A guest post shared by Elisabeth.
Tarot is a big pack of lies and misinterpretations.
What you probably think of when you think “a deck of Tarot cards”…is the end of about 400 years of semiotic drift…Deep in the core of the Major Arcana is something central to old Christian views of the world: a parade of the States of Man, in ascending power…The Major Arcana was rather a mess to start with…Then people copied the cards and lost the context…That’s how I see Tarot: A historical trainwreck, pulled by about twenty-two decontextualized images.
That’s a bunch of decontextualized quotes from the intro to the accompanying book to Urnash’s deck, that I originally read online. The artist’s views on Tarot are what made me want to instantly buy the deck. I was dealing with some gender confusion stuff when I stumbled onto it and I felt like I had found some hidden treasure. On top of visibility in the Tarot, I am interested in supporting the work of trans artists period. I have a lot of problems with the gendered, hetero, and cisnormative aspects of the Tarot. It’s definitely time for some revolution. It was a relief to find someone else who felt that way too and had done something about it. I wanted to know more.
The descriptions I’ve read online about this deck don’t do it justice. Some emphasize the gaming and programming references. I know absolutely nothing about these things and I thought I might not understand it. For a long time it ended up sitting in my ‘wish list’. These references are actually very few and an understanding of them is not necessary to the use of the deck.
The packaging is impressive. A gorgeous box opens on its side, a magnet keeps it securely closed. There is a guide to the unique structure of this deck printed on the inside of the box, which, because of the structure of the deck is very helpful. A ribbon allows for easy removal of the book and deck, and is a really nice touch.
The deck and book come in a beautiful box.
The Major Arcana is largely based on the Golden Dawn’s deck but has a mix of the RWS also. Crowley-Harris influenced the Minor and Court cards. The different structuring of this deck is perhaps one of the most striking things about it. I hope anyone who is considering it doesn’t decide against it because of this. As someone who is only familiar with RWS decks, I was not lost at all.
There are extra cards. The box says “78 traditional Arcana and 21 unconventional Arcana to challenge your world”. In the accompanying book Egypt (I imagine with a shrug) says something like, use the extra cards or not, do whatever you want.
The deck begins with ‘History’. There are four Fool cards!!! The fourth one is below, with the extra cards.
Each suit has a 99 card. Do you get the references? So charming, intelligent, and witty!
I love the structure she made for her deck, it works really well. It’s nice to have something totally different. It’s also just really awesome to make that statement: the Tarot is a tool you can and should do whatever you want with, you don’t have to stick to the traditional anything! Basically, it would be faster, and make more sense for you to just see the deck structure as it appears on the box. So, here it is.
Don’t be intimidated by the structure of the deck. It’s really awesome!
Each suit also has a void card. The images are entirely made up of a glossy embossed layer.
The book is 127 pages long, 77 of which is the English version. I was hoping for more of Egypt’s insights into the Tarot. What is there is filled with her enlivening wisdom and insight, but I want more and hope she writes a bigger book someday.
Quality And Size Of The Cards
The quality and size of the cards is the only thing I find disappointing. Eqypt’s artwork is beautiful. The images are so intelligent and thoughtful, they deserve to be printed on larger cards, of high quality card stock. You get a lot for the price of this deck. It isn’t expensive as decks go. It’s definitely worth buying, but I would definitely pay a lot more to have her wonderful artwork on larger, heavier card stock.
The cards are small and thin, measuring 4 1/16 x 2 1/4 inches/10.31 x 5.72 cm. The surface is not very slick, and the cards tend to stick to each other rather annoyingly. Many of the backs of the cards in the deck that I got had white spots where it looked like the printer missed. The fronts of the cards are fine though, and it’s not bad enough to warrant me sending it back. The quality of the printing isn’t the greatest either. You can see dots from the printing, kind of like newspaper photos, but not as bad. With the technology that exists now, it feels kind of frustrating to see artists work being printed like this.
Glossy embossing appears on many cards. The ‘Void’ cards are all embossed, except one. The embossed ‘Void’ cards are horizontal/landscape format, so there’s no upright or reversed meanings. They are entirely black, no colors, just the glossy embossed areas that make up the image.
But, did I mention the artwork is wonderful?! It is deceptively simple. It’s very deep, while also being funny, and erotic, and a lot of other wonderful things all at the same time. The stark, simplicity of the blocks of color and use of negative space are refreshing. This deck definitely contributes a unique perspective and approach to the body of the Tarot, that I think is invaluable. The images are sincere, and extremely intelligently and thoughtfully made. Egypt knows a lot about Tarot! A lot! And it shows.
The characters in the deck are diverse. They’re not all white, nor are they all even human, which is really cool. Most of them are female looking but there’s also a lot of gender queerness. One of the extra cards VIII: ‘She-Is-Legend’ specifically deals with gender queerness, referencing Shrodinger’s cat, which is mind blowingly sexy. (Sigh…)
Another extra card, 8 1/2: Maya, depicts a hemaphrodite wrapped up in private sexy times. These subversive cards were another reason I really, really wanted this deck! Trans and gender queer visibility, or even being dealt with at all in a Tarot deck, hell yes!!!
The extra cards. Check out 8 1/2: Maya (top left) and VIII: She-Is-Legend (top right). The purple building in ‘The Fool’ reminds me of the Tardis (bottom left).
There’s body acceptance, bodies in all shapes and sizes, including pregnant bodies. There’s acceptance of sexuality (in a very natural, unforced, non-heteronormative, self-loving, innocent kind of way) which a lot of us in the trans and queer world are taught we don’t deserve.
Egypt’s interpretations of each card are very refreshing! Her views on the Tarot reverberate throughout the deck, of course, but are by no means heavy handed. There’s a feeling of ‘make of this what you will, it’s in your hands now’ kind of approach even in her imagery. This charmingly witty and intelligent (as usual) footnote on ‘Temperance’ demonstrates my point:
These are just suggestions, and hints as to what may have been on my mind when I drew it. Burn this book and write your own.
This is how she describes the deck on her website:
Slick, dynamic art and deep research combine to create a stunning new Tarot deck for the modern age.
This is not your grandmother’s Tarot deck. It’s cartoony, silly, perverse, and irreverent. It’s got robots, it’s got curse words in the book. It’s got a type-in program in there, too.
And it’s got spot gloss on some of the cards, creating imagery that’s only there when the light is just right.
Warning: This is not a deck that only tells nice futures. It’s fully equipped to give you the finger.
This deck has an awesome energy and attitude. It is so approachable and has so much meaning! Urnash has created something really wonderful! It is my fond hope that someday this deck will be available with larger cards and on a better card stock. I will enjoy working with it and I can’t wait to do The Alternative Tarot Course all over again with this deck so I can really get to know it!
Here are some of my favorite cards. A lot of the subtle texture you see is the glossy embossment.
Is that a polyamorous lesbian relationship? The 7 of Cups reminds me of Amethyst from Steven Universe. Kinky selfies. Dope smoking amidst chaos. Wielding the universe. Oh, and the heroin of the Swords suite, the 6 of Swords, has electrified her sword! How sexy is that?
What is your most important characteristic? 14: Temperance
This deck doesn’t take things too seriously, but rather, is very balanced. Urnash relates this card to Alchemy, the Philosopher’s stone, the perfection of self, Kinky, Tantric sex, the great oneness of the universe, and the moral virtue of compassion.
2. What are your strengths? 6 of Cups
Total fullness of life. “Fuck the system, I’m going to be who I really am”!
Urnash says this card is about pleasure, harmony, well-being. Awakening buried passion, reaching for the heat and love of the sun.
3. What are your limits? VIII – She-Is-Legend
Perhaps it can be a bit ambivalent, while oh so alluring: what is reality anyway (batting eyelashes)? Urnash herself describes her own slight confusion about what exactly this card means. She says in it’s description that everything is fluid (gender specifically). I feel that elusiveness is the nature of the card. It’s kind of vague, and nebulous, and existential.
4. What are you here to teach me? 9 of Wands
How to enjoy life and make the most of what I have. Urnash calls this card ‘gain’ and says it’s about making your resources work for you. It can help me prioritize my values and projects and put effort into what is most important. It’s not always about money. Oh, how I need to prioritize all my irons in all my many fires!
5. How can I best learn from and collaborate with you? 5 of Pentacles
By not being afraid and not confusing others’ problems with my own. This is about boundaries and staying present to myself and the issues I need to work with (ugh! again, painfully relevant). I shouldn’t shy (or run) away from my problems.
6. What is the potential outcome of our working relationship? 7 of Swords
Overcoming internal conflict and the resolution of emotional strife. Be better equipped for the battles I have to fight, but to also learn which battles are for real and which are imagined from a place of fear. This card is called ‘futility’, and Urnash writes about how the battle depicted isn’t really going anywhere because no one’s blows are thought out. Everyone’s just striking randomly. Through working with this deck, I can create better strategies and find the best plan of attack. Sounds good! I can’t wait!