This is a short paper about some of my formative life events that lead up to the invention of a card game called Original Odyssey–Beautiful Artist Puzzle. First, my name, it calls attention to my life’s purpose. Mitra is one of the twin Gods in Mitra-Veruna. They are man and woman. They are sun and moon. They are separate and complementary (Haldar, 2012, p. 7). Mitra is a perfect name for an artist because the challenge and purpose of creative individuals living today “is to bring together masculine and feminine. This process is also described in alchemy, as Jung has shown, as the union of Sol (sun) and Luna (moon)” (LeGrice, 2013, loc. 1794-1798).
Jung believed psychological transformation was happening in alchemical work (Le Grice 2013). The alchemists’ work is an effort to manipulate natural processes to achieve a desirable result. I had a similar experience of being fixated on achieving a desirable goal that consumed my energies as a child. In second grade I was labeled dyslexic. Written language was so frustrating to me, but I was determined to figure it out, somehow. My family helped me balance my feelings of inferiority and self-doubt by showing me that in art, being able to see images that twist or turn, is an asset not a limitation.
My creative work, if viewed chronologically, illustrates growing technical skills and my psychological development or journey of individuation. According to Jung (1972), “Individuation means becoming an ‘in-dividual,’ and, in so far as ‘individuality’ embraces our innermost, last, and incomparable uniqueness, it also implies becoming one’s own self. We could therefore translate individuation as ‘coming into selfhood’ or ‘self-realization’” (p. 173).
Often, people get stuck playing a perfect role in life and are trapped in it. Jung (1972) called this a persona, and “it is, as its name implies, only a mask of the collective psyche, a mask that feigns individuality, making others and oneself believe that one is individual, whereas one is simply acting a role through which the collective psyche speaks” (p. 157).
I started to study personas intuitively in 2001 because I became captivated by tarot card images. In learning to read the images, I discovered a gift for fortune telling. Soon, I was reading cards at parties for friends and even getting paid by strangers. I connected emotionally and creatively with others through the cards. At any time or in any place, the cards can reveal secrets and offer meaningful insight. I was good at translating the cards, and it felt great to see a flash of curiosity in a skeptics face when a random card answered their question perfectly. Jung (1972) said, “spontaneity is the very essence of creative thought” (p. 185).
After about 10 years, the numinous sense I felt reading cards changed. The stories and characters in the tarot deck and the questions people asked felt repetitive and shallow. As Jung (1977) said, “we cannot go back to the symbolism that is gone” (p. 276). Jung’s term symbol means an image that points “to what is hardly known, not yet known, or unknowable” (Rowland, 2012, p. 202). Thinking more deeply, I started to question the repetitive nature of tarot. Why do I like selecting random tarot cards, even when I do not enjoy it anymore?
The persistent habit and desire to play with fortune cards intrigued me. In a dream, I heard someone clearly tell me I was a game designer. Responding to this call for adventure, I started to imagine creating a new card game. I thought it would be great to incorporate my daily creative practices into a card game. I could spice up my ordinary routine by randomizing the order of my work. The concept to create a core set of mythic creative practices on cards met my goal of turning a frustrating compulsive pattern into something tangibly productive. “Myths are stories that provide perspective and meaning to help individuals and cultures orient themselves to the requirements of living” (Le Grice, 2013, loc.170-174).
The final result of my first game design is called Original Odyssey—beautiful artist puzzle, seen in Figure 1. It is designed to spark creativity with improvisational play. There is no right way to play. It is part imagination, part conversation, part reflection, and part card game. Intuitive, portable, and powerful, these cards transform any place into a creative playground for the imagination. One way to use the deck is to think of your favorite card game. Figure out how to adapt that game to these cards. Try to play the game and define the rules. You win if you can create something new. Record your discoveries directly on the card pieces. Over time, your beautiful artist puzzle deck will become a record of your unique creative work.
Figure 1. Photo of Original Odyssey–Beautiful Artist Puzzle.
These cards are kind of like a journal that comes already filled out. The prompt to change the images by adding personal associations turns the deck into a method for collaboration with myths so they are personally relevant. Le Grice (2013) advocated the importance of personal myth because it provides “a living meaning, relevant to the heart and to the spirit, as much as to the mind—to be conveyed through painting, dance, music, poetry, and literature, and not just through rational discourse and theories.” (loc. 244-249).
These cards are square, 3 by 3 inches, with colorful images and words printed on 100% post-consumer waste fibers, Ultra Digital Green™ uncoated papers that are FSC certified and archival. Each set of 33 cards comes in a bag with a small pencil and a certificate of authenticity. I color in my cards, add stickers, and customize all the text as seen in Figure 2. The imagery used on the cards comes from my own digital artwork from a span of 4 years. The illustration style is playful and represents the inner child’s creativity and freedom. Le Grice (2013) explained that, “in its positive aspect, the child suggests continual creativity, spiritual freedom, and playfulness” (loc. 3458-3460).
Figure 2. Custom cards.
I have designed structure into the game for those who want to use it. The cards divide equally into three suits with 11 sequentially marked cards. The suits are outside, inside, and art—and loosely reflect the three stages of the hero’s journey of individuation that Le Grice (2013) called “separation, initiation, and return or incorporation” (loc. 1768). My method for creating unity is to approach storytelling like solving a puzzle. I gather and organize all the individual pieces first. Next, I engage in a physical process that involves placing one card next to another, allowing me to discover unexpected pairings. The more pieces in the story, the more elaborate the possible combinations or story. I also take this process to another level. I will adjust the actual cards to fit my mood. In tarot, this adjustment might be flipping the card to invert its meaning. In visual art, this might be adjusting the color of an object slightly to achieve a meaningful composition.
When I share a new set of cards, some say they are afraid of ruining them and do not want to write on the cards. I wonder how can making something unique ruin it? Perhaps the first stage is to become familiar with the existing images and, over time, the desire to customize them will grow naturally. Based on feedback from others, I have tried using these cards in many ways. I published 10 instructional videos on ways to play online at OriginalOdyssey.com. I also published articles on my invention process, on prototypes, on testing, and on the crowdfunding that paid for the initial edition of 100 sets of cards.
My most successful use of these cards was with high school students at a local nonprofit in Santa Barbara. I used the cards during our first brainstorming session on a collaborative public art project. To start, I gave each of the students their own deck and asked them to look through the cards to find one that represented beauty. When they had each selected a card, we took turns explaining what we found beautiful. The conversation flowed and everyone was engaged, as can be seen in Figure 3. Best of all, the card game helped me connect to each person on a more personal level.
Figure 3. Working with students at Youth Interactive (Antuhneeya, 2016).
The feedback I got was encouraging and helped me understand how and where Original Odyssey–beautiful artist puzzle is valuable. After the session, this was published on their blog:
Mitra held a session to help guide what artistic direction Youth Interactive as a whole would like to move towards. During this brainstorming session, we did group activities with the use of Mitra’s Odyssey Cards that exposed everyone to individual voices and collective opinion on elements such as color schemes and contrasts to perceptions of Santa Barbara as a city and its surrounding landscape. (Antuhneeya, 2016, para. 1-2)
In conclusion, I am nowhere near done iterating on Original Odyssey–beautiful artist puzzle, and the next version is already in the works. My game is based on a repetitive ritual like creative processes. It aims to “divest the self of the false wrappings of the persona . . . and of the suggestive power of primordial images” (Jung, 1972, p. 174). My personal history with art, language, and tarot has prepared me to create games with alchemical potential. I know how difficult it is to be original. Original or not, playing creative symbolic games can help individuals maintain momentum in the cyclical process of self-realization as we fulfill our unique purpose.
Antuhneeya. (2016, April 12). I Madonnari concept development [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://yicreativestudio.com/2016/04/12/i-madonnari-concept-development/
Haldar, P. (n.d.). Sovereignty and divinity in the Vedic tradition; Mitra Varuna, Prajapati and RTA. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/2571373/Sovereignty_and_Divinity_in
Jung, C. G. (1972). Two essays on analytical psychology (G. Adler & R. F. C. Hull, Trans.) Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Jung, C. G. (1977). The symbolic life: Miscellaneous writings (G. Adler & R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Le Grice, K. (2013). The rebirth of the hero: Mythology as a guide to spiritual transformation [Kindle version]. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com
Rowland, S. (2012). C. G. Jung in the humanities. New Orleans, LA: Spring Journal and Books.