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Exploring the Mother Tarot Deck with Wren McMurdo Brignac

Wren McMurdo Brignac | Photo by Frank Correa

Written by Erica Lang 

Mothers come in many forms: some birth earthlings, others give life to new enterprises as CEO’s and artists. We find mothers in our sisters, friends, aunties and mentors. And all of us as human beings belong to Mother Earth.

Wren McMurdo Brignac, the artist behind the lunar-themed Dark Days Tarot deck (and a member of our Herbivore family!), has made Earth the subject of her second Tarot deck. As she ideates and constructs the in-progress Mother Tarot Deck (due to release in 2020), she takes us behind the scenes of her creative process, inspiration, and what she’s learned about mother archetypes along the way.


Wren | Photo by Frank Correa


What inspired you to create the Mother Tarot Deck?

As an independent artist, I’m also a passionate entrepreneur, and each project I pursue transforms me. I started out making chocolates wrapped in illustrated packaging, thus diving into the food industry. That endeavor informed and transformed me into a vegan(mostly). I later pivoted to self-publish the Dark Days Tarot deck, and was transformed by the online witch community I fell into, which taught me to face and challenging white supremacy. With the Mother Tarot deck, I am focusing on motherhood—personally and broadly—and with that I am also facing and studying climate change.

The Mother Tarot Deck observes creativity, parenthood, and our relationship to our Mother Earth. It’s a sister to Dark Days, a black and white lunar exploration. Dark Days propelled me through my Saturn return years, and the Mother Tarot Deck is informing my nesting years.


The Two of Cups | Illustrated by Wren McMurdo Brignac


To quote Queen Oprah Winfrey, “Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.” You and I have discussed often at Herbivore as we agree that Motherhood is about so much more than giving birth. How does the larger concept of Motherhood — being a devoted, thoughtful caregiver, and a guiding light for others — addressed in the tarot deck?

I’ve been looking at motherhood as both creative and nurturing. There is giving birth or otherwise creating another being and/or family, and there is nurturing that being, creation, and/or family. The Mother Tarot Deck observes both creative and nurturing themes.

I see the lower torso as creative space in all bodies, regardless of a person’s sex, gender, capacity, or desire to give birth to humans. Metaphysically, this area is where creative energy is used to conceive newness. Also—everyone may not be a mother, but everyone was born and raised somehow. Motherhood is a concept that touches all souls but speaks to specific magic.


The Empress | Illustrated by Wren McMurdo Brignac


Tarot cards are a tool that helps the user consider other perspectives when they face uncertainty, or question their purpose. I’m curious, what challenges have you encountered in designing the deck, and has the process helped shift your understanding of what it means to be a Mother?

At the beginning of this project, I thought the Mother Tarot Deck would reflect my creative journey toward motherhood (I’m not a mother to a human at this time). As it develops, however, my internal focus is shifting toward nurturing: caring for current mothers (particularly mothers of color) and caring for our Great Mother Earth. This project is teaching me what Earth requires from me: as a creator, as a future parent, or otherwise.


The Eight of Swords | Illustrated by Wren McMurdo Brignac


And of course, we are all children of Mother Nature. How does the deck honor our planet, and why is this bond especially critical in the present moment?

As I research mother archetypes, I’m looking deeply the state of our planet mother. I’ve become more devoted to her; more faithful, more thankful...and more obsessed with caring for her, sacred mothers already mothering, and existing and future children. To be maternal or nurturing is, in essence, to care for all things, and I think Western culture could stand to adopt an in-takes-a-village attitude with respect to raising the future.

Since starting this project, I’ve become hyper-aware of the impact of my own habits, and also my production practices. I’m eliminating plastic shipping materials and going plastic-free for future deck runs. I’m also looking into tree-planting, local production, etc. so as to go carbon negative with my business if I can. In my personal life, I’ve begun the transition to a “zero waste” lifestyle. I’m also studying the effects of electromagnetic and radioactive energy on my health and the health of the Earth. I hope that what I’m doing is becoming the norm because, in order to stop climate change, it’s important to adapt future-focused lifestyle habits quickly and thoroughly.


The Ace of Cups | Illustrated by Wren McMurdo


Tell me more: How does one read this deck? Do you have a ritual to open or close the reading?

Card reading utilizes personal style, so there isn’t a “correct” way to read my decks. Like its sister, Dark Days Tarot, the Mother Tarot Deck will be square, so it can be read cyclically using natural metaphors like the four seasons, the four quarter moon phases, the four compass directions, the four elements, etc. Beginners or minimalists might choose to ignore the directions and just focus on the imagery.

I love the ritual of lighting a candle to open a ritual and putting it out to close. Gaze upon the flame for a minute or two before the reading to focus your attention, and meditate for a few minutes afterward to end the reading nicely.


Wren McMurdo + Dark Days Tarot | Photo by Frank Correa


What mother archetypes have you most enjoyed getting to know in the process of creating this deck? Did you seek wisdom from other women (or maybe your own Mother) as you prepared to create a deck celebrating a variety of Mother-figures?

My favorites are the Grandmother archetypes and the stories that spread and travel through mothers to children and other mothers. I’m particularly fascinated with my Great Great Grandmother Anna on my mother’s side, whose life was quite difficult. She was punished by her Mormon community for becoming a mother out of wedlock and suffered gravely despite her resilience. When I learned her story I found her power and struggle to be painfully relatable. I see her in the mists of relatives’ eyes—especially in the eyes of the women in my family.

And finally, what can you tell me about your creative process? I know you get a lot of ideas during a relaxing soak in the tub — what would you say is your ritual for cultivating creative energy?

Visions usually come to me while I’m following my curiosity somewhere (reading, research, etc.) or while doing repetitive physical activity like running, cleaning or walking to the train. I do love to write descriptions for the cards while in the tub. I find my writing voice with ease while submerged in water!

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