Alejandra León on healing through art and creative channeling
“Tarot connects you to yourself, so you can learn what you desire”
Hello friends, hello brand new subscribers!
Today, I’m sharing an interview with collage artist and tarot deck creator Alejandra Luisa León, an Ecuadorian collage artist based in the U.S. I’ve been working with The Lioness Oracle for a few years, and anyone who knows me personally would understand why I feel so connected to this deck: many of the cards showcase images of roses and cats floating in a universe full of planetary portals. The visuals speak to me on so many levels.
In the interview, Alejandra articulated something that I’ve been thinking about a lot: “Tarot connects you to yourself, so you can learn what you desire.” It’s so true. Especially because wants and desires are often slippery things. Fantasies change over time. Dreams morph, twist in different directions. We outgrow the things we once wanted. We turn to tarot to reflect, to reevaluate. To confront ourselves.
On that note: people keep asking me what I’m going to work on after The Rebis: Wheel of Fortune. What do I want to do next? Will we publish another anthology, tackle another Major Arcana card? I’m okay with admitting that I don’t know. My original idea was to publish a print issue focusing on a single tarot card four times a year (on the equinoxes and solstices), but I’m waiting to see how everything goes with the first issue before moving forward. As an independent operation, I’m making intentional decisions about where to focus my time and energy. My October card is The Hanged One, and I am very much embracing a season of suspension. I know that I want to continue giving this publication oxygen, but I don’t know exactly what will emerge, or when. I’m using tarot to pay attention, to ask myself questions, to create space for new ideas.
In the meantime, I’ll continue with infrequent (but hopefully meaningful!) newsletters. I loved getting a chance to hear from Alejandra, and have a few other interviews with deck creators, tarotists, artists, and writers coming up. If you’re interested in being interviewed or having your work featured here and on our Instagram, please reach out to email@example.com. I’m also always open to brainstorming different ways to collaborate.
Until next time,
P.S. Speaking of which, a quick update on our Wheel of Fortune issue. The publication is in production at the printing press. If you placed a preorder, your copy should be shipping out in about 2 weeks, possibly sooner! Thank you for your patience — it feels really good to be so close to a release date. ✨ And if you haven’t placed an order yet, please consider buying the print publication. (Profits go to orgs committed to social justice initiatives!)
Collage artist and tarot deck creator Alejandra Luisa León on healing through art and creative channeling
Hi Alejandra! To get us started, it would be great if you shared how you started working with the cards initially, and how your relationship with them has evolved over time.
My father gifted me my first tarot deck, and also connected me with my first tarot reader — I felt deeply impacted by the art of tarot, and began a course of self-study. Over time, like any practice, my relationship with tarot has deepened. It began with me reading books, and giving free readings to anyone that would allow me, to learn how the cards showed up in life — and, of course, to become more proficient at reading them. Years later, I intuitively felt called to begin asking for an exchange, and slowly and steadily a business formed out of that. That was never the goal in the beginning. It just happened that way. These days, they still teach me and surprise me. I think it is a lifelong study.
I love asking people about their thoughts on tarot and creativity. How do you reflect on the relationship between the two?
I love this question. Creativity is essentially your life force. The wands, the fire. It takes consistent creative force to live and thrive. To make decisions, to create your life. Tarot helps you connect to your subconscious. To your deepest layers. In this practice, you can unblock and heal so much, which only allows your creative energy to flow more freely. Tarot connects you to yourself, so you can learn what you desire. What you want to create. This is lifelong, as desires evolve and change. Tarot is a life companion.
Tarot helps you connect to your subconscious. To your deepest layers. In this practice, you can unblock and heal so much, which only allows your creative energy to flow more freely. Tarot connects you to yourself, so you can learn what you desire.”
—Alejandra Luisa León
I understand that you began The Lioness Oracle Tarot as a way to process grief. Are you willing to share how it felt to tap into a place of deep creativity while in mourning?
I don’t mind at all, because it is a crucial part of how it all came about. My father had introduced me to tarot, as I explained. He passed away from cancer and I was in deep mourning, as we had been very close. My collage practice became an anchor in my healing process. Looking back, I think it was the quiet space it created for my spirit. Whilst collaging, I wasn’t brooding/thinking/etcetera. I was zoomed in on the work my hands were doing. This created peace while I was hurting. It ended up getting me through it, and leading to a creation that has meant so much to me and to others. Again, it wasn’t the plan at first, but naturally unfolded. It is like the Death card. What passes gives way to new birth.
The Lioness Oracle contains so many magnificent collages. Why were you drawn to collage artwork for the project?
Part of it is that I find the process of cutting and assembling very meditative. I just love to do it. This is why it was healing for me I suppose. The other aspect is that there is something about the medium that magnetizes me to it: I love taking separate images and creating a new world with it. Giving them new life and meaning. This will never cease to thrill me.
I find the images and symbolism on your tarot cards to be so playful and unique: the use of roses, the cosmos, cats, Dracula on the Nine of Swords, and Ziggy Stardust on The Star. Can you talk a little bit about the inspiration behind your collages? What were you considering when you were deciding on the artwork and photography for each card?
The inspiration piece is interesting, because my collages would sort of just come together once I set that magic space up. Of course, they were all things I love: roses are a symbol of my matrilineal name Rose, and the plant witchery on my mother’s side. The cats are an obsession of mine as a Léon (lion) Leo sun sign person. I love David Bowie.
But there was also a sort of channeling that would occur. I wouldn’t know which card I was setting out to make that day, and I would cut, assemble and do my thing, and suddenly it was clear. I would stop and think, “oh, this is the such-and-such card.”
Later on, especially with the swords, I didn’t have a lot of cards left, and I had to be more cerebral about it. It was interesting how I would sort of be in the tarot card/cards that either came through or I had to make. So the swords were challenging! I had to be creative with what I had. I remember I had this Nosferatu in my collection, and a scared cat, and I suddenly thought, “boom, Nine of Swords.”
You created two additional decks: Vision of the Muse and The Stars Divine. What was your inspiration for those?
I wanted to make an oracle deck after the tarot deck. After spending almost two years in a project that had a specific structure, I wanted to let images flow through and see what happened. That was Vision of the Muse.
The Stars Divine overlapped with that project, and I once again found myself making something with a specific structure. The astrology deck really wanted to be made. Both decks did really. I feel that way about all of my deck children now, that they chose me. I am forever grateful.
Did you have any sort of rituals or routines as part of your day-to-day while creating the decks?
I would always lay out all of my materials, set the mood with incense and candles, make a pot of tea, and put on the right music. This was a ritual that created magic.
Another question I like to ask: do you have seasons where you don’t feel creative?
Absolutely. I have definite cycles. I go through periods where the well is dry and I have zero motivation or pull to work. Then, one day, suddenly I feel extremely pulled and I’ll be collaging for days and creating so much. Then it will dry up again. It used to really bother me, but now I have learned to roll with it. I know that it will come back because it has.
I think the best way to overcome this is to do a lot of self-care to refill the well, while having the faith that one day my muse will return, because that is my intention. It takes patience and trust.
What decks have you been using lately in your personal tarot practice?
I tend to work with a lot of decks other than my own, and recently my own creations wanted me to reconnect with them, so I have been! Other than that, I always love the Brian Froud Faery Oracle, and a friend did a reading for me with the Daughters of the Moon Tarot.
Are there any archetypes, cards, or symbols that you’re particularly identifying with right now?
Yes! This year has been a Hanged Woman year for me (it was my personal year card), so the whole year has been about learning to surrender to nothingness. I am also working with The Fool right now, which is another way to surrender to the void. So symbols of the unknown are huge right now, and how to accept being in that state.
Has anything else been inspiring you lately?
A whole lot of music: Lana Del Rey, Kate Bush, Janet Jackson, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, The Doors, and Led Zeppelin are rotating a lot.
One last thing. While reflecting on your creative process, please pull a card from one of your decks and share what comes up for you.
The High Priestess is telling me to listen to my intuition about the creative stirrings within me. A lot is gestating and growing internally, and will be ready for birth in the future. Magic is in the air if I will only listen.
Follow Alejandra on Instagram to stay up to date on her projects — she also offers tarot and astrology readings!
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