Unreadable Decks, Maybe

It’s strange about decks that are “unreadable”, I consider it a challenge to find a way to use them.

In looking at online comments about the The Lost Code of the Tarot, I am hearing a lot of stuff about cards not being identifiable and the book being a bit of a put-on, a story with no meanings for cards, and then there’s the controversy about the Kickstarter campaign for this deck and how Llewellyn released the mass market version before, which may or may not be exactly the same as the funded one.

I choose not to fund decks at Kickstarter, although I have bought decks elsewhere from artists that were originally funded on Gamecrafter or Kickstarter et al. It’s a bit like buying a house from a developer before anything has been built, which is not something I would do either.

I used to trade people for the “stinker” decks, the ones that weren’t readable. It’s fun to pull something out of chaos. Does everything have to be systematically readable to be enjoyable?

I have a good collection of cards, all listed in a visual database, so I rambled through the tarot entries and pulled a few out that I’ve had a great time with, although many are considered baffling or unreadable. It’s a random pick, subjective, and doesn’t include all the stinker oracles and weird oddities that I delight in keeping regardless of their readability.

I always feel that I should challenge myself more, find something quirky and delightful and completely unfathomable and find a way to use and delight in it. For me, the term “unreadable” conjures up a vision of a mind that can’t be bothered learning new things.


Oh my, the Giotto, Bosch, and Bruegel, the holy trinity of unreadability!! Does it get any better?

Not for me.



4 thoughts on “Unreadable Decks, Maybe

  1. I struggled for years with wanting decks to stick to traditional meanings, which of course rarely happens. 🙂 But now I’m content to use the traditional meanings as just a foundation, and build the walls and roof with the art and symbolism in the cards. I think I’m more turned off now by those I find boring or having a theme that is squeezed and forced around those traditional meanings. You’ve definitely got some challenges there in your collection, as far as reading goes. But some people just enjoy them for the conversation the images start in their minds, which is not a bad thing in my opinion!

    • The approach to meaning has changed over the years in the general community. When I first started, I used to do a lot of creative writing and got chastised quite a bit on the Jump the Shark Forum for this. How patronizing to treat someone like they are a wayward child when they simply see different things.

      So, as I read the snippy things, the kneejerk criticism about unreadable (supposedly) decks it becomes obvious that they never tried another approach, never tried to access the deck another way. I guess I find it tiresome, which is probably why I don’t frequent places where I hear this sort of rattle.

      And the funding issues on Kickstarter or Indiegogo–if people put themselves at risk, why whine about it when they lose? You risked it, I don’t want to hear whining about that. It’s like hearing about someone being disappointed in a pair of shoes they bought at auction and can’t take back. Don’t buy them in the first place, sheesh.

  2. I believe that no deck is unreadable. Every deck has something within it, if you’re prepared to look for it.

    I was told the Favole was unreadable and that the suits were impossible to get a grip of. This was very far from my own experience of the deck. I made the suits my own and I tracked down the stories of Victoria Frances and let the cards speak with their own voice.

    The Lost Code cards are easy to identify. The court titles are there, in code, and it takes a few minutes to learn which symbol means Page and which means Queen, etc. The titles on the majors are in Roman numerals, written in an elegant hand, but the symbolism is easy to recognise for any experienced reader (maybe not for a newbie, I admit). I find it sad that this deck has had such a negative response, since the whole project took Andrea three years. From my understanding, the Kickstarter/timing fiasco was a mistake on Lo Scarabeos part and they did put out an official apology (and withdraw the deck for a while) but I guess many people didn’t see that.

    As Bev says, it can get to a point where we want something more than the ‘usual’ and I think that a lot of these decks allow us to grow, personalise, and perfect our reading. People read stones, sticks, clouds, and even people’s bottoms (yes, Rumpology) … but The Grail Tarot or the Bosch? No, no, no … unreadable 😉

    • This is a good point about reading sticks or stones or charms.

      I remember a deck author years ago who was going to write a book and tie-in herbs to her deck. She was dithering about getting an expect on herbs to write it, and I asked why didn’t she just use a herb book and pull things together herself. I even offered to write the book but she said she needed an expert on herbs.

      Why she needed anyone else but herself was beyond me, as any competent mind could pull together a workable system using herbs and this particular deck. Too bad, as it never got done. I could have done it and I would have done a good job.

      My point being that people make things work, they create the system. You can use their system or create your own, and cards will still work, still be readable.

      I was reading about the titling on the Lost Code cards. Someone said not to shuffle them or you’ll never figure out which card is which, so this is good to hear your comments about that. I will pay attention when I get it. I think the majority of decks use Roman numerals on the Majors–can’t figure out why that would be puzzling to people.

      I think sometimes that it’s a group thing, where people want to jump on the bandwagon of complaining about something and feel a part of self-righteous indignation, just because they want company or want attention. Humans love that sort of tearing down thing in groups.

      I like to hang around people who see possibilities in odd systems. It makes life interesting.

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