Interview with Michele Jackson

Geraldine Amaral, in her capacity as editor/publisher for Tarot Celebrations, devised the idea of a bi-monthly interview with a "Tarot VIP" and chose to inaugurate this feature with a question and answer session with Michele Jackson. I didn't choose the subject.

Geraldine has kindly permitted me to use the interview.  Clearly, I respect Michele Jackson and what she did with her website, Micheleís Tarot Page.  I called it "a wondrous resourceóthe depth and quality of the information is only rivaled by the sheer quantity of valuable data available."  This was long before Michele moved on to other things and I became webmistress of Tarot Passages, formerly known as "Michele's Tarot Page."

Ruth Ann Brauser from the Tarot School said, "Michele's Tarot Page has become the cornerstone for Tarot resources and is the place we tell everyone to visit first when looking for valuable information on the Internet. Michele's personal passion as a collector and Tarotist fuels this labor of love which she has unselfishly offered as a gift to us all."

And Rachel Pollack, author of the Tarot classic, 78 Degrees of Wisdom, among many other wonderful titles, had this to say:

Michele is not only one of the people who is helping to bring Tarot to life for a new century, Öshe is also a wonderful example of how a dedication to Tarot can take us to new discoveries and talents in ourselves. Her website and now her own art are major contributions to Tarot culture."

Oh, yes. I forgot. In addition, to providing the online world with a veritable tarot encyclopedia of a website, she has created several tarot decks. But Iím getting ahead of myself.

Not to mention, Michele Jackson is more than capable of speaking for herself.

DW: What was your introduction to the tarot?

MJ: I spent a summer with a cousin who was into Astrology and Tarot in 1972. She would get readings done and come home and tell me about them. The idea of using cards to tell the future intrigued me, so when I got home I went to Greenwich Village and got a deck.

DW: What was your first deck?

MJ: The Rider-Waite. I started to buy the Grand Etteilla, because I liked the art better, but I could not find a book to go with it.

DW: Now how many decks do you have--and how did that proliferation begin?

MJ: Over 400. I only had three until I subscribed to A.P.A. Tarot. That was in 1991 or 1992, and the membership was mostly collectors. Seeing and hearing about new decks was motivational.

DW: When did you first get interested in computers and the Internet?

MJ: I got my first computer in 1983 or Ď84. It was an Apple IIc. I wanted a Macintosh, but couldn't afford it. I got into the Internet in 1994, I think. I used to love D.T. King's Tarot site. It was so good that I didn't want to do a site of my own. There was no way I could make a better site than his. When he stopped working with his site (1996), I decided to try my hand at it. My goal was to make a site as good as D.T. King's. I'm still working on it.

DW: When did you launch Micheleís Tarot Page?

MJ: In 1996--April Fool's Day was the official opening, though I started working on it around the 17th of March.

DW: Was that an intentional tip of the hat to the Fool card in the Tarot?

MJ: Nothing that deep or profound; I just thought it was a good birthdate.

DW: You now have about 400 deck reviews, 112 links to other tarot pages, 84 links to online tarot decks, not to mention a wonderful section on creating your own deck and lots more. When you began your site, how many reviews, etc., did you start with?

MJ: I started with about five or six reviews. They weren't even reviews--just some things I had written to describe decks on CompuServe and Genie.

DW: Wow. Talk about the journey of a thousand miles beginning with a single step. Why is your website so popular?

MJ: I think the fact that it is updated weekly is its strong point. I don't know how many people have written to say "I read your page every ________ (Saturday, Sunday, fill in the blank)." I enjoy working on my page and I am happy that others find it useful as well.

DW: How many visitors does your site average on a weekly basis?

MJ: The opening page gets over 2,000 visitors a week.

DW: What positive experiences have you had as a result of your site?

MJ: I can honestly say that I have only gained as a result of having this page. I have met lots of great people--many of whom I consider friends, even though I rarely see them. In some cases, I have not even met them.

DW: Any negative experiences?

MJ: Not really. I have gotten a couple of letters from folk who didn't like something I said about a deck, but very few, considering how long the page has been up

DW: Do you sometimes feel like you live in two separate worlds, in terms of your workplace and your tarot activities? (Michele serves in the Armed Forces--DW)

MJ: Yes, but I am a Gemini. I have always lived in at least two worlds. Sometimes even more.

DW: Recently, you've created your own tarot deck. In fact, you've done several. Could you tell us a little about each of them, how they began, the process, etc.

MJ: I attended a workshop in 1997, Creating Your Own Tarot Deck, given by Arnell Ando. I was so jazzed up when I left that I bought not one, but two, blank decks to work on. I came home and stored them in my Tarot cabinet. Two years later I attended a second class by Arnell. It was even better than the first! Again, I was all excited about making my own deck, but by the time I got home, it had worn off.

Several months later, I went to North Island, California, on business. Arnell lives nearby and we arranged to meet. She graciously picked me up and drove me out to her home. You can see it is the home of an artist as soon as you walk in. Most peopleís front door leads to a formal living room or dining room, or even a family room. Arnell's front door leads right into her studio/workshop. I call it the "Magic Workshop," because she has decorated it with wonderful art, as well as the work she has in progress. You might find a wand wrapped in silk leaning on a wall, or a spider sitting on a shelf. She was working on a human skull while I was thereóceramic, not real. She invited me to choose a cigar box and some images and collage while she worked on the skull. I chose way too many images and went to work. It was no masterpiece, but I found it very relaxing and it proved to me that collage was not difficult.

When I got home, I pulled out one of the blank decks that I had bought two years earlier, and went to work. I finished the entire 78 card deck about six weeks later. I did a Majors-only deck, presumably to learn the Hebrew alphabet, the following year.

DW: What do you mean?

MJ: I put the correlating Hebrew letter for each card on the cards. I also did a Majors-only deck in two days, just to see if I could do it. I was trying to finish it in one day, but I got started too late and was only able to finish 16 cards the first day. I call it the "Quick and Dirty Tarot." Itís not great art, but I show it to classes so that they see that you donít need a lot of time to make a card.

I may do a new deck this year as well.

DW: This should be an inspiration for those whoíve contemplated creating a deck, but have been too intimidated to begin. I noticed that you get quite loquacious when discussing your art projects. It seems that subject moves you deeply.

MJ: Yes, I feel as though I have just discovered art. Prior to visiting Arnell, I thought myself incapable of producing art because I could not draw. Collage has unleashed a great deal of pent-up creativity, that had no outlet before.

DW: What plans do you have for Michele's Tarot Page?

MJ: I think this will be my last year in the current format. It will be the fifth year and I want to devote more time to other things. I'm not sure just what I will do, but I won't be updating weekly.

DW: Are you going to take the site down?

MJ: No. Iíll leave it up there, but I donít know if and when Iíll be updating. I wonít be updating weekly, I can tell you that.

DW: Youíve been studying the Tarot for 28 years. What is it about Tarot that has held your interest for so long?

MJ: I am the Queen of Short Attention Spans Ė a fact that should be evident to you as a reviewer. I think that tarot has held my interest for so long because there is always more to learn. There are always new decks, and new ideas. There are many related topics like astrology and Qabala that can enhance your tarot studies. As you learn more, your understanding of the cards grows. There are a lot of "aha!" moments.

The Executive Director of the American Tarot Association, John Gilbert, said that "Michele Jackson has the most complete website on the topic of tarot. Her deck and book reviews are awesome! Her attention to minute details makes her site a great place to learn about everything related to tarot. We [The A.T.A.] recommend those interested in tarot bookmark Michele's Page and visit it often."

Why did the Editor of Tarot Celebrations wanted to inaugurate this feature with an interview with Michele Jackson? Geraldine Amaral had this to say:

"The first time I met Michele was back in 1996, at a small Tarot workshop with Mary Greer. This was long before I knew much about the Internet. I had no idea what it was all about, much less how to get on it. Michele actually hauled her monitor and CPU to this workshop, and gave a fantastic demonstration on how it worked and how to get on it. She then took us on a fabulous tour of some of her favorite tarot websites. It was one of the most exciting and enlightening experiences I had ever had. I was really impressed that this remarkable, intelligent and abundantly generous woman would go through some much trouble to bring the rest of us up to speed in cyberspace. I have always felt grateful to Michele for getting me started in the cyberworld."

Micheleís Web Page may be "under new management," but Tarot Passages will always keep a light burning in the window for Michele Jackson.

-- Diane Wilkes

Interview and page copyright 2000 Diane Wilkes
Reprinted with permission from Celebrating the Tarot