The story of this deck begins with crisis.
I spent the summer of 2007 traveling in southern Africa. I came home severely ill and thinking about the people I’d lived with, about mutual aid, about structures that prey on illness and poverty, about cultural myths that make certain kinds of suffering seem normal.
Back home in Philadelphia, my friends were facing problems that were similarly complex. As I tried to get diagnosed and treated I spent many days flat on my back, overwhelmed by all of the hard things. In my delirium and anxiety, I began to dream of protective talismans. I was thinking both of Frida Kahlo’s retablos and the necklaces my mother used to give me as symbolic armor when I was afraid to go to school.
I drew a dozen protective images, fairly quickly, and pasted them on the faces of playing cards I’d picked up on city sidewalks. I gave these to my friends at my 30th birthday party–and they insisted that I draw a full deck. I kept at it slowly, while working several jobs and continuing to struggle with my health. Three years later, I’d finished Portable Fortitude.
Publishing the deck has changed my life. It’s an incredible feeling to have made something so useful to so many people. I’ve been humbled and grateful to hear the stories of what people use if for–rituals, writing prompts, tattoos, divination–and how it’s come into their lives.
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