Poldark Tarot Cards

When MASTERPIECE saw a series of absolutely genius Poldark tarot cards appearing in official UK social media feeds, we had to find out two things: who made them, and can we share them with US fans? Rikki Hanson-Orr, the woman behind the cards and a member of SMMS, Poldark‘s UK social media team, kindly obliged. Behold the official, Aunt Agatha (actress) sanctioned Poldark tarot cards, and the story of their creation! #PoldarkPBS

MASTERPIECE: How did you come to work on the Poldark team?
HANSON-ORR: I’m one of the creatives over here at SMMS, and I’ve been the content creator for Poldark since Series 3! I actually started working for SMMS doing some odd jobs that had nothing to do with Poldark or even designing content, and sort of fell into working as a content creator because I had a little background as a hobby artist/designer. Poldark was one of the first shows I did a whole campaign for, and it’s been my baby ever since!

MASTERPIECE: Was creating Poldark tarot cards something you’d wanted to do since an earlier season? How did you come to do it?
HANSON-ORR: It was actually the death of Aunt Agatha that inspired it—she was such a loved character, and her dying got such a big reaction from fans, I thought doing some kind of tribute in the new series would be both a cool feature and keeping her character alive a little longer via the social media. It started just as an idea that I threw out while we were planning our campaign for Series 4, imagining just a small side project that some of the fans would appreciate—wow, little did I know.

MASTERPIECE: Was this wholly an Aunt Agatha thing, or are you experienced with tarot cards outside of your day job?
HANSON-ORR: I’ve always been fascinated by tarot cards, but I’ve never learnt to read them—I’ve tended to appreciate them from afar for the artwork and the mysterious allure! I did a lot of reading about them in the run up to creating the deck, and assigned characters to cards as best as I saw fit, but it was a painful process—I really wanted it to be right, not just for the sake of any fans who might be tarot experts, but also just out of respect for both the characters and the deck itself. I’m afraid Aunt Agatha has to take most of the blame for it though—if only I’d had her to advise me!

MASTERPIECE: I understand that in tarot, there are different decks with different looks, symbolism, stories, etc… Is there one that influenced you in making your Poldark cards?
HANSON-ORR: The Rider-Waite deck! Again, while I’m no expert, it’s the deck I’m most accustomed to seeing, and is probably the one that most people will recognize. It’s absolutely bursting with symbolism and I just love the look of them—the limited colors, the tiny details, the art style in general. They’re really evocative to me—it’s like you can just feel the power in them!

MASTERPIECE: How did you choose characters to match the Major Arcana?
HANSON-ORR: The characters were chosen with great care and deliberation. I read as much as I could about the meanings of the cards, and selected characters from there—there was plenty of reshuffling before I settled on match ups, I can tell you that. I’m very familiar with the Poldark series, its characters and their traits, so it was a case of trying to align all those things with such a highly meaningful tarot card—I used a combination of story arcs, journeys and personalities in what I hope is a fairly accurate match-up. No doubt some people will disagree with me, but from what I know and understand about these characters, I think I’ve done them justice.

MASTERPIECE: How did you go about creating the symbolism of the cards?
HANSON-ORR: A lot of the symbolism is drawn directly from the Rider-Waite deck itself. In some cards, I’ve drawn almost exactly what the Rider-Waite set has, with a few adjustments; others, I’ve had to design from scratch because they don’t feature a person or would otherwise be a little inappropriate—I doubt any of the cast would appreciate being the naked couple on the original Lovers card, for example. Let’s take the Strength card, which features Demelza, as an example. Strength represents one overcoming their instinctive nature, and controlling it with the more “refined self”, shall we say—basically having an inner strength! It’s also about persuasion and bringing others to cooperate, among other, much more in-depth things. I thought this suited Demelza down to the ground, given her way of trying to bring people together, and her otherwise pretty down-to-earth personality. The original card features a woman holding down a lion to show the control over ego by the more conscious self, but I replaced this with Garrick as, well, there isn’t any lions in Poldark, and it’s a little bit more representative of Demelza!

MASTERPIECE: Do you have a favorite?
HANSON-ORR: Hardest question by far. Of the currently released cards, Strength and the Devil are probably my favorites. Out of the whole deck, I’m rather fond of Ossie’s card.

MASTERPIECE: We don’t yet have The Fool…We’re dying to know who you’d choose for that card!
HANSON-ORR: This was a fun one to draw—a dearly departed character who perhaps didn’t make the best decisions in his lifetime. The original card has the Fool precariously close to the edge of a big drop, his unknowing doom waiting beneath him. Does that help? 😉

MASTERPIECE: Do you have plans to make more cards?
HANSON-ORR: Well, since the series has finished over here in the UK, I’ve completed the deck of 22 Major Arcana cards and we’re planning something very cool with them in the near future…

MASTERPIECE: What do you think Aunt Agatha would make of these cards?
HANSON-ORR: I have [actress] Caroline Blakiston’s blessing and that’s good enough for me!

MASTERPIECE: Is there any Aunt Agatha in you?
HANSON-ORR: I think I’m more of a Morwenna, really, but if I could be half as brilliant as Agatha in my old age, I’ll die a happy woman.

MASTERPIECE: What kind of response did your cards get from UK Poldark fans?
HANSON-ORR: An utterly overwhelming one. What started as a slightly flippant idea has turned into such a wonderful project that I’m so proud to put my name to. Though I’ve created masses of content for Poldark and other shows in the last two years, I’ve never drawn something original, let alone posted it online for thousands of people to see – it was incredibly nerve-wracking every time a new card went out, but the responses were always fantastic. Not everyone liked them, of course, but it wouldn’t be the internet if there wasn’t someone to disagree with you. The cast, too, have been so kind in their replies to me as well (scariest emails I’ve ever sent, seriously), and they all seem to love them. It’s honestly been such an amazing thing, and all of the hours researching and creating have been 100% worth it. I can’t wait for everyone to see the full deck!


Bonus: Watch a time-lapse of The Magician card’s creation!

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