The world’s leading collection of 20th century tarot- and cartomancy decks
Scandinavian Mail Art Archive
K. Frank Jensen SPILKAMMERET
Sankt Hansgade 20
DK 4000 ROSKILDE – DENMARK
Phone (+45) 46 35 18 08 – Fax (+45) 46 35 20 09
My place int he world
SPILKAMMERET (literary „chamber of games”) is situated in Denmark, which is one of the Scandinavian countries. In Denmark we speak and write Danish, which may explain why my texts sometimes are a little linguistic unstable.
I am living in Roskilde, a town situated 30 kilometres from Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital. Roskilde is known for it’s Cathedral which is also the burial place for Danish Kings and Queens since the 14th century. Another tourist’s sight in Roskilde is the Viking Ship Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
My Tarot interest
I became attracted to tarot, the particular playing card deck of 78 symbolic/allegorical cards, int he beginning of the 1970’s when I accidentally found one in a shop in Copenhagen. I had no idea then of what tarot was, but somehow the concept appealed to me.
The first book in Danis hon TAROT
I had to find out what tarot is. I made notes, categorized, selected, discarded and organised all the material, I could get hold of, and in 1975 my notes had taken the form of a book. The general interest for tarot had meanwhile been growing, and when I sent the manuscript to a publisher of esoteric books, it was immediately accepted. The first book in Danis hon esoteric tarot wasa reality.
Later followed three more books ont he same topic from my hands. On acoount of the fact, that in Denmark almost none, except the most popular fiction writers, can make a living out of writing books, I have for the time being finished my book writing period with a book about a diary-writing method based on mind map-techniques and with a book ont he magical aspects of runes. Otherwise I make some sort of living out of working for the Information Technology department of the City of Copenhagen, where I mainly deal with graphic design and the production of a promotional magazine.
Already at the beginning of my interest in tarot, I bought all the tarot decks which appeared ont he market. At first it was quite a manageable affair. By and by, however, it proved to be a task in itself to trace the growing number of packs and to establish international contacts to get hold of them. It was a time-consumiong task which, however, had many rewarding moments when a long searched for item entered the mail box.
The strange and wrong theories about the origin of tarot that most tarot books postulates, led to a study of playing card history, ehich gave more plausible theories and facts than any of the obscure tarot texts did. But this led to other temptations. Even though I am not a card player at all, the mutitude of playing card art and –patterns attracted me – so I started to collect playing cards also.
I do not consider myself a „professional” collector. I collect with the purpose in mind to write about the objects and to document their history. I find most of the real collectors I know madly boring, their major motivation being the greed to posses. I do not want to be classified int hat group. Maybe it is because fanatics of any kind are not my cup of tea, them being collectors, tarotists or religious freaks.
SPILKAMMERET – an archive & museum
In 1982 we moved from Copenhagen to Roskilde to make parts of the collection accessible to the public. The 100 year old town house contained a shop ont he groundfloor, which was turned into an exhibition room. In seven years, from 1984 to 1990 exhibitions were displayed in the summer period with a different theme each year. This enterprise stopped in 1991 after disagreements with the local tax authorities.
While the collections are intact and still worked on, they are no longer on permanent display and it takes an apoointment and preparation to make a visit to SPILKAMMERET. The declared purpose of SPILKAMMERET is to collect, preserve, register and document divinatory systems, particularly tarot- and cartomantic decks, manufactured and used int he 20th century. Currently the collection comprises 3500 card decks (tarot-, cartomancy- and playin cards; practically all 20th tarot-, cartomancy- and playing card decks are present), 700 other items (assessories, games, etc.) and about 3000 more or less related books. Thus SPILKAMMERET has, from a tentative beginning in 1975, grown into the world’s leading collection of 20th century esoteric tarot- and cartomancy decks. Several catalogues were published through the years and SPILKAMMERET has gained an international reputation with connections to researchers, writers, museums, collections, historians, tarotists, esoterists, and folklorists all over the world.
My own attitude to tarot
My own attitude to the meanwhile widespread concept of tarot is positive but rather critical. I am interested int he historical, símbolic and artistic aspects. I consider tarot being a magical, symbolic tool and an essential art form (no other series of 22 images have, int he history of art, been interpreted by so many artists). I am not addicted to tarot, generally I find, that the current popularization of tarot has watered down the original esoteric tradition, which I regret. The change of tarot from being a magical, symbolical tool to a mass market commercial enterprise is in my opinion not a positive development.
MANTEIA – magazine of the mantic arts
After a couple of years training as a contributor (which I still am) to American based APA-Tarot, I began in 1989 to publish my magazine MANTEIA, which brings articles and reviews of tarot- and cartomancy decks. In the first three volumes of MANTEIA I reviewed about 250 terot decks, 125 cartomancy decks and 350 books.
Mail Art in SPILKAMMERET
In the last 3-4 years, I have been involved with international mail art. This has led to the start of an on-going mail art project. „Mail Artist’s Tarot”. So far, for the years of 1993, 1994 and 1995, three comprehensive illustrated documentation magazines of the received works have been published and distributed to the participating artists from countries all over the world. The original artwork is kept int he archives of SPILKAMMERET, which thus also has become a Scandinavian Mail Art Archive.
Also other mail art projects are started, all more or less relating to the SPILKAMMER themes. Among them are „Female Archetypes int he Fairy Tales”, „Mail Artist’s Lenormand deck” and „What is an Ansel”, asking for a definition of a dreamy being.
The current prefered medium for my own mail art contributions is computer manipulation of old picture material and artistamps (several sheets have already produced).