Friday, June 27, 2014

Deck Review: The Aquarian Tarot

The Aquarian Tarot

I’ll say right at the outset that this deck is an acquired taste. The deck was illustrated by David Palladini, who has drawn for the illustrated version of Steven King’s Eyes of the Dragon. He has also recently (several years ago) released his New Palladini Tarot, which I also own. 

So the artwork is not what many of us will be used to, given the difference in artistic styles between 1970 and today. That alone may well turn many of you off from it, but since anything “retro” could become popular at any given moment you never know.

The color palette that Palladini uses is heavy on subdued fall colors: oranges, browns, and red-orange hues. There are very few colors that really catch the eye; the one that hits me the most is yellow, which is not used that much but is bright when it does appear. For this reason I found it difficult to tell many of the cards apart. Palladini tries to help by giving each one of the Major Arcana cards a different font for the name of the card and sometimes a different location. Each card of the Minor Arcana has the card’s name clearly indicated at the bottom of each one in the same font for all four suits.

The images themselves are “inspired” by the Rider-Waite, but Palladini clearly takes some liberties with them. For example, this is the first deck in which I have ever seen the Strength card feature a man as the central figure. Also, the lack of a struggle of some kind is interesting. In the Aquarian, the card features a man with a dog that looks like a greyhound, but the dog appears to be the man’s companion and not an adversary. Another example is The Star, which features no person (a woman is usually present), but has a large peacock in the middle of the image. It appears that
Palladini exercised artistic license more with the Major Arcana than the Minor, as the four suits are very close in most cases to those of their Rider-Waite cousins.

What surprised me a lot more than I expected was the backs of the cards, whose loud blue and white pattern is a tremendous contrast to the cards themselves. I found myself staring at the card backs for some time; they’re cool!

My favorite card in this deck is the Five of Pentacles. The reason I like it so much is because while the Five of Pentacles is a card of “when bad things happen to good people” (bankruptcy, illness, rejection, daytime television, etc.), Palladini’s rendering enhances the spiritual aspects of life by putting the church window in the sky without a physical church building around it. It gives the interpretation that I like to stress when people draw this card: That the spiritual aspect of your life will see you through when things get rough.  Of course, it also means that your personal spirituality is not tied to a physical place; it should always feel like it is an integral part of you. Many times we look outside ourselves for spiritual answers that we already have.

This is not a deck for beginners, as much of the Rider-Waite imagery is lost or distorted. I would recommend it for advanced Tarot readers who feel comfortable enough reading without a book, and who enjoy a 1970s-styled deck.

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