Interview with Orna Ben Shoshan
Elizabeth Hazel: Greetings, Orna! I’d like to start by offering my congratulations on your new deck, the King Solomon Oracle Cards, created with kabbalist master Itzhak Mizrahi. Readers - if you haven’t seen this deck yet, take a look at the sample cards. They’re extraordinary! You’ve also produced the 72 Names Cards, based on the Shem ha-Memphorash. This is a lot of artwork! You must be going through an extremely prolific period, a one-woman artistic avalanche.
Orna Ben Shoshan: Thank You! Indeed, all my self-guidance products are based on my artwork. I have been creating this large collection of paintings for many years. The paintings are metaphysical and lead the viewer to visit other realms of existence. Each painting has a message of itself, and the viewer can connect to their visual aspects as well as the underlying metaphors they carry. In fact, many people connect to the images on a sub-conscious level: they love what they see and it makes them happy and optimistic, though they don’t really understand why… Regarding my ongoing inspiration – I summon them into my vision, and they arrive to me through channeling.
I assume there are many messages and bits of knowledge that are sent to me in order to be documented and exposed to people. As an artist, I decided to commit my creation to conveying these messages into visual form. It has only happened in 2008 that I decided to implement these images into oracle cards.
Liz: Examining your artwork is a treat. It’s fun to examine amusing details like the string people, the bodies and heads that seem to be made out of pipe-cleaners, wood spool animals and birds, things flowing through fabric with holes, goop plopping out of ceilings, angels on stilts, and people floating upside-down. What inspired or led you to develop this unique artistic language?
Orna: This artistic language is, in fact, a documentation of life that exists in another dimension. The form of life on earth and in the physical plane is only one of many forms of existence. In some miraculous way, I developed the ability to capture visions that are sent to me from alternate dimensions. I regard it as the work of anyone who does channeling, in the form of hearing or feeling – in my case – it’s in the form of visualizing. The visions pop up in my mind as complete pictures (or scenes), and I only start to paint them when I get the whole picture. The odd phenomena you can see in my artwork are, in fact, events that happen in different realms where the physical laws are different from what we are familiar with in our physical realm.
Liz: Stylistic developments are evident between the two decks; for example, figures, faces and costumes change slightly. More importantly, it appears you’ve become more confident in using your artistic symbol language to convey your ideas. They could be classified as “telesmatic” images, i.e., an original system of symbol conventions used for expressing magical or spiritual ideas. Could you discuss your process a bit, and how your artistic language has matured over time?
Orna: The process of creating both card sets started with the Kabbalistic symbols and their meanings. Each set of symbols, the King Solomon Seals and the “72 Names of God” conveys a certain set of metaphysical aspects. Both sets of symbols have different energetic frequencies and certain information that can be translated into everyday language. The process of creating the cards started with this translation work, with the goal in mind to make the knowledge accessible for people to implement in their everyday lives. Each symbol was translated into a short paragraph, which is the answer given by each card. The second step was to match between the messages (or interpretations of each card) and the artwork itself. This was the quickest and easiest phase, and the images and symbols matched together to give a powerful “energetic icon” – which is the card itself. After we had the texts and images, we designed the cards and package.
Liz: In the booklets that accompany both decks, you reveal that these images are channeled. Channeling means different things to different people. Do you connect with an angelic or spiritual guide, or some another distinct source of revelation? Do you follow a meditation process or preparatory ritual?
Orna: As I have already mentioned – the images I paint are projected into my vision very clearly. I am not sure exactly what the source is, but I understand that someone wants to show me what life in other dimensions look like. Therefore, my paintings always describe a process, a ritual, or an occurrence that is part of life in that “other” realm. I believe that my spirit guides are the ones who assist the process. The channeling process that I go through is very similar to the process that composers and poets are going through. Some people hear sounds, some see words, and some get different sensations. In my case – it’s visions that are projected into my mind. I do not invent anything or create something that never existed – I just document what I see.
The visions come to my mind a few hours or days after I say to my guides “OK, I am ready for the next message/image. You can send it to me now.” It usually happens when my mind is in a neutral state, like during dishwashing, or when I am doing something else. (They have their own schedule to appear…) I am not too good at meditation, and my dreams are very boring so I do not get the messages through dreaming or meditation.
Liz: How did the partnership with Itzak Mizrahi come about? Had you worked with Solomon Seals before your collaboration on the deck?
Orna: I knew Itzhak Mizrahi for a long time before starting to work with him on the cards. Being an honorable expert of practical Kabbalah, I went to him for personal consultation several times and realized he had tremendous knowledge. The King Solomon cards are the only product we collaborated on.
Liz: Creating settings and images for Mr. Mizrahi’s Solo
mon Seals (also called panticles or talismans) and Goetic symbols must have presented some unique challenges. Could you share some of your experiences from working in this magical partnership?
Orna: The process of creating the cards was challenging indeed. We had two components to start with: the King Solomon seals and Goetic symbols on one hand and the metaphysical art on the other hand. We had to create a divination tool that people can apply to their own lives. I think the most challenging and time consuming phase was to write the definition of each card - it’s similar to creating a new language.
Liz: One of most bizarre but coolest things on the King Solomon cards are the Goetic symbols. These aren’t something you see every day, even in the rarified world of high magic. Had you worked with Goetic symbols before? How do you respond to them personally? Do you find them intriguing, alarming, strangely seductive?
Orna: I did not have a chance to work with Goetic symbols before creating the cards. This was the expertise of Mizrahi. He uses these symbols a lot when writing amulets for people and conducting kabbalistic ceremonies. Like any other set of symbols, I consider the Goetic ones to a set of coded energetic frequencies, where each symbol indicates a certain direction or “vector.” I felt that the potential energy concealed in each symbol is tremendous, therefore they should be handled with caution.
Liz: Like channeling, the Kabbalah means different things to different people. In “Modern Magick” Donald Michael Kraig calls the system taught to Western hermeticists the “WASP” Kabbalah, classifying it as a universalized system. This doesn’t seem to be the same thing you’re working with in your decks. What connects you to the Kabbalah on a personal level? Is it a tradition passed down through the family as it is for Itzhak Mizrahi?
Orna: That’s right – the Kabbalah teaches the structure of the universe and how it was created. A person who studies and explores Kabbalah can take it to many directions. One direction is for personal understanding of why and how things happen (like in my case), and acquiring a new way of thinking and viewing life from a spiritual point of view. To the best of my knowledge, I am the first one in my family that studied Kabbalah.
The Kabbalah has a huge field of practical manifestation, especially because it involves the Hebrew alphabet, where each letter has its own unique frequency. Practical Kabbalah is also based on unwritten traditions that were taught from generation to generation – like in Mizrahi’s family.
The King Solomon seals are traditionally used in practical Kabbalah especially for amulet writing. Each one has its own application in everyday life. When writing the interpretations for the cards, we decided not to give the basic interpretation of each symbol, but to translate it into a direct answer. Less is more, and we did not want to overload the reader with too much information that will not be necessary when looking for a direct urgent answer.
Liz: In both decks, you’ve taken specific facets of the Kabbalah – Solomon Seals and the 72 Names. What inspired you to transform these ancient images into contemporary oracle decks?
Orna: My motivation was to transfer the knowledge to other people, so they can work with it and find their own answers. I already had my artwork, which is full of information to begin with. I decided to take on the challenge and incorporate it with abstract ideas to create useful tools that will be accessible to everyone. So many people are looking for answers; I myself used oracle and tarot cards for many years in order to get answers and direction, so I knew that it was possible to create powerful self-guidance tools for seekers.
Liz: Things change after you get a copy of your own deck in your hands! Have you made any surprising discoveries since you’ve had your copies? When do you find yourself reaching for your cards? Have you developed any further methods for using them?
Orna: After creating the cards, I needed a period to “chill down” and forget how I created them. Only then I could start using them for myself and other people. I use my own cards quite often when I need to make a decision or lose my faith… The biggest surprising discoveries I had is how people responded to the cards, so I know I did things the right way.
Liz: Sometimes very different systems can be mutually supportive. For example, I like to combine tarot and runes because they say similar things in different ways. Have you experimented with integrating other systems like numerology, a tarot deck, the I-Ching, etc. with either of your oracle decks?
Orna: I integrate other divination methods when I am looking for answers for myself (or when people ask me questions). I also feel that using more than one method in a reading gives you a wider perspective about your situations and how to resolve them. Many divination methods were developed along generations, and each generation adds its own understanding and insights in creating new tools. (See it as new version of an application…)
Liz: Are there any upcoming gallery shows or other art events you’d like to share?
Orna: I am going to have my next one person exhibition in Kibbutz Ein-Gedi, near the Dead Sea in June 2011. This is a magical geographic area with amazing energies. I will also participate in a group exhibition of Israeli artists in Milano, Italy later this year.
Liz: I’d like to thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions! I’m endlessly curious and could probably pick your brain for days, but I hope this interview gives readers insight into you and your incredible artwork. Shalom!
Orna: Yes, you picked my brain for several hours now and I feel all clean and as fresh as new… :) I also think that people who use these cards will now realize what tremendous work was put into them and into my artwork, and will be open to absorb the knowledge offered to them.
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