Friday, December 26, 2008

In Tarot, Every Picture Tells a Story, and More

Recently I had the good fortune to acquire a tarot collection which included a number of unusual decks. It is really amazing to see how creative some artists have been in reinterpreting the cards to fit their vision.

You have decks that are aligned with certain mythologies, for example, with themes based on the legends and myths of that are Egyptian, Celtic, Arthurian, Greek, Norse, Voodoo, Native American and others.

There are also some based on various science fiction or fantasy themes, such as Lord of the Rings, Cat People, Vampires, and the Cosmic which features movie stars. There is also one based on the Classical Music Composers.

Back in the 70s, there were a few decks like Morgan's Tarot or New Tarot, that were very whimsical, done in black and white, with more of an editorial cartoon style of illustration and had humorous sayings and designs that might have been considered provocative at the time, such as interracial couples and a pot leaf.

There were also artists in France and Italy who produced tarot decks as a form of art, issuing limited edition, numbered and signed sets. And some that were not limited edition, but just not generally found in the US, which are beautiful and original in their design. One Italian set, that is major arcana only, is composed of all shamanic images, with the most striking being an image of the star as the sparks made from two stones striking each other, and strength depicted as a very pregnant woman. Another major arcana only set is based on classical art, with images from great paintings used as illustrations.

There are also new sets, which I have not seen, based on manga, a style of cartoons and illustrations developed in contemporary Japan.

Some of these I just like to look at, for the same reason I enjoy visiting art museums and galleries. Others are a course of study in addition to being a tarot set. For example, John & Caitlin Matthews' Hallowquest Guide that goes along with their Arthurian Tarot opens into new understandings and insights apart from any tarot reading you might do with it.

These sets of pictures can form a powerful set of tools that you can use with yourself or others. The ones that are most commonly available are the ones that have connected with people on the broadest level. The others that have been in and out of print have a lot to offer and unless you actually acquire one from another collector, you will probably never get to see one.

Of the non-tarot decks, there are some fabulous sets such as the Soul Cards, and there are also some interesting things that have been done with regular decks of playing cards by different designers. I have been delighted to see what beauty can be designed into a tool that we can use every day.

What I find is that even though I have more than one deck, there are a few that I like to look at and study and simply admire for the art and/or storytelling, there is one favorite that I always go to for readings. There is a familiarity which strengthens the readings, in the same way that a favorite baseball glove enhances your playing of that game, a favorite drum seems to invite more melodic playing, the way that a favorite recording soothes the soul, or the way a favorite chair seems to be the best place to read.

Tarot has given birth to a whole new field of art, where pictures are designed to tell stories and fit together as a set. Pocket sized art galleries as well as repositories of wisdom. And there is an artist for every taste.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

interesting blog, I'll have to come back to read more, thanks