Pick a Card, Any Card
March 27, 2005 8:39 AM   Subscribe

International signage. Gaian philosophy. Psychedelic illumination. Bohemian Cats. Crones. Radical Fairies. Though the venerable Rider-Waite (available in several versions), Crowley's Thoth, and the enduring Tarot de Marseilles continue to dominate most people's idea of Tarot, independent decks featuring a variety of themes breathe new life into the historical Tarot. No longer merely a fortune-teller's prop, Tarot is gaining popularity as a tool for do-it-yourself therapy. Even skeptics, who once speculated the decks were "used ... mainly in fortune telling" by emotionally crippled adults, are reluctantly (and subtly) revising their commentary on the cards.) Massive review sites post sample card images and extensive reviews. Associations and mailing lists provide community, and authors give away detailed "how to" courseware online. With thousands of decks on the market -- incorporating everything from the Life of Lord Buddha to subtle jabs at America's Favorite Fool -- your deck (even your virtual deck) is out there.
posted by MadeByMark (26 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Wow! Fantastic post. I haven't checked out all of the links yet, but I can't wait to. The variety of tarot decks is always something that cracks me up... I've seen baseball tarot, housewive's tarot, gay tarot, and I've heard of a Klingon tarot.

Thanks for the great post, it'll keep me busy today!
posted by arcticwoman at 8:54 AM on March 27, 2005

Holy smokes, you know a lot about Tarot! You ought to write a book. Oh, hang on...

Seriously, though, I love when someone who knows a subject inside and out posts a bucketful of cool links like this. Thanks!
posted by melissa may at 9:21 AM on March 27, 2005

Yeah...kudos for not being tempted to self link. Very interesting collection.
posted by peacay at 9:24 AM on March 27, 2005

haven't had the time to check out the links, and the interest is purely from an "ooh, that's interesting" standpoint rather than from a New Age Spirituality view, but I have to say, this post epitomizes the ideal multilayered FPP that threads the reader through cyberspace. Well done! I will be back to check these out--you've made me want to know more. Thanks for the post.
posted by beelzbubba at 9:50 AM on March 27, 2005

There was a time when I was really into Tarot..

I named my buisiness after The Tower (ATUXVI) ( The destruction of your ideals and the rebuilding of new ones)

I also have a tattoo of The Star (To attempt to reach that which is unattainable)

Good Links!!
posted by Balisong at 9:41 PM on March 27, 2005

Dinna miss my ole buddy Dan's most excellent old-skool adaptation of Morgan's Tarot.
posted by mwhybark at 9:46 PM on March 27, 2005

This is a fantastic post. I'm not a huge tarot fan myself, but it's always interesting to see the wealth of information and alternatives out there on topics such as this.
Also nice to see a lot of comments in here which don't involve slagging people who are interested in this sort of thing.
posted by nightchrome at 9:55 PM on March 27, 2005

Hello, Mark!
posted by postmodernmillie at 10:17 PM on March 27, 2005

excellent post.

my fav deck.
posted by moonbird at 10:18 PM on March 27, 2005

I'm fascinated by the tarot as an encyclopedia of knowledge (never for "fortune-telling"), but I don't understand the appeal of bazillions of ridiculous decks. Rider-Waite is all I need, thank you much.

Rachel Pollack's Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom is the very best book on the tarot I've come across.
posted by muckster at 10:56 PM on March 27, 2005

This rule against self-linking sounds like the Woody Allen rule about red wine: Thou shall not have thy red vine with the fish...
posted by growabrain at 11:52 PM on March 27, 2005

Here's a sad little memorial for Pamela Colman Smith, who was the illustrator for the Rider-Waite pack (from this "women of the tarot" page). A few other illustrations by Pamela on this page, and you can click the image at the top-right to see her portrait. She was also called "Pixie", and we can easily see why from this old photo. (Plus much more on her here.)
posted by taz at 12:24 AM on March 28, 2005

btw, I really like the whimsy of the images in these sample cards. Mark, do you know what deck these are from?
posted by taz at 12:44 AM on March 28, 2005

I'm afraid I'm with the sceptics on this. Not only do I not understand why anyone would feel that a deck of cards would give them insight into their personality, or provide them with the ability to read the future, I also find the imagery hugely banal -- with almost every deck reminiscent of a bad seventies heavy metal album cover.

Recalling the seventies, at that time I had some hippie friends who named their son Tarot. It seemed to me to be a singularly cruel thing to do to the poor kid (somewhat akin to the Johhny Cash song, 'A boy called Sue',) and he paid them back in spades -- or perhaps that should be in swords -- for their action by being a demanding little shit right up until he was old enough to join the army -- which was exactly what he did.

I must confess to liking the idea of the 'Hello Kitty' cards though. Let the little japanese cartoon cat help you see deep into your future...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:22 AM on March 28, 2005

PeterMcDermott, yes it does seem silly for a "deck of cards" to give anyone insight. That's a little bit of a simplification, though. That "deck of cards" is actually a collection of symbolism and archetypes - spiritual and psychological. The symbolism in each card reflects the inner nature of humanity. Or something like that. (I'm no expert and don't believe in any fortune-telling powers of the Tarot.)
posted by melt away at 4:36 AM on March 28, 2005

Like any form of meditation, it's a way to look at your problem from a different angle. I myself prefer the Osho Zen Tarot because it does not purport to tell the future; only the present. The tarot is a mirror for the reader; it's going to reflect what's going on in your mind. With an appropriate amount of mindfulness, you may learn something about yourself.
posted by Eideteker at 4:40 AM on March 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

Good post, except for the bit about "skeptics" ... "reluctantly (and subtly) revising their commentary" - implying that skeptics in general have shifted to taking the Tarot more seriously. We're talking one source, the Skeptics' Dictionary, which has removed a paragraph of unsupported speculation about childhood origins of the appeal of Tarot - but its overall stance is unchanged.
posted by raygirvan at 4:51 AM on March 28, 2005

I really like the whimsy in these sample cards...

Hi, Taz. Those cards are from the deck that came with the Amazing Fortune Telling Book: twenty-two trumps or "Majors" based on the Major Arcana of the Tarot. You can see more of them here.

Not only do I not understand why anyone would feel that a deck of cards would give them insight into their personality, or provide them with the ability to read the future, I also find the imagery hugely banal

PeterMcDermot, what MeltAway and Eideteker said ... plus this:

Random images have long been regarded as a way of gaining insight into personality (see Thematic Apperception Test.) The images on Tarot cards are considered by many scholars to represent archetypal, transcultural concepts (Mother/Father, Death, etc.). The magic is not in the cards; it's in your own brain's ability to relate a randomly-drawn universal theme to the problem or question at hand.

Essentially, much of what's done with Tarot is brainstorming: forging associations with randomly drawn images in order to encourage divergent thinking. How do you feel about brainstorming?

I got a kick out of your opinion that all the artwork on Tarot cards is characteristic of '70's album covers (now there's a Tarot deck for ya ... the 70's Album Cover Tarot!). I'd invite you to spend some time at Tarot Passages, and consider whether any of the more than 2000 decks reviewed and sampled there challenge that conclusion.
posted by MadeByMark at 5:56 AM on March 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

Of course, at its origin tarot was for playing games of trumps, not for occult purposes. Some of these games are quite fun. French tarot is one of the most widespread card games in France (I couldn't play it without this handy system for evaluating my hand). The Austrians have a different deck and play Königrufen.

See the decks for sale here under the names "Jeu de tarot" and "Tarock" respectively.
posted by Zurishaddai at 5:59 AM on March 28, 2005

It works..
In that is gives yourself 30 minutes or so to actually sit down and think about your situation. You are the one with specifics. It only gives situations.. Change, Money, Love... It's almost as good as going to a therapist.
posted by Balisong at 8:16 AM on March 28, 2005

I'm afraid I'm with the sceptics on this. Not only do I not understand why anyone would feel that a deck of cards would give them insight into their personality, or provide them with the ability to read the future

Well, I consider myself a skeptic too, but I find the tarot fascinating. Not that it has any value for divining the future (or any other hidden knowledge), but just as a tool for looking at things in a different way--more or less as others have posted here.

Is it silly to think the images might help one to look at things in different ways? I don't think so. At least, no more silly than a fictional novel. A naive skeptic might likewise argue that Les Misérables or The Catcher in the Rye or Hamlet, being works of fiction--descriptions of that which never happened--serve no useful purpose; but even few who call themselves skeptics would agree with him.

with almost every deck reminiscent of a bad seventies heavy metal album cover

Sturgeon's Law applies here.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:47 AM on March 28, 2005

The 80s Tarot.
posted by euphorb at 1:41 PM on March 28, 2005

I use my tarot deck as a contemplation tool, not to predict the future. Although the images on the cards are important, what is more significant (to me) is what the card itself represents. If I drew the Page of Cups, say, for a particular place in my spread, it suggests to me a certain line of contemplation.
posted by Specklet at 2:03 PM on March 28, 2005

For me tarot appears to connect to an unconscious level, with rich archetypal symbols, mythological stories, which allows for creative imagination and sometimes some real meaning coincidences or synchronicities. I take a very Jungian approach to things anyway and the tarot or I Ching work for me in that way.
posted by alteredcarbon at 2:43 PM on March 28, 2005

Also, great post MadeByMark!
posted by alteredcarbon at 2:45 PM on March 28, 2005

Thanks, Mark, for the further link to images from the Amazing Fortune Telling Book, and kudos for a really nice post in your area of expertise that doesn't self-link. My reading indicates that this subject will be a great MeFi contributor!
posted by taz at 3:17 AM on March 29, 2005

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