Tarot Artist, Deck Creator, Portrait Artist & Tarot Author
Ancestral Path Tarot, Blue Moon Tarot, Maat Tarot, & Journey Into Egypt Tarot
Today we have Tarot and Portrait Artist, Julie Cuccia-Watts in the Tarot Hot Seat. Julie is the creator of four outstanding Tarot Decks; Ancestral Path Tarot, Blue Moon Tarot, Maat Tarot and The Journey Into Egypt Tarot. She is also the author of numerous Tarot Books and Guides that accompany her decks. Julie is the founder of Real Sky Astrology, a system based on Ancient Egyptian Astrology. Her journey with Tarot Art and Deck Creation has spanned 26 years. Julie paints her original artwork in oils. Her fascinating collection of Artwork, Tarot Decks, Tarot Guides, Workbooks, Colouring Books and Journals are available through her website: – newmoontradingco.com, lulu.com and Amazon. **Other Links can be found by scrolling down to end of Interview.
The Journey Into Egypt Tarot
Copyright © Julie Cuccia-Watts
Me – The inspiration for your artwork comes from your dreams? Are you a prolific dreamer? You believe dreams connect us to our past; that we store memories of our ancestors, ancestral traditions and historical events in our cellular and info-energetic memory that can be accessed through the dream state? Do you think there is a correlation between this stored memory and that of Universal Knowledge, The Collective Unconscious, or Akashic Records? Can you explain the process of analysing your dreams, the imagery, symbolism or metaphors of dream state? How do you differentiate between profound dreaming, as in when intense communication is occurring and that of regular dreaming? Are they more lucid in nature or particularly detailed?
Julie – “I wouldn’t say I’m a prolific dreamer though I usually dream a few times every night. There are some dreams…if you can call them dreams that become exceptional. These dreams become experiences and these experiences usually interrupt the dream and bounce me into a super reality where I’m aware of everything in my dream environment…there’s usually a holographic quality and a message. The entire experience ends with a conscious coming back to the waking state. These are the places and experiences that influence my work. I’m not sure I would attribute this to cellular memory. It almost feels like this is more like some kind of raw energetic source, and coming back to the sleeve or protection of the body/ the physical world is quite safe and serene. Because “out there” is intense and unpredictable. I would get quick bursts of information; some visual, some verbal, maybe just a sentence that would be layered in meaning and information that would gradually unfold over time and grow in meaning as I grew. These dreams or experiences would change the way I looked at the world and deepen my questions. If I had been musically adept I would have brought back music but I don’t speak that language so I had no way to record and remember what I heard out there.”
Me – Does all your artistic inspiration come from the dream-state, or do you have other sources? If there are other sources, can you tell us about them?
Julie – “Of course not all my inspiration comes from dreams I’m also influenced by other people, nature, historical artistic works and beauty I see in the world. When I see something that hits a chord with me I will examine it to see what it is that makes it beautiful or where a thing is sourced from so I can understand my connection to it and then I see if I can repeat a color pattern or utilize some aspect of this in my own work.
The world around me is always giving me information that seems to add to the creative mix. If you’re quiet and observant of the things that happen around you in your life you may notice a message. Sometimes it helps to look at a situation, like dream symbolism especially, if life is handing you a problem. As a person who also enjoys weaving …to untangle a problem, it’s good to follow the problem to its source and start untangling from both ends.”
Me – Once you have become inspired, is there an urgency to get to work on it? Does it keep you awake at night?
Julie – “Oh god yes. I’ve got to work on things ASAP because I’ll lose interest or have a million other things that will need to take priority.
Sometimes these ideas that prey on me will keep me up at night. So it is best to get them out. “
Me – You have adopted a unique way of interpreting tarot and its symbolism through imagery and astrology. Was it your aim to do something different with tarot or did it happen by chance?
Julie – “Originally my only intention was to learn Tarot because it was interesting. However after I began to learn it I started seeing patterns of familiarity in the symbolism and it was all tracing back to the most ancient calendar systems and information stored in stone circles. It was never my intention to change anything. Mostly I did the work for myself just to see if it was anything.”
Me – When creating The Journey Into Egypt tarot deck, did it require much research into how their seasons and calendar worked, or was there existing knowledge already there? The deck is a culmination of 26 years of tarot creation in which time you created three other decks of tarot; Ancestral Path Tarot, Blue Moon Tarot and Maat Tarot. The Journey Into Egypt’s birth came about after two visits to Egypt where you discovered personal connections with its ancient civilisation. Was this connection felt on an inner energetic level? Where do you think your connection lies, in a past life perhaps?
Julie – “Even as a kid I was interested in all things Egyptian. Even as I kid I knew this wasn’t my first life. I would feel or remember different time periods…my parents really didn’t understand what was going on with me and neither did my grandparents. They just knew I was different…probably because of the things I was interested in, or because I would spend most of my time dressed in costumes. Does this mean I have a past life connection to Egypt? I couldn’t prove it to be true except for the fact I’ve dreamt of places I had never been to, and when I went to Luxor, I found out they were real places. There have been so many instances of this now that even having just one instance would have been proof enough at this point…I know it to be true and it doesn’t matter who believes me or who doesn’t. I know it.
The Journey into Egypt Tarot was a great unfolding for me. It took me on a journey I wasn’t expecting at all. Originally I was reluctant to even want to do another deck. I was reluctant to do MAAT Tarot as well. But once I’ve stepped in and accepted the assignment, I became fully immersed in it.
I do a tonne of research when I’m working on these things, and though I started my tarot journey before the computer age, the things I needed to know about always found their way to me. It’s a synchronicity of timing, experiences, people and being at the right place at the right time to hear and see what I needed. Not controlling anything is key to doing this, being open and skeptical at the same time…letting go of what you thought, or was taught was truth and seeing things as they are. ..using common sense, logic and intuition, looking at things that seem to be intentionally excluded…questioning everything and being critical.
The thing that surprised me was when I looked into the ancient calendar of Egypt as a possible basis for JIET and found they were using a 12 month calendar like us only their months consisted of three ten-day weeks I immediately recognized the construct of the horoscope. What I found particularly telling is the direction a horoscope uses with the south at the top of the compass points and east at the left and west right, north at the bottom…this is an Egyptian world view. The upper Nile is South the lower Nile is the delta. This opened an entirely new vision, not just of Egypt’s ancient star religion, but of the usurping of Egyptian knowledge by Greeks and Romans, as well as ancient civilizations that pillaged and stole from Egypt before Alexander the Great.”
Me – You are responsible for the creation and development of Real Sky Astrology which came about after observing the Egyptian framework and how it corresponded with its mythology. In order to open your mind to it, you had to drop all pre-conceived attitudes and existing knowledge of astrology. How difficult was this for you? Did you resist or were you excited by the discovery and its potential? You provide very detailed information about this form of astrology on your website which would be of immense interest to both astrologists and taroists alike. You mention there might be an Astrology Book in the pipeline. Have you embarked upon this project?
Julie – “My original intention with Journey into Egypt was just to correct MAAT and adjust it to the Real Sky…meaning to just adjust the Western Astrology to include precession like the ancient Egyptian priests would have. This was Robert Bauval’s fault – he’s the one who called me out on my Western Astrology. Bauval was the host of my second trip to Egypt in 2009. He was the one who awakened me to the real Sky by putting me on the spot and asking me point-blank why Western astrologers use an antiquated Sky. It initially embarrassed me in front of our group of travelers and pissed me off. I walked out of his lecture and didn’t speak to him for a few days on the trip. He softened his blow and told me I should write about real Sky and it would put me on the cutting edge.
All I knew MAAT was off. And I had to do it over…I tried to ignore this but it kept feeling like a lie to use the old stagnant Sky of 221AD. And so Journey into Egypt became my project. I’ve been ruminating about a Real Sky Astrology book for almost a decade, but it’s not ready yet. I’m still thinking about whether or not the current interpretations of Jupiter, Neptune, and Uranus have any basis in fact especially since Neptune and Uranus are relatively new discoveries and not something the ancients had been using – Neptune only made its first full orbit in 2010 since its discovery in 1846.
This generational marker needs more than thought that it’s foggy and blue like the sea, let’s call it Neptune after the god of the sea…my jury is still out on this.”
Me – Would you say your tarot decks are of specific interest to tarot readers with a professional knowledge of astrology, or can anyone with a basic grasp of the subject follow their connections? Can the novice learn as they go?
Julie – “Anyone can read these cards…good readers will just pick out a detail that strikes them and build their interpretations on that anyway. If you’re just reading the meanings out of the book or using memorization you might want to rethink your methods anyway…”
Me – Your first three decks appear to work as an astrological tarot collection as well as stand-alone decks. Ancestral Path Tarot covers the seasons and 52 weeks of the calendar year, Blue Moon Tarot covers the Cross-Quarter Days or 13 Moon cycles, while Maat Tarot focuses on the “seven days before Moon Quarters and the relevance of the Moon phase to the zodiac signs”. Which deck would you recommend starting with, or is there no particular order?
Julie – “ If someone is following my work and wants to know my journey, I would start them at the beginning with Ancestral Path, BUT, better they should just pick a deck that speaks to them…most people will do that anyway don’t you think?”
Me – Some taroists are drawn to astrology, numerology, archetypes or the elements as their focus of study and application. Many manage to combine a working knowledge of all which amply assists when reading tarot. Would you say that astrology is your main link to tarot, how you make sense of it, the art you specialise in, or have you skills in other areas too?
Julie – “I would say the visual symbolism was my link to Tarot. The astronomy symbolism and calendar symbolism was just something I noticed in the structure of the cards, and although some designers saw this in tarot too, this wasn’t my reason. As for the numerology and other practices applied to Tarot, that’s all personal preference, and if people decide to use these other practices with my decks that’s their prerogative.”
Copyright © Julie Cuccia-Watts
Me – Maat Tarot was voted Number 3 in the Top Ten Tarot Decks published in 2006 by Acclectic Tarot, which must have been a proud moment for you. At present, Maat Tarot is only available in a poker size version 2.5″ x 3.5″ but I believe the full-size version is going to print once more and will be available in 2018. Is this correct?
Julie – “No, unless I find an on-demand template that I can use. Eventually I hope that happens. But I’m not working on this right now. For now the MAAT Tarot will be available in the poker-sized deck for the foreseeable future.”
Me – Will this be a limited edition only, or widely available through online stores?
Julie – “MAAT Tarot is no longer a limited edition, but it won’t be available in stores unless the store buys from MPC.” – **Updated Information. Maat Tarot is no longer available from MPC. Those wishing to purchase this deck can do so at Printer’s Studio.
Me – Like Journey Into Egypt Tarot, you have given much attention to the ongoing development of Maat Tarot. There are numerous books, teacher guides, workbooks, journals, colouring books, and even an app to help fans learn this amazing tarot system. Does it have a strong fan base? I expect interest in Maat has significantly increased with all the companion books and learning tools available. With the re-release of this stunning deck in 2018 do you expect to attract a whole new wave of Maat devotees?
Julie – “The thing with artists is they are always in love with their current projects and this is true for me with MAAT. I’m pretty sure I’ve taken MAAT Tarot as far as she will go for me. It’s still a good deck, it’s still relevant for the practitioners of Western Astrology, and for people who want to know more about lunar energies and how to utilize this energy flow in sync with the solar energy in the year. That’s all still excellent information. For myself personally, I needed to move forward into the uncharted territory of the real Sky, not through a Vedic lens, but through the lens of ancient Egypt…this idea brings joy to my heart and makes me ask new questions…this is what I’m puzzling over in my spare time while I work on small handy crafts like knitting socks or weaving dish towels…it’s where my brain goes…like a shaman who uses a drum to journey, I will pop on a documentary and knit or stitch. This is where insights pop in. “
Ancestral Path Tarot
© 1995 – 2013 US Games Systems Inc
Me – In an online interview of yours, you mention only learning tarot after completing the Ancestral Path Deck. You thought the symbolism of tarot would make an interesting subject for your artwork and learned what the cards meant as you painted them. Had you any idea at the time how far this innocent exercise would take you?
Julie – “Absolutely not. I had no idea. “
Me – Do you believe Ancestral Path Tarot had a major transformative effect on your life?
Julie – “Yes that and the people who believed in my work and promoted it. Namely Terri Principi who introduced me to Tracey Hoover who gave Terri a reading. And Tracey Hoover who knew Stuart Kaplan, president of US Games, because she was a reader and collector who wrote a newsletter for Tarot lovers in the 1980’s and did critiques of new decks promoting new decks. She got me into the Tarot community, introducing me to the Tarot people in California in the early 90’s. Getting me to Thalassa’s BATS conference in 1994. Introducing me to her friend Janet Berres in the late 80’s. It was the people who cared about the work I was doing back then who changed my life.”
Me – In the same interview you talk about turning from Catholicism to Paganism. You believe Catholicism silenced your psychic impulses and feel liberated since converting to Paganism. I am a non-practicing Catholic with strong leanings towards Paganism and the old ways. Despite the nuns beating me for the evil sin of been left-handed, I too had a fascination with everything psychic and paranormal from a young age. Do you think there is a fine line that separates the two belief systems?
Julie – “Catholicism couldn’t silence the psychic inclinations because the psychic experiences were much more powerful than my childhood religion…this religion though it talked a good game about spiritual experiences of ancient people, it had no idea what to do with modern people having these experiences. So paganism was a better fit. That being said, organized religion of any kind isn’t a thing for me, because as nice as like-minded people can be, the obligation, guilt making, giving away of power and time isn’t ever going to work for me personally. I’m not a member of any church, pagan or otherwise.”
Me – Ancestral Path Tarot took eight years to complete which is something of a marathon. How did you keep motivated?
Julie – “Ancestral Path took me 2 years to complete 1988-1990. It took US Games another 6 years to get it out. The waiting on a publisher was the hardest part, but I was busy having and raising my babies back then so I was busy, busy, busy, anyway.”
Me – Along with its title and multi-cultural aspect, I feel Ancestral Path Tarot may be an interesting deck to use for Past Life Readings. What would your view on this be?
Julie – “I think all my decks work well for past life readings, as well as readings that require knowledge of timing.”
Me – Ancestral Path is being reprinted for the third time by US Games in 2018. This edition will have a borderless format. Is this new format something you decided on?
Julie – “Yes, Stuart gave me cart blanch on this printing. Although I’ve not seen it yet.”
Blue Moon Tarot
Copyright © Julie Cuccia-Watts
Me – How long does it take to formulate a plan for designing a tarot deck? Do you map it out in advance with very definite ideas of what each card, suit and element will look like, or do you start from blank and let it organically evolve?
Julie – “It seems to take about 5 years for me to complete a full 78 card deck with guide book. I do keep a journal that I start making notes in, and it’s all-consuming and free flowing all at once. With each card the energy plays out in our lives. With Journey, the cards began playing out in the lives of friends too who would call me and tell me to hurry up and get done so they could resolve their issues. I’m not kidding.”
Me – You have a fascinating range of tarot products available to purchase on both your website newmoontradingco.comand online store, lulu.com. With a choice of hard back, paperback and PDF eBooks to choose from, there truly is something to suit everyone’s pocket. Was it important to you to make your work accessible and affordable to all?
Julie – “Yes, because I think everyone should have access. As a starving artist I know what it’s like to not have resources for the things you need or want. In making Ancestral Path, my canvases were coming in as my birthday present and Christmas presents from all of my friends and relatives. No such thing as go fund me in 1988.”
Me – Your journey with tarot creation has been a major undertaking. Did you ever feel like giving up?
Julie – “No. I don’t think I had a choice – it was move forward or die. My muse is a tyrant.”
Me – Do you teach, hold classes, workshops or online tutorials?
Julie – “I’m no longer teaching because I’m a full-time grandma now, and I realize how much more important the kids are than my ambition to change the world around me. I’m 59 and the only ones who really need me are my family, so they come first now.”
Me – Do you give readings?
Julie – “I don’t do readings because I don’t want to be a counselor and there are so many other people who thrive on reading. Let them do it.”
Me – Do you ever read for others?
Julie – “If I run into you and you needed to know something, I’d pull a card for you, otherwise…nowhere. “
Me – Do you offer certification for those interested in teaching your tarot system?
Julie – “No, I only have the books for people to use. I don’t want to be a teacher. I just only ever wanted to find out more about the applied metaphysics and doing art anyway. Teaching and counseling are someone else’s vocation.”
Me – What message do you hope to communicate through your tarot artwork?
Julie – “Universal timing and and connecting to something greater than just the physical world. Maybe tackling some of life’s mysteries without being afraid of the power and complexity of existence.”
Me – Which deck do you feel most connected to or proud of?
Julie – “Journey into Egypt Tarot. “
Me – How much of your own personality, life story, personal experience is poured into your tarot art-work?
Julie – “All of it”
Me – In Maat Tarot, The Queen of Cups and Queen of Swords resemble you. Was this intentional?
Julie – “No it’s never intended but I think this happens with artists all the time…”
Me – Which Major and Court Card do you most identify with?
Julie – “I guess I have a soft spot for the Queen of Wands.”
Me – If you were to select a card to represent your life right now, which would it be?
Julie – “I would just pick it at random because those are the most accurate. Right?”
Me – Which cards did you find the easiest or most enjoyable to design? What did you learn from this?
Julie – “The positive cards you connect with are always the easiest ones to paint. It’s the challenging cards that teach us what we need to know about ourselves.”
Me – Which cards did you find the most difficult or challenging to design? What did you learn from this?
Julie – “The King of Coins taught me about the energy brought forth by creating cards, that the King needs the Queen to balance him out. That the Moon really does have 28 different faces. 7’s and 5’s are as tedious to paint as they are to read.”
Me – Did/Do you find the process or journey exhausting or cathartic when creating a tarot deck?
Julie – “Yes cathartic and exhausting all in a good way.”
Me – Have you learned a lot about your own personality and the personality of others through tarot artwork?
Julie – “Tarot not only taught me about myself and others, it taught me how to be a better painter, and how to use computers and Photoshop.”
Me – What do you think is key to a well-designed Tarot Card?
Julie – “A well designed tarot should be above all original and unique, it should have good foundation of knowledge, beauty, enough details to give the observer a desire to get inside that card and look deeper. “
Me – If you were to start a new tarot deck or collection today, would you approach it in a different manner? What have you learned along the way? Would you do anything differently?
Julie – “I think my Tarot experience unfolded in the best possible way sort of like life…innocently with curiosity and in search of knowledge and the secrets of the universe, and then it just cut me open, but I’m better for it and I would not have changed a thing.”
Me – For Wannabe Tarot Deck Creators, what would your advice be? What are the pitfalls to avoid?
Julie – “People always ask me if there’s a recipe for doing this. I don’t think there is. If you have it in you you’ll do it, if you don’t you won’t. And for heavens sake don’t do anything because you think it might be a money-maker.”
Me – How did you get your first tarot deck out there? Do you need an active online presence, blog, social media?
Julie – “I think I answered this already. I’m from pre-social media. US Games got me out there. Having a great project and word of mouth is still the best way to go in my opinion. I’m only on Facebook, and sometimes Instagram, once a day”
Me – What other interests do you have?
Julie – “I’m into spinning and weaving, gardening, creating permaculture and cooking real food from scratch…I’m adventuring in soap-making and fermenting food for boosting the immune system. I’m obsessed with the gut as the second brain and of course understanding the natural world.”
Me – So, what next for Julie Cuccia-Watts?
Julie – “I have no idea…but I can’t wait to find out.”
Thank you to Julie Cuccia-Watts for allowing us a glimpse behind the scenes of a tarot artist and how she works. We wish you the very best of luck for 2018.
New Edition of Maat Tarot Released – Link Below
- The Poker-Sized Maat Tarot Deck (90 Cards 2.5″x 3.5″) can be purchased here at: Printer’s Studio
- http://www.newmoontradingco.com/real_sky_moon_cycles.html – Real Sky Astrology
- https://www.facebook.com/AncestralPathTarot/ – Ancestral Path Tarot Facebook Page
- https://www.facebook.com/juliejcw/ – The Journey Into Egypt Tarot Facebook Page
- https://www.facebook.com/maattarot/ – Maat Tarot Facebook Page
In The Tarot Hot Seat Next Week – Odessa Sawyer
(Illustrator, Tarot Artist & Doll-Maker)