Artist Richie Brown has made a set of oracle cards (they’re similar to tarot cards, but he doesn’t call them that, because he doesn’t want actual tarot card readers to get mad at him) called the Brown Magick Oracle Deck. The fortune-telling symbols include a turd with eyeballs, a unicorn in a dress, and a face on the sun that puts the creepy baby-faced sun from Teletubbies to shame.
Brown shared some of his cards with ANIMAL in advance of the exhibition he’s part of called “Myths and Mutations,” that opens April 10 at the Reverse gallery in Williamsburg, which was first reported on by Brooklyn Paper. Richie Brown will be there, dressed as a “psychedelic priest” and giving readings to spiritual seekers looking for meaning in slices of sad pizza.
Brown explained the genesis and evolution of the cards in an email:
Some of the cards in my deck are based off of an oracle deck that belonged to my friend’s grandmother. My friend uses them to do readings often and I am fascinated by how accurate the readings are and how well people respond to that particular deck. Being somewhat skeptical about magick and destiny, I wanted to do an experiment to see how/why that deck seemed to work so well. The experiment involved me hastily duplicating the grandma deck by writing the names of the cards on hot pink index cards. We then did parallel readings using my pink deck as well as the original deck to see if they would convey the same message. They did. During the experiment I suggested we start adding our own cards and meanings to the deck to see if that made the readings more or less accurate. We added things like the poop, the unicorn, the alien, and santa…all of which were effective. I carried that deck around with me wherever I went and tested it on whoever I could, sometimes offering them the opportunity to create their own card.
He has now created his own 42-card deck that mixes traditional symbols with made-up ones, which are explained in Brown’s accompanying handbook, quoted below. He says he’s skeptical of paranormal stuff happening during his readings, and believes that the readings are accurate because each person being read projects their own psychological issues onto the cards.
“They’re doing all of the work, I’m just there to hold their hand through it and to make a couple fart jokes in the process,” he wrote.
“The devil represents conflict, a problem, tragedy, or uncontrollable external forces that we might perceive as essentially evil in some way. Humans seem to need an adversary: a boogeyman who we can blame for all of our disasters, obstacles, shortcomings, and sins. For some reason, we picture this embodiment of evil and inconvenience as a red, impish, mustachioed goat-man wielding a trident as he cackles from the bowels of hell…whispering temptations into our left ear. More often than not, we end up being our own devil…constantly getting in the way of ourselves, sabotaging our relationships, breaking promises, giving ourselves diarrhea, etc. Other times, life can be a total fucker and there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot we could have done to prevent a less than ideal situation. Encountering the devil often leads to creative problem solving or having to find a strength within ourselves that we previously were unaware of. He initially presents himself as an enemy, but in many ways ends up being our weird-looking crimson companion.”
“The unicorn seems to present itself in several forms. It can represent the search for whimsy or the desire for a magical, glittery experience. It may also refer to a unique individual in your life, someone whose value appears unquantifiable and thus should be treated like the precious entity you perceive them to be. Unicorns of myth proved to be difficult to capture and/or tame, the same could be said of the unicorn in your life.”
“Do you think you’re hot stuff? Can you laugh at yourself and your shortcomings? Do you feel less than adequate? How big is your metaphorical head? How do you define the ‘you’ that I’m referring to? How much do other people’s interpretations of the you they perceive affect your identity? The balloon represents ego, identity, self-worth, and the difficult task of being an individual confident in their abilities while maintaining humility. The ego tends to be fragile. Some might refer to it as an illusion. Merely air trapped in a balloon, waiting to be released.”
“Some claim that going with the flow has beneficial qualities. I would tend to agree. However, a distinction should be made between going with the flow and floating down the Lazy River on a raft hastily cobbled together from empty pizza boxes and energy drink cans that you found under the driver seat of your Honda Civic. The sad pizza tends to represent an unhealthy complacency and lachrymosely dances to the tune of half-hearted sighs and ambivalent yes’s.”
“If you took art history in school, you’re probably aware that the dog typically symbolizes fidelity or loyalty. The generic dog name ‘Fido’ bears a striking resemblance to the Latin word ‘fidus’ which means ‘trust.’ The dog card tends to symbolize a loyal person or your own loyalty to an individual or concept. Hopefully your loyalty is rewarded with a mutual sense of respect and/or fidelity.”
“The future. We take two steps towards it, it takes two steps back. We can vaguely see something out in the distance but not enough to have any reliable information. There appears to be a sunrise on this particular horizon which means you’re probably looking at some kind of metaphorical brand spankin’ new day. Seize the shit out of that day! Buy it dinner. Rub its feet. Kiss its forehead and tell it how you really feel.”
(Images: Richie Brown)