Margarete Petersen: Her introduction from the book


I don't know about anyone else, but I am not a natural intuitive... my Aquarius is always fighting with my Pisces, it wants to know know know. :D

Naturally, then, the incomprehensible book with the MP deck has been taunting me! So that's what I've been doing. Laboriously (and badly) translating with the help of a plethora of websites. Here is my garbled rendition of her Introduction. If anyone can improve on it, PLEASE do so!

As a child, I felt most at home in the world of fairy tales, legends, comics and myths. Nevertheless, you do not make an elephant from a mosquito. The elephantine thread I have been able to spin may have begun with these mosquitoes, when the cat, the mouse were my teachers. But the door to my private world slammed shut with my entrance into school. Only at night, in dreams, in secret games, was I able to linger there.

The door reopened a crack in 1979, when I encountered the Tarot for the first time. I first laid out the cards as a joke, but when I did, I touched something unknown to me and could not forget the experience. What power came from this strangely inconclusive symbol language? My first cards were designed by Arthur E. Waite, painted by Pamela Colman Smith. Ever more frequently I began to play with these cards, and read appropriate Tarot books and interpretations. It electrified me. I wanted to understand and understood nothing. I felt that behind the pictures on the cards were still more pictures and layers. The arrangement of pictures, numbers, elements and symbols seemed to provide only coordinates for reaching a far vaster hidden region. The Tarot represents an infinitely complex fabric woven of myths, legends, truths and wisdom from the whole history of mankind. It was obvious to me, as an artist, that painting was the way for me to immerse myself in this geography.

The game begins with the fool. The Fool is the archetype of the Child, ready to meet the world innocently and openly. Thus, without suspecting what I had begun, I took the first step on an adventure into unknown territory. I poured color over white cardboard, used fabrics with open-weave patterns as stencils, sprayed with airbrush and tempera – energized by this game of artistic chance. I forgot rules and intentions, and flowed with the work. In this forgetting, another part of me remembered. Childlike -- playing -- open -- I felt a breath of the Fool's strength, which plays with conditioned, structured thinking and patterns, overlaying them with whirls of colour, chaos and disorder, leaving room for fresh experiences.

In this way, the first six pictures emerged. They were sold as postcards in women's and esoteric bookstores. They got a resounding response, which seemed to reflect a need for woman-inspired interpretations of the Tarot.

I see myself as both artist and translator. That is, I am bound to the structure of the Tarot, but within this framework I can arrange things freely. I thought to spend approximately five years of my life in this work, but everything I planned and wanted seemed to slip from me. I had to get involved in other regularities. Many times during this process I underestimated the power of the Tarot's influence upon me. Twenty-two years now lie between the Fool and me, and again I sit before a white sheet of paper, in order to reflect that mark in words.

Ever more deeply and finely, I submerged myself in the realm of the microcosm. I travelled through the tissues of the body, sensing the seams at the junctions between unknown landscapes and familiar terrain. I explored tunnels and caves. I was moved by a pulse whose rhythm was synchronised, inside and outside. For hours and days at a time, for months, I painted tiny points, without plan, without goal. The fear I felt, once acknowledged as mine, became a part of the informality, blurred everything, and developed from the dissolution a new fragment of the structure I sought. Once I became aware of this, I began to see my characteristic blindness. I learned how the greatest excitement is born of restraint. The tiny points, though individually insignificant, harmless, almost boring, had a fine, sharp, invisible strength. It was as if the internal chatter of my thoughts was smoothed and organized with a huge comb, my spirit brought to quiet. My ego dissolved, and allowed me to learn the secret essence of a card through feeling. My perceptions became like a complex instrument, ever more sensitive to nuance. Through this process, I learned ever more exactly to perceive when it was time to form, and when it was time to wait. The creative process is the same, whether one is hurried by financial pressure or pain, or not. It is found in the empty space between doing and wanting. I learned more and more to move like a cat, which can sleep through anything for hours, then suddenly, at a small unknown noise, is completely present and wide awake.

In one breath, inhalation and exhalation, you notice everything, and in one second your life lies transparent before you. I learned, perforce, to fail, again and again, and begin again. Often a picture would seem finished after months of work, yet I would wash everything off again, and sometimes again, until something said in me, let it go. There were moments in which my feelings and tendencies knew only an enormous black cloud, which obscured every view inside and out. There were other moments that filled me with delight, when I was moved by something greater than myself.

The work of painting changed my perception, almost without my knowing. I saw screens in which the pictures were imprisoned. It was as if my eye opened, and three-dimensional images landed on my retina, to merge with images from my childhood. I learned ever more precisely to differentiate, to feel the area that lay between them -- saw how by the flick of an eyelid an image is destroyed and a new develops. My art can be compared with a Zen meditation, which goes thus:
Take a pot of rice, and pour it out. Take one grain after another, and put each back in the pot. If you notice yourself becoming impatient, disconnected, dump the pot and begin again. At the beginning, you will invent a thousand stories, your thoughts will go back and forth trying to find something firm to grasp. It becomes boring -- deathly boring. You pick up one grain after another, each one the same as the last. You try with all your power to focus your thoughts on the grain of rice, to quiet your soul, and you give a personality to each grain as it lies between your thumb and index finger. It slips from you, as though on invisible ice, the emphasis shifting. You begin to tumble in a whirling land of dream, and land somewhere else.

The sobriety attained through the intoxication of self-reflection is the key that opens the doors. Through the cultural meanderings of the Tarot, I saw different cultures, religions, and faiths. There has been much research and realization, many conflicting assumptions made, over the origin and age of the Tarot cards. Nothing can be conclusively proven. Personally, I like the legend of the Tarot being brought from India to Europe by the "gypsies" (Sinti and Roma) around fourteen hundred. Sometimes I feel like a Viennese "gypsy" myself, travelling outside the system.

I am frequently asked, "What do you make now, other than Tarot cards?" Nothing, I answer, and each time am met with a horrified, disbelieving hush. "What, you make a living from that, and make nothing else?" Yes, I say, nothing else. My daughter gives me a place to live, so that this can happen -- she shops, washes, polishes, cooks, pays rent, finds solutions if the money is missing. My relationships change, suffer, endure, with fears, joys, hopes and arguments. Festivals are celebrated, involvements dissolve, new connections are formed. Yes, I made that as well. In brief, I lived.


Absolutely fantastic, compass rose, brava!! and than you so, so much. This means a lot to me, and will mean a lot to everyone!

selbstbespiegelung = self mirroring
närrische = foolish
Lernte, wie aus Verspannung Spannung ensteht. = I learned, how suspense/excitement comes from restraint...

or stress results in tension... hmm, not sure.


I have been going around in a circle for months thinking about buying this deck. Your post has convinced me. I have to have this deck. I'm printing this out and keeping it with my cards when I get them. Thank-you so much. That was a big bowl of rice but you did it proud! Namaste

Edited to say: Firemaiden I have been following your posts with interest and have been wanting to thank you for your wonderful translations.


(Thank you lark, I'm so glad to know that! I won't feel so lonely ;). Please do join any thread at any time! and start new threads at any time.)


CompassRose: this is wonderful and inspiring! Thank you so much for shining a light on this amazing mysterious awesome Margarete Petersen deck.

The images from the MP deck have entranced me, but not being able to read the "little red book" I was having a difficult time understanding some of the nuances and influences that the artist had embedded in the cards. Thanks to the translations and reflections from CompassRose, FireMaiden, and others, I am now able to understand and interact much more with the MP deck. Thanks again for your labors of love!