Liminal 11 is a UK-based publishing company that describes themselves as a “mind, body and spirit publisher” that, to me, has become almost synonymous with tarot. I’m an avid tarot reader who has been hungrily collecting all of the Liminal 11 decks since their very first, the first edition of the Luna Sol Tarot in 2018. Since then, many of their decks have been reviewed here at WWAC, but while tarot comprises a sizable percentage of Liminal 11’s offerings, it doesn’t make up their whole catalogue. We’ve seen a wide variety of genres from them over the past few years, including comics, non-fiction, self-help, coloring books and more. But everything I’ve seen from Liminal 11 has a similar vibe: soft, gentle, dreamy.
I’m always happy to draw some attention to Liminal 11, which is a small business run by only a few dedicated folks. Small presses may not have as many releases as larger imprints, but they put out some truly quality stuff that absolutely deserves coverage. So here’s my thoughts on some of the recent additions to the Liminal 11 catalogue.
The New Chapter Tarot
Kathryn Briggs, foreward by Rachel Pollack
May 4, 2021
Tarot is a deeply personal thing, a practice in meditation and self-reflection that has gotten many people—myself included—through hard times in life. The New Chapter Tarot embodies that in a more literal way than I’ve often seen: this deck is by, and about, Kathryn Briggs. It is a deck themed around big decisions and journeys, but it gets this theme from the big decisions and journeys that Briggs was going through when she created it, with many of the cards depicting characters from her own life. In her introduction, she says, “Each card was a meditation in paint. A feeling arose, I transformed it into a card – and it was release.” And I find that beautiful, because that kind of emotional release is exactly what the tarot is for.
I’m interested in this deck because many indie decks (including all the ones I’ve reviewed so far for Liminal 11) are pretty clearly based on the imagery of the classic Rider-Waite-Smith deck—but The New Chapter Tarot is different. It’s more geometric, more arcane, borrowing more from Aleister Crowley’s Thoth deck, which is also geometric and arcane. I find this deck a little unintuitive to read from. This is probably due to a combination of its similarities with Thoth, which I’ve always found challenging, and its deep personal significance to a woman I don’t know. That said, I imagine that for some people this deck will speak in a deeply profound way.
And I can still appreciate the craftsmanship of a beautifully artistic deck. Briggs’ art is gorgeous, expressive, and precise. I love how you can tell that the cards were all hand drawn and painted. I love the sacred geometry. I love the vibrant watercolors and metallics. I love how much care and thought was clearly put into each piece. The New Chapter Tarot was obviously a labor of love: love for the art of the tarot, but also Briggs’ own self-love, the kind that is necessary to pick yourself up after hard times and setbacks and continue to confidently walk into the unknown of your future. Seeing Briggs do that with this deck makes me feel connected to every other person who has ever used the tarot for that purpose.
All the Places in Between
John Cei Douglas (author, artist)
May 11, 2021
Here’s a comic that proves you don’t need words to tell a descriptive story. Sure, there’s some room for interpretation in the narrative, but it’s clearly a story about getting lost and finding the strength to keep moving forward in the quest to find yourself. The black and white art is beautiful and uncomplicated; the silence is poignant and thoughtful. Maybe my mind is just already on tarot, but the energy of this book reminds me of the Tower card—it’s painful when things in your life come crashing down on you, but maybe you needed that push to pave the way for something new and better.
All the Places in Between does describe itself as a story about anxiety and depression, but I think I would have very quickly made that connection even without being told. While there were some sections where the narrative felt a little confusing to me, the imagery felt like it was speaking directly to me, in a more primal way than words can. Looking at Douglas’ drawing of a tsunami felt the same way that being overwhelmed feels like to me. When I was in a dark place with anxiety and depression myself, the dark sea and lighthouse imagery was actually very central to the way I was feeling. Reading this brought me back to that place in a way, but the fact that other people are drawn to the same imagery during the same kind of time in their life makes me feel connected and less alone. And I think that’s how All the Places in Between was supposed to make me feel.
The Spirit of Japan: Festivals, Rituals, & Everyday Magic
Sean Michael Wilson (author), Fumio Obata (artist)
June 15, 2021
Though it’s written by Scottish comics writer Sean Michael Wilson and illustrated by Japanese comics artist Fumio Obata, The Spirit of Japan is not a comic book. Liminal 11 calls it “an accessible introduction to Japanese spiritual practice” and it covers a number of traditional Japanese festivals, rituals, and cultural events that happen over the course of the year. Accompanied by Obata’s beautiful watercolor drawings, The Spirit of Japan is a mellow love letter to Japanese culture and to the concept of everyday magic itself.
I enjoyed reading The Spirit of Japan, but there were a few things about it that left me feeling a bit torn. My first instinct was that this is a book that should have been written by a Japanese person, although it’s clear that Wilson has been immersed in and writing about Japan and Japanese culture for many years. He has been living in Japan for over a decade and has been publishing manga in Japanese since 2008, as well as becoming the first British person to win a medal in the Japanese government’s “International Manga Award” in 2016. Obata is also multicultural: born in Toyko, he lives in the UK and is also deeply involved in the French comic book scene, since doing an artist residency there in 2008. He says he draws inspiration from “cultural differences and social issues in his surroundings.” Plus, Obata and Wilson have worked together before, with The Garden coming out last year, also from Liminal 11.
This book certainly would have been different if it had been written by a Japanese author, but it actually is quite interesting to get the perspective from someone who hasn’t grown up around these rituals all their life. There’s a lot of historical and cultural context included, and I appreciate Wilson’s thoroughness and attention to details, but I’m not completely convinced that all of the depictions of rituals are as universal as they’re made to seem. I lived in Japan for only a brief few months, and the only major festival I was there for was Hanami (cherry-blossom viewing)—but I definitely witnessed drunkenness at yozakura parties, and while the festival itself isn’t corporate, I find it hard to describe the whole experience as non-corporate when you can buy a sakura burger at McDonalds. This specific example seems small, but it made me wonder about the accuracy of other festivals I haven’t experienced for myself, and how a Japanese author may have described them differently.
Still, it’s an enjoyable and interesting read, and there’s something about Wilson’s voice that I really like. The idea that some cultures, because of their cultural and religious history, acknowledge less of a boundary between the sacred and the profane is compelling and resonates with me, on a personal level. The way he talks about magic as an everyday way of interacting with the world, as “religion without prohibition,” is very much how I interact with magic and spirituality as well, and I found his philosophy about it quietly validating. It certainly fits in with the soft magical vibe of other books in the Liminal 11 library.
And there’s so much more coming from Liminal 11 in the upcoming months! Their 2021-22 catalogue is available now and is definitely worth a look. I’m particularly excited about Fez Inkwright’s The Seed & Sickle oracle deck and Steven Bright’s book, The Oracle Creator: The Modern Guide to Creating an Oracle or Tarot Deck, both due out in November. What looks the most exciting to you?