The Gothic Tarot
by Joseph Vargo
Copyright 2003 Monolith Graphics
Rendered in pale greys, electric blues and blood red on black cards, the Gothic Tarot by Joseph Vargo is a visually arresting deck. With its gargoyles, vampires and spectres, it definitely has a specific appeal for the Sisters-of-Mercy-black-eye-makeup set. Vargo gets full points for creating a moody, brooding and gorgeously executed deck.
(Click here to see images from the Gothic Tarot)
It's a conventional deck in the sense that the suits are standard: Wands, Cups, Pentacles and Swords are all easily recognized, and the major Arcana holds no surprises, either.
That being said, this is not a deck for the beginner (or the faint of heart). A reader using the Gothic Tarot better have an excellent understanding of the standard interpretations of the cards, particularly the Minor Arcana, as some of the illustrations seem more decorative than symbolic. The Four of Cups, for example, shows six gargoyles going about their business on an ornate rooftop, but seem completely oblivious to the four chalices nearby. The Cups, for which the card is named, seem too peripheral. Another such example is the Three of Wands, featuring three upright staves bound together with the sinuous body of a mottled red and black snake. Artistically appealing, but not an image that lends itself easily to interpretation. In this respect, the Gothic Tarot hearkens back to the early tradition of simple and un-illustrated pip cards, as with the Visconti-Sforza or Marseilles decks.
As a rule, however, most of the imagery is RWS-based, particularly in the case of the Trumps. It is a largish deck, which allows the reader to see all the lovely detail with which Vargo has infused his illustrations. (The Death card is truly creepy.) The backs show an arcane blood red design that indicates whether the card is upright or not when face down.
I have used this deck and like it, although I keep it for specific clients that I know will appreciate the artwork and mood. I find that it I have to take my time with it, because the imagery and symbolism are so different--a reader is forced to step outside her usual comfort zone when using it. One has to work with this deck, but the results are different from the usual fare, and therefore, can be quite rewarding.
Click here to buy The Gothic Tarot from Tarot Garden.
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