So I’m back with another deck review, as you’ve probably realised I have a thing for doing things in threes, and for this week I’m looking at a deck that has a very special place in my heart. In the UK, the Sunday before this will be posted was Father’s Day and the deck I want to introduce today, I bought in memory of my late Dad.
This deck has a wonderful take on the Marseilles style of deck and invokes the old art you’d associate with Sailors. My Dad also had some tattoos based on this type of art, and as such, I felt that it was the perfect deck for today’s review.
- What is the Deck?
Today we’re going to be looking at the Tattoo Tarot: Ink & Intuition deck designed by Diana McMahon Collis and Megamunden. It is published by Laurence King Publishing. I was able to pick this deck up online relatively cheaply.
- What does it look like?
At first glance, the box commands your attention with the inclusion of an eye at the centre of its design. Everything around it seems to draw you into that all-seeing eye, and while the colours are limited in their palette, they are paired with gold foil. The end result is a very striking tableau that makes me think of a stained glass window.
Inside the box is, by contrast, plain red with the booklet on top and the cards nestled inside. The faces of the cards, as you would expect from the name of the deck, feature simple designs with bold black lines and the same muted and limited colour scheme seen on the box. This deck comes with the Ace of Swords facing up, many others actually come with the deck facing down. This choice could be deliberate – based on meaning – or it could simply be purely for aesthetics. There’s no real way to know. The back of the cards have a simple red pattern on a white background; it’s reversible and rather attractive in its simplicity.
I also want to take this moment to advise that, as you would likely expect with the art style used, there is nudity in this deck. As always with pictures showing Tarot cards, these are my own and I have been careful to avoid showing any of the card fronts which contain this.
- How does it feel in the hand (size and materials)?
The card stock feels ever so slightly thinner than most decks I’ve handled, and as such, the deck did come to me with a very shallow curve. This is of no concern to me; it would be easy to flatten this out with the careful use of some heavy objects.
The size of this deck is closer to what you’d expect from a tarot deck; they’re wider and taller than playing cards. Despite the curvature, they still shuffle exceptionally well. In fact, they have one of the smoothest shuffles I’ve ever experienced.
- What stands out about it?
The choice of art style. You do come across a lot of bold and bright decks and others that are rather subdued and dark. What drew me in with this deck was the way it manages to combine both.
Flicking through the cards to get acquainted, I was rather enthralled by the skilful way the artist managed to blend the styles together. It’s bold without the neon-brightness of some more modern decks, yet it also takes the traditional imagery of the tarot and blends it seamlessly with that of 50s style pin-up and traditional tattoo art style usually associated with sailors.
- What do I like about this deck?
It’s bold, but not brash. The art is both new and old, and it embodies what, to me, is an often underappreciated style of art. As mentioned earlier, it shuffles amazingly well. The booklet is laid out in an easy and concise manner, separating the deck into three sections rather than the usual two.
This is, in my opinion, a wonderful idea, as the court cards are so versatile that they can be seen as a bridge between the minor and major arcana. Seeing them treated as their own part of the deck was a refreshing approach and one that I feel would make working with the court cards more accessible.
- What would I change about it?
There is, admittedly, so much that I adore about this deck that it’s a little hard to find things that I feel could be improved upon.
I would prefer a different card stock to protect the deck against warping over time, however, not at the expense of the pleasant shuffle.
The only other thing I’d consider a possible negative, isn’t one for me personally, but the nudity on the artwork may be a turn-off for some. This can be a deal-breaker for some people, so I would propose that maybe there should be a note warning the buyer of that. Although, personally, I think that if you’re a fan of this art style, then I’d be surprised to hear that you were bothered by that. If that is an issue for you, then I would recommend buying a Marseilles deck instead.
- How easy is it to use?
Extremely. The deck is a reimagining of one of the traditional styles; the imagery is fairly straightforward, the card’s names are clearly shown at the bottom of the illustration, and the booklet gives you an introduction to tarot, including an overview of the suits, and the symbolism of the numbers. And as a bonus, it also includes a few spread ideas that were actually new to me.
- Is it beginner-friendly?
Absolutely, the guide takes the approach that you are completely new to Tarot and even tells you briefly about the rich history of the cards. After introducing you to the tarot, you are gently led through a lesson on how to interpret your cards. This then leads into the spreads they provide as examples (which is actually an approach that is the opposite of what you usually see.)
Most guides will introduce you to the cards, give you some tips about reading them and then throw you straight into the individual card meanings. Going through the Major Arcana, and then the Four Minor Arcana suits in turn.
Here, we’re taken through readings to expand on the information provided on how to interpret your cards. The author follows this with some extra information on the basic symbolism of the suits and the meanings of the numbers before looking at the cards. In all honesty, I think it is a much more accessible format for a guide, and I wish it was used more often.
- Would you recommend it and why?
I would recommend this for a beginner purely for the guide alone; the author’s approach is so much more accessible, and it’s a really refreshing change.
If you’re a more experienced reader, as beautiful as the cards are, I can’t help feeling that if you’re not a lover of this art style you may find it hard to gel with.
If you’re like me – a collector – then it’s a striking deck and the box is as much a work of art as the cards themselves. I could see this deck happily sitting alongside others, as a statement or talking point. However, I would say that you should only get this deck if you think you will use it.
- What’s your overall impression?
When I first saw this deck online (I purchased it via Amazon), I was initially put off by the price of it. Not because it’s expensive, but because it was so cheap. I was worried that it was a counterfeit deck. As such, I ignored it, but it kept popping up again and again in my recommendations, and that all-seeing eye on the box just dared me to buy it.
So I did. Do I regret it? Absolutely not, in fact, I wish I’d discovered this deck years ago!
Overall I would say this is a reasonably priced tarot deck, with a unique approach to its guide book. If you like tattoo art, it’s worth the price for that alone. I have always been a fan of things that attempt to blend the old and the new, and at this, the Tattoo tarot simply excels.
I would highly recommend this deck, and not hesitate to suggest it for beginners and intermediaries alike. For more experienced users, then I’d say give it a go, let it surprise you as it has me.