What Makes a Tarot Deck?

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.

Shadowscapes Tarot: First Glance

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.

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Decks! Decks!

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.

Updated Deck Wishlist

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.

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Day of Rest: 4 of Swords + the Hanged Man

It’s a funny thing, but the cards seem to be agreeing with each other over what I should do with myself each day, and it seems like they have some good ideas. I’m writing this post from a place of hindsight — yesterday was the Day of Rest, and it’s come and gone. I went out for errands at noon and did a lot of walking and shopping in the heat. Return to my apartment, and only an hour or so later, I develop a headache. Headaches are tricky things for me, and have to be carefully controlled and treated lest they suddenly expand into a migraine, so I was forced to rest even more for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

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