Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Deck Review: Phantasmagoric Theater Tarot

The Phantasmagoric Theater Tarot

I found this deck in a place where I least expected it: In a toy store in New Hope, PA, a number of years ago. But for enthusiasts who are looking for a fun way to access the tarot, this may be your ticket.

In a word, this deck is “otherworldly”. The images on the cards are bright and funny; you may find yourself chuckling as you go through this deck. It definitely has a carnival/side show feel to it, and some of the drawings remind you of things you’ve seen up on the refrigerators of proud parents.  

OK, so let’s be honest…it’s easy to write off this deck. Heaven knows I wanted to, but I was too intrigued to walk away. It is definitely a more modern take on a venerable tool, but if you choose to work with it I think you’ll find yourself letting your intuition tell you more; since the imagery on the cards is decidedly less “serious” than on the traditional RWS, for example, you may find your subconscious taking you to places you never imagined you could go. 

So to say this deck is not typical would not be much of a stretch, based on what I’ve said so far. The major arcana is excellent at bringing out the astrological meanings of the cards, with the astrological symbol of the sign it represents somewhere on the card, like the Pisces symbol on one of the bottles on the Moon. The Emperor has a symbol of Aries on his forehead, but he definitely looks like a woman. 

For the first time in any tarot deck I have seen, the Devil appears as a woman, but she doesn’t look imperious; rather, she looks like she is enjoying her role as Princess of Darkness. The Tower is shown as a broken castle on a chessboard, but the bright red and blue colors make it look more like a buoy than the shocking revelation it portends. The Empress holds a shield and whip and looks a little bit confused as to what her role should be, while the High Priestess’ one eye is a pentacle.

The minor arcana has the traditional suits of Cups, Wands, Swords, and Coins (replacing Pentacles). Once again, the imagery is not traditional, yet the cards do convey meaning just the same. For example, the 10 of Swords shows a woman holding her head like she has a migraine, and a large cup has tipped over spilling an orange liquid on what appears to be a blueprint. The “Woe is me!” idea that often comes to mind for this card is apparent despite the nontraditional representation. The Two of Coins has a child with a barcode imprinted across both its eyes holding a mask, while other masks line the walls. For me, the masks represent the “fun” that is represented by the card, and the number of masks (at least 10) show the “flexibility” meaning rather well.

My favorite card in this deck is the Fool. He wears a tall pointed hat with question marks (a recurring theme in this deck) standing near the top of a mountain of brightly-colored rounded platforms. I know I’m dating myself but it reminds me of the game Q*Bert. [NOTE: If you were born after 1980 or so, or if you are as old or older than I am and video games did not have as formative a role in your childhood as they did my own, do a web search and take a look.] As he steps off into the unknown, The Fool is accompanied by a rat, who makes an appearance on several other cards; typically the rat is not an animal found on many tarot decks, but he seems cute enough.  

After reading tarot for a while, you figure out that no deck is for everyone. But this deck will appeal to Sagittarius folks and others who want to explore the playful side of the Tarot and let their subconscious mind out for recess.  However, it is NOT for beginners and will only appeal to some. For me it is a great, playful change of pace from the Rider-Waite imagery.

No comments:

Post a Comment