Rust Belt Arcana: Tarot and Natural History in the Exurban Wilds (ebook)

By Matt Stansberry with Illustrations by David Wilson
October 30, 2018 

A young bear--The Fool--is cast off from its mother in the spring to wander a fragmented suburban forest,  to be harried by dogs and traffic, chased through golf courses and farms. An ocean-going trout  climbs industrial, sewage-tainted rivers in the Midwest. The river is both sick and healthy, the trout, understood here as The Magician, is both wild and made. What does the Tarot have to tell us about the flora and fauna of the industrial Midwest? Rust Belt Arcana uses this time-tested structure to explain, juxtaposing the characteristics of the cards of the Tarot's Major Arcana to the creatures and plants around us. The idiosyncratic essays that result connect biology and natural history to the human condition; they are stories of abundance and loss, limning the persistent remnant wilderness of the Rust Belt. Exploring this natural history helps us to see beauty in a beleaguered landscape often dismissed as unremarkable, and to define our remarkable place in it. By Matt Stansberry, with illustrations by David Wilson.

David Wilson has designed a limited edition tarot deck to accompany the book. 

Praise for Rust Belt Arcana

"A surprising, delightful book, filled with original insights about the rich diversity of nature in the Midwest. Highly recommended!" Kenn Kaufman, originator of the Kaufman Field Guides series, Field Editor for Audubon Magazine, and author of Kingbird Highway

“Original and insightful. A vivid exploration of the beauty and brokenness of life’s community. Stansberry’s writing reveals the many surprising ecological, psychological, and cultural connections among human and beyond-human lives.”  David George Haskell, author of The Songs of Trees and Pulitzer finalist for The Forest Unseen

"A deep-hearted and honest writer—on topics as varied as hunting, banished bears, dying fish, and birds broken by buildings—Stansberry wrestles with mystery, pain and meaning. He’s a devoted participant in the natural world, a rare quality in humans these days."  Lisa Couturier, author of The Hopes of Snakes: And Other Tales from the Urban Landscape

"The essays in Rust Belt Arcana are like meditations from a parallel world —a magical place of nature which persists against all odds alongside the cities and subdivisions and highway interchanges of the Great Lakes region. Read this book to discover the underlying reality of life in this place. Read it for the part of you that howls at the moon." David Beach, GreenCityBlueLake Institute, Cleveland Museum of Natural History

"Rust Belt Arcana is one of the most amazing Tarot books I've ever read, unlike anything else, and instantly important.  It brings together the wide-ranging knowledge and commitment to the living world of a true naturalist, the sense of history and working-class culture of a son of Ohio, and the awareness of myth and magic in our daily lives that comes from a true immersion in Tarot.  And all this in a style that is clear and lucid, yet deeply felt.  It reminds us that in nature, in human tradition, and in the mysteries of Tarot, the world is so much bigger, and more complicated, than it seems."  Rachel Pollack, author of Tarot for Magical Times and The New Tarot Handbook


Matt Stansberry was born in Akron, Ohio and graduated from Kent State University. He writes about the intersection of natural history and myth. Matt spent six years in Oregon writing about wild trout and salmon and advocating for sustainable fisheries management. He currently lives in North Carolina with his wife and three sons. Find him on Twitter @LakeErieFlyFish.

David Wilson is an illustrator from Stow, Ohio who has worked for The Atlantic, New York Magazine, Harvard, The Boston Globe, and many more. He also produces independent comics and films. He currently lives in Ohio with his wife and two daughters. More of his work can be found at

Matt and David’s monthly column, “North Coast Biodiversity,” is collected here. Order copies of the first edition of Redhorse — a print collection of the first six “North Coast Biodiversity” columns — here, and signed prints of David Wilson’s original art for the column here. Find out more about Matt & David’s publications/additional projects at

See also:
Rust Belt Arcana Bundle