They describe Hell as being a hot hot place. It seems Hell froze over, the day I visited. It was midwinter. In Lithgow. Which, if you're not familiar with the Blue Mountains, is a damn cold place. And of course, I was naked.
I posed for photographer and artistic collaborator Mike Stacey, in a yellow field with blackberries and potholes, right in line of sight of a local retirement village.
I could see little garden ornaments and the porches of the elderly. We joked that they might call the fire brigade when we set the location on fire... But I'm getting ahead of myself now.
You see I had scouted out this amazing abandoned small arms factory from the early 1900's. It was perfect. In one part the concrete radiated out in a circular fashion, with 8 short metal posts protruding as if waiting to be turned into a ritual space. It had this whole dingy dystopian feel about it, with a large wall that separated us from a tree, which looked like it could symbolise the Garden of Eden, out of reach of us, mere mortals.
Mike had agreed to be my camera assistant for the one self portrait of my entire tarot deck. And I had agreed to model for his portfolio beforehand. Laying naked on the icy ground, surrounded by shards of glass and tall grey walls was tough, but nothing compared to dusk descending. Light is usually everything in photos, but I had a vision of standing in a circle of fire for the Devil card. And for that to stand out, it needed it to be darker and colder.
I huddled by a dried bush which I briefly lit up as we waited. I danced around and breathed warmth into my cupped hands. Eventually the timing was perfect, no one had called the fire department yet to kick us out and I dropped my limited clothing. I attached the devil horns I had made myself, out of human hair. Mike set the flammable liquid alight and rushed to the camera button as I embraced being the Devil, in a frozen world.
My intention to embody this card formed 6 years previously. And the week leading up to the photo shoot involved a lot of unexpected shadow work, coming to terms with myself as the Devil and how this manifests in my life. It seemed to work through me, without me particularly asking for it. I remember being on the phone to Jane Meredith, detailing my struggles, and her saying something to the effect of 'well duh... you're posing as the Devil in your own tarot deck. What did you expect?'
Well, I learned. I was sick for 2 weeks following this photoshoot. But it was worth it. I know I expected a great deal of courage and patience from my models in 'Wolff's Cartomancy' and I felt like it was just as well that I should suffer a bit for my art, in particular for this highly charged major arcana card.
Mike also wrote a blog post about this day. You can click the image to read it.
Love through darkness and light,