‘Rust Belt Arcana’ Brilliantly Blends Tarot and Great Lakes Nature
A collection of essays that blends tarot cards and the nature of the Great Lakes is a fascinating read.
Published by Belt and written by Matt Stansberry with custom tarot designs by David Wilson, Rust Belt Arcana takes the cards of the major arcana of a tarot deck (the Fool, the Magician, etc) and finds its equivalent in nature.
What does the Tarot have to tell us about the flora and fauna of the industrial Midwest? Rust Belt Arcana uses this time-tested structure to explain, juxtaposing the characteristics of the cards of the Tarot's Major Arcana to the creatures and plants around us. The idiosyncratic essays that result connect biology and natural history to the human condition; they are stories of abundance and loss, limning the persistent remnant wilderness of the Rust Belt. Exploring this natural history helps us to see beauty in a beleaguered landscape often dismissed as unremarkable, and to define our remarkable place in it.
Read through the 22 essays and you'll gain insight into the tarot deck while learning a great deal about the richness of the biology of the Great Lakes, with an almost singular focus on Lake Erie and Northern Ohio. Stansberry's essays work to dispel any thoughts that the shores around Cleveland are an environmental wasteland while holding an honest assessment of the state of the natural world and the challenges we've imposed upon it.
Essays of note include "Thaw and Return" and "Birds Rain Down from the Sky" In "Thaw" the stand-in for The Star is a wood frog, an animal that spends winter "frozen solid under the leaves, not breathing or eating. No heartbeat. No brain activity." Until they emerge in spring, echoing The Star's theme of rebirth and renewal.
"Birds Rain Down From the Sky" is the essay for The Tower, an ominous card with an interpretation of destruction and chaos. The story here is the upheaval to the patterns of migratory bird that are caused by urban buildings, reflecting glass and unnatural light.
In addition to the book, the publishers have also released a limited edition tarot set to accompany the essays. Order the book and cards here.