

This character is rooted in historical records and is known as Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen from New Orleans (1801-1881). A slight variation in the name brings a touch of French influence to the entire project.

The core concept revolves around portraying the court cards, Jacks, Queens, and Kings, as the major arcana cards they represent. These depictions are enriched with graphic elements associated with the respective zodiac signs. Additionally, I included information specifying the card, the zodiac sign, and the corresponding month.

The alignment of court cards with specific major arcana is based on the original major arcana depictions. For instance, the Emperor, symbolizing Aries, is linked to April, signifying the fourth major arcana card. Given that the Emperor is a male character and holds a prominent rank, he logically embodies a King.

The work on the Ace of Spades centered on capturing Marie Laveau and her pet snake, Zombi. Since there are no historical records I could find about the snake’s specific species, I decided to choose one that can indeed be found in Louisiana. The choice went to the Milk Snake, a species known to inhabit the area. To depict Marie Laveau, I drew inspiration from an 1837 oil painting traditionally attributed to George Catlin.

For lighting, I referenced the works of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, specifically a painting from the Moulin Rouge in Paris featuring an unusual underlighting effect.

In her role as the Ace of Spades, she holds a flask containing one of the ingredients for her concoction, the Pure Powder of Haitian Zombie Mold. Zombi, her pet snake, forms the rounded base of the spade symbol. The goal was to design the Ace in keeping with the established style of the previous versions.

    When it came to applying gold foil to the number cards, I delved into the realm of symbols and glyphs tied to esotericism, voodoo, and magic. My goal was to find four sets, each with a minimum of 55  available symbols for every suit.

    A fascinating discovery emerged in the form of ancient African glyphs known as Nsibidi. These symbols, originating from the Ekpe secret society in Nigeria, have been classified as pictograms, although some scholars suggest they may also function as logograms or syllabograms. I selected 55 symbols, adorning each Club pip with these evocative elements.

    For the Spades, I turned to alchemical symbols, drawing from my previous experience with Heretic Playing Cards. Hearts feature astronomical symbols representing celestial bodies, although the extensive range of these symbols came as an unexpected revelation. In the case of Diamonds, I chose the celestial alphabet (also known as Scriptura Cælestis or Scriptura Malachim), associated with angels and the spiritual realm.

    The tuckbox design process primarily centers on the back side, where the character is featured within a circular area, following the tradition of the previous series. As previously explained, Odd Fellows tuckbox designs are guided by variables and constants.
    To add an extra layer of depth to this character, a 3D holographic sticker with a lens effect was introduced, resembling a crystal ball and concealing a reveal card within. These special stickers were ordered separately and manually affixed to the tuckboxes during assembly.

    A limited edition of 700 units, sealed with numbered gilded edges in magenta, was produced for patrons under the name “Madame Laveau LTD700 Gilded Patronium.” Once again, Scott Matthew’s invaluable assistance contributed to the creation of a mystic concoction specifically tailored for the Madame Laveau character.

    This inspired the design of the joker cards, each presenting a unique Voodoo spell or magical practice. In the first joker, Madame Laveau is portrayed wearing a traditional African mask while adding various ingredients to a cauldron. An enigmatic creature peeks from beneath her dress.

    The second joker features a one-legged black rooster that has undergone a transformation. A golden anklet restrains the rooster in this semi-anthropomorphic state. Both cards include descriptions of the practices and the corresponding pictograms, utilizing symbols from the number cards whenever possible.

     A total of 2700 decks manufactured by WJPC, PRC
    All decks feature gilded edges
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