Within the realms of Witchcraft and modern Paganism Raymond Buckland has long been seen as a trailblazer. Buckland was an integral part of the introduction of Wicca, specifically Gardnerian Wicca, to North America in the 1960s, and later, he was one of the first major figures within Wicca to embrace the idea of self-initiation and solitary practice. Buckland’s career boasts a list of firsts, and his literary career (over 50 books published) in turn set the stage for the boom in Pagan titles that would follow. Now, the beloved author and elder ventures into new territory with the publication of his Buckland Romani Tarot as an application for the iPhone and iPad.
“The magic and mystery of the Romani people, or Gypsies, comes alive in The Buckland Romani Tarot! The Buckland Tarot clothes the familiar archetypes from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck with images of Romani people and culture. The Romani, or Gypsies, have always been fortune tellers as they traveled through the world, learning the wisdom traditions of every nation. Now expert diviner Raymond Buckland, half-Romani and the father of American Witchcraft, reveals Romani wisdom at the turn of the card. Beautifully illustrated by Lissanne Lake, the art of The Buckland Romani Tarot will enchant you.”
Software studio The Fool’s Dog, who partnered with Buckland on this app, specialize in iOS tarot applications and have been producing a line of high-quality tarot apps which includes John Matthews’ and Mark Ryan’s Wildwood Tarot. Founded by developer Jason Linhart and shamanic healer Caroline Kenner (who also helps organize the Sacred Space Conference), the duo strive to bring the world of virtual tarot reading to new levels. For example, the app features a state-of-the-art randomizer for drawing the cards designed by Linhart, while Kenner uses her 40 years of card-reading experience to “frame the app, decide what features were important, and how best to translate the divinatory experience into pixels.” But can you do an accurate, personal, reading with a virtual tool? Kenner says that you can, and that the app can be “spookily accurate.” She attributes this accuracy to very special wedding present:
“I attribute this to the spell Ivo Dominguez, Jr. encoded into “junk” code, which is included in every app. Ivo’s spell was a wedding present from him and his husband, Jim Welch, both of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel.”
As part of the promotional rollout for the Buckland Romani Tarot app I was able to conduct a short interview with Raymond Buckland about this new project, what his thoughts are regarding tarot apps, and what his future plans are.
Why did you decide to pursue making a tarot “app” at this time? Have you used other tarot applications? Why was this the right time for you to do this project?
“I am fairly new to the Apple world and am somewhat in awe of all that is available, especially the variety of apps. I was somewhat surprised to see tarot decks presented that way but, on looking at one or two, could appreciate how this could be a very useful presentation. It means you can do a reading very privately on an airplane, in a waiting room, or just about anywhere, without having to find room to spread out cards. It struck me that my own deck could certainly be offered, along with these other decks. It was, perhaps, the “right time” in that apps are still relatively new and this is a wonderful way to offer the deck, basically, world wide.”
Do you think a tarot application can work just as well as a physical deck, or do they, in your mind, work in different ways? Some readers place a high value on the physicality of the tarot deck, so I’d be interested to hear your views on tarot and tarot readings in a virtual realm.
“I do think they work in slightly different ways, though both effective. The app I would view as a convenience form of reading. As I said above, it can be used virtually anywhere. But for a truly in-depth reading, I personally would prefer the physical touch, the “feel”, of the cards themselves. Yet it is probably all a question of what you get used to. I am sure that readings of both types are equally valid, so far as results go.”
The tarot deck being adapted is your Buckland Romani Tarot. What is your relationship with this work today, over a decade since its initial release? Are there any specific qualities about this deck that you think suit it for this new digital format?
“This is a deck of which I am extremely proud. Lissanne Lake (the artist) interpreted my ideas and pictures of the cards to perfection. Consequently I use these cards myself and have done since their first introduction. The “color” of the Romani/Gypsy lifestyle together with the actual coloring of the cards makes this deck especially suitable for the digital format, I feel. The cards are eye-catching and attention-holding; important for a divination deck.”
Finally, is this just the beginning in terms of you exploring ways to adapt your work for an age of social media sites and mobile devices, or is this more an isolated experiment? Have you any plans for future projects like this?
“We have to move with the times. I have a number of my books available on Kindle and other e-readers. I would very much like to see my Alchemy Deck & Book as an app. I have put out a DVD (Witchcraft: Rebirth of the Old Religion) and a couple of CDs. As I get back the rights to works that have gone out of print, I am definitely looking to offering them in a newer format. Yes, I am most certainly exploring ways to adapt my work. One of the joys to this new digital age is the ease with which so many things can be brought to so many people around the globe.”
The Buckland Romani Tarot is available now at the Apple app store. The Fool’s Dog is currently working to port their tarot apps to Android devices and hope to have something on Android before the end of 2013.