Julie, the artist, has always been totally unafraid of trying her hand at new things (like tarot) but painting is her first and deepest love. She always seems to be content creating and painting for hours on end. When Julie is working, there is no time, there is no outside world spinning around her.
Not long after we were married in 1986 we had given birth to our first child. Oh, the times were lean as we struggled to make ends meet while I finished the last semester of my education degree but we managed somehow. I have fond memories of Julie standing at the kitchen counter in our small third story apartment on Knapp Street in Milwaukee. Brendan was at that time a toddler and we still joke about throwing pork chops under the couch for him to find because Julie was so preoccupied with painting the “Path of the Ancestors” (as “Ancestral Path” was called in those early days) that Brendan had learned to get himself “yo-gret” from the fridge and a spoon from the drawer. We had to tape large sheets of paper on the walls because he had begun to draw his own masterpieces in crayon on the walls. As testament to her industrious nature, Julie completed Ancestral Path, over 80 paintings, in a little more than a year. I watched, astonished, as her talents and confidence developed in the process. It was the Hanged One that caused her to stray from the typical, dare I say stereotypical, tarot images and she hasn’t looked back.
Being an educator I am fascinated with the ways people think and learn. I consider myself blessed with being able access both hemispheres of my brain. In some ways I’m quite linear, needing order and logic to solve problems. This bothers Julie sometimes because I tend to ruminate over a solution, refusing to “jump in” without carefully considering all the possibilities and the effects of my decisions. In other ways I am creative and intuitive. Heck, I can even be spontaneous and dramatic at times. But the way my brain works seems simple when I observe the artist work through concepts and images. Julie sees things so much differently than most people. I think that our daughter, Rhiannon, has some of these same artistic traits. I can only hope that she can find a creative outlet for the torrent of ideas, colours and thoughts like her mother has. Julie’s understanding of the working of the planets and moons is beyond mine. She can literally picture all the complicated movements in her mind while I need a concrete model to muddle through astrology. She learned about tarot not by academic means but by painting the images and closely examining the symbolism embedded in each card.
Julie, the astrologer, uses her studies of comparative religions and metaphysics to gain insight into people’s lives. I remember when some kind of light went on after she looked closely at her first tarot deck. Julie saw in those images similarities to ancient stories and astrology but the traditional order was slightly askew. She will credit that “eureka” moment with the Universe giving up some of its hidden truths and knowledge and who am I to say otherwise? First she shifted the tarot paradigm by changing the Hanged Man into the Hanged One. Now she was dabbling in some kind of a prehistoric calendar, using the feminine Moon as her guide, to change the order and consequent meaning of tarot. Over time this idea has blossomed, the kinks worked out, and Julie’s MAAT Tarot makes a lot of sense, even to a science teacher. Her approach is unorthodox but the end product in uncontestable- as an awesome artistic accomplishment, a historical journey into the human psyche, as well as a scholarly work.
I believe that anyone who appreciates art will truly love Julie’s paintings. They encompass many time periods and several cultures. Some left-brained people may be uncomfortable with what seems like a hodgepodge collage of ideas. All I can say is “take heart” and delve into the symbols that permeate each and every panting; you will connect the threads woven into each suit and court card to its place on the wheel of the year. Anyone who is interested in mythology, Paganism, and history cannot help but be enchanted by the stories each painting tells. They awaken memories of lives past. If you are one who looks for deeper meaning in the worlds that surround us then MAAT Tarot may help you find significance in every action, in every Moon cycle, in every season.
It is with awe and appreciation that I introduce you to Julie Cuccia-Watts’ next epic project, the MAAT Tarot. It is not for the weak or squeamish, nor is it for the stubbornly dogmatic. It is a work that transcends the ages, world cultures, and religions. It will challenge you to rethink, or at least reconsider, what you believe to be tarot. It was produced by the mind of a woman who seeks wisdom from the natural world and by the hands of a genuinely gifted artisan. I hope that you will enjoy this journey as much as I have.
Peter J. Watts-husband 22 years
Occupation 7th grade science teacher
Preface from The MAAT Tarot Book
Photograph By Gina Thies all rights reserved ©2009
Julie at the temple of Isis at Philae 2009
Photograph By Katherine Kenner all rights reserved ©2009
Julie at the MATS conference
Photograph By Patricia Haynesall rights reserved ©2007
Julie at the Temple of Ptah Karnak 2007