Villa Revak
A Tarot Website
By James W. Revak


Jim RevakQYour homepage, Villa Revak, is dedicated to Tarot.  So, let’s talk Tarot.  What got you interested in the cards?

A.  I’ve had a long history of interest in religion, divination, the arts (including the graphic arts), and European history, so, for me it was a natural.

Q.  What were your first experiences with Tarot like?

A.  When I was about twelve years-old I purchased copies of The Rider Tarot Deck and one of Eden Gray’s books.  Both of them went right over my head.  Only much later, and after extensive study of the I Ching, did I gain an appreciation for and understanding of the cards.

Illustration (above): Portrait of Jim Revak by Bill Kaver, an artist who regularly channels Warhol.  For a more conservative portrait of Jim see Who is Jim Revak? (Formal Answer).

Q.  What keeps your interest in the cards?

A.  The Tarot references an extraordinary variety of disciplines and theosophies which fascinate me.  They include but are by no means limited to history, divination, magic, religion, philosophy, the graphic arts.

Q.  Which deck is your favorite?

A.  I don’t have one.  However, I can name multiple favorites: the Tarot de Marseille by Conver, Soprafino by Gumppenberg, Universal Waite, Thoth, Hermetic Tarot by Dowson, Robin Wood, and Gendron.

Q.  Which books have most influenced your approach to Tarot?

A.  Depends.  For history, A Wicked Pack of Cards, even if the authors think that Tarotists are kooks.  Otherwise, pickings in the history department are slim, but I would have to include Kaplan’s Encyclopedia of Tarot and O’Neill’s Tarot Symbolism.  Giles’ The Tarot: History, Mystery, and Lore is also pretty good provided you don’t take her crack-brained theories concerning how Tarot works seriously.

Q.  What about the occultists?

A.  Understanding occultist thought, I feel, is vital if one wants to understand the esoteric Tarot.  In this regard, I’ve been influenced by Wirth’s The Tarot of the Magicians, Crowley’s Book of Thoth, Case’s The Tarot, and Wang’s Qabalistic Tarot.  These are real stand-outs.  Waite’s The Pictorial Key to the Tarot is important but often overrated.  He leaves far too much unexplained.

Q.  How about with specific regard to divination?

A.  The titles which I’ve just named contain helpful material with regard to divination and have impacted me.  Titles specifically devoted to divination are too numerous to list—everything from Papus’ Le Tarot divinatoire to Mathers’ The Tarot to Anthony Louis’ Tarot Plain and Simple have influenced me.  Also, personally, I can’t underestimate the impact of extensive use of the I Ching.  However, books have their limitations.  When reading Tarot I think that one must interpret the cards in context and exercise one’s intuition—rather than simply regurgetating key words from a book.

Q.  So you are not opposed to using intuition?

A.  Of course not.  However, frankly I am opposed to the exclusive reliance on intuition, inner teachers, and the like at the expense of old-fashioned book learning.  I think one needs both.

Q.  Are you a collector of Tarot decks as art?

A.  Someone once said that you are a real collector when you own at least a hundred decks.  By this definition I am not a collector.  However, do I own decks because I think they are beautiful?  Yes.  Do I regularly use them for serious work?  Not necessarily.

Q.  What particularly excites you about the Tarot scene today.

A.  I am excited that that an increasingly large and diverse public is attracted to the cards, and apparently uses them fairly well for divination, spiritual growth, and, sometimes, as a vehicle for philosophic discussion.  I am also excited that Tarot, and Western Esotericism in general, is finally attracting serious, academic study by such great minds as, say, Faivre.

Q.  What bothers you about today’s Tarot scene?

A.  Two things.  I am frankly bothered by popular authors, instructors, and seminar leaders who, preaching a vastly dumbed-down Tarot, promise to make you a competent reader, in, say, an evening.  It doesn’t work like that in my experience.  I am also bothered by the plethora of crappy to mediocre introductory books which flood the market regularly while books for advanced students are extremely few and far between. 

Q.  Do you think anything can be done about the lack of texts for advanced students?

A.  For one thing, authors, instructors, and seminar leaders could impress upon new students that Tarot eventually gets complicated and that they will want and need advanced texts.  They could advise them early on that Tarot comprises much more than what they will find in introductory books by Greer, Gray, or Bunning—although these books certainly have their place.

Q.  Do you think that the Internet can help?

A.  Perhaps.  Thanks, in part, to the increasing popularity of the Web and publishing on demand, we may see more advanced books in the near future.  Increasingly, authors and buyers may bypass traditional, overly conservative channels of distribution altogether.  That possiblity is exciting.

Q.  I’ve noticed that you have just opened a humor section, called Tarot Foolery, at your Web site.  Why?

A.  Several reasons.  Sometimes learning Tarot is a challenge and can drain you.  Humor can provide a welcome respite.  Humor also helps to prevent narrow-mindedness and egomania.  Sometimes Tarotists and occultists take themselves too seriously, believe that their personal vision of Tarot is the one, true Tarot, and lash out at those who in good conscience see things differently.  Humor, I think, helps to prevent this. 

Q.  One final question, before we call it a wrap.  I understand that you don’t have a single favorite deck.  However, if you were stranded on a desert island and could have only one deck, which would it be?

A.  That’s a no-brainer.  The one in my head.  It is the most important deck anyone can possess.

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Copyright © 2000 James W. Revak.  All rights reserved.  Version 1.0 (4/12/00).