Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Aquarian Tarot

Much as I'm loath to admit it, I suspect that there is a bit of a hippie inside me. Many of the elements of the counterculture of the 1960s chime with me in a way which, if it doesn't suggest I was there, suggest that I am plugged into the spirit of the age in an extraordinary way. This is very apparent in the tarot decks with which I feel most comfortable. I originally learned to read with the Morgan-Greer tarot, which while it is sometimes called 'Monty Python does the tarot', was actually published in 1980. Many of the Morgan-Greer images show the influence of the Aquarian Tarot, published in 1970.
in fact the Aquarian tarot wasn't the first tarot David Palladini, its designer, worked on. In the 1960s he contributed art to the Marseille-based Linweave Tarot, which was in part a publicity exercise for the Linweave company's papers. If the Linweave was a full deck of 78 cards, wasn't absolutely huge, and was printed on card rather than paper, it would be my perfect deck, since I like its groovy 1960s art the best of all.
Palladini went on to design the RWS-based Aquarian tarot. Like many of the things I am passionate about this deck tends to be a bit Marmite to tarot readers. While the images are based on the RWS each picture appears closer on the card, so that if you are used to getting lots of meanings from the detail in each RWS card this deck probably isn't for you. The only card where I feel the meaning is changed from the RWS deck is the High Priestess, where we get to see what is happening behind the curtain. Similarly, while I love the art, some people really dislike the palette heavily dominated by oranges, pinks, and browns. There is also a lot of relatively blank space in this tarot; I don't mind that personally, but I have read a lot of reviews which don't take to this deck at all for that reason.
If it may seem as if everything in the garden is uncharacteristically lovely, I just have one word of caution about this deck, which is that I would not advise buying the standard current US Games printing of this deck. I used to have one myself and the problem I have with it is that it is very shinily laminated, to the extent that it smells of plastic and feels like plastic. The plastic smell had not left my deck even after several years of use and was the most noticeable thing about the deck. US Games are obviously capable of producing a deck which doesn't have that synthetic feel and smell, and it is unfortunate that this deck is rather spoiled by its production.
There are two ways to get this deck without the smell. The more expensive one is to get a used or vintage one. Copies of this deck claimed as vintage are available on eBay at a premium. I would just say that sometimes they are claimed as first editions, and if they have the current psychedelic back, they are certainly not first editions, since the first couple of editions either had a plain back or an ourobouros. The cheaper way is to do what I did and buy the current Italian-language edition (ISBN 0880796936) which proves that US Games are capable of producing a tarot deck which while smelling new doesn't feel and smell like a bin bag. Apart from the Italian titles it is otherwise exactly the same as the current standard English-language deck.

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