Friday, March 31, 2017

Deck Review: The Steampunk Tarot (Moore and Fell edition)

Barbara Moore (author) and Aly Fell (illustrator), The Steampunk Tarot. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-7387-2638-0.

WorldCat record for the book here.
Photos of the cards and more information via Aeclectic.

Genre: card deck and book set
Subgenre: Tarot, steampunk, divination, spirituality
Format: 78-cards set with softcover book
Source: I bought this one. 

I will start by reviewing the book. The Steampunk Tarot Manual is the 294-pages book that is part of the kit that includes the Steampunk Tarot deck featuring art by Aly Fell. Barbara Moore wrote the manual. For fans of the steampunk aesthetic, this is an excellent deck to add to their collections and even give a bit of a divination touch to their aesthetic, costumes, cosplay, so on. For Tarot readers, this is a solid, reliable deck in the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) style with more than a few twists of its own. The book is a substantial text that provides a good guide to the deck. Though the book is geared to the deck, I found that much of it can be applicable if you use another RWS style deck.

The book is arranged as follows:

  • A brief  introduction that includes some information on  steampunk for those who may be new to it. It also tells how the deck came to be, and how the rest of the book is organized.
  • A chapter on Tarot basics. This is the mandatory section in these deck manuals that gives you the basics on how to read Tarot. It goes over the structure of a Tarot deck, how it can be used, how to do a reading, and various tips and advice. For Tarot beginners, this is a good section to read and use.  As a beginner myself, I found the information interesting and useful, and I know I will be consulting the book often as I use the deck. Advanced readers may likely skip this chapter, or most of the book, but I would say for them this section could be a nice refresher. 
  • A chapter on the Major Arcana. 
  • A chapter on the Minor Arcana. 
  • A chapter on the Court Cards. I am not a huge fan of arranging these cards in the chapter by type (i.e. all the pages, all the knights, etc.). I would have preferred them by suit (all the Wands, all the Swords, so on). It is a minor thing that I can live with, but as a book reader, it was noticeable. 
  • A chapter on spreads. It includes how to do a basic one-card and a three-cards spread. It also features three steampunk themed spreads, including one with moveable parts. The chapter also includes a sample reading using one of the spreads. 
  • A final farewell note. 
The set truly integrates steampunk and Tarot. This is not just overlaying steampunk over Tarot. Between the writing and the gorgeous illustrations, we get a new Tarot experience within steampunk. Much like a tinkerer takes various parts to create a new machine, the author and the illustrator took the parts of Tarot and created a tool for creativity, reflection, divination, or any other use you can imagine.

As in other books of hers, Moore maintains an easy to read and accessible narrative style. I've found certain warmth when I read one of her books.

In terms of card meanings, each  card gets a page or two of text. The text includes a small poem or quote to set the card's theme, a core meaning, and then the text exploring the card's images, symbols, and meaning. The core meanings serve as a quick memory aid to help you interpret the cards. If you have  used RWS Tarot, then most meanings may be familiar. In fact, according to the manual, most of the core meanings come from Moore's book Tarot for Beginners (link to my review of that book). However there are some slight tweaks and even some small changes from traditional meanings to better fit the steampunk theme. Note that some of the card pages include additional reading tips; not all cards have this feature in the book. She often includes these to add information for when you get a particular card along with other specific cards in a reading. According to Moore, the reading tips do this:

"They are helpful hints to help enhance your readings, expand your understanding, see relationships between the cards, or provide more traditional 'fortuntelling' meanings for the cards" (11).

As always, feel free to interpret the cards as your intuition guides you. If you choose to use the book, I think you'll get a lot out of it. As I mentioned, the book is geared to the deck, but it is well written and in a general way that you could apply it to almost any other RWS style deck. Overall, as companion books go, this is a solid and useful book. The book, which is fully illustrated, gets 5 out of 5 stars from me.

The cards measure about 5 and 1/2 inches by 2 and 3/4 inches. They are a bit smaller than the Gilded Tarot deck I usually use daily. The card stock is a bit on the thin side, kind of like your average playing cards. The cards do bend pretty easily, so if you do riffle shuffling, it should be easy to do, but keep in mind the cards will likely get a bit bent if you riffle shuffle them consistently. I tend to use gentler ways of shuffling, so I hope they will last me a good while with some care. In terms of card materials, I'd give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

The best part of the cards, and the big reason to acquire this deck, is Aly Fell's art. The artist truly captures steampunk and Tarot: the Victoriana, the gears and machines, the fashions, characters, so on. This is a deck that is truly a pleasure to look over. The art is definitely excellent, a 5 out of 5 stars on that. The card back features a steampunk gears theme with Tarot suit elements; it is nice, but it is not reversible. That may be an issue for some folks who do reversals. It is not for me since I do not do reversals at this point  in my Tarot journey, and to be honest, I do not think it is a big deal even if I did.

As of this post, I have been using for a couple of months now, and I can read with it fairly  well. As a deck should it offers plenty visually to stimulate intuition and memory. It does fall within RWS, so if you already use that, this will work for you. If you are a steampunk enthusiast who also happens to do Tarot, then this deck is for you. My only issue is the size of the cards, which is a bit small. The cards have great art, and they deserve bigger cards to  appreciate it better. On the other hand, this is a good size for easy shuffling and handling of the cards. I will leave  it to readers to decide.

Overall, this is a good package. Best I know, the cards are not available separately, which I know can be an issue for folks who just want the cards without having to buy yet another starter book or perhaps for those folks who may want a second copy of the deck. However, you do get a very good book in the set. For beginners, this is certainly a  good set to start studying Tarot. The package retails for $28.95,  but  I am sure you can find a deal in the big online retailer everyone loves to hate but uses anyhow; you might even get it cheaper if you buy it used.

In the end, I am glad to have it, and I am happy using it.

So, when I look at the whole deal, I am giving it a 5 out of 5 stars.

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