Database in the Post Modern World

Collectors often have a focus or specific genre in their deck collecting. I tend to like plant and animal decks, but I also like decks with history or art history in them. One of the finest decks for a ramble through art history is the glorious PoMo Tarot – A Postmodern Deck For Navigating The Next Millennium by Brian Williams. I miss Brian’s creativity and fresh outlook, he always had such terrific ideas for decks.


It contains 78 Cards plus a paperback book in a slipcase. PoMo stands for “Post Modern” and this deck has a very modern sensibility with reference to current culture. As well, the Minor Arcana are caricatures of well-known art and sculpture throughout history.

In the book, each card has phrases and colloquialisms from different cultures and languages to explain it, as well as some quirky art and renaming of the classic suits. They are large cards with shiny lamination and a compact but interesting little book. This definitely gets applause for original thought in both art interpretation and interpretation of archetype. It’s a very unusual set and not for everybody. Of course, it’s for me!


Brian Williams is an artist I like, I like his line art and subtle colouring and backgrounds. The deck is timeless, and humorous, and still a delight 23 years after it was published in 1994. Brian died in 2002 and I feel him slipping away as the latest tarot decks get published. Don’t forget him, he was a special artist and writer with much depth and research in his writing.

This is out-of-print but if you enjoy art and art history, this is a winner and can be scrounged up in the secondary market; anyone who references my beloved Giorgio de Chirico is a winner.

What, you don’t know Giorgio? Go thee explore…


Database in the Golden World

“…fleet the time carelessly as they did in the golden world.” [Shakespeare, As You Like It]

This week while looking through one of my art history books, I came across a leopard that Kat Black had used in her collaged Golden Tarot on the High Priestess card. I have a number of books on frescoes, illuminated manuscripts, and Sienese painting and every now and then recognize snippets from this deck.  It made me want to discuss the deck.


I started the original thread for this deck on a forum under a name that I used at the time. Kat sent me a signed card when I bought the deck to thank me for that, which was nice.


I remember being incensed at the derogatory review that K. Frank Jensen wrote about this deck. He was disparaging about the pretty deck as a mere clone of the Rider-Waite, gussied up for the fans. I find many old-time tarot people can be dismissive of themed decks, not even giving them a chance. One fellow whom I e-mailed made fun of me for recommending the Pagan Cats Tarot when it was published, but it’s a good deck, and has some depth, despite the sound of the cheesy theme name. I prefer people who work with a deck for some months to do reviews.

Yes, it’s pretty but these images really pull you into the archetype, pull you into the reflection of the human condition. I laud Kat’s depth of experience and wisdom to visualize that.


I respect the deck because of the art and Kat Black’s mastery of collage is very good in comparison to other collage decks. It’s an easy technique but not easy to compose seamlessly from disparate references. She did a great job. Over time, I have come to be wary of collaged decks and prefer hand drawn illustrated decks, but this holds up for me.

Over time I can pull this deck out and feel my fondness for it, the attraction of the Medieval landscape quietly inhabits my mind. It reminds me a lot of the Grail Tarot, with artwork by Giovanni Caselli, another favourite of mine. Here are four cards that are beautifully done.


I never bought the Touchstone Tarot because Kat changed the head on a painting depicting Elizabeth I as a young girl; I couldn’t bear to look at that card as I adore the original painting. I also felt the deck was a bit same-y after the Golden Tarot, although she used artwork from a later period. Such is the subjectivity of art and deck publishing.

The Golden Tarot definitely has staying power, and I shall use it for a bit, re-familiarize myself with the deck and generally enjoy it, a personal favourite. I saw recent comments online about newer editions having glossy lamination, whereas this deck, the original publication, has matte lamination which beautifully complements the Medieval/Early Renaissance time period. Still, the fact that it’s in-print says a lot about the spirit of the deck and its author.

Good on you Kat.

Database in Medieval Blue


Guido Zibordi Marchesi illustrated the Medieval Tarot that I am discussing today, as well as the Giotto Tarot, one of my first and favourite decks, and the Bruegel Tarot which illustrates many of the Netherlandish Proverbs. The only deck of his that I don’t have is the Michelangelo Tarot.

He does beautiful architectural illustrations and models as well as paintings, and you can see how meticulous in detail and research he is by viewing his biography and a list of his various exhibits. These sites are in Italian but you can use Google Translate to get the gist of them. He is a real master of words and art, no wonder he is one of my favourite Lo Scarabeo illustrators.

For me, I look at an artist like this, and it drives me to purchase decks that an artist has spent some time researching and creating. Lo Scarabeo decks usually excel at this, I have great respect for that attitude.

What really attracted me to the deck was the blue skies and backgrounds, so reminiscent of illuminated manuscripts which are an interest of mine. Ultramarine in those days was made from lapis lazuli, and Guido Zibordi Marchesi captures that feel of the Middle Ages in these colours. This deck was published in 2007 and still holds up for me, a gem of people and colour, initiating a grand old browse through my many books about illuminated manuscripts.


The Tower card is very like castles depicted in illuminated manuscripts, particularly the castle of the Duc Jean de Berry in the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry where his castle is seen on the calendar for September.


You can see more examples from the book here.

As examples, two other 15th century manuscripts that have the style and colours that perhaps inspired this deck are The Bedford Hours, made for John, Duke of Bedford, and the Bouquechardière Chronicle by Jean de Courcy, also known as Chronique de la Bouquechardière.

The descriptions for the deck are priceless:

“A medieval inspiration: The Art of Memory is one of the greatest secrets handed down by alchemists and medieval sorcerers. The later Middle Ages have a brighter aspect, marked by the rebirth of the arts, philosophy, and sciences. It is the second period that inspired Guido Zibordi to paint the Medieval Tarot. These 78 cards, in fact, recall the magnificence of the princely courts and pastimes of the courtiers, the battles of the Crusades, the solitary study of philosophers and discussions of theologians, the daily work and beliefs of the common people.

This is not, however, a commemorative or historical deck. On the contrary, the Medieval Tarot contains the spirit of Ars memorandi, a memory system passed down in the schools aimed at developing intellectual qualities and spiritual virtues. The Ars memorandi, which attributed an exemplary value to images, without a doubt traces the first Tarot decks back to its origin, a “wordless book” that taught the rules of true nobility, that of the intellect and soul.

Today like in the past, simple yet profound rules let each individual follow a path of improvement and reach the top of an invisible ladder uniting the material world with the spiritual dimension.”


One of the reasons I’ve been keen on decks for 16 years is the spiritual dimension described above, the ideal of archetype and Medieval pageantry, lush, saturated colour steeped in history, and the human world absorbing and reflecting it.

How could you resist the courtly ideal of it all?

A Revisit and Overview of Database Monday

Database Monday is a category where I post about card decks and use the scans from my digital visual database to discuss them, perhaps adding a few personal notes and updates. Memory is a strange thing, I thought I’d done about twelve of these, but when I looked I discovered I had done twenty-eights posts on the subject, starting two years ago.

My last post was on October 29, 2015, over a year ago. Selling our old house and moving across the country, and home renovations swamped me, but several categories on this blog are subjects or exercises I’m fond of, so I made a list of the decks I have posted for Database Monday thus far. I remember duplicating a couple of them last year so I’ve now made a complete list so I’m organized when I start up again.


1) Lord of the Rings Tarot – Oct. 29, 2015
2) The Healing Deck (Zerner and Farber) – Oct. 12, 2015
3) Kazanlar Tarot – Sept. 3, 2015
4) Victoria Regina Tarot – Aug. 10, 2015
5) The Answer Deck – June 22, 2015
6) Javanne Tarot – June 15, 2015
7) Nature’s Wisdom Oracle – June 8, 2015
8) Tarot Francais des Fleurs (tarock deck) – June 2, 2015
9) Bird Cards – May 25, 2015
10) Silenus Tarot – May 18, 2015
11) The Mystic Rubaiyat – May 11, 2015
12) The Art of Japan Knowledge Cards – May 4, 2015
13) The Tarot of Vampyres (Ian Daniels) – April 27, 2015
14) Ancient Minchiate Etruria – April 20, 2015
15) The Essential Meditations Deck – April 13, 2015
16) Birds of China Playing Cards – April 8, 2015
17) British Wild Flowers Card Game – Mar. 30, 2015
18) Energy Healing Oracle – Mar. 24, 2015
19) The Secret Language of Color Cards – Mar. 16, 2015
20) Vacchetta Tarot (digitally coloured and printed) – Mar. 3, 2015
21) Black and White Photography Postcards – Feb. 9, 2015
22) Animal Playing Cards (published by WWF) – Feb. 2, 2015
23) The Circle Deck – Jan, 26, 2015
24) The Transformational Tarot – Jan 20, 2015
25) Buddha Discovery Deck – Jan 6, 2015
26) Bird Signs – Dec. 20, 2014
27) Creature Teacher Cards – Dec. 16, 2014
28) Robert E. Lee: Strategies for Leadership – Dec. 8, 2014

Here’s to further examination of the 398 card decks I own in the upcoming weeks and months. I do like to look at my cards.




Database in Mordor

Database Monday on Thursday…we had some house viewings this week and I am way behind, having swiffered the floors interminably this week and resurrected some patchwork pillows I made in the 1980s for decorative accents.

Steven Bright, master of the car boot sale, once sent me the The Lord of the Rings Tarot, for which I created a rather convoluted study where I used the deck with random snippets from the Poetic Edda and often tossed in a digital wreath. You can see them here.


Ah, there’s nothing so satisfying as a long ramble through a card with several tangents thrown in. This particular deck got bad reviews, but there is always a way to use a supposedly bad deck; I found it charming to use. One day when I have time, I will do a few more of these. The time thing though, will I ever see it again?


“This deck unites two great traditions: the spiritual, mystical tradition of the tarot, and the world of folklore and fantasy which J. R. R. Tolkien brought to life in his timeless works. Every card is a glimpse into Middle-earth with scenes from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Instructions included for a card game for 2 to 6 players.”

Illustrated by Peter Pracownik, written by Terry Donaldson, and published in 1997 by U.S. Games, I think this deck holds up. I gave it 5 out of 10 stars in my database, which might seem like a poor rating but I found it fun to use in my own little way.

Space, time, The White Tree, and Würms of the world. It all fits, it all ties together! Lest you doubt, lest you not have the Poetic Edda in your collection.




Database Tiptoes Through the Fabric Collage

Another of my favourite decks by Chronicle Books is The Healing Deck: 36 Affirmations for Mental, Physical, and Spiritual Wellness by Monte Farber and Amy Zerner. My first tarot deck was the Zerner Farber Tarot by these two, and I love Amy’s artwork because I love fabric and sewing.


It’s a small, charming set and I like it. Today I felt like this sort of cheery, elegant colour. Sometimes that’s the best recommendation for a deck. Good words, good art, pleasant colour: the best.


I spent 4.5 hours sewing up a cushion cover to go with the baby quilt I am making, so fabric and colour was much on my mind today and I wanted to celebrate that with these cards. I culled together some leftover quilt blocks and extra border and backing fabric and the pillow turned out lovely, it’s really going to make a good little set.

It’s a holiday here today and the weather is a warm, sunny fall day which just makes the heart glad. Plus I got something done that I needed to do.

I started a new week in my planner and found three quotes regarding procrastination that I found timely.

1) Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill. [Christopher Parker]

2) If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it. [Olin Miller]

3) Let’s make progress, not excuses. [Justin Cotillard]




Database Walk Through Ecumenism

Let’s tiptoe through Database Monday on Thursday. I seem to be having an allergic reaction to something with the mad itchies coupled with insomnia at 2 a.m.

This is the Kazanlar Tarot by Emil Kazanlar published in 1996 by A.G. Müller, a deck I traded for and almost never use. This is just my kind of deck with mythology, history, folk tales, religion and bits of Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. This delicious mix appeals to me. I wonder if there is too great an ecumenical bent to absorb it adequately to use? No matter, I generally do single cards anyway.


I like a certain amount of exploring, of looking things up, of understanding and comparing, but this seems a bit like stodgily working through James Joyce and trying to figure out the references. Still, I like a good workout. Dang, I only gave it a 4 out of 10 rating in the database.

I think I need another look at this, so I’ll find it and use it for a bit. No wonder I liked it so much that I traded for it, look at these interesting cards. Kazanlar wrote and illustrated the deck, and I always feel that denotes extra passion and commitment to the ideas, to getting the art to reflect accurate ideas.

Click to enlarge.


Here is the blurb from my database on it:

The ecumenical attitude allows that different religions lead equally to God, so Kazanlar refers to this deck as The Ecumenical Tarot.

The Kabbalah references lead to the both the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible. For reversed meanings, the Kabbalistic Sephiroth changes.

Kazanlar was born in Iran from a father of mixed Persian and Turkish origin and his mother was Hungarian, so he grew up with two different religions. He also has some reference to the Islamic Koran in the deck and Hindu mythology.

The pictures range from the Indian dynasty of Moguls in the Wands (Clubs) suit; to the history and legends of Hungary in the Cups (Hearts) suit; to Persian history and fables like The Thousand and One Nights and imitation of Persian miniatures in the Discs (Diamonds) suit;  to Egyptian hieroglyphs and the history, customs and mythology of ancient Egypt in the Swords (Spades) suit.