Publisher: US Games Systems; 1st edition (June 24, 2008)
Idiosyncratic is the first word that comes to my mind when I looked at this deck. The next was…well, in a word, WIERD. I think that artist Patrick Valenza might take that as a compliment. This is not a deck for everyone. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
In the mini-biography that comes on a card with this deck, Valenza is said to have the hobbies of tiptoeing through graveyards and exploring abandoned buildings. This deck is our way of tiptoeing through Valenza’s creative process–thankfully not a graveyard or abandoned.
As I flipped through this deck, one of the first things that struck me was that one card out of the twenty-two Major Arcana was not named. Card thirteen traditionally is Death. This image was no exception showing a skelton head. But the head sat on a fecund body. The foot of this creature rested on the head of a creature exactly like it only so small that you would be hard pressed not to call it childlike. The small creature reaches up to this towering grotesque mother.
Charming, right? But I couldn’t stop there. In the back ground of this unnamed image of Death was a factory with smoke churning out of its towers. The water in the card was black and thick looking with a ship sinking on the horizon. Was Valenza’s message that we are killing ourselves? I turned to the LWB (little white book) that came with the deck to learn this:
Two corpses, a mother and child, stand on a polluted beach. The child attempts to re-enter the womb of his mother, but is held back. Another will be born soon. With death comes rebirth.
So, did you get chills or was it just me? Suddenly this deck, while still very macabre, took on a whole new layer of meaning for me.
The suits are normal-Cups, Wands, Swords, Pentacles. The cards themselves are long and narrow with white borders. Colors steal the show in these drawings. Card after card appears with blacks and browns and gold predominate in the landscape. Valenza uses bright slashes of crimson and vermillion here and there to draw your eye to certain details.
One thing to note is that there is a lot of stylized nudity in these cards. If that is not your bag, you may want to only study these cards after lights out underneath your covers with a flashlight. I say that because I think this is an important deck to have.
There is a bit of a steampunk feel here and there as Valenza throws in clockwork eyes or mechanical limbs. He moves from beauty to grotesque so swiftly it is hard to keep up at times. The title is worked into every card. There is some moon symbol in each.
One of the more striking cards for me in terms of symbology was the ten of pentacles. Here an elderly man plays chess with a younger boy. They are both dressed in rich aubergine robes. The game is played beneath an arch carved with the ten pentacles. Obviously wealthy, they play on never thinking about the fact that the table they play upon rests on the back of a starving person who holds a chess piece. The figure is androgynous with ribs showing, spine evident. My reaction was that one message of Valenza’s ten of pentacles is to remember how you got to where you are.
But when I read Valenza’s interpretation, he has the servent as having quietly stolen the king piece. Now that brings a whole new frame of reference to this card, doesn’t it.
For the most part, the interpretations are traditional ones with the Three of Wands quietly watching her wands grow. She has a most interesting cloak on that seems to be almost another face or role. The moon breathes light down onto her three wands.
The figures in this deck are humanoid but not. With sharply pointed breasts and divided toes that rest on almost cloven feet, these are a different race than we humans. If you study them, you will see that the Moon is not only overhead, but in the actual physical being you are looking at. The Ace of Swords wears a Santa Lucia crown on a face that is both the new moon and the dark moon. The strange eyes that stare back at you are mesmerizing.
Another deviation from the norm is the cover art on this deck. I’m so used to seeing a Major Arcana on the box that I went throught the Majors three times. Finally I decided that the picture must have been a Major that didn’t make it. Later as I studied the Minor Arcana, I found my cover art on the Six of Wands – the card of victory.
While this is not a deck I think I would read with for others, I can see myself using it for meditation. Valenza’s passion for the bizarre sparks something within me. I’m not sure I can name that. I just know that this is a deck I think we all should have so we can learn from it.
I do know that Valenza is working on another deck–the Deviant Sun, I believe. I look forward to seeing his vision in a Tarot deck again. If you have this deck, I’d love to hear what you think of it. If you don’t, definitely consider giving the Deviant Moon Tarot a try. I think you will be surprised by this visionary tarot.