I am NOT a collector of tarot cards. That said, I admit I have eight decks. They range from curiosities that are rather silly, like a deck with dragons on every card. I wish I had not somehow lost the wee booklet that came with this, it detailed where each mythical beast came from in culture/history! I’ve never read a single spread with this tiny deck of brilliantly colored cards. The reason is, I rarely use tarot for divinatory purposes. I use it to get a psychological compass “fix” on where I am in my own head. These images are not evocative of anything so personal.
No, for the old unsubtle head-slap of self-awareness, I rely on more obvious images. My oldest deck of cards is the “Barbara Walker Tarot.” I don’t care for her revisionist history, although her knitting books were quite good. Her cards, are for me more like the knitting books — direct and unmistakably punch-to-gut effective. I admit, I use them less frequently these days – only when so emotionally roiled that nothing except a direct zap would get through my drama! To this day, these are the cards I read most instinctively. They are full of mythological characters and dire images.
The prettiest deck I still own is the Gateway to the Divine Tarot. I call it my “Cirque de Soleil” deck! The “Hanging Man” looks like he is silk dancing. The face cards are mostly stultifyingly boring. The 15th Trump, commonly called the Devil, is SO mouthwateringly handsome that he would tempt anyone! Apt, I suppose, for a card signifying addictions and compulsions! The King of Wands looks like Elrond. This is a nice “public” deck for people ooky-spookied out by tarot readings because it IS beguilingly beautiful. For me, while it can be evocative, my mind makes a needle screeching on record (sorry, whippersnappers, if you don’t know what that is!) sound when I hit cards like “Judgement” with obvious angels of Christian derivation. (But I promise you, the “Devil” in this card is very much the son of morning, not Old Scratch!). Still, since most of the “public” one might conceivably read for likely IS nominally Christian — that would not bother them. Thus, I keep this artful deck for parties and the public.
A word about that mental screech, ok? Yes, I know the cards were developed in the Middle Ages when Europe WAS Christian, and likely as a sort of portable paper “Mystery Play” about how fallen man could resume a heaven-bound existence….there IS that theory. For MY purposes, however? That means diddly to me. So I have tried numerous decks seeking to find one not so monotheistically inclined. Even one purporting to be a “Pagan 2000” deck failed utterly, with a very scary Devil and bodies rising from graves on Judgement. I cut the prettier cards of that deck up to use in crafting projects!
One of my longtime favorite decks is Barbara Moore’s “Steampunk Tarot” – other decks of hers have left me cold in the over-artsy approach; but these are amusing. They are also astonishingly non-sexist to look at; female trumps and face cards have a beautiful efficacy to their appearance. The only Christian bit IS Judgement with a metal-winged angel. The Devil is a horrific looking war machine, which certainly is a valid comment on modern life and death and addiction! I always enjoy reading this deck. Some of the cards are astonishingly lovely – like the Moon (upper right hand of photo) and black-winged Death with her Scythe!
Now, a recently (last year) acquired novelty deck that is curiously neutral and takes a bit of getting used to is the Victorian Steampunk Tarot. As you can see, the four Minor Arcana suites are using insects to represent the elemental values: Dragonflies for watery Cups, Moths for fiery Wands, Bees for airy Swords, and Beetles for earthy Coins. The Major Arcana are more traditional with some pretty steampunk additions; Death is Poe-ish with a raven and skull with a ruby eye, the Hanged Man is a upside-down moon-faced clock pendulum. The most overt Christian bit IS the Judgement card with a stone angel. But over all, it is a nice novelty deck that would also be a great party deck — interesting, but not terrifying. I do use it now and then, but admit to still stumbling over wanting to make Bees into FIRE, not Air because of those stingers I encountered SO often as a beekeeper!
Another deck I got very recently, and that I’ve guiltily ignored in hectic life ever since, is the “Illuminating the Prophecy” deck. It is possibly the most artistic deck I own, beautifully evocative and frankly pagan. The Judgment card is a fallen crown, the Devil is a leering malevolent mask. The Cups are represented, oddly, by corvid birds, which I frankly would have assigned to something Air-ish! But crows and ravens ARE emotional creatures rather like us, so I get the attribution. Coins are plant based — mostly roses, so since I adore roses, that is a sweet softening of Coins for me. Airy Swords mostly feature images of human HANDS; how is that for owning responsibility for our mental actions? She gives Wands to Fire, not only in elemental attribution, but in much of the imagery. No suite imagery is absolute, however — you go reading along and there, suddenly is a traditional Cup, or Sword — or marvelous things like the head of a ten point buck deer sporting lights for the ten of Wands! This is one of the decks I must work with this year; it is beyond the beauty of the Cirque deck and is a very feeling deck. This is one of the sublime examples, for me!
I also have a deck that is not tarot at all. It is the Soul Cards (I) deck. Mine was a sample deck being sold off cheaply and is missing one card. I don’t care. I use these rarely and I usually don’t do a tarot style spread. These, for me, are to be read only by the evocative images — I most often select three cards and meditate upon them for quite some time. I consider these my most therapeutic deck of cards. Even just holding the deck and looking through it brings you to focus upon how you feel, where your reactions are coming from, and such. The same card might get a different reaction on different days – and this in itself is revealing, don’t you think?
But finally? I DID say I had just gotten what would likely be my last* tarot deck, didn’t I? That deck is ensconced in the lovely round lidded chest carved with a tree. That box was my first Yule gift in 15 years from my youngest son, upon his return home in 2014. It has sat empty since then awaiting the new deck with EIGHT extra cards ever since! Yes, at long last, The Minoan Tarot Deck (by Laura Perry) is here! I am studying the book by its designer and finding it, since images are based on a long pre-Christian society in Minoan Crete, FREE of Christian images.
My only gripe thus far is that young male face cards are labeled with things like “I explore” and “I react” and female face cards do things like “I consider” and “I EMOTE” — for pity’s sake?! Hmmmm? But I think I am going to like it more than dislike it. I like that most of the images are from actual historical art. “What,” you say, “no pictures of the cards?” Nope. Not yet. (Oh, fine – a sneak peak.) I will do this deck in detail beginning next Tuesday. Then I have the Steampunk Victorian and the Illuminating the Prophecy decks to detail.
What a relief – at least one day of the week to read cards NOT news – to go inward and not outward! Such a GIFT! Oh, and that other box with the big “X” carven upon it? That is where the Soul Cards live, because they ARE a gift of a sort — very hard to find these days and very evocative and clarifying!
*Unless I also wind up with THIS Minoan Tarot. But that would mean some other deck would have to vacate it’s carved wooden box! And looking at this deck feels like something “pumped out” — not something meticulously researched and thought through.