There have been some excellent decks published this year — and several wonderful older decks found in store closings, eBay auctions, and from those who deal in unusual decks…. [the image above is from the Sun and Moon Tarot]
Here are a few of my favorites: (images are borrowed from the Tarot Garden website, various publishers, and other collectible card sites)
Oracle Bleu Deck, by Sylvie Breysse and Didier Doryan 2005 published by France Cartes
This deck is about 5 years old now, but has been a little hard to come by in the US. It is a divination deck that does not follow either the standard 52 card pattern of a poker deck, or the 22/78 card pattern of a tarot. The cards are sequentially numbered.
Shadowfox Tarot, by Richard and Jennifer Shadowfox
This is an odd and fairly minimalist deck of cards. Many of the images refer back to Rider-Waite, but in a very detached way. Figures are maniquin-like, and the symbolism is kept to a minimum.
I Ching: Dead Moon by Luis Royo
This is another deck that was never widely available in the US — or at least hasn’t been so far. It was produced in 2009, but seemed only to surface in South America and a few European outlets. The cards are numbered 1-64, and each card has an I Ching hex and then one of Royo’s Illustrations — some have a relationship to their symbol, and some may– or may not. The artwork is pure Royo, however, and very different from his 2 previous decks.
This deck reminds me of the Vertigo deck, and in some ways, the Lunatic Tarot in that it begs to tell a story. The cards could be an unbound graphic novel — full of fantasy, sex, and mysterious origins. Very nice mood.
The Rabbit Tarot, by Nakisha VanderHoeven
Well, who cold resist a Devil Bunny card? It’s very cute. Really. Cute is the best word. I agree with the folks at Tarot Garden who noticed the similarity to Beatrix Potter art — but it’s not a problem when you look at the deck as a whole. It sticks very closely to the Rider-Waite traditions, in a bunny sort of way. The suits are little flowers and carrots and such. I purchased my deck from the artists sister (in law?) who had taken the original drawings and made little lay-out quilts and pouches for the cards that are also extremely cute.
Silver Era Tarot, by Aunia Kahn, Russell J. Moon
I’m guessing this is “silver era” as in “silver screen era” and “silver nitrate” film stock.
I’m not usually one to go for collaged and photoshop’d decks of cards. I’m much more a fan of actual drawn and painted images. This is one of the exceptions, because these cards still have a “home-made” quality to them. The people are not particularly professional looking models, and the props sometimes have a Society of Creative Anachronists feel, but the ideas are so naïve and — innocent — that it’s hard to not like them. Each black had white card has one color added in to provide a point of interest. This is not always well done, but it is creatively done.
Mostly I include it here because there have been a lot of mass-produced, over-designed, and slick to the point of sickening decks produced this year. This deck is produced by major publisher Schiffer, but they seem to have left their commercial artists out of the editing loop, and so have turned out a less bought-and-paid-for looking deck than so many of the decks coming from Lo Scarabeo, Llewellyn, and US Games. There are a lot of decks selling right now because of the US and global economy — and it must be very tempting to just hire someone straight out of art school and offer them a chair to produce yet another deck really fast (to take advantage of the number of people looking for answers….)
Garbarino Tarot, by Mauro Garbarino
This is one of those decks I’ve been looking for –for a really long time. I saw it years ago at a little French Quarter book shop in New Orleans, and should have bought it then. But I didn’t. So I have a “new” 1983 deck this year. It’s #561 of 831 signed and numbered decks.
It’s like finding a lost puppy to find a deck you’ve been looking for this long.
Louttre-B Tarot, by Marc Antoine Bissiere
This is one of those decks with a lot of stories told about it, and not a lot of verification. Published in 1981, in France — those things are certain. It’s pretty sure that it was published in conjunction with the opening of a museum exhibition concerning either historical playing cards called “Antique Playing Cards: A Collector’s Dream.”, OR, the artwork of the artist’s father.
At any rate, my cards were still sealed in their original cello-wrap, and in a beautiful presentation box — but the box has room for a booklet or guide or some published something — and it isn’t there. After inquiring with 2 other collectors, it seems that no one can find any record that a book to go in the empty slot was ever published.
It’s a mystery. The Tarot Garden write-up on this deck says
There are no people depicted on the cards; rather, the artist features key symbolic objects drawn from the Marseilles Tarot. Several of the major arcana cards are oddly numbered; for example, both the Emperor and the Lovers cards are numbered as VI
The style is highly abstracted, and compelling. This is one of my favorite acquisitions this year. I LOVE this deck.
Thea’s Tarot, by Ruth West
This is another deck from the ’80s (1984) and another black and white deck. If the style of the art looks different from most, there’s a reason. Here’s the TG write-up on this deck:
The original artwork for this fascinating black-and-white tarot was made by cutting silhouettes of the images in paper. The court cards all depict women, and are renamed Child (Page/Princess), Amazon (Knight/Prince), Daughter (Queen) and Mother (King). All of the Major Arcana cards use female characters as well — for example, the Hierophant card is shown as a nun in full habit.
This deck is really interesting because of the choices the artist made when simplifying the images to match the style.
Be sure to check out my 2009 list, and my 2008 list of favorite decks purchased new during those years!