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Part 1: An Intro to the Haunts

This little 9-card expansion pack has been all the rage on our Instagram posts, so thanks to everyone who has been reacting and sharing their ideas on these very weird but awesome cards.

Let’s talk a little bit about the origin of how this came about. Those of you who were supporters on the Southern Gothic Oracle Kickstarter probably remember… mid-campaign, I asked if folks might eventually be interested in expansion packs. I haven’t seen this done with oracle or Tarot cards per se, but I am familiar with the idea for other collectible cards, and also with card-based games, of course. I had been thinking… there are so many ideas that are still left to explore for a Southern Gothic Oracle… why not keep making cards for people to enjoy?

(Of course there has to be a limit to the card count. No one wants to shuffle 300 cards… ha)

So the idea of a 9-card expansion deck was born. Why 9 cards? Because the current oracle is comprised of 45 cards, based on the numerological symbolism of the numerals 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 and 9. There are 5 of each concept in the current deck. So I thought, why not 9 more? It would bring the total to 54, which is rather like a standard playing card deck, with Jokers counted of course.

I asked the Kickstarter followers, if I were to do a 9-card expansion deck as a stretch goal, would you vote for HAUNTS (a bunch of Southern ghosts) or BOTANICALS (a bunch of magical Southern plants/herbs)? And although the plants received many votes, the ghosts won out.

And so we have the Haunts.

Today we will cover the first three, and in future blog posts I’ll introduce you to the other Haunts. Without further ado…. (drum roll)

  1. Mothman. In West Virginia folklore, the Mothman is a human-moth cryptic legend that has been reportedly seen in the Point Pleasant area since the 1960s. He now has a whole industry built around him, including multiple movies, a statue and even a festival.
    From the Wikipedia page:

Some pseudoscience adherents (such as ufologists, paranormal authors, and cryptozoologists) claim that Mothman was an alien, a supernatural manifestation, or a previously unknown species of animal. In his 1975 book, Keel claimed that the Point Pleasant residents experienced precognitions including premonitions of the collapse of the Silver Bridge, UFO sightings, visits from inhuman or threatening men in black, and other phenomena.[22]

In the Southern Gothic Oracle deck, the Mothman card represents separation, and transformation. This concept is based on the near-universal symbolism of moths, butterflies, dragonflies and cicadas representing transformative power. I always like to imagine which cards might play well with new cards in a reading, and I imagine a marvelous reading for someone one day, drawing the Cicada card and the Mothman in the same sitting. The former is a positive take on transformation, and the latter is the shadow side of a similar idea.

2. Bell Witch. The Bell Witch is a legend as old as the state of Tennessee itself. Like Mothman, she has numerous works of art made in her honor, as well as a tourist attraction (the Bell Witch Cave), a book series and more. The legend has had centuries to evolve, and as a result there are dozens of stories surrounding her supposed antics. An account of the Bell Witch legend which was included in an article for Nashville’s Centennial Exposition in 1880, recounts the following:

At one time a vial of poison was found in the flue of the chimney, and being taken down, Dr. George B. Hopson gave one drop to a cat, causing its death in seven seconds. The witch claimed to have put the poison there for the purpose of killing Mr. Bell. Being asked how it was going to administer the poison, it said by pouring it into the dinner pot. It is remarkable that, although he enjoyed good health up to the time of this event, Mr. Bell died within [ ] days after the vial was found, being in a stupor at the time of his death. 

The Bell Witch card in the Southern Gothic Oracle represents scapegoating and blame, because if you read through the various accounts of the Bell Witch, it’s mostly just Tennesseeans blaming all manner of things on this unfortunate character, like the devil or trickster in other folk tales. She reminds me of the manner in which our society blames women for so many of its sins. She is in many ways a reflection of our own misogyny.

3. Crimes of Passion. And speaking of misogyny, let’s now dive into the story of one Miss Pearl Bryan. We have so far talked about a cryptid and a witch, but here’s our first bona fide ghost… of a real person. Pearl Bryan was a young single woman living in Kentucky in the 1890s (she was originally from Indiana). She was working as a Sunday school teacher, and courting a dentistry student named Scott Jackson. She went missing in 1896. Soon after her disappearance, a woman’s headless body was found in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, on February 1, 1896, by a 17-year-old farm hand named Johnny Hewling. According to the presiding coroner, the woman was found with multiple wounds across her back and her hands. He also wrote that in his estimation, she was decapitated while still alive. The victim was five months pregnant at the time of her death, which certainly points towards a motive, especially in such conservative times. Her body was identified as Pearl Bryan because of the tag in her custom-made shoes from Greencastle, Indiana. Her head was never found. Pearl is buried in the family plot at Forest Hill Cemetery in Greencastle. The folks in Fort Thomas believe that her ghost still haunts the area.

The Crimes of Passion card in the Southern Gothic Oracle expansion pack depicts Pearl Bryan’s headless ghost. The card is meant to signify ideas of jealousy, dangerous urges, and violence in our lives.

The Haunts expansion pack does contain images that are hard to look at; not only because the images might be scary or bloody, but because they invite us to examine shadow sides of ourselves, and our darkest urges and tendencies.

In the next installment! Learn about the Boo Hag, the Conjured Spirit, and the Richmond Vampire.


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