Poetry, Gnosis and Tarot Deck: Only Dying Sparkles by Sascha Akhtar and John Arnold

Sascha Akhtar


This deck of illustrated poetry cards can be used as a tool for self-gnosis in the Vanitas tradition. Find out more…

Pre-order from zimZalla

When mystical art and poetry combine, every day is imbued with energy and spirit. I’m very excited to tell you about a poetry project which poet & healer Sascha Aurora Akhtar and transcendental artist John Alexander Arnold, have created.

The Only Dying Sparkles cards are infused with magic as an opportunity for gnosis. “I work magically in every aspect of my life and see these poems as my own personal set of spells for self-gnosis, utilising Know Thyself as the first principle for inner workings,” says Sascha. “John’s extraordinary art is the visual part of the spell. It represents the blood and guts needed to affect a soothing, a balm… the healing. The love. I often tell John he is a powerful Bruja. Together, the art and poetry have been married into these cards and are brimming full of energy and intent.”

Sascha with her magical companion, Sakura.

Only Dying Sparkles is an illuminated poetry object combines poetry and illustration as a deck of 44 tarot-style cards (and a ‘wild card’) produced by zimZalla art objects (a Manchester-based press you should definitely explore if you want to create literary objects of beauty).

These Tarot-style journey poems can be used as a mental health tool. No formal tarot guidelines apply – you are at liberty to use and relate to the cards however you wish.


Virtually all the poems are meditations on death and dying. In this way the object belongs to the Vanitas genre – a tradition which flourished in the 16th &17th century and focused on contemplation of the temporal nature of our existence. This poetry project also marks a progression in Sascha’s style, as she tackles huge emotions in short and succinct poems.

Sascha says the poetry she is drawn to “has to give you that feeling. You know what I mean, right? It’s almost as if a ghost has passed through you? And ideally, you get goosebumps. Like, a real connection is made.

The poetry deck’s name comes from a poem by Paul Celan (1920 – 1970), translated by John Felstiner:

Finsternis (Darkness)

The urns of stillness are empty.

In branches

the swelter of speechless song

chokes black

Blunt hourposts

grope towards a strange time

A wing-beat whirls.

For the owls in the heart

death dawns

Treason falls into your eyes –

My shadow strives with your scream –

The east smokes after this night…

Only dying


“Paul Celan was a wordsmith, a powerful spellcaster,” says Sascha Akhtar. “His poem has given me strength and now, a name. A naming for this magic.”

Ordering the Only Dying Sparkles poetry deck

You can pre-order the deck from zimZalla for £22 until the end of November, after which it will be available for £30. According to ancient Druidic knowledge, November 21st is when the veil dividing the living from the dead is at its thinnest.

Everyone who pre-orders gets gifts as well, in the form of a free audio guided mention, sound healing and an intuited ritual objeckt especially for the person. If you want to buy more than one as a gift, the person you are gifting to will also receive the link to the sound meditation and a ritual objeckt.

Sascha has this to say about poems, internal reflection and mental health:

Above all what I want people to know, is that I have suffered & struggled with extreme forms of depression, anxiety my entire life. These brief poems are forays into that frame of mind. It was not until I learnt that I needed to embrace ALL parts of me, that I was able to work towards some kind of ‘wellness’.

Perhaps these poems are those parts of me, mournful, questioning, anxious, uncertain – sometimes teetering on the edge –  made into objects, brought into the light; illuminated. In this way the process, and seeing John’s exquisite art elevate my thoughts, which maybe are the kinds of things we are ashamed of, or just don’t say to people – has been an act of healing“.

Sascha Aurora Akhtar has had poetry featured in several anthologies including Cathecism: Poems for Pussy Riot and has also performed at poetry festivals include London’s MELTDOWN festival curated by Yoko Ono. John Alexander Arnold connects to the Earth through organic horticulture, wild crafting and mandalic composition, from which his art has derived.

This poetry project is a family affair: Sascha and John are both solo parents who feel that without their little companions, Sakura and Kalos – their muses – they would not be complete. They have known each other through many lifetimes; they are twin flames. They are so grateful to Tom Jenks of zimZalla.co.uk for this gorgeous opportunity, and also to the @BhorFoundation for Mental Health for its support.