Beware the Three of Stakes!
November 26, 2008 2:40 PM   Subscribe

Artist Robert M. Place reveals images from two works-in-progress: The Vampire Tarot, based on the Bram Stoker's Dracula, and one called The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery. Place already has several gorgeous decks to his name: The Alchemical Tarot. Tarot of the Saints. The Buddha Tarot.

More from Place on the connection between Bram Stoker, Tarot artist Pamela Coleman Smith, and the Golden Dawn:
"My deck is based on the literary vampire, particular Stoker’s Dracula. Stoker’s biographer, Barbara Belford, definitely believes that Stoker was familiar with the Tarot and based many of the characters in Dracula on Tarot trumps. Besides this I feel that one of the main inspirations for his story came from the Grail Legend and as I have pointed out in my books the Grail influenced the Tarot as well. The Tarot trumps contain an allegory about the search for immortality and the purification of the soul and these are the same themes we find in Dracula...

"Pamela Coleman Smith was one of Stoker’s closest friends from the time she was 10 years old, and went to live with the actress Ellen Terry, until Stokers death in 1912 . When she was 10 her mother died and she went to live with Ellen Terry, who was one of the most famous actresses in England. Ellen worked at the Lyceum Theater in London and Stoker was the manager. Pamela began working on sets and acting in bit parts. So, she came to be a good friend of Stoker’s. She actually illustrated his last novel, The Lair of the White Worm. But, it wasn't Pamela who introduced Stoker to the Golden Dawn. He had other friends who were founding members such as Florence Farr and John W. Brodie-Innes."
posted by hermitosis (35 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Whoops -- he also has a Tarot based on Angels.
posted by hermitosis at 2:48 PM on November 26, 2008

Barbie Tarot
posted by Artw at 3:00 PM on November 26, 2008

Yeah, that's been on MeFi a couple of times (and I do admire how much thought seems to have actually been put into it).

There are other Vampire decks out there, but I think Place's style is way less Hot Topicky -- they're more like illustrations I'd actually want to see in an actual dusty Stoker hardcover.
posted by hermitosis at 3:09 PM on November 26, 2008

He slipped a Nosferatu in there.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:22 PM on November 26, 2008

Maybe I have my undead lore mixed up, but isn't Nosferatu supposed to be Dracula?
posted by zoomorphic at 3:30 PM on November 26, 2008

Shh! Do you want to get sued?
posted by Artw at 3:44 PM on November 26, 2008

So, an interesting thing to note for linguaphiles is that the Hanged Man, who is traditionally depicted hung upside down by his foot or ankle, is one of the only places in the English language where "hanged" does not mean "suspend from the neck by rope until dead." While "hung" can also often be used to describe that particular form of execution, "hanged" is almost never used to describe anything else, at least according to the usage experts I've consulted.

The Chicago Manual of Style is particularly forceful in making the case: on page 217 of the 15th edition, they say that "Hanged is used as the past participle of hang only in its transitive form when referring to the killing (just or unjust) of a human being by suspending him or her by the neck... But if death is not intended or likely, or if the person is suspended by a body part other than the neck, hung is correct... In most senses, of course, hung is the past form of hang."

This makes the Hanged Man card a pretty interesting anomaly of language.

Also, I prefer this tarot deck, and hope that egypturnash finds a publisher sometime soon.
posted by Caduceus at 3:56 PM on November 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

I was more than a little skeptical when I clicked on the Vampire Tarot link, but the artwork is nice and the feel is far more Stoker-esque than Anne Rice-y. I used to get a little annoyed at every flavor-of-the-month tarot deck, but I've come to realize that the tarot is such an amazingly syncretic collection of archetypes that even most of the lesser decks still retain some merit, and can give a deeper or more appreciable meaning to the overall system. (Which, to me, has less use for divinatory purposes than it does for developing a language to communicate with the subconscious mind.)

I'm not giving up my Thoth deck anytime soon, but yeah, these are nice.
posted by malocchio at 3:59 PM on November 26, 2008

I still love the Rider-Waite deck. I know it's everyone's first deck, but the illustrations still excite my imagination like no other, opening up whole landscapes in my mind's eye. They're also far more subtle than the overwrought bombasity of the Crowley Thoth deck.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:05 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:06 PM on November 26, 2008

Hmm. I like that traditional, understated style. I was expecting something a bit more overwrought.

Personally, though, for artistry, I like the Golden Deck. Though in looking for that link, I just stumbled on this, and must admit I'm tempted.

And hey, if you're looking for dark, who could say no to this?

Sadly, the really idiosyncratic decks I've liked over the years I didn't get and didn't realize at the time that they come and go, often never to be seen again.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:23 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Heh....bombastic and overwrought is actually a pretty good description of the Thoth deck. :) Actually, I use it mostly in readings for myself; on the rare occasion that I can be persuaded to read for someone else, I prefer to use the Waite deck (or a variant) as it tends to be more straightforward and evocative.
posted by malocchio at 4:29 PM on November 26, 2008

I the the Bosch (not created by the artist) and Dali decks.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 4:40 PM on November 26, 2008

That Thoth deck is pretty cool.

No, I was expecting something more... like this.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:42 PM on November 26, 2008

That Bosch deck is nice!

But for classic, you really can't go wrong with this. I mean, the emperor card... sweet.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:54 PM on November 26, 2008

That Klimt deck is really beautiful; all of the cards have some sort of gilding. And I wish Giger would do a full deck! It's not really fair to tease us with just the trumps...
posted by malocchio at 5:01 PM on November 26, 2008

It doesn't really show in that link, but the Golden Deck is like that, too, malocchio. Really beautiful. Suits the style of that deck, too. (and of course, Klimt, it goes without saying)

Hey, I wonder... ha! It's homemade, but pretty great.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:05 PM on November 26, 2008

I happen to like this set, discussed in depth here.

nudge nudge wink wink say no more
posted by Pastabagel at 5:20 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

And, there's another gilded deck as well. I think that the Golden Tarot is nicer, I'll have to pick one up.

This, I think, is the creepiest deck I've ever worked with. Our late friend Bart would bring it over, and it felt unlike any other, almost alive. Despite my arcane interests, I tend to be more skeptical than superstitious (really!) so it never concerned me, but my wife won't even let me have a copy of it in the house. Freaks her right out.
posted by malocchio at 5:21 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wow, I like that one, mal. Doesn't look creepy to me, or at least creepy in a good way, but many of these do look a lot different in the flesh.

Still waiting for a Cthulhu deck. Oh well.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:29 PM on November 26, 2008

Well, there's always the Necronomicon!
posted by malocchio at 5:39 PM on November 26, 2008

A tarot of nightmares
posted by mrmojoflying at 6:03 PM on November 26, 2008

Not impressed with the Vampire tarot. For example, the classic strength card is a woman clamping a lion's mouth closed. The Vampire strength card does not show any indication of restraint. With vampires, I'd imagine "strength" would best be embodied by a vampire not biting someone, perhaps out of love for them. But by all means, draw a pretty picture and throw some Roman Numerals on it and call it a tarot deck.

A good tarot, one that lends itself to the sorts of interpretations that make tarot reading fun, is the Osho Zen Tarot. For example, the Courage card (like Strength), has a deeper meaning. The seed leaves its hard protective outer casing to become a fragile shoot, yet that shoot has the strength to push through concrete slowly but surely.
posted by Eideteker at 7:04 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

My Tarot Tattoo
posted by nola at 7:33 PM on November 26, 2008

Funny, Eideteker. I was just complaining about the Strength card the other day in a conversation about whether it's possible for any of the cards to become completely obsolete. Most of the other Trumps are seriously grounded, at surface level, in immediately familiar iconography, and I've always felt that the Strength card just seemed sort of stuck in there, not really one thing or the other, and sort of redundant since there are Minor cards that sort of offer the same message.

However, that card has wound up appearing in virtually every reading I've done since then, and I've been forced to examine it from lots of different sides. I feel a little better about it now, but I can still imagine a lot of deck artists not really being able to connect to it. I love the Osho Zen version you linked to; I don't mind the Vampire version (his explanation that she's able to control the animal with her thoughts is interesting to me, though I do wish that connection was more apparent). I think his Sevenfold Mystery one is a little keener.

My interpretation of the card now is that it's sort of like the state of grace and power you feel when you get to coast your bicycle down a long hill. There's something about having paid your dues with all the prior uphill effort, and the delicious feeling of effortless control, of having overcome the natural physical laws that bind you (when actually you've just become perfectly attuned to them -- your control is mostly an illusion). That's a sense-memory that most people can plug right into; I no longer dread having to explain the card or fit it into a larger reading.

I've been reading with the Victoria Regina deck for almost two years now, before that it was the Alchemical deck. I think I'm about ready to start hunting for something new to grow into.
posted by hermitosis at 8:55 PM on November 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

PS @ nola: I really love the tattoo, particularly the location because of how often he probably winds up being inverted depending on your position. Nice to know that the fellow occasionally gets to float in the air, held to earth by practically nothing.
posted by hermitosis at 8:58 PM on November 26, 2008

For what it's worth, I've tended to associate Strength with this image (and, indeed, concept) - though without the knight (the maiden and the dragon representing the soul and the baser parts of our selves respectively). In both cases what appear young woman and a ravening beast turns out to be a cosier and less threatening relationship. Indeed, in the Ucello painting, the knight is not so much saving the maiden as killing her pet. Even the dragon looks offended.
posted by Grangousier at 11:11 PM on November 26, 2008

Thanks for the post, hermitosis. I've had his Alchemical deck for some time and loved it. Didn't know he was working on new projects!
posted by ikahime at 11:46 PM on November 26, 2008

Looks like I know what I'll be getting a certain someone for a Solstice present. Meanwhile, my Vertigo deck collects dust.
posted by adipocere at 4:44 AM on November 27, 2008

Great post, hermitosis! Place's art is really well suited to the tarot, and his The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination is pretty damn interesting too. I've hardly read every book on the subject, but it's probably been the best of the lot.
posted by cupcakeninja at 6:00 AM on November 27, 2008

For those wanting a Lovecraftian deck, I stumbled across the Dark Grimoire deck. Lovecraft, or some close facsimile, appears on the card's reverse side, and there seems to be at least one card featuring an elder god.

Any thoughts on the Vertigo deck? I was thinking of getting one with the re-release since I missed out on its initial printing.
posted by pandaharma at 6:06 AM on November 27, 2008

You folks can keep your new-fangled decks, I'll stick with the Rider-Waite. They do look nice though.
posted by RussHy at 6:42 AM on November 27, 2008

Huh. I had wondered about a Sandman-type deck but hadn't seen or heard of the Vertigo one so was interested to check it out. That being said, I didn't like it as much as I thought I would. Like Sandman covers, they're cool but once you've seen a few... well, you know the style.

I think the upshot of this thread for me is that I absolutely must get that Fairy Ring Oracle deck.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:46 PM on November 27, 2008

hermitosis, I don't think Strength is any more obsolete than the rest of the Majors; they all have this archaic alien-ness to modern eyes. Part of what makes Tarot interesting, IMHO, is the way all of it seems vaguely obsolete, but fraught with meaning.

That said, when I did my deck, it was one of the few Majors that required several sketches and some major conceptual help from my boyfriend; it's harder to make sense of than the easy imagery of the Majors that are "a particular person". (The others were the High Priest/ess, fwiw.) It is more clearly remote and strange to us, and it requires more work to create an image that speaks to a modern mind.

Here's me talking about my version of Strength. It overlaps some of the ideas found in the Minors, but it's really something different; to me, it's about the virtue of having the strength to not leap impulsively, as well as the raw power to kick some serious ass when the time comes that you are out of bubblegum to chew. (And I say 'virtue' because of its context as one of three "Moral Virtues" found in the Majors.)

Place's Dracula deck looks a lot more subtle than I'd expect something like that to be.
posted by egypturnash at 4:12 PM on November 28, 2008

« Older Minims   |   The Art Museum Toilet Museum of Art Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments