If you know that the owls are not what they seem, then you know why a Twin Peaks Tarot is a genius idea. Of course we needed one! And the very talented Benjamin Mackey made it happen.
When I first heard of this deck I was thrilled. After discovering some images online, I had to know more. I reached out to Benjamin who was nice enough to answer my questions. We discussed his relation to the cards and his passion for Twin Peaks. Here’s how he managed to make both worlds meet.
Louise (Tarot Parlor): First of all, congratulations on your Deck. It’s so beautiful and just a genius idea. How did it start, was there a trigger?
Benjamin Mackey: Thanks so much! The deck started off as something of non sequitur. I had drawn up TWIN PEAKS beer labels (Dale Cooper’s FBIPA, Log Lady Lager, etc) for a co-worker’s Secret Santa gift, and a couple of my other co-workers remarked that they looked kind of like tarot cards. That planted the seed of an idea that didn’t come to fruition until a few months later when I was back watching the show. For fun, I started assigning characters to cards. Enough of them came quickly that I felt like I was on to something!
From there, I dived deep with the assignment process. That was so damn fun. It really helped me get a better understanding of the cards and show itself. It forced me to peel back the layers of TP to see all those interconnected threads. At first I toyed with the idea of doing art totally detached from decks that came before it, but ended up drawing heavy inspiration from the Pamela Colman Smith deck due to its cultural resonance and to further the “pop” nature of the deck itself.
Since the characters were drawn from a cult TV show, I wanted the Tarot decks inspiration to draw from similar cult cultural touchstone. Call it something an earnest spoof or parody?
The Log Lady is the High Priestess of the Magician Longs to See Tarot – ©Benjamin Mackey
“For the most part, it was 50% intuition and 50% system.” B.M
L: Some of the choices you made will seem natural to most readers. Like the Log Lady being the High Priestess but others maybe less so. For example: why is Big Ed, a rather calm and solid character, the Knight of Swords in your vision? How did you choose to associate a character and a card? Was it mostly intuitive and easy or did you have a system?
B.M: It’s funny that you mention the Log Lady as the High Priestess. That was indeed one of the most immediate connections! Andy as the Fool, Dale Cooper as the “magician” who “longed to see” and a few more that were quick associations. For the most part, the Major Arcana fell into place quickly. It was when I started delving into the Minor Arcana that things got a little trickier. For the most part, it was 50% intuition and 50% system. There were also visual similarities that I used to draw inspiration as well.
I assigned each of the suits an overall theme that they would relate to. Cups were the bread and butter folks of Twin Peaks with their coffee cups overflowing with life giving liquid. The Coins were the more nefarious One Eyed Jacks miscreants and other ne’er-do-wells of the Town (with some exceptions) or folks who tilled the earth for gain. Swords became those people associated with law and law enforcement cleaving their Book House swords of justice through the rushing air. And the wands were tied into the darkness that dwells in the woods, the mystical side of Twin Peaks that conjures ethereal fire.
Once I had those rough assignments, it made the assignments within each of the suits a little easier. But, there were times when I flexed those constraints, i.e making the four queen cards the four queens of Windom Earle.
L: Was there a card that you had problems re-interpreting or was there a Twin Peaks character you weren’t sure how to position in the deck? What challenges did you face while linking both worlds?
B.M: Josie Packard was one of the trickier characters to incorporate. I really wanted her to appear in the Major Arcana, but no card felt right to echo who she was to the show. Instead I did a sort of three card arc in the swords that related to Josie (8-10). We see her on the phone, then Truman weeping in the Bookhouse, and finally her infamous death scene on the bed with her transference to the wooden doorknob.
L: And what was the most obvious association to you?
B.M: Pete Martell. The Page of Cups features a man holding a cup. A cup with a fish in it. Of course this could be none other than Pete “Fish in the Percolator” Martell.
L: Did you ever consider Agent Cooper as the Hanged Man? (for his early morning habits…)
B.M: Haha, I most certainly did! That was an instance where the direct visuals of the show (and Coopers seeming hang ups over Caroline and eventually Annie) were pushing me in that direction. However, seeing as Cooper is somewhat of the “mystic nexus” of the television series, I felt like he needed more of a central card, a card with more agency.
Inspector Dale Cooper as the Magician – ©Benjamin Mackey
L: Can you reveal any special anecdote or ‘secret’ behind the making of this deck?
B.M: One of my “favorite” scenes in the show is the “Just You and I” scene where James plays that rather ridiculous tune and Maddie and Donna croon along with him. When I say favorite, I don’t mean I love the song or what have you, it just acts as this beautiful soft weirdness and calming lull before one of the most terrifying scenes in television history (yes, I will stand by that claim) where Bob crawls over the couch and into the camera.
It’s the perfect absurd setup to abject terror! For that reason, I really wanted to get that scene in a card, and maybe forced the cards hand a bit when I assigned it to Four of Cups? But at the same time, it has a weird synchronicity to the card. A melancholy youth sits beneath a tree, lost in pensive thoughts.
L: Who’s your favourite Twin Peaks character and why?
B.M: Oh gosh, this is like asking a parent to pick their favorite child. They are all beautiful in so many ways, but if I had to pick, I would probably say Deputy Andy. His quick-to-tears nature and openness towards others makes him a definite kindred spirit. We’re just two well-meaning dopes attempting to make our way in the world, and occasionally stumbling across something big (and hopefully not falling off any cliffs or stepping on any rakes).
“My interests lie in the intersection of Tarot visuals, history and the underlying emotional draws of what they represent.” B.M
L: And which is your favourite Tarot card?
B.M: It’s a close call between the Four of Wands and the Three of Cups. Don’t have a particularly articulate reason as to why. They have always spoken to me on a gut level and I haven’t questioned it much. Probably the mirth and joy that tend to be present in those cards.
L: Do you use Tarot yourself and if so, how? Which decks do you love?
B.M: I am something of a casual user of tarot. I do a daily reading for myself every now and again but admit my interests lie in the intersection of Tarot visuals, history and the underlying emotional draws of what they represent. I’m an art history nerd, so I love that aspect of it. One of my favorite historical decks is the Marseille Tarot. Contemporary, I love the deck created by Anna Maria D’Onfrio, La Corte Dei Tarrocchi.
L: How many times did you watch Twin Peaks while working on the deck?
B.M: Probably a good three times. One time for “concentrated card-assignment research purpose” and a couple more times it played through in the background while I worked on drawing the cards. I really wanted to be immersed fully in the Twin Peaks world!
L: Will it come with a companion book? And if so, will you be the sole author?
B.M: Not quite a companion book, but rather a wee little booklet. It offers a look into the making of the deck, some mystical musings on the four suits, and a short writing by John Thorne. For those of you steeped in Peaksdom, he was one of the co-creators of Wrapped In Plastic (the seminal Twin Peaks magazine that ran for a number of years)!
The Magician Longs to See is way more than a collector item for Twin Peaks fans. It’s a truly well thought out deck.
Some of the drawings are impressively deep: for instance the Moon showing the duality that resides in each of us. The darkness that lies deep within. The 8 of Cups, which perfectly conveys the mysteries of strange souls, so special they seem to come from another world.
You’ll find the most positive and difficult scenes (such as the 4 of Swords, showing the funeral of Laura Palmer and the breakdown of her father). All the emotions, all the nuances that make for a great deck are present in the Magician Longs to See making it one of the best new decks in a long time.
The Magician Longs to See Tarot is a wonderful deck. It’s filled with many details and references to both Twin Peaks and the original Rider Waite Smith. You can spend hours making sense of it all, connecting the dots and enjoying the reunion of two influential works of art into a new one.
Discover more work by Benjamin Mackey and see the full deck on his official website.