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Interviewing Fabio Listrani, Creator of the Santa Muerte Tarot, Night Sun Tarot, Notoria and Goetia

By Tina Gong


While this interview will mostly focus on the Santa Muerte Tarot, Fabio's body of work is prolific and impressive, with 4 published tarot decks and another in the works. I remember when seeing the Night Sun tarot for the first time, being struck by the intensity and elegance of the artwork.

As someone that has illustrated my own decks, but who has also often chosen to use graphical elements for the majority of them, I cannot imagine the amount of time and effort it has taken to complete these projects.

When the Santa Muerte tarot was first published, I hadn't initially realized that it was the same artist; which only makes the discovery of his extensive ouvre that much more exciting, and deepening my own appreciation for how much love, care and effort each individual card must have taken.

For those interested, Labyrinthos is now selling the Santa Muerte Tarot on our shop, as well as a digital version in the Labyrinthos App that you can use for readings, lessons and more.

1. Tell me a little bit about yourself! Any background you’d like us to include will do.

Hello and thanks for the invitation! My name is Fabio Listrani. I come from Rome, and I am a professional self-taught illustrator/artist. Over the years, I have established myself mainly as an illustrator and cover artist for various international entities, including Marvel, Titan Comics, Heavy Metal, and IDW Publishing. I've worked on various projects such as X-Men, Doctor Who, Warhammer 40.000, Quake, Dishonored, and, of course, I have been drawing Tarot cards for the publisher Lo Scarabeo for the past 10 years. My first deck, called Night Sun, was released right in 2014.

2. What is your personal connection to tarot? Do you use the cards yourself? And if so, how do you approach them?

Tarot, as well as esotericism, has always been part of my life in different forms, also due to my Italian origins. It's difficult to trace back to a first meeting, but in one way or another, through books, music, movies, and comics, Tarot was treated by all my authors and artists of reference such as Alejandro Jodorosky or Alan Moore. I, therefore, started to study and use them. When I became a professional illustrator, the first authorial project that I thought of creating was a Tarot deck. So, inevitably, my approach with them intensified, particularly towards their symbolic and archetypal aspects.

3. If this deck was a person, how would you describe it? What is their personality like? What is their communication style? What kind of impression do they want to leave on others?

If this deck were a person, it would undoubtedly have a personality that is at the same time frightening but fascinating; she would be direct, blunt, sincere; she would cut to the heart of the matter. Like death itself, this deck does not distinguish or judge based on ephemeral trappings such as wealth or beauty; she sees everyone for who they are, clearly and fairly.

Her nature may seem ambiguous, but only because she places this truth before us; that the value that we give life is a consequence of death.

At the same time, she would be the mother through whom we pass into the world of matter and form; a passage that allows us to have an individual experience, growth, and evolution, but which also inevitably makes us mortal. She would probably be like the most fascinating and at the same time terrifying mirror in which to see ourselves.

4. What was the inspiration for this deck? What drew you to creating it? What kind of research did you need to do to create it?

I have always found particularly fascinating all those cults, religions, philosophies, or traditions that arise from "below", or rather from within the community, rooted in daily life and in the social fabric. Those cults or religions, which for this very reason, belong and give strength to minorities, the outcasts, the oppressed, and often without the need for intermediaries such as priests or religious institutions. 

They are accessible to everyone, and puts everyone on the same level regardless of race, sex, or social class. In other words, "Shovel Beats Scepter".

This is certainly the main reason that drew me to first study and then create this project, as well as what I created in 2019 on the "GOETIA." This magical practice, in fact, concerns the invocation and evocation of Demons, who bestow a whole series of skills such as eloquence, cure of illnesses, knowledge of languages, philosophy, or logic and which were, "coincidentally," privileges of the richest and most affluent classes.

As for every deck that I have created, the research work was quite long and mainly consisted of all the texts that I was able to find in Italian, as well as all the documentation that I was able to find online. I use many sources, mainly books, but also documentaries, artbooks, photo reports, articles, personal experiences, travels, and everything I can integrate from the web.

5. Which was your favorite card to illustrate? And which was the most challenging?

The Death card was the first ever that I drew as a test for what later became my Publisher and for what later became my first tarot deck called "Night Sun". Since then, as a tradition, it's the first card that I draw for every new deck, and always pregnant. I broke the tradition with my latest deck called "NOTORIA" where I made it die.

On the contrary, I don't have one card that is more challenging than the others because in fact, I always look for different approaches for each new deck I design. However, the Chariot is certainly often one of the most "uncomfortable" to frame due to the two horses that clutter the scene.

6. Has creating a tarot deck changed your relationship to the cards?

Not only has my relationship with cards changed, but making a new tarot deck is a long process that takes more than a year. For this reason, I find myself experiencing periods in which even simply going out to have a beer leads me to associate certain cards with people, friends, places, or situations. I probably can say that creating Tarot decks also changed my relationship with my life, hehe. Furthermore, the study that precedes the creation of a new deck forces me to always look at the total range of meanings of the arcana, as well as all their attributions and associations.

7. Do you have a favorite tarot spread that you like to use?

I actually don't have a favorite spread, and I don't even think it's necessary because I see reading as a dynamic process that has to adapt to the situation and not vice versa. Generally, I start from a very simple and basic three-card reading, and if I deem it necessary, I expand it when I require more information.

8. What is something new you learned about yourself as you’ve created this deck?

I have certainly learned to better focus on the priorities in my life. Santa Muerte is a cult that more than any other makes us understand that our lives are a gift. The very thing that allows us to exist is on loan; it does not completely belong to us except for a limited period. "From womb to tomb we are linked to others", to our ancestors, and to those who will be after us.

9. I know you worked on several decks; how has your understanding of tarot evolved as you create each deck? What has changed since the first deck you worked

All the tarot decks that I have created are very different and each with a very specific theme, so for this reason, the working method has always been different as my understanding of their pantheon of archetypal images.

The first deck I created, the "Night Sun", had a more holistic concept that blended multiple cultures together. With the Santa Muerte and with the new one on Voodoo, which will be called "SPIRIT BOX", I focused on two cults/religions with the arduous task of associating all 78 tarot cards to them, in the most relevant and respectful way possible.

The two decks that I created called "GOETIA" and "NOTORIA", however, are for me more ceremonial magic tools than actual Tarot decks and this is how I approached their creation and the way in which I think they should be used. Therefore, the creation process is always a new challenge for me but above all a new cultural background and a new nucleus of associations, that has made me understand and find mainly common points, even between very distant cultures, rather than significant differences.

10. It seems like you are also part of a band that pulls from metaphysical themes. Do you feel like your work as a musician and guitarist has an effect on your work as an illustrator? How is the creative process similar or different?

Oh yes and in the most absolute way. Music has always been a fundamental part of my life and I can't see it separate from visual art. However, I have always found the creative process extremely different. While for an illustration, I am forced to follow a much more rational method in planning the layout, when I work on the music of my band "OTUS", I tend to follow the flow much more but above all it is as if the notes were already in the air. It feels like I'm tuning into the right frequency... I don't know if I can explain myself hehe.

11. Where else can we find your work? How can we support you, this project, and all your future work?

At the moment, for better or for worse, the most useful way to follow me is my Instagram page here but also my online portfolio here. Here I update more frequently on my new projects, such as the new Voodoo Tarot deck which will be called "SPIRIT BOX" and which will be released in October.

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