Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Visual Beauty of the Tarot

Above: Vintage French "fortune telling" cards, more information here.

Nowadays, most people will go to a therapist to help them resolve their inner problems, but my grandmother LaViolette went to a woman she referred to as “The Witch” to resolve the issues in her life (much like Peter Sellers). My grandmother was very intuitive herself, but she still liked having a “second opinion” on things in her life, and for over 40 years received consultations from Dorothy, "The Witch" (no, not from the Wizard of Oz). This wasn’t one of those situations where a fake gypsy fortune teller schemes to embezzle money from someone by putting a “curse” on them, instead it was a "reading" (or consultation) utilizing psychic intuition, astrology and Tarot. I'm not sure how they became acquainted, but my grandmother and Dorothy had a great camaraderie—and it didn't hurt that they were both Aries women. “The Witch” had short, spiky, dyed red hair and piercing light blue eyes—she looked punk, before punk happened. Mr. Peacock had his first reading from “The Witch” when he was around 15 years old. I was a bit nervous before I met her, but she liked me and we hit it off. She encouraged me to learn astrology and Tarot and gave me a list of books to read. My grandmother volunteered to buy me my first set of Tarot cards, and took me to her favorite metaphysical bookstore to let me pick out the deck I liked. Each deck has its own unique beauty and personality. I immediately became fascinated by the artwork and symbolism of the cards. My grandmother and mother would let me do “practice” readings for them and later I would give readings to close friends. I haven’t given a Tarot card reading to anyone else for years, however, I still find it can be a meditative activity to do privately by yourself. The Tarot cards can give you insight into your own subconscious. I’ve always wanted to design my own deck, but couldn’t commit to such a huge undertaking. Here's a few of my favorite Tarot decks.

These well worn cards are from my very first deck (see above), The Aquarian Tarot, which is a great beginner deck. It’s an art deco inspired Tarot deck designed in 1970 by graphic artist, David Palladini. When I was a kid, I loved the dreamy water colored skies and muted, almost melancholic, color palette. You can buy a deck here.

Mr. Peacock has had this quirky hand drawn deck, called Morgan's Tarot, for years. I nicknamed it, "The Hippie Deck," because the simple line drawings have many hippie references, and a 1960's vibe. Morgan's Tarot deck is fun to read, however, the archetypes of these cards don’t correspond exactly with a traditional Tarot deck. I have never been able to find out any information on the 2 gentlemen credited with creating and illustrating this 1970 deck—Morgan Robbins and Darshan Chorpash Zenith. This deck is out of print, but there's sometimes a deck or two available here.

The Brotherhood is another modern deck I own (see above). This limited edition deck (2500) was designed in 2004 by the artist and photographer, Patric Stillman, and uses manipulated photographic images to illustrate each card. It’s a masculine, non-traditional deck that incorporates Gay history and Radical Faerie imagery. It’s unique because it’s specifically geared towards gay men and approaches gender differently than any traditional Tarot deck. You can buy a deck here.

A modern and very unique deck (see above), called The Curious Tarot, is at the top of Mr. Peacock's wish list. The Curious Tarot was designed in 2001 by Michelle Cohen, an artist who resides in Los Angeles. Each beautiful card is a surreal collage based on American consumer imagery and archetypes of the atomic age. This limited edition deck comes in a beautiful box and is hand signed and numbered. You can inquire about purchasing a deck here.

Mr. Peacock loves the work of illustrator, Emmanuel Polanco. He's illustrated a wonderful series of collaged pieces, called the Tarot of Marseille. You can also see his work in the book, Lemon Poppy Seed—a compilation of work by young, international artists from 2008.

If you’re curious about acquiring your own Tarot deck—the most important thing is finding a deck you are visually drawn to. There are hundreds of different Tarot decks and instruction books on Tarot, or maybe you have a friend who could act as your instructor. Miss Tula, over at the wonderful blog, Whorange, featured a very sweet deck called the Housewife Tarot, click here. Even if Tarot cards aren't your cup of tea, you can still admire the cards for their artistic beauty.


Reavis Eitel said...

The Alistair Crowley deck is a trip to look at. Apparently the woman he hired to paint the images was inundated with visions and hauntings during making them and went mad and killed herself.

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Kate Hare McIntosh said...

Morgan Robbins - female. I knew her briefly in the 90's in the Los Angeles South Bay. She gave me a deck. I wish I could remember everything she told me. I thought she made the drawings.

Kate Hare McIntosh said...

Oops. I always confuse Morgan Robbins with Morgan Maxwell. I was friends with Morgan Regina Maxwell who made the Aquazon Deck. She did draw her own. I have no idea if she's the same person as Morgan Robbins. I've tried to get in touch with D. Zenith to no avail, to ask.