I recently got paid more than expected for a performance, and the money was burning a hole in my pocket, so I went into the local metaphysical shop and purchased a new deck, just for funsies.
I did so with a hint of trepidation, because it wasn’t all that long ago that I had resolved to keep my Tarot collection small. Now I have double digits. I know that pales compared to the collections of some, but to me, it feels staggering. I knew it from the start. I’m a compulsive collector. It’s like I can’t help myself, and I don’t like that feeling. It troubles me.
There are worse habits to have, I suppose, and if I didn’t spend that money on some new cards, I’d have spent it on a case of beer anyway. Now, I don’t think there is anything wrong with indulging in vices from time to time, but I’m sure I picked the more productive of the two options by spending my spare clams as I did.
At any rate, I had mixed feelings when I broke the cellophane of my new deck, and I suspect a lot of that had to do with the very fact of just having a new deck.* But enough preamble; if you’re reading this, you probably aren’t as interested in my issues as you are about the deck itself.
First thing’s first: the Aquarian Tarot (AT) by David Palladini is the least original deck I have. It’s not quite a Rider clone, but it’s pretty close. It’s a Tarot very, very firmly rooted in the RWS tradition, at the very least. It was first published in 1970, and was intended as a re-imagining of the classic Tarot for the New Age (that’s the Aquarian Age in astrology speak). Unlike the CHT, which is also designed with a new age ( or aeon) in mind, the main difference here is only superficial. It’s done in a modern, geometric art-deco style as opposed to the traditional linework of P.C. Smith. Any meaning beyond the artwork is more or less the same as Rider decks from the “old” age.
The main artistic differences are found in the Major Arcana. I cannot deny that some drastic liberties were taken on some of these cards, without any intention of changing the divinatory meanings. Many of them I really like; some of them, not so much. Most of the art work in the Minor Arcana cards, on the other hand, is very clearly inspired by their predecessors in the Rider pack.
Not that any of this is a negative thing. In fact, I rather enjoyed being able to use and understand these cards right out of the package. And the art style (and colors) does appeal very much to my sensibilities – overall, that is. The faces of the characters within are done in a way which stands out from the relatively abstracted everything else, and while I really like that in some, in others, it just plain doesn’t look very good. It’s only isolated instances which don’t look good, however, and in general, I really like the contrast. Also, this deck was done in 1970, and it feels it, which I also enjoy. It strikes me as a good deck to burn a doobie and crank some Yes to while reading.
On a card-by-card basis, these pictures are hit-and-miss. Some of them I think are absolutely amazing. The Six of Swords here is probably my favorite version yet. In fact, I really like the entire suit of Swords in this deck. The Wands are beautiful, too (well, they’re called Rods in this deck).
Others I absolutely don’t like. I was bummed first of all to find that Strength was a man with a dog, and a creepy mustachioed man at that. This isn’t my first deck with a male Strength card, but it is the first that I don’t like for that reason. It doesn’t evoke Strength to me at all, and I just don’t like it. It rubs me the wrong way. There are a few creepy mustaches in this deck, actually (must be a 70’s thing), although I can overlook some of them.
And yet still others are just fine, but not spectacular. But the very fact that this deck is varied like this gives it character, I think, and that pleases me, even if some of the cards don’t. And the overall style and colors of the deck are beautiful, I think. It’s not like I got an ugly deck with some pretty cards, but rather a pretty deck with some ugly cards, and that’s ok. After all, I can’t think of a deck I own that has 78 perfect cards.
In the end, I am happy to have added the Aquarian Tarot to my collection. It’s not the crown jewel by any means, but it is a fun utility deck, and sometimes that’s all I need.
*First world problems, I know.