Hidden, Yet Always with Us: "La Santa Muerte Lenormand" Author Q&A
This Q&A is with La Santa Muerte Lenormand author, Dan Pelletier
Q: Why did you create La Santa Muerte Lenormand?
DP: Oh goodness, it’s really a long story I’ll cut short for you. It really began around 1990 when the main parachute didn’t open. After I got out of the hospital, folks asked, “Were you scared?” The obvious question, right?
And the answer is, no. I was calm, and did the mental check list and opened the reserve. That’s when things went really wrong, but no fear. Zero.
I couldn’t skydive any longer, so I tried white water rafting. That ended poorly also, and I felt that same calm…before breathing again.
Then I listened to the disembodied voice that said in my right ear, plain as day, “Go for a cigarette NOW!” I exited the South Tower just in time to hear the 767 go full throttle. And things turned very, very bad. I barely escaped.
My brother-in-law began to call me ‘Gato’.
And life went on. Stuff happened.
In April of 2019, I was at Readers Studio in NYC, as a vendor with my business partner, selling tarot decks. I began to realize that we (and myself especially) were ‘out of the loop’ regarding Lenormand decks. I kept sending customers to the neighboring vendor. On the flight home, I realized I had to learn about Lenormand.
And one day I woke up with that calm freaking feeling and the idea was laid out plain as day in front of me.
As life works out, I had to fly to Portland, Oregon to hang with my sister for a couple weeks. So of course, I called Callie French, and we met for lunch. I didn’t even finish the pitch before she agreed.
Q: But wait – you left off the whole La Santa Muerte bit.
DP: Yes, I did. Because I didn’t really know it until she was revealed. And that was part of the whole ‘process’. I used to tell people who asked about the Gato moniker, “Some folks flirt with death. I’ve danced with her and kissed her. She just keeps sending me back,” because that’s how I felt. I said it as a joke, but it was not. You don’t hear disembodied voices telling you to go for a cigarette every day and take it as a joke. I knew and understood the situation.
Q: Tell me a bit about how and why you knew Callie French.
DP: We met in a bar. I don’t remember the year. It was the year they held Readers Studio over by JFK. We began comparing life events. We graduated High School the same year. Same age. And then…I graduated in Portland and she in West Linn (across the river and up a bit). She knew a girl I was dating from West Linn High School. We shared a background!
Q: I know that you live on opposite sides of the country so can you describe the creative process?
DP: I’d love to. For an outsider, it most likely looked horrid. Callie and I fought like cats and dogs. There were raised voices, things were said. But not about each other. We weren’t cutting each other down. We argued over how and what each image should be. When we had our first and last face to face meeting, Callie took copious notes. That’s what she had to work off of, my initial ideas. Those percolated.
Meanwhile I’m on the other side of the country with my own ideas percolating.
And at this point I need to point out – none of this was about us. All of this was how we were going to produce the art to bring greater glory to La Santa Muerte. Neither of us is Mexican, nor Roman Catholic, and we wanted to create this with love and respect. So, we emailed, texted, enjoyed lots of telephone calls and when we finally agreed – there was peace.
It's difficult to explain birthing pains. And as an extra added bonus, the pandemic set in. We worked on this while La Flaca was dancing with many partners.
Q: It’s called La Santa Muerte Lenormand, but I don’t see her in every card like in other decks. Can you explain some of the cards?
DP: Oh, she’s in every card regardless of if you can see her.
Due to the constraints of Lenormand decks where ‘what defines each card’ is radically different than say, Tarot. Take the Man card. La Santa Muerte does not really have a consort. I could have used Saint Jude (Patron of Lost Causes and the most popular Catholic saint both in Mexico and among Latinx in the US), but he didn’t seem to fit. So I looked to the Islands where La Flaca has traveled and is held in reverence. Baron Samedi seemed a good fit. I mean you have to have an image on Card #28, right? The alternate Man/Woman card are a nod to La Catrina. There’s a nod to people who were enslaved for hundreds of years trying to find freedom. There is a nod towards the LGBTQ+ community. There’s also a nod to people enslaved by opiates trying to find peace. It’s all in there.
Q: Any last words you wish to share?
DP: When we sat down for lunch in Oregon and agreed to enter the creative process together, our goal was to create not just another Lenormand deck, but something very special. All the animals had to be correct. Every detail was discussed and had to be correct. Even the publisher had to be correct. Because none of this was about us. It is a devotion to La Señora de la Noche.
About the Creators
Dan M. Pelletier is the co-owner of Tarot Garden in Des Moines, Iowa, and the author of the book The Process: The Way of the Tarot Reader. Callie L. French has been a metaphysical artist for over 20 years. She illustrated the highly regarded Rana George Lenormand.