Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Deck Review: Tarot de los Muertos

Tarot de los Muertos

Many of us wouldn’t even look twice at a Tarot deck called “Tarot of the Dead”. And I’ll admit that I was skeptical about it at first mainly because I was afraid it was too morbid. However, I was intrigued by the whimsical way in which the deck was presented.

It is a standard 78-card Tarot deck whose suits are pens, coffins, pistols, and (movie) reels.  All of the cards have blue or yellow squares with blue or yellow numbers or letters: Roman numerals for the Major Arcana, letters or Arabic numerals for the pip cards (A-10), and letters for the Court Cards. Nearly the entire color scheme of this deck is muted greens, purples, and blues, with plenty of white out of necessity.  The text on the cards is written in both English and Spanish; I couldn’t stop thinking about Mexico’s Day of the Dead as I went through them the first time.

Before you say “no way”, hang in there for a few more minutes. This deck is just starting to get interesting. The Major Arcana have taken their inspiration from that the Rider-Waite images, but the first twist is that all of the figures (except for one) are skeletons. This includes the animals as well. The skeletons are pictured doing things that humans and animals would do. For example, in the Chariot, a skeletal charioteer is being pulled by two large skeletal beasts. Many of the other Rider-Waite images, such as the blue canopy and the crescent moons on the shoulders of the charioteer, remain. Also, this deck has modernized the images while still trying to remain true to the original Rider-Waite.  In this deck, The Fool and his (skeletal) dog are not walking off a cliff, but hitchhiking; a car waits nearby to pick them up. The Emperor sits in an office talking on the telephone in front of a computer.

The pip cards (ace through ten of each suit) were a little bit of a letdown for me because of their simplicity. The Six of Reels, for example, just has six reels on the card with the number 6.  There are no figures of any kind. The aces are a little more interesting, and they are the only pip cards in which you may see the element they are representing. The Ace of Pens, for example, has a pen with fire coming out of it.

The Court Cards are probably the greatest departure from the Rider images. The Page of Coffins, for example, has a skeleton in a coffin twirling a spoon. Those of you who use reversals will be pleased to see that if you turn the card upside down, there is a different image: a skeleton peeking out of a coffin.  Both the pips and the Court Cards can be read upright and reversed; the Major Arcana are not designed to be reversible, however.

My favorite card in this deck is The Magician. This skeletal figure is seated at a red table, keeping the red and white color scheme of the original Rider-Waite Magician’s clothing, writing with a pen while a movie reel plays onto a screen behind him. A pistol in a holster hangs off the front of the table, and a skeleton puppet sits in a small coffin not too far away. All of the elements are represented and the infinity symbol appears over the Magician’s head.

This deck is clearly not for everyone, and I wouldn’t recommend it for people just learning the tarot. But if you feel somewhat comfortable with the tarot and want to embrace your dark and playful side, you’ll want to buy this one. Astrologically speaking, Scorpios will especially gravitate toward this deck because of its theme, but some braver Pisceans might do well to check it out also.

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