Grateful Dead Tarot is a luxury collectable for tarot aficionados and Dead Heads alike that marries the esoteric knowledge and symbolism of the original tarot cards with the archetypes and mythologies of Grateful Dead.
Why we chose Grateful Dead Tarot
For years, I was the only woman I knew who was a Grateful Dead licensee. I was also the only female Grateful Dead artist I knew. There were a few others out there, and I'd heard of a couple of licensed companies that had once been owned by women, but I never crossed paths with any of them. Rock and Roll - and especially Rock and Roll art - is, by far, a male dominated world and not an easy one to exist in on your own as a woman. In recent years, that's changed only slightly, though not enough, so I'm always looking for enterprising women making Grateful Dead art.
I didn't know Liz, but I vaguely knew Erin as another rare woman in the scene carving a path as an artist. When she started working with Liz on this project she reached out to me for some advice and because they needed someone to handle warehousing and fulfliment for them. Here at Little Hippie, we received their first shipment and processed all of their pre-orders during the 2021 holiday season, but when dimensions of each case of books turned out to be considerably larger than first planned, Liz and Erin had to find another solution with more space available.
When I met Liz on Dead & Company tour last summer, I knew we were kindred spirits, and I always enjoyed sharing a laugh with her in the lot. It was clear from the beginning how much this project meant to both Liz and Erin, from the planning to the execution. It's been a pleasure to witness their journey through it and to have played a small part in seeing their vision reach fruition.
-Taylor Swope, founder Little Hippie
Created by Elizabeth Jezorski & Erin Cadigan
Q&A with Liz & Erin
I remember you telling me that you spent a year and a half collaborating on this project and released it without having yet met in person. What brought the two of you together?
Erin: Liz, the author of the guidebook, was the mastermind behind Grateful Dead Tarot but had no practical way to create the cards. She had reached out to one poster artist in the scene and never got a response. A few weeks later, she thought to ask our mutual friend, Arrow, who runs a secret poster collector's group if she thought any artist in the scene would go for the project. Arrow immediately responded ERIN CADIGAN in all caps. Arrow connected us and away we went!
How soon after connecting did you decide to embark upon this endeavor? How did you know you could work well together and trust the other to see their half of it all the way through?
Liz: I think we decided right away. I shared my ideas and what I hoped we could create together. Erin had the inspiration to make the art and we decided to go for it. One of her friends helped get us audience with the licensing team and they loved the idea. It took a few months to put together a formal proposal and get our business agreements and contract worked out but it was pretty much game on after our first conversation.
I think we just had to trust each other, which was a tall order for strangers embarking on a creative and financial journey. But there was so much energy and momentum in the tarot itself that it pushed us through any moments of tension or doubt that came up. We kind of surrendered to the vision. On a side note, I’ve always kind of felt that the tarot chose us. It has felt very much like its own living presence. We had to trust that process.
Erin: Liz originally wanted to hire me. I quickly realized that there's no way she could afford to pay me to do 78 separate card faces plus a back and product design. I LOVE tarot. I've been reading since I was a teen. I also LOVE Grateful Dead and been a head since I was a teen. I bought into the idea immediately and said I'd do it for a 50/50 partnership. I also have been working the lots and the scene as an artist for decades, I was confident I could pull the strings and get us to the right people to greenlight this. As for trust, I don't want to put words in Liz's mouth but I think we are both intuitive people. I honestly never questioned her integrity or drive. If she ever doubted mine, I never heard about it.
Liz: Our first in person meeting was funny because by then we’d been meeting regularly and has been through some of the ups and downs of life and work and everything. It was incredibly casual. Like we’d always just known each other.
Erin: It had been over two years since Arrow first put us in touch. There had been so many connection points, conversations, brainstorming sessions during those years that meeting face to face was a hyper natural occurrence. We had both flown out to Ventura, CA to work our first festival event, Skull and Roses. It was like we had known each other for years, which we had. We had SO MUCH FUN, we are going back this year.
How much did you consult the Tarot personally in navigating the process of creating this deck and book?
Erin: Until Pamela Coleman Smith's masterful illustrations for Rider-Waite, no one had ever illustrated the Ace to Tens of the tarot suits before. She as well as Edward Waite were serious occultists. So for me, in those 40 cards, I relied more on the Rider-Waite inspiration then on Grateful Dead lyrics. I think you'll find the songs in them but it's not as obvious as in the Court Cards or the Major Arcana. 100% I had both Rider-Waite and David Dodd's Annotated Grateful Dead lyrics open the whole time I was working. It was really important to us both that Dead Heads that knew nothing of tarot, and tarot aficionados that don't know the Dead be able to vibe with our deck.
What was your favorite part about working on this project? What was the most challenging?
The biggest challenge for me was having to adapt to not using song lyrics or titles. The original vision had lyrical associations with each card, and many of the cards, especially the major arcana were named after the GD characters or songs. The “Mother”, for example, was originally named “Delilah Jones”.
I actually like how it came out in the end. The song’s presences are more subtle but still powerful. I had to creatively “code” them into the interpretations rather than rely too heavily on them. The original writings read a little too clinical, like I was trying to explain how the song fit the archetype rather than letting the personality of the archetype shine through.Erin: Favorite? Everything. I love Liz. I love Grateful Dead. I love Tarot. And I love creating art. There's no down side in this for me.
On your website, you explain how Grateful Dead lyrics draw on "myth, factual stories, and archetypal characters and events," and that their music comes from "genres that rely on the same devices to tell a story," much like esoteric Tarot. When did you first think about that similarity and how did you arrive at the conclusion?
Liz: I think the connection between Grateful Dead and archetype was always there for me. It’s just how my mind works. I tend to keep an eye toward the symbolic, always listening for hidden meanings. The tarot became a vehicle to capture and express this relationship meaningfully and for others to share in.
My interest in archetype and symbolism emerged in my late teens and steadily took form and shape through studies of astrology, tarot, myth, dream work, psychology, etc. I became a mother very young and always felt dialed into the ways their psychologies and lived experiences showed up as behaviors and personalities. Human development is fascinating! Astrology became a tool early on to help me look at the archetypal patterns influencing our lives, individually and as a family, especially during times of challenge. It helped me to take challenging moments less personally and to understand their needs and expression at a level beyond just behavior.Erin: Liz found it first. Or rather as she tells it, it found her, like a bossy old crow pecking at her head until she moved into action. For me, the second I read her first email it was like, well yeah, duh! Though I'm not the author this time, I too am a writer and my art and interests have been on such subjects since I was kid. I think when you are a student of the occult, myth, archetype and such, you see it everywhere because it is everywhere.
You are both mothers. How has motherhood influenced your interest in the esoteric and astrology? Do any of your children share that interest or feel that same pull? Have you been able to share your love for all things Grateful Dead with them?
That being said, the Grateful Dead is just a way of life for us. That magic has woven its way into the fabric of our being. Who would we be if we didn’t have live music, parking lot grilled cheeses, and tie dye? The friends and family we have through this community, the road trips and tour lots…. It’s a bottomless well of memories. And of course the music has been the soundtrack to it all!
Erin: Motherhood has been impactful in my life as a distraction to work around in pursuit of my art and creativity. I treasure my children but honestly gave my first child up at birth in order to pursue travel, tour, and an art career. Sixteen years later with myriad countries, decades of tour, and a solid art career under my belt, my girls came and STILL impacted the trajectory. Such is the reality of being a mom. That said all three of my children operate heavily in the fields of fantasy, sci fi, and mysticism in terms of their interests. My girls named our dog "Mystic" at 6 & 8 years old. My older son doesn't have much use for the Grateful Dead, the girls love them though and are stoked to go out and vend this summer. Rose is already working on sticker designs, she's 10. Ophelia will be slinging lemonade. She made over $100 at Bethel last year. Side note, Rose at 8 came up with three concepts I used on cards in the deck and Ophelia helped color the book illustrations. She was 6 at the time.
Where to find more of Liz & Erin
Skull & Roses Festival Ventura, CA April 19-23
Dead & Company Tour