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? Continue reading “Witchy Weekends: PoMo Tarot”
Welcome to another Witchy Weekends post here on the blog, my annual online celebration of October.
This weekend I’m featuring the Steampunk Tarot by Barbara Moore and Aly Fell (illustrator), published by Llewellyn Worldwide in 2012.
The Steampunk Tarot is a wonderful deck for anyone fascinated by the Steampunk aesthetic or iconography. It’s firmly founded on classic Rider-Waite imagery, and while you won’t find a whole lot that’s groundbreaking about this deck because of this, the lush illustrations will absolutely be comfort food if you’re into Steampunk literature and graphic novels. You can see this quite evidently in the major arcana, such as on the card for the High Priestess, which is replete with gears, a top hat adorned with goggles, a somewhat edgy stylized version of Victorian clothing, and various other elements of familiar Steampunk imagery.
As we move into the suits, we never stray too far from the expected, but the artwork is done with such elegance, it’s okay. The suit of wands encompasses stories of resolve, of will, of bold or audacious action or intent. Some of the wands cards in this deck actually give me strong Mistborn (a book by Brandon Sanderson) vibes, such as the two.
This deck’s cups, the suit of water and emotion, are particularly adept at conveying whole narratives in a facial expression.
The suit of swords has a lot to say about our (or the characters’) thoughts. One card that has always represented this best to me is the ten, whose image depicts a dead man with ten swords sticking up out of his back. As the adage goes, never beat a dead horse; well, stabbing a dead man is much the same thing, isn’t it? This card reminds me of someone who needs to let go of obsessive or intrusive thoughts that aren’t serving any useful purpose.
Finally, the pentacles, the suit of physical experiences and the material world. I’ve chosen the ace here because the aces in the tarot represent the pure form of the element or suit, and the imagery on this card is another iconic sample of the Steampunk aesthetic, with brass and gears and a cybernetic arm holding the coin up to glow from within, juxtaposed almost ironically against a polluted sky above a pastoral setting.
The Steampunk tarot is great for fans of the genre, full of decadent artwork and a wealth of storytelling possibilities.
I am all in when it comes to autumn and think the holiday season begins pretty much as soon as Labor Day is over. I love decorating my house for the holidays, starting with Hallowe’en. I even decorate for Thanksgiving and celebrate that aesthetic for several weeks before launching myself headlong into Christmas. I put my house back to Ordinary Time sometime in January — and depending how things are going, sometimes it’s late January. It’s all good. The more festive the better, am I right?
So it’s October again, and if you’ve been reading this blog for a minute, you know that means it’s time for Witchy Weekends! This year I thought I’d do something a little different, so each week my intention is to feature a different beautiful tarot deck. I have collected these my entire adult life, and while yes, of course, I have the classic Rider-Waite and its popular derivatives, the decks I most love are the ones with more unusual imagery, the ones that interpret the stories of the Major and Minor Arcana in unexpected, or at least thoughtful, ways. I’m fascinated by the way the cards have traditionally embraced the plot structure archetype of the Hero’s Journey. Maybe one day I’ll learn how to read them all, but even if I never do, I can admire the gorgeous artwork.
The first deck I’m featuring is the Nicoletta Ceccoli Tarot, published by Lo Scarabeo in Italy, copyright 2014. The collection was edited by Pietro Alligo.
The artwork on this deck is reminiscent of Mark Ryder’s work, I think, in the way it blends the Gothic with a sort of candy-coated palette. It fetishizes youthfulness but not in a particularly indecent way: I don’t find a significant theme of sensuality in these cards. Rather, there’s a strong undercurrent of precociousness in this artwork and an acknowledgement that the innocence of youth is a cliché. You also will not find a wealth of diversity here.
Many of the cards allude to fairy tales or other children’s stories. Wonderland’s Alice shows up more than once, and this example from the Major Arcana references Snow White.
Now for the Minor Arcana. The first suit, cups, typically deals with emotions and corresponds to the element of water. Many of the cards in this deck reflect nautical imagery or creatures or interpersonal connections.
The next suit — called discs in this deck but sometimes called coins or pentacles — concerns itself primarily with material issues and the element of earth. Like many reflections on consumerism or materialism, you’ll find depictions of power imbalances here.
The wands suit is primarily about actions and the element of air. In this deck the wands appear to be clubs; in some decks they’re called staffs or staves. Many of these cards, in this deck, include animals, suggest movement or travel, and portray interpersonal dynamics.
The final suit, swords, concerns itself with conflicts and the element of fire. In this deck, the artwork for this suit includes many images of implied or explicit peril.
The artwork of the Nicoletta Ceccoli Tarot is just lovely, if you’re interested in a pale and waifish aesthetic with a dose of world-weariness thrown in.
Are there any tarot decks whose artwork you particularly enjoy? Tell us about them in the comments section. And Happy October!