Witchy Weekends: PoMo Tarot

So this is a deck that took me a bit longer to parse out and have something to say about. It’s the PoMo Tarot by Brian Williams. My friend David Ricci gave this postmodern deck to me in a Secret Santa gift exchange some time in the mid-to-late-90s. It was published in 1994 by HarperSanFrancisco, a division of HarperCollins. The beginning of the blurb on the back of the box will tell you something more about it: “It’s almost 2000 A.D. Does your tarot deck seem more suited for a Renaissance court or a gypsy tent than for navigating the next millennium? The PoMo Tarot uses a blend of traditional tarot symbology, contemporary images, and the iconography of modern art.”

My friend put the dialogue bubble sticker on the box before he gave it to me as a gift. (No, Dave, I’m not entirely certain it is, but that’s okay.)

This deck is irreverent and kind of funny in a smart way. For example, the Major Arcana definitely correspond to the traditional Rider-Waite system, but the updated spin on them reflects the post-1980s cynicism and throw-your-hands-up-in-exasperation angst that characterized parts of the mid-90s. In this deck The Fool is called “Idiot,” and here are a few other characters.

Expert (originally the Magician)


Out Of It (originally the Hermit)


Sheer Force (originally Strength)


Neither Here Nor There (But Right on the Money) (originally Temperance)


The Minor Arcana suits have been significantly changed in this deck. Staves (also sometimes called Staffs or Wands) are now TVs. Cups are now Bottles. Coins (also sometimes called Pentacles because Waite found money to be distasteful and changed the coins to discs with five-pointed stars on them, a traditional symbol of protection) are now Money. Swords are now Guns. In this deck, these four suits also correspond to the ancient — and archaic, which I think is ironic for a correspondence in a deck whose thesis is all about a current update of time-worn ideas — theory of the four humors.

The TVs capitalize on the idea of airwaves to represent air and the blood (the sanguine humor). The ace reflects overwhelm, as when old televisions had trouble latching onto a signal; one might argue that now this is just the cacophony of our multi-media landscape overstimulating our senses and staticking-up our ability to parse through the noise. And then the four, in homage of Dalí’s The Persistence of Memory, is what we might feel like after that overwhelm settles in.


The Bottles, which correspond to the element of water and the humor of phlegm, reflect a generally alcoholic society. And as with so many things in the 90s being a reckoning for things in the 80s, one might even suggest that alcoholism is the natural consequence for partying hard. Here the Eight shows a party, and the Nine reflects the weary bartender who has to put up with them. (And perhaps I’m projecting just a little bit? In college I was generally the babysitter for all my drunken dorm mates. Gah. Dumbest job ever.)


Money (typically displayed as bills in this deck) correspond to wealth, including materialism, the transitory nature of said wealth, and the roadblock it creates to spiritual transcendence. Money also corresponds to the element of earth and the humor of bile.

Meager portions of money causing you distress? This deck has you covered.

Feeling some days like money is all you can think about, like you’re consumed by it entirely, no matter how little — or how much — you have? This deck has you covered.

Know people whose accumulation of wealth has been their single most identifying feature, to the point that they have no other self besides their wealth? You guessed it: this deck has you covered. The 90stalgia is strong with this one. (And hat-tip to NeriSiren for that awesome word, which I now use all the time.)

Guns are the suit that represents the humor of choler. Zeal, extreme passions, action, the fire element. Some of the artwork in this deck references pop culture icons, such as Elvis as Gun Boy, an arguably more palatable figure to the masses than John Wayne.

But this deck doesn’t shy away from the horror of guns, either, linking this suit to atrocities with a take on Picasso’s familiar Guernica in the Seven card.


Ultimately, this deck is a good choice for anyone with a sense of humor who doesn’t take the tarot too seriously. It’s also excellent if you’re looking for something smart and thought-provoking, particularly if you have an interest in the popular art of the last two hundred years, since the Minor Arcana are all riffs on famous works. The guidebook for this deck is also kind of a fascinating read, if you’re interested in the artwork that inspired these cards and understanding the thought process behind them. It’s perhaps more analytical in that way than the average guidebook for an ordinary deck. But take note: this deck is not ideal for someone who doesn’t like images of naked humans, because it has a lot of them. (Enjoy!)

I hope you’ll understand now why it took me so long to post about this deck, which I wasn’t entirely expecting when I first chose it. I had to bring most of my English-major skills to bear here, but hopefully the unusualness of this deck was worth the wait.

5 thoughts on “Witchy Weekends: PoMo Tarot

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