Interview with Liz Hazel

By Melanie Harris


She may have been seen in the past sporting a pair of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shoes, but make no mistake. Liz Hazel means business. With her new deck, The Whispering Tarot, now self-published and ready to buy, this author of Tarot Decoded(Weiser 2004) continues to brighten the esoteric community with her wit, her knowledge, and her true sense of magic. A gifted tarotist and astrologer, Liz takes her work seriously, and greets life with a seriously quirky sense of humor. Her fans are positively buzzing about The Whispering Tarot, so we carefully coaxed Liz away from her cats for a moment to see what she has to say for herself.

Tarot Reflections: Tell me more about the concept behind The Whispering Tarot.

Liz Hazel: Both the deck design and the production design were important to me, although the thinking on those topics took place nine years apart. 

The Whispering Tarot was originally titled The Vala Tarot. When I decided to self-publish the deck this year, the name was changed to make the deck more accessible, and to reflect the deck’s greatest strength. Whispering is a suggestively intimate word; I don’t think Yelling, Screaming, or Hollering would have gone over quite as well. 

Although I love and respect the RWS and Thoth tarots, I wanted to create card images that were free from some of the crusty, boring, and/or confusing imagery. My intention was to create a reading deck, i.e., a deck that was specifically designed to use for readings, that was fun and easy to use, with pleasing, brightly colored images. 

I also had strong ideas about production values! The final product had to have certain features, like the custom two-part box, the bright blue featured on the box cover (this is the same color used on the cover of “Tarot Decoded,” and a signature color for me), and the ornate back design. Getting the deck produced at poker-size was also important, as many readers have small hands or struggle with arthritis.  

TR: Did you spend a lot of time planning the card designs, or was it a more spontaneous process?

LH: My first wild sketching spree was completely spontaneous. I had a pencil and a pad of newsprint, and drew the ideas that were pouring into my head as fast as my hand could move. More thinking was necessary before committing to final pen-and-ink drawings. Decks with consistent motifs feel more harmonious. In the WT, the wands have dragons, and big horizons with sunrises and sunsets. The Cups have water faeries, water sylphs, and wizards. The same idea applies to color palettes. 

Straying from the RWS and antique tarot templates required some deep decision-making, although some choices were easy. The handsome Devil was a no-brainer; who is tempted by an ugly devil? 

These deliberate departures were inspired by 30-odd years of working with the tarot. I designed images that I wanted to see after using tons of other artists’ decks over the years, and I hope that other readers find the revamped imagery entertaining and evocative. 

TR: What are you most pleased with regarding this deck? 

LH: (grins) Other than getting it printed now means that people will quit bugging me to get it printed? Really, that’s a tough call. I’m thrilled with the whole production. I’m thrilled to be able to say, “You’d like a copy of my deck? Here it is. Use it in good health, and have a ton of fun with it.” 

TR: So, I hear you recently got back from a lecture series in the U.K. Tell me more about that. What did you speak about? Did anything funny or unexpected happen on your trip?

LH: The TABI conference was small but wonderful. All of the presenters had good things to offer, and did a great job of delivering their material to the group. 

My lecture was on Tarot and Astrology. I used film stills to make my points, and I think the visual images genuinely helped attendees to understand the concepts that astrology can offer to tarot readers. It was great to see those over-the-head light bulbs glowing! The people I shanghaied into doing script readings were wonderful, too. It was an amazingly talented and varied group. 

The unexpected thing was that all of my travel connections actually worked! Usually I get stuck in some international airport, waiting to get on another flight. 

There were two funny things that happened. When I was waiting in Heathrow to get on the airplane, I met a woman with a doctorate in medieval history. We had a fascinating conversation. It was a meeting of two dedicated eggheads; what was funny was we were both dressed like modern-day nuns in basic black. We’ve e-mailed each other citations and other tidbits since getting back in the states. You never know who you’re going to meet in an international airport, but this took the prize.

The other funny thing happened when I got home from England. I was carrying my luggage into the house, when a tiny black kitten ran up the front porch and into my arms. He was waiting for me to adopt him. “New mommy, you’re finally home! You can take me inside now.” My house had a baby while I was gone! Given the kitten’s unbelievable charisma, how could I resist? After two days of trying out very cool wizard names, the only one he would answer to was Tim (the wizard in Monty Python’s Holy Grail). 

TR: (laughs) Nothing other than Tim, huh? Cats are creatures of mystery, that’s for sure. Speaking of mysteries…tell me a secret about a mystery of the Tarot.

LH: Esoteric mysteries give me the hiccups. 

TR: Oh.

LH: Actually, most of the really groovy secrets I’ve found are in books that are at least 1,800 years old. It pays to never read regurgitated or modernized secrets; I’m strictly a primary resource person. It also pays to hunt down good translations, and to know that certain things can go by a lot of different names over the centuries. Mathers and Wescott had the same notion, and did valuable translations of ancient documents that are worth reading. Good secrets, no matter how old, are always fresh to the finder.

TR: What do you think is one of the biggest mistakes people make when reading (or learning to read) the Tarot?

LH: This isn’t a mistake, but perhaps a common misdirection. People can choose the level of reader they become by what they’re willing to absorb from the world. The readings a reader gives generally will sound like the books that he or she has read. It’s a good idea to absorb several different books on tarot to get input from various authors, and to view the tarot as a multi-disciplinary medium. It’s as valuable to read Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, Homer, Plato, Marsilio Ficino, or Sartre as it is to read Mary Greer or Rachel Pollack. The more a person brings to the table in terms of breadth of knowledge and experience, the better of a tarot reader one will become. 

TR: Any upcoming books or decks in your future now that The Whispering Tarot is on the market?

LH: The accompanying book, Whispering Tarot: Softly Spoken Secrets, will be available in early September. I have another book in the pipes called Vala’s Little Book of Sabbats. The first and second very small printed editions of this book contain ritual texts for casting and opening the circle. Now the rituals for all of the sabbats are written, and the manuscript has been edited by Barbara Ardinger. All I have to do is format the manuscript for printing in my copious spare time, and come up with a few thousand bucks to pay for it. No problemo. 


I’d also like to do a book with the spells that I’ve written over the years (the ones that worked!). 

Finally, I want to turn the lecture I did for the TABI conference into a book. This is going to be complicated, and a traditional publisher may be a necessary evil. But the material is wonderful and completely original, and worth the effort to publish.    

TR: What benefit do you hope people will derive from The Whispering Tarot?

LH: The magical charm on the sign and number card says it all: “The Seeker’s fortune sure swift be found.”