V, the Hierophant.
One of my stalker cards.
One of my stalker cards.
I am home, in my parents’ house. And while I am here, buried deep in the back of my closet, I have dug out that elusive First But Not Really tarot deck I keep mentioning on this blog. And now I finally, finally know its name.
Say hello to the New Century tarot.
Now, this deck is an interesting creature. When I ordered it, I was expecting a tarot deck and an oracle deck, with a little guidebook. I got the guidebook as expected, but what I got was… not a tarot and oracle deck. It was one huge oracle deck with a strong astrological and elemental bent, and secondary card numbering and naming based off the traditional structure of tarot for 78 of its cards. That is: we have Fire, Air, Water, and Earth 1-10 each, and each with Page, Knight, Queen, and King. We have roman numeral O-XXI, each named also with the traditional corresponding Major Arcana cards. In addition to these cards named after traditional tarot, we have arabic numeral 1-22. 1-22 are much more freeform cards, and are the ones that do not correspond to constellations, but are named after the planets and other cosmological entities.
I am not sure if the intent was to make the deck this way. Given that it is marketed specifically as a tarot and oracle deck, I have to assume that it was designed to be a tarot deck. I would like to be very clear when I say that I do not consider this to be a proper tarot deck, and I therefore offer the following warning: If you just want a tarot deck, then this deck is not for you.
With that out of the way, there is more review under the cut.
You often hear the word ‘traditional’ when it comes to tarot. Traditional meanings. Traditional imagery. Traditional names. Traditional associations. Tradition, tradition, tradition — and maybe that’s part of why the hierophant has been jumping out to me lately.
Now, I’m a big fan of not confining my tarot readings to the traditional meanings. RWS imagery rarely does the job for me. Renamed major cards, minor suites, and court cards? Hell yeah, give me those.
But. And here is the big ‘but’: The tradition of tarot is still important to us in our deviations. The old tarots, our traditional (there it is again!) favorite decks like the Tarot de Marseilles, the Rider-Waite Smith, and the Thoth Tarots are our originals, the pieces of information that we work from to get our new ideas, the foundation of the structure we build. What you do in academics is you learn the ideas and themes of those who came before you, read their papers, and then you expand. You add. You correct things you think are wrong, or were done just a little bit off-center. You give your own additions to the growing tradition of your field. Tarot is like academics. We build our ideas up from the structures and themes we have seen come before us. Some things are carried over, because we think they are useful — some things we change, because we think they may be done better.
Tarot is, ultimately, a compilation of traditions and themes and templates which are replicated and slowly, subtly changed over time. It’s a sort of evolution. The mere fact that you can find common threads in imagery and intended meaning between vastly different decks attests to this fact. A tarot deck will, if it is a ‘proper’ tarot deck, show that continuity while expanding or shifting some aspect of it. Clones, I suppose, also occur — but they will find themselves generally unwelcome in my collection.
The Shadowscapes Tarot is rather atypical in the context of my previous self-bought deck acquisitions. The bordering is a mild silver color, and the color schemes are very light and tend towards the pastel. Overall the deck has a slightly washed out aesthetic, compared to my other two decks, but also feels very delicate and light. Each card image has a lot going on in it, but there are some recurring themes. Almost every card has fairy-like figures melding into and out of the landscape, and the imagery shows lots of repeating hearts and ankhs. The humanoid figures, and even some of the animal figures, often sport colorful tattoos in repeating or similar patterns. This was especially noticeable in the wands suite — they all, but humanoid and non-humanoid, seemed to have the same tattoo pattern on the shoulder.
One of the main reactions I had to this deck, when I sat down to write the first glance, was how much was happening in each card. At a single glance it is easier, but one I look any closer I quickly become overwhelmed. Therefore, I will not be exhaustively describing each card, but will just be commenting on what caught my eye about it.
Whoa! My Shadowscapes deck, which I wasn’t expecting to get until midway through my France trip, has arrived on the same day as my Cosmos deck! Glee! Joy! Revelry!
Both decks are box sets, too — the first boxed tarot decks I’ve ever bought. Both Azathoth and XIII came in their own deck boxes, and XIII had an LWB, but that was all.
Deck reviews will be in the next couple of posts! I’ve opened both the boxes and I am ridiculously excited to get to examine these decks.
I’m a nerd and I get myself into situations of deck lust far too often for my health (and the health of my wallet). There are just so many possible deck options out there, and as I delve deeper into the various tarot blogs and online communities, I find more and more that I might want to take a closer look at. A word of advice to any who think that they’re ‘picky’ about their decks: Don’t only browse on Aeclectic Tarot! You’ll miss out on a vast number of wonderful, interesting self-published and indie decks that are more than worth a second glance. I certainly did at first.
For purposes of recordkeeping, I’m going to be including a short little list of decks I also own.