I see the notification on my phone that someone’s tagged me in a Facebook post, a regular occurrence within the past year; social notifications that is. Between the Cushy Creatives private group page, our Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Spotify – I’m used to getting notifications. Opening this one up, I see it’s from Carli, friend, author, poet, and writer of our Dark Moon Magic series. My interest piques. Carli and I recently worked together on a book of poetry she just self-published, and Carli seemingly always has inspiration knocking at her door, so when I hear from her, I can usually expect a creative idea on the other end.
I’m not wrong – she’s tagged me in a Kickstarter campaign with the caption “interview?” This is why I love our Cushy community. We support and encourage each other, and love to highlight and point our team towards other creatives pursuing their own ventures and projects. I also love Kickstarter, an innovation-led crowd sourcing platform, I curiously click the link and begin to learn about the .the Jade Oracle Project.
Fast forward to Monday and I’m on the phone with Ramona Teo, one of the collaborators, to discuss the Jade Oracle deck, a powerful divination deck that brings the wisdom of ancient Mexican symbolism to a new generation.
Erin: How did this project start?
Ramona: “The project began with Anne Key and Veronica Iglesias. They started it long before I got involved. Each of them have advanced degrees in Mesoamerican studies and are practicing priestesses. Veronica is from Mexico City, and she is a curandera, and does energy work. Energy work is something I’ve always been interested in, but even when I would get reike, I believe in it, but I wouldn’t feel a change after; it’s not like massage where you feel someone’s hands on you. Veronica is the first person I felt the change with. It was very powerful and very moving experience. She’s also an expert in plant medicine, crystal healing, and she leads ceremonies in Temazcal sweat lodges, she's incredible.
Anne is a priestess of the Goddess Sekhmet, and she is also an author of two memoirs called Desert Priestess and Burlesque, Yoga, Sex and Love: A Memoir of Life Under the Albuquerque Sun where she talks about sacred sexuality and becoming at peace with your feminine side and your divine sexuality. She was a professor at a University in Oregon, but got an offering to be a priestess in the desert in the middle of Nevada in modern day America, which is a pretty incredible story in and of itself. She moved to Albuquerque after and started a publishing company called Goddess Ink.
They have a business together called Sacred Tours of Mexico where they take people to sacred sites in Mexico where the teach and discuss ancient cultures in Mexico. During their presentations that they do together on ancient Goddesses from pre-Hispanic Mexico, they kept being told that these Goddesses would make excellent images for a divination deck. They began doing research, and putting together the starts to the project. Originally, they wanted to use historical images for the deck, but, because of image quality, getting rights to certain images, and lack of images for many of the Goddesses, they knew they needed to reach out to an artist.”
Ramona is an artist – she always has been. Born and raised in New Mexico, she grew up with an entrepreneurial father who always encouraged her to do her art and taught her how to earn a living from her creativity. In 2008, they started Guerilla Graphix a screen printing company with original art work that they ran together for eight years. During that time, she pursued her bachelor of arts degree in cinematic arts specializing in Mesoamerican and Pre-Columbian art and history.
From 2015 – 2017, Ramona had her two children, a daughter and son, and began her own business, Divine Nature Art, an outlet for her art where she sells paintings, jewelry, t-shirts, and other amazing products.
While she’s telling me about her business and being a stay at home mom on the phone, I can hear her son in the background, attempting to join in on the interview.
Ramona: “This is my life," she laughs.
Erin: So how did Veronica and Anne know to reach out to you? Had your worked on a project together previously?
Ramona: "I’ve worked with both of them before, you see I’m also a graphic designer, and I worked with both of them separately in the past doing graphic design for their businesses. At some point they realized that they both knew me, and they emailed me to ask if I wanted to do the illustrations for this oracle deck. I was so happy to be part of this project, it’s right up my alley. I’m also a painter, and I’ve been painting this vision for the past five years of the Goddess Tonatzin, the ancient Mesoamerican goddess of fertility, mothers, and growth. Historically, her image was replaced by the Guadalupe when the Spaniards came and colonized ancient Mesoamerica, they strove to drive out the images of the ancient indigenous cultures with that images from Catholicism. I’ve long wanted to create the image of Tonatzin in the style of the Guadalupe so it’s familiar to people, but bring in the historical attributes of Tonatzin so people know she is the true Aztec Goddess. I wanted it to be historically accurate, I didn’t want to offend anyone, and I knew Veronica was an expert in this area, so I had been wanting to reach out to her and I hadn’t gotten around, it, but lo and behold she asks me to join this project, and it happened to include Tonatzin!
When I was studying at UNM, I wondered, ‘what am I going to do with this degree except be an archeologist or a professor?’ I now have a direct use for all this knowledge I’ve been gathering for years that I can now channel through my art.”
It’s clear that this collaboration is rooted in synchronicity, symbiosis, and love. I recognize this kind of collaboration. It’s what Cushy is all about – enabling and activating each other’s creative energy through communinty. Ramona picks up on that shared creative entrepreneurial spirit when she starts talking about the vending she’s been doing for the past two summers at the Albuquerque Downtown Grower’s Market and Rail Yards Market, and the entrepreneurial community there that supports each other.
Ramona: “There is such a beautiful community here in Albuquerque of creative entrepreneurs, like-minded artists trying to support our local economy. I was one of the original team at the Rail Yards market when they started 4 years ago, I was the coordinator of the live arts stall at the Farmer’s Market, so I would oversee the artists that came in. We curated a weekly art demonstrator, demoing like pottery, or how they paint, jewelry, all kinds of different things.”
Returning our focus back to the Jade Oracle project, I ask Ramona to speak to why this project is important, and the decision to finance through Kickstarter.
Ramona: “Mesoamerican histories, specifically on ancient Aztecs, which is distinct from Mayan heritage though they are interwoven, is really misunderstood. People hear Aztecs and they think sacrifices and ‘savages’, and while sacrifice is a piece to their history, it’s not all there is to it, and there is a lot of spirituality and ritual involved in that. We wanted to bring that spiritually and history from the ancient Aztecs into modern conversations. In the New Age community, people like to use tarot decks, and there are thousands of decks out there, and most of them feature Western art and symbolism: fairies, dragons, - we really wanted to bring in imagery from ancient Mexican that the world is less familiar with. We believe it has tremendous value and we want to share it with the world.
While these are divination cards, they can be used almost like flash cards for studying; we worked very hard to make them historically accurate so you don’t have to use them as a divination deck, but if it’s something you’re just interested in learning more about, this can help your education.
We decided to finance this first round of decks through a Kickstarter campaign because we are confidant we will be the backing we need to meet our goal. The way Kickstarter works is it’s an all or nothing campaign, so if we don’t reach our goal we don’t get any of the pledged proceeds. Right now we are about half way to our goal thanks to individual donors donating varying amounts that have backed rewards like stickers, art prints, and of course, the actual Jade Oracle deck. Your credit card won’t get charged until October 19 when we reach our goal, so there’s no risk to your pledge until we meet our goal, so your pledge is really a vote of confidence in us and our project. You can check our video and information about our project, and we are so thankful for everyone’s support."
Before I get off the phone with Ramona, I ask her if she has any advice for our community, on how they can live their most creative life:
Ramona: "Don't lose your momentum. If you are inspired by something, listen, follow that. Since becoming a stay at home mom I have to make time for my business when I can, but I do, I work everyday at it, and over the years I have made incredible progress just by working at it little by little each day."