I see my tarot deck as a tool to help navigate the twisty path of the person who picks up the cards. This deck is for the explorer, the curious, the open-minded and open-hearted, who wants a friendly guide.
I came across Stasia Burrington’s gorgeous Sasuraibito Tarot very recently, when a friend shared a picture on social media. ‘Ooh! Pretty!’ thought my magpie-mind, and I clicked on through as I always do. But pretty as this deck is, it’s also profound, original, magical and an absolutely joy to read. It didn’t take me long to decide that this was one for my tarot shop (psst – you can order it here!)
As I leafed through these cards, I find myself irresistibly drawn in to their colourful world.
The deck is filled with accessible symbols that convey the magic in nature, in the everyday, in modern life. I relate to the people I find here and feel a real sense of shared humanity with them, yet at the same time, I feel like I’m peeling back a layer of normalcy, holding aside a veil or a barrier, revealing the very human magic beneath the surface. As this feeling grew, it started to make me feel more magical, too! That’s one of the loveliest things about this deck: it’s a celebration of the magic inherent in all of us, and it’s impossible not to feel that as you look through these cards.
I feel like this deck reaches a place other decks don’t. It’s youthful, yet its ageless. It makes complex archetypes and ideas feel accessible and non-scary, but it doesn’t dumb things down. I would absolutely recommend this deck to tarot beginners, but it has plenty to offer more experienced readers too. I’ve loved using this for my own readings and daily draws, and once I’ve gotten to know it better, I’ll be adding it to my (very small and select!) pool of client reading decks.
In terms of look and feel, the Sasuraibito Tarot is a high-quality, self-published deck. The cards are strong and sturdy with a gloss finish and gorgeous flashing gilt edging, making this tarot feel really special. It’s presented in a solid custom-made two-part box, and comes with a decent-sized guidebook which throughly introduces each card.
But enough from me! To give you a real flavour of this gorgeous deck I chatted with its creator, Stasia Burrington and asked her to explain some of the ideas behind it.
Hi Stasia! You’ve said that the Sasuraibito Tarot blends Japanese and Buddhist concepts and ideals with modern western life. What does that look like within these cards?
Yeah, so – I’m Japanese-American, Papa’s from Japan and Mama’s mixed European-American. I was born in Texas and raised in the Pacific Northwest US. I created a deck that mirrors my experience as an Asian-American woman living in the West, mostly by illustrating people who look like me, and by portraying a universe which shares my values and belief system.
As far as expressing Japanese culture, my cards are very nature-heavy: this is a little Shinto – the belief that everything has a spirit – even rocks and trees. For example, I’d rather have a tree on the Tower vs. a man-made structure, and for the Hermit card the mountain landscape is much grander than the human sitting in it. The cups of cups isn’t full of glittery gold goblets but of humble teacups, and none of the figures on the court cards have crowns, or thrones.
The Buddhist influence is subtle, and heavily Zen. Where I needed studious, religious figures those take the form of monks. The goal of these cards is to get the reader to question their assumptions. For example, the Devil is simply a handsome man. One of my favorite cards is the Six of Pentacles – where you really have to decide what is going on. You have to examine your stories.
The word Sasuraibito roughly translates to ‘wanderer’, is that right? How does this idea come through in the deck? Who is this deck ‘for’?
I had a really hard time coming up with a name that felt right, and I actually got this name from my Papa’s old eBay handle. He’s rather romantic like that – er, wandering the internet in search of high-quality electronics. Anyway, I see my tarot deck as a tool to help navigate the twisty path of the person who picks up the cards. This deck is for the explorer, the curious, the open-minded and open-hearted, who wants a friendly guide. I also chose the name for its rarity. It is an older word that is no longer that common, and I find that attractive.
So…when did you decide you wanted to make a tarot deck?
I was initially commissioned to create a Major Arcana deck, which now belongs to a private collector. I’ve always been interested in Tarot, but I was still rather new, so I was teaching myself about tarot as I was illustrating these cards. After the Majors were finished, I had so many requests to complete the deck that I kind of had to! And I’m really grateful for the needling and encouragement – this is the kind of project you can put off for forever for the scope. Also, I have local peers who have created gorgeous decks of their own, which hugely inspired by desire to get one finished.
I took this opportunity to create a deck to which I could closely relate – I don’t connect well to decks heavily relying on an organized religion as a basis for morality – I’m a humanist – so I wanted to make something physically beautiful and also thoughtful in its symbolism. In my other artwork I obsess over the beauty of the human figure – mostly women – and in imperfection and the bittersweet.
Can you tell us a bit about your artistic process, how you went about conceiving and creating each card?
So, as I said earlier I am rather new to Tarot. So before beginning I did some research on the history and core themes of each suit, as well as looking to the more famous traditional decks for guidance. While I aimed to bring new energy to each card I also wanted this deck to be easily accessible to experienced Tarot readers. I took copious notes. Before sketching each card I would go over my notes, remind myself of common symbolism, but mostly think of how the core idea of the card physically manifests for me.
A few of the cards needed a lot of time, and I would revisit the sketch until things started to make sense. But for most cards I had a clear idea of where the illustration for going. One that made sense to me immediately and diverts widely from the common symbolism is the Eight of Cups, on which I show a woman curled over herself, about to cut off her long hair. This for me succinctly expresses the meaning of the card: letting go and moving on.
I’m really enjoying the distinctive style of this deck, and your artwork in general – it’s colourful and uplifting, but there’s a real depth to these images, especially in some of the characters’ expressions. Do you have any personal favourites?
Oh my gosh, thank you. This is a difficult question, I love so many of them! I really adore the Nine of Cups, I feel like when I see it I really feel the sensuality and richness (I’m also a hedonist). Also, the Knight of Cups – he’s so dreamy. I am really in love with each person I painted, each in their own way. I am illustrating archetypes, after all – and some of them actually quite flawed, I dunno, just – people are gorgeous, okay?
The Death card is one of my most favorite, though – it’s really painful and beautiful at the same time. The inevitability of loss and renewal and getting intimate with the reality that life is such a near-death experience – death is not the creepy skeleton, it’s inside you. I feel like the painting captures the haunting, bittersweet feeling I was after.
Regarding symbols, there are lots of starry skies in my deck. First off, stars are just pretty – but they’re also a reminder for me of the bigger picture, of context. Also, a fair bit of nudity, because people are beautiful and this deck has no place for shame.
Aside from the Sasuraibito Tarot, which tarot deck/s do you use personally, and what is your own tarot practice like?
I only have a few decks. I mostly use the Linestrider Tarot, created by Siolo Thompson. Her artwork is delicate and intricate and multi-layered. I also use the Golden Thread Tarot, which is clean, modern and the way people are illustrated makes me happy.
I’m only recently beginning to build my own Tarot practice, and I find the hardest part is making the time. I’ve yet to even interview my own deck! I’m embarassed.
Anything else you want to tell folks about your deck?
I’m immensely proud of this collection of paintings, and really hope that should you have one in your possession, it treats you well and is a clear mirror (or gets rid of the mirror – WOAH surprise Zen koan!). No seriously, I’m interested in hearing how you guys use this deck, and in how you interpret the cards – now that they’re out of my hands their meanings are up to you!