Posted tagged ‘tarot decks’

Database in the Post Modern World

February 20, 2017

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…

Ennui and the 4 of Cups Across Decks

January 25, 2017

What to do when you feel…nothing? Examine the 4 of Cups in several decks, get a good look at it, eat an apple, wait for something to happen, try to muster up enthusiasm for the sixteen projects you have on-the-go, eat a strawberry, eat homemade potato and leek soup, look through a bunch of old art magazines that you bought ten years ago.

Wait. Slump in the chair, look out the window at cats passing by, go to the library, hang with insomnia for a bit, clench your teeth, read about the 14th century, read about old varieties of roses, vacuum out the fan on your laptop, clean the kitty litter, look at the wall, wonder if the guardian angel appears in the mirror of your dresser or leaps from behind the bathroom door, exiting with a graceful dance after bouncing in to perform various miracles for you.

Wait some more, do laundry and hang the clothes on the rack in the front hall, where you haven’t painted the beige wall a grey colour with a white tree yet, eat a slice of mango and contemplate re-heating jasmine tea in the microwave, sigh and look out at the little girl in the pink coat walking her dog as she skips by going downhill in front of your house and laughs.

Well, you get the drift, hence the 4 of Cups. There is a scent of self-flagellation or self-indulgence with this card. Be wary travellers in self-pity!

I have a large collection so only pulled a few decks at random. Strangely, this has rather cheered me up. Nothing like a good ramble through cards to perk me up. My favourite card (at least this time) was the one from the Infinite Tarot, a deck I don’t see used much but I like the artwork.


Natural forces have you trapped. Oh yeah, I knew it couldn’t be me (cough). Mention here is made of being fearful of death, poor diet, malnourishment, and a lot of negative self-talk. Your own thinking encourages this downfall. Improper choices in thought and deed—look there for rescue.


Here we all are turning away, closing our eyes, with our sad sack mouths, oblivious to that nice kestrel offering us a possibility. Sometimes it’s good to turn away, get a bit of rest, cure your weariness of life with a quiet spell, but not drunkenness. The danger is in never coming back to life and all the good, positive things in life.


The Experimental Tarot has a woman contemplating her ecstatic vision of life. The problem is she’s trapped in a moat. That big hand might be holding her up or holding her in place. Another dreamer with her eyes closed, drifting into a permanent state of bliss while missing the action of life. The German word graben on the card means past or to dig, dig in the past. We get our English expression “grub in the earth” from this word. Put your head in a hole in the earth, don’t ever look at what’s happening now. Oh, she’s in ecstasy, but the things she’s contemplating aren’t real. She’s floating in a moat, permanently wet, come back to reality missy.

In the Scapini deck it’s like all the visions are held in urns, unable to get out and she won’t play, won’t ride her dragon. Eyes covered again, we mustn’t look at the good things, the possibilities. Sad faces everyone.


Don’t you just love the grey and taupe tones she’s used in the Linestrider? It captures the feeling and her eyes are closed, her head is wrapped in a scarf, and she has a large fish on her chest. The fishy emotions have obscured her breasts, the bubbles coming from the fish pop and the sounds “Sad sack, wet blanket” envelop her.

The Aquarian picture is similar to the Fradella in the first group, the hand of God offers life and a big cup but he/she won’t look. The lady in the Heart Tarot is reading a letter, perhaps the final letter from a long-ago sweetheart, dreaming of joy and love, she sits slumped at the table barely holding her head up. The hermit crab in the Animal Wisdom contemplates the glory and protection of shells.

Wet blankets and sad sacks, steeped in wine, misery, and about to go over the falls, there must be better choices. Swim to shore, dry off and get out your pencils and draw a cartouche! Of course, the exact cure for sad sacks, drawing cartouches. Add a lizard, add a condor, get the wet sack off the condor and go. Start in small steps to drag yourself to shore, concentrating on the thorn-tailed rayadito in the tree. What do you mean you don’t see it, it’s bright yellow and black, it’s right there?

Open your eyes.


Database in the Golden World

December 7, 2016

“…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 the name “darwinia” which 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.

I felt a bit sad for several years because after Kat published the Touchstone Tarot I saw her deriding someone on a forum for some reason, long forgotten. Ah, the fallen hero. Imagine though, what it’s like to work for your own fun and amusement, to know the work intimately from all your solitary hours of work, and then to get a huge amount of attention and accolades, from tarot celebrities as well as regular folk, and to be a professionally published author. The Ego, ever ready to convince you of your greatness, and one day you make a remark…certainly we’ve all been there. People are humans, not heroes, despite our projections.

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.

Unreadable Decks, Maybe

August 21, 2016

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.


Database Regina

August 10, 2015

I have been forgetting to do Database Monday for the simple reason that I can’t remember which day is which.

One of my favourite decks is the Victoria Regina Tarot created by Sarah Ovenall in 2002 and published by Llewellyn, it is collaged from old illustrations and clip art. She co-write the book with Georg Patterson, which is excellent. Ooooh, and she’s got fountain pens in there. I have always liked reading non-fiction about the history of the British royal family so immediately got this when it was published.


At the time, Sarah had a note on her web site showing how she’d embellished the velvet bag included with the deck, and invited people to send pictures of how they embellished their bags. A woman I was selling tarot bags through did one and wanted me to do one too so I did.

I remember sewing this during the last day of my first dog, my first Labrador Retriever Winnie. She had cancer and the tumour was interfering with her breathing, so I brought her down to the cool basement so she could breathe better but she couldn’t walk so I had to carry her. Poor old soul had to be euthanized the next day, but I sat with her and sewed this at my drafting table; it’s a special memory of a lovely friend.

I used silks, silk ribbon, plaids, white cotton lace and a small tartan Scottie dog button on this to reflect Balmoral, the castle in Scotland that the royal family purchased in the mid 19th century. When I sent it to Sarah she never replied, acknowledged me, or put the picture up. I sent it again thinking that it might have ended up as spam. Nothing. Yet, she put my compatriot’s picture up right away. I guess I wasn’t famous enough, not a tarot bigwig or anything. It’s not enough to contribute, to spend hours on something, to care and have initiative with some people, you must be a famous name. Who knows? I gave up trying to figure people out around 2008. (Click to enlarge.)


This was my favourite draw with this deck, one for which I felt compelled to write a poem.

You see, it doesn’t matter if people pay attention to you or acknowledge you, you can still create and enjoy your cards. I have a small sub-genre of black and white decks in my collection that I love. I also have some of the Dover clip art Sarah used in this deck, including some fountain pens which I just used in some stationery I made myself.

It’s all so interesting. It was this book that taught me that Princess Louise (Princess of Wands) was an artist and sculptor, and came to Canada when her husband was the Governor General here from 1878 to 1883. Victoria had so many children, I often found it hard to differentiate them, but lovely Louise the artist, I remember because of this deck. I also remember Bertie, riding gaily on the Six of Wands with a fountain pen in hand, and dogged, old-fashioned Georgie, Bertie’s son, on the Prince of Coins writing sappy letters to his darling Motherdear ad infinitum.

One of the first writing exercises I devised with my cards was what I call “Random Passages”, wherein I pick a random passage from a book and a random tarot card and write with it. Way back on February 28, 2003 I did this as a suggestion to others on how they could use their decks instead of merely acquiring them and packing them away in storage boxes. It was not a popular attitude at the time, many people assuming it was a frivolous time-waster and they were too busy, busy, busy, but with the advent of blogging I have seen others come around to my view that useful writing exercises are interesting with cards.


My random passage for this one was from a short story by Connie Willis called The Father of the Bride.

“I should be happy. Everyone tells me so: my wife, my daughter, my brave new son-in-law. This is the happily ever after for which we have waited all these long years. But I fear we have waited for too long, and now it is too late to be happy.”

I randomly pulled The Empress and this is what she had to say about it:

“Too late?” says The Empress with a skeptical look on her face. Indignantly she puts her hand on her hip to let you know how silly it is for you to say this, She smiles, and all the languorous smiles of lovers entwined in jungle rhythms, the heat, the fecundity of it assails you. Her feminine voice with laughter and love surrounds you and she sings, slowly stirring the green air:

“The world grows, leafy palms develop, grass greens, the bark shags off trees, my breasts suckle and tantalize, my hips beckon you, I create stars. We are crowned and enveloped by life and growth, the green of opportunity, the moldering bacteria I stand upon feeds the ripeness of creation.”

She is silent a moment while the cadence of her last notes can be felt in the plants around you, the skin of your body, your eyes vibrating, seeing what she sees. “We live green, it is never too late” she says touching your cheek, and the fields call you with meadow sweetness, and you hear the sound of water, ever circulating, ever moving, ever nourishing you.

A good deck, and this is more than a good deck, is forever.




Database Flies with Icarus and Silenus

May 18, 2015

This is one of my favourite decks. I like comics, and Mike Indovina has several featuring his character Silenus as well as this wonderful tarot deck packed with mythology and interesting scenes.

I owned a red car for a year which we called “Hector” after the famous Trojan hero killed by Achilles. The day I received this deck in August 2009, we were on holidays and went out, but some guy in a Dodge Ram truck smashed us to smithereens, and I remember my hesitation in wanting to go out on a different day, and that I should stay in and explore my new deck.

Always listen to your feelings. Silenus knows.


I have enjoyed many draws with this, and the cards are small at 89 x 64 mm but they have lots of details. Silenus was a learned satyr in Greek mythology, and people often tried to capture him to force him to impart his wisdom; even the famous King Midas did that. Silenus might have tutored Dionysus and helped the gods in a fight against giants, he is everywhere, which makes him an apt narrator for the tarot journey.

Each card has a scene from Greek mythology that Mike paired with Rider-Waite meanings but he aimed for a visual echo of the Rider-Waite cards too. I don’t often think of it like this but it’s there is you compare. (Click to enlarge.)


I am fond of any deck that deals with mythology, but I wonder if this deck became ghettoized as a Comic-Con gimmick? Tarot people will often be disdainful of any deck resembling a comic. Not so, it is a fine deck with lots of depth and research. It would make a meaningful contribution to anyone serious about tarot and history, mythology and folklore. Here are some draws I made with it.

Ah, the Golden Fleece, Daedalus and his wings, and those centaurs having a bit too much to drink. Fearsome folk.

Mike Indovina has a B.A. in Fine Art (as do many comic artists) and you can still buy the deck directly from him. He has a guidebook for it too which I must buy at some point. He is another artist and thinker who deserves a much wider audience. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with a deck that has this much research and depth.



May the Mojo Hand Protect You

April 16, 2015

This looks quite auspicious. I managed to go back to sleep this morning after waking early. I might credit working a digital jigsaw of the Animalis Os Fortuna deck and Megan’s other deck the Azúcar Bone Oracle from a picture on her Etsy site. I always like to work jigsaws of decks while I wait for them. I wanted both decks but could only afford one, therefore I puzzle it.

Besides, who does not like a photograph of a deck with props and/or attendant figures? My thing, everybody sing. And I had to pull out a tray in the program to get all the coloured bits sorted and in place. Now I just have the joy of connecting those black and white patterns. Such a lovely deck of pattern and line. I had to stop because even with a tendon cuff this hurts my hand after a while but I did a bit which was joyous.

(Click to enlarge)


ACE OF SPADES – Protection from the mojo hand


The Six of Wands means victory to me, my favourite being the one that cemented this archetype in my mind, dear old Bertie on the Six of Wands in the Victoria Regina deck. Honours and perhaps successful team effort too.

The mojo hand is a hoodoo symbol. It’s like a charm you carry, the fire forming a ring of protection I expect from bad ju-ju. A friend of mine in South Africa is living where they are having riots and what they term “xenophobic” violence these past days. It’s pretty frightening as it seems to have gotten out of hand and people are being killed.

I offer up the mojo hand for her along with thoughts of victory over violence. My city isn’t burning, imagine how it would feel if yours was?