A Magical Focus: Meredith Graves Talks Kickstarter’s New Magic & Divination Section

A fragment of the graphic on the Kickstarter homepage, featuring a photograph of hands and the caption "Magic & Divination, come on in, sit for a spell..."

In an exciting move for witches, oracles and occultists alike, Kickstarter recently announced and launched their newest section of the site: the Magic & Divination homepage, which compiles all the magic-themed projects—both real and fictional—in one enchanted place. And it makes sense! Kickstarter has become a real home for the magical community, particularly with the explosion of artist-made tarot decks that have been successfully funded there. (The Literary Tarot is just one recent exciting project that you may have already read about at WWAC!) And with the addition of this intentional space, who knows what other kinds of magical ideas will grow?

We had the chance to chat with Meredith Graves, the Kickstarter director who is overseeing the new Magic & Divination section, about what they hope the new homepage will mean to the magical community.

How did you come to the decision that kickstarter needed a special section specifically for occulture?

That’s a great question, because that’s actually where everything started for me. So a little over three and a half years ago, I came to Kickstarter from my previous post as the host of MTV News, to run our music department. And having been a witch for much of my own life and gotten tarot decks from Kickstarter and friends with occult stores talking about it, etc, etc., I quickly asked after I started working there, who takes care of tarot? What section does that fall under? Who does it? So in my investigating of that, which very quickly got picked up and supported by other people at Kickstarter, we realized Kickstarter effectively already had this tarot and magic and divination, if not a section, a community, and a super robust one that spanned from the earliest days of Kickstarter’s existence all the way up to now. So we decided this year that we were going to formalize the endeavor by starting to build this section out, so it would actually be available and accessible to people. But in terms of when we knew or how we knew, I think once we started looking into it, we figured out pretty quickly that this community was super strong, super present on Kickstarter, and really, really deserved our attention.

Why do you think that there was such a presence of that community on Kickstarter? Like why do you think it became such a home to the occulture and magical community?

That is my favorite question. Do you have eight hours? You do not. So the cool thing is I have a very particular set of feelings about this. There is a long and storied history of occulture peeking in the mainstream around the development—historically, this is going back hundreds of years—of new accessible technologies. So there’s a lot of people passing a lot of conjecture about, well, the world is so zany right now, and that’s why everyone loves crystals and tarot cards. It’s like no, it’s actually that we have technologies that are making those concepts more widely accessible to more people. So just like at the end of the 1800s, when the hermetic order of the Golden Dawn released their full method of reading tarot by this ancient occult method, or going back even further to the invention of the printing press, and the fact that along with greater widespread literacy, the reading of magical books and occult literature was one of the first things that happened when the printing press was made more widely available. I actually think this community is so strong on Kickstarter, because witches understand technology better than almost any other sub-cultural group. Historically, whenever a technology that is designed to be available to more people, and get more people involved, emerges from culture at this moment of newness, it’s almost like you can look at those moments and see where witches and technologists are kind of the same group, you know, this meme with the shaking hands. And that’s always been the case. So I very strongly think that—and other people do too! This is something that apparently I’m not alone in thinking as I’ve been researching this for three and a half years. The internet, but more specifically crowdfunding technologies, are the next in a longer historical line of witches and wizards and occult minded people taking advantage of technologies when they become popularly available.

You’ve said that you’ve already gotten to watch people pushing the boundaries of magic and divination using the Kickstarter platform. I wonder if there are a couple examples of past projects that stand out to you as boundary pushing in that way?

Yeah, I think there’s a few different ways to look at what pushes boundaries because there’s boundaries in the normal world where just having this proliferation of tarot and mystical and occulture artists is pretty far out. But then there’s pushing the boundaries of the tarot and to that end, this current revolution in tarot is a lot about the representation of the self in the deck, as we’ve moved away from a fortune telling or a divining past history and towards a really super multifaceted model of reading that involves everything from self care to therapy to the mystic to… dungeons and dragons plotline development!

And to that end, I’ve seen people push the boundaries of tarot in just absolutely tremendous ways. One of my favorites is, of course, on the axis of diversity and equity and inclusion. And to that end, in the last few years, we’ve seen everything from tarot decks where it’s a full representation of the disabled community in the figures that are presented on the decks, to ASL tarots that have hand signing printed on the cards to help people with interpretations of meaning in other visual languages. I’ve seen Braille decks. I’ve also seen artists that create super high end art pieces in another way, make accessible versions of the deck on Kickstarter, because of its ability to reach a large group of people, making sure that their decks are accessible in that way, so that a wider swath of people can get them and no one feels like the tech is off limits to them. So when we talk about boundary pushing, we mean it in so many ways. And also there’s the creative kind of boundary pushing too, where we’ve seen artists come in with fully hand printed decks, for instance. We’ve also seen major collaborations between album artists, illustrators, and cardmaking companies, and nobody knows anything about tarot, so they’re pushing the boundaries of what they do. You know, if you infuse something with enough magic, you’ll start to see boundaries being pushed in every direction. But specifically, when it comes to tarot on Kickstarter, I would make an argument that the most revolutionary decks are the most inclusive.

An example of several active projects on the Magic & Divination homepage: the Black Femme tarot, the Black Violent tarot, Location tarot, & Cartomancy: a digital games anthology

In terms of other types of projects other than tarot that fall into this magic and occulture section, are there any specific kinds of projects that you hope to see now that you have this space for it?

Yes, comics! I want more comics and this is a very appropriate place to say that, I feel like. I have had the distinct pleasure of supporting lots of graphic novels and comic series over the past few years that have to do with magic, and many, many, many of them have come from the queer and trans community, which thrills me. We have some of the queerest magic going on in our comics and publishing categories. You know, I want every project: I want all of your jewelry, I want artifacts, I want your wearables, I’ve screamed about documentaries for weeks before. I don’t care what it is, if it has to do with magic, I’m gonna like it. There’s other stuff in publishing too; there’s new translations of archaic and rare manuscripts. But some of what I’m seeing in the last year that has been the most fun and what I’m hoping to see more of in the future is queer magic comics, because every one of those is just pitch perfect, like fantastic. So I’m hoping all of those artists come pouring in even more in 2021.

Oh, let me shout out Al Neun. Transformed was one of my favorite comics of last year and that was a blast to support. That is a comic where a ring like the ring of Solomon finally gets someone through their transition, and also they can become a wizard now. And that’s the whole premise and it’s fabulous. They did a collection of the webcomic they’ve been doing for like five years. So there’s that. Also one that just funded recently was called Smoke Weed, See the Future, which was really good. I love saying the name out loud, but it’s seriously one of the most gorgeous, gorgeous graphic novels I’ve ever seen from a Kickstarter. So if I could pick two projects I’m talking about specifically, Transformed and Smoke Weed, See the Future are two of the coolest comics that have come about magically on Kickstarter in the last year.

How do you foresee having a dedicated magic and divination section as benefiting the community over people already using regular Kickstarter for these kind of projects?

It’s a fun question, because it’s super simple, right? Because that’s what people wanted forever. We just never did it.

Part of that has been me talking to people in the community—Kickstarter creators, Kickstarter backers, people who haven’t used our site for whatever reason, friends I know who come down from the mountains once a year—everyone says the one thing they want is a way to find it all in one place. And I’m sitting here, like, what is magic? What do you want me to do? They’re like, we just want a place, you know. So this is backed up by a lot of the research we did into questions like, why are people visiting Kickstarter.com? They’re searching for things. If you’re not going directly to a friends project, you’re typing something into the search bar. The millions and millions of people who were going there and looking for “tarot” weren’t necessarily finding everything cool. So knowing that magical projects span every single category on our site, every price point, there’s magic in every category, in every space, in every iteration. So that is why the homepage makes sense. It’s kind of a perfect metaphor: magic is everywhere, if you know where to look. We are making it easier for people to find it faster.

In the introduction to the new section, it talks about how Kickstarter itself is a magical tool, which I feel like you were starting to get into there. As a practitioner myself, I totally agree, and there were some really interesting thoughts already in that introduction, but I am wondering if you wanted to talk a little more about that?

Yeah, thank you for asking, because that’s another very passionate point that I’ve tried to get across to people for a really long time, and it’s awesome to see it click. So it’s nice to hear somebody else say that.

We don’t think about the transformative power of a lot of the technology that we’ve become immersed in, in today’s day and age. But it seems pretty obvious when you look at Kickstarter, that you’re putting an idea out in the first place that doesn’t yet exist as if it does. In contemporary terms, some people think of this as the law of attraction or manifesting. And that’s really cool because you can kick those ideas back to the early 20th century, and mind power and all of this comes out of theosophy and spiritualism and again, I love things when I can place them in this greater historical trajectory, right? But it’s tactile. It’s almost like a fun exercise to see, via Kickstarter, how a person conjures something into material form, which is something that sorcerous types are always going for. Can you evoke this, you know, creature to material form? That’s like a big A-level issue: bringing something from a concept in the back of your mind into a physical form that not only can you validate that it’s real, but hundreds if not thousands of people all over the world will have participated in this ritual to manifest a concept from non existence to… it’s in your kitchen. That is aspirationally what guys were getting burned at the stake in the 1600s would have lived to do, that’s alchemy. That’s the irrational turning into the material. It’s this absolutely perfect, very cut and dry kind of metaphor for classical magic. Kickstarter of all the things, right?

And then at a different level, of course, it can be understood as a ritual through which an individual can permanently alter the remaining course of their life. That’s another thing that I’ve seen: people who say, “I will not suffer this life anymore. I wish to be an artist and rock and roll night and party every day.” They put in a bit of time, and they’re off to the races. I was lucky enough to last weekend, leave my house for the first time in two years and go out to Massachusetts to visit the guys at the Wyrmwood factory, who are one of our biggest, coolest, craziest games creators. They make all this furniture for tabletop gaming. And it was a blast, it was a lot of fun. But I was standing in the middle of a warehouse that is the size of a small city, looking at machines that cost a bazillion dollars that could crush me like a peanut if they wanted to, thinking, “Holy shit. This is Kickstarter! Like, wow, this is magic!”

So you can see how through a combination of ritual action performed carefully in the right order with your bases covered and a clear intent can bring about major changes in your life. Take that and it’s like, “am I talking about classical Renaissance astrological magic or running a Kickstarter campaign?” The lines get blurry really quickly. That is how I feel about that. And I have been lucky enough to see this magic proven out over and over and over and over again to the tune of hundreds if not thousands of projects over the last three and a half years. It’s definitely life changing magic if you put your heart into it, and that’s the only way magic should be done.

Jameson Hampton

Jameson Hampton

Jamey is a non-binary adventurer from Buffalo, NY who wishes they were immortal so they’d have time to visit every coffee shop in the world. They write code, like plants, record podcasts, categorize zines and read tarot cards. Ask them about Star Wars or Vampire: the Masquerade if you dare.

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