Spolia Tarot

A colourful collage deck by Jen May and Jessa Crispin.

Second edition.


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The Spolia Tarot is a collaboration between artist Jen May and author Jessa Crispin.

Jen’s work, colorful and earthy, with a feminine vibe and pulling from many historical sources, seemed perfect for a tarot deck. Jessa had been working as a tarot card reader for about six years, and was interested in the history of the deck, the deeper meaning of the imagery, and how the history of not only the tarot but other forms of mysticism and occult study. We thought it would take us about a year to complete. That was three and a half years ago.

Jen works with collage, making the word Spolia appropriate for a title, as it means using rubble as building material. It also felt fitting for the time we are living in, as institutions, gender norms, religions, and ideas about how a society should function are all tumbling down and need to be rebuilt. Jen and Jessa both believe that intuition and spirit are essential tools for guiding us through this process.

“We use images from history, from alchemy and mysticism, from mythology and the natural world to create a lush deck layered with meaning. I have been studying the symbolism of the tarot for years, and we were meticulous about using the colors, flowers, crystals and stones, animals, and other imagery associated with each specific tarot card or its astrological associations.

As one of the decks I learned to read with was a Minchiate, an older Italian deck with 97 cards rather than the more standard 78 card deck, we added a few of the Minchiate’s other cards, like one card for each astrological sign, and one for each of the elements. I find these cards very useful in my readings with clients, and with my own personal readings, and you’ll find instructions on how to use them yourself in the 32 page manual I wrote that is included with the deck.”

Jessa Crispin


  • 97-card tarot deck including the 78 ‘standard’ cards, plus the four elements (earth, air, fire, water) and the 12 zodiac signs
  • 32-page guidebook
  • Presented in a simple custom tuck-box

Content note: As a reviewer below has noted, this deck contains transphobic language in that the term ‘Hermaphrodite’ is used in the description of one card. As the creators explained, this is not intended to symbolise an intersex or genderqueer person, but is a reference to Hermaphroditus in Greek mythology. Though this deck is now discontinued, we are clear that if it were republished in the future, we would request that the creators would either amend the guidebook directly, and/or include a content note to explain the use of the term, allowing customers to make their own decision about whether this deck is right for them. 

Who made this deck?

“Spolia Tarot was created in collaboration by Jen May and Jessa Crispin. The guidebook was written by Jessa Crispin, the artwork was done by Jen May, and design was done by Tara Romeo.

The second edition of Spolia Tarot was printed by Hemlock Printers in Burnaby, Canada. We chose to work with Hemlock not only for their high quality printing but also for their focus on environmental sustainability and transparency.” – Jen May

Additional information

Box condition

Perfect, Bumped, Very small bump


  1. Leon

    I like this deck very much, the collages are such beautiful and some depictions of the minor cards I just love. While this deck has some lovely queer cards, there isn’t all to much of it and in some cards the creators are really, really disrespectful and hurtful towards intersex people and transfeminine people. Since there are quite a few positive reviews, I will focus on the things that bother me about this deck.

    CN: Discrimination towards intersex people
    First and foremost there is the card of the Temperance. The text in the guidebook says: “This is a card of extremes, no matter what you have heard. It’s about the combining of opposites to create something new. Our hermaphrodite (the combiation of the male and the female into a new body) is standing among monsters, ohter opposites that have come together to create something new”
    Why is Jessa Crispin using the phrase of “hermaphrodit”, when reading the beginning of the Wikipedia article on interex teaches you that “these terms are no longer used: terms including the word “hermaphrodite” are considered to be misleading, stigmatizing, and scientifically specious in reference to humans. A hermaphrodite is now defined as “an animal or plant having both male and female reproductive organs”. So wtf is this term doing in there?!
    Other questions remain, like: why are they using intersex people as a symbol here? Why is this person the only one in the entire deck who’s genitalia is fully visible? What is the original (possibly violent?) context of this picture? [See also: http://blog.littleredtarot.com/fat-tarot-more-than-a-metaphor-understanding-fatphobia/%5D
    I think it’s totally disrespectful und discriminatory how the creators use an intersex person as a symbol in this deck and even call them names they aren’t in the position to do so, as I assume they both are dyadic.

    Another thing that bothers me is the overall cis women perspective that spreaks especially through the guidebook. As the call two transfeminine and/or gay people in the Two of Cups (a gorgeous card btw) “weirdos”, wich is at least in german language wich is my native on, quite an offending term, and as a transfeminine person myself, I find, again, the writer isn’t in the position to call these two “weirdos”. Also you will stumble across at least one “being a dick” phrase, yay.

    Other than that, this deck lacks quite some diverse representation, at least in what comes to my mind. All the body types are thin or thin-ish, there are few Black persons and Persons of Color. The colors of some of the original graphics depicting white people are invertet, so that they are black. I don’t get why she did that? If it would be to let it seem more diverse, it would be really.. blackfacing I guess.

    So much for those things that make my belly trumble. Sure, there are many other cards that make my body ease in delight or my mind set back in surprise when reading. But with the Temperance coming up it just feel off as nothing else. I might modify it? Or just get rid of it?

    • Beth

      Hi Leon,
      I want to drop a quick reply to you now to let you know I’ve received this message/review. I’m sincerely grateful you’ve taken the time to feed all this back and take it really seriously. I will be offline all weekend, but will get back to you with a proper response next week. I will also reach out to the creators of this deck about this use of the transphobic term ‘hermaphrodite’.
      With love,

    • Beth

      Hi again Leon,

      Sorry it has taken me a while to get back to you about this.
      I want to start by saying I think the questions you raise are really important and valid – both around the use of the outdated and transphobic term ‘hermaphrodite’ and questioning the purpose of the ‘negative’ imagery and whether it is meant to imply racial blackness (in which case it would be blackface).

      I reached out to the creators and shared your comment, highlighting the use of that term, and the potential blackface in particular. They have got back to me with a response. They declined to make a public statement and asked me not to share their words, but in a nutshell the responses were:
      – ‘Hermaphrodite’ is a reference to the classical figure Hermaphroditus, rather than intending to imply or symbolise an actual intersex person.
      – The negative pictures (which appear as ‘black’ people) are a stylistic technique and not intended to imply race.

      My personal take is that context is everything, and that a tarot (like any work of art) is divorced from its creators’ intentions once it is out in the world and being used and interpreted by *real live humans*. I really hear that this card is meant to refer to a classical figure and not to symbolise an intersex human – however, that does not negate the harmful impact it can have when an intersex or genderqueer person encounters this card. I don’t feel the ‘that’s not what I meant’ explanation is helpful, and would rather we moved towards understanding of historic/classical terms in a modern-day context (i.e. some belong in museums, not in everyday cultural items).

      The deck is now discontinued, however I feel that if it were ever to be republished, that an amendment be made to the guidebook and/or a content note be included on any sales page to avoid the traumatic triggering some intersex and genderqueer folx may experience on encountering this card.

      Regards the negative imagery, I trust in the creators’ stylistic choices and feel assured that this is not ‘blackface’ (though I continue to listen to and learn from BIPOC on this and am not ‘attached’ to my take). Though you’re right that this is a very white deck, as are many (especially those that draw on European mythology and lean on ‘classical’ references.)

      I’m in agreement too that this is otherwise such a beautiful deck!

      My sincere apologies that you had this experience with a deck purchased from Little Red Tarot, Leon – I’m truly gutted that this happened as a result of my own oversight.

      My vision is that this shop is a place where everyone – especially those marginalised by mainstream (white supremacist, capitalist, cishet patriarchal) culture – feels seen, feels safe, feels catered for. Decks that include triggering language or images, regardless of the creators’ intentions, do not fit within this vision. I continue to learn and sharpen my curation of this space to get into better alignment with this vision.

      Sincerely and with love,

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