Tarot cards are a great gift. Even if the recipient isn't a true believer in the fortune-telling ability of the 78-card deck, its iconic symbolism is worth studying to learn about the ideas people have historically considered important. At the height of the Spiritualism craze, wealthy families would commission artists to make custom tarot decks, and their modern counterparts are returning to the medium with gusto. A variety of artists have delved into the mythos, both as true believers and as anthropologists, adapting the four suits (Cups, Wands, Swords, and Coins) to their unique styles.
Ayla El-Moussa of 25th Century (above) reproduced the Major Arcana (22 characters such as 'The High Priestess' and 'The Fool' which are absent from a typical playing card deck) as a minimalist fashion shoot. Her work is a photo series inspired by tarot, rather than a usable deck one might be able to obtain and give as a gift this holiday season. Below, we've gathered five unique tarot decks that you can give to loved ones anxious about the future, intrigued by the occult, interested in historical mysticism, or who simply admire beautiful objects.
This tarot deck came to musician King Khan in a dream. He iterated the concept with noted avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, who happens to be well-versed in tarot. "The figures in each card represents a likeness to 19 real African American musicians, two real African American magicians (Marie Laveau La Papesse and Black Herman the Magician) and one comedian, the Fool," King Khan tells The Creators Project. "The Fool in my tarot is not a musician: what he holds above his head is a crack pipe, and the microphone is there to represent a comedian, not a musician. He was modeled after Richard Pryor, who was in many ways the ultimate fool." The two enlisted Belfast-based designer Michael Eaton to put visuals to their ideas.
Ghetto Tarot is a collaboration with Haitian artist corps Atis Rezistans. “For a long time, I have wanted to interpret the tarot deck with my photos,” writes Smeets on the project's Indiegogo page, “but taking ordinary pictures of the scenes seemed too simple. My aim was to create a very personal deck without losing the different spirits of the cards.” She explains, by claiming the term "Ghetto," the Atis Rezistans, “free themselves of its depreciating undertone and turn it into something beautiful."
Every card in Uusi Design's Pagan Otherworld Tarot Deck started as an oil painting by artist Linnea Gits. The deck loosely follows the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot symbolism, and spiritually follows earlier tarots that adapted themselves to local folklore. "We do not believe in fortune telling, but feel the tarot is a powerful meditative and spiritual object for self reflection and understanding," an Uusi representative tells The Creators Project.
The natural world was artist Kim Krans' inspiration for her custom tarot deck, The Great Unknown. It features detailed drawings of the Major and Minor Arcana sets reinterpreted as plants and animals. It comes with a guidebook that will help translate her interpretation of the tradition.
This lighthearted take on the tarot from LA artist Ariel Hart draws inspiration from eternal symbol of childhood whimsy/consumerism Lisa Frank (read an excerpt of a recent interview with Lisa Frank here). It's not as authentically tapped into the tarot heritage as other decks, Hart explains. “An example of criticism I've seen is that the Strength card represents Leo and, as a fire sign, the character shouldn't be in the water. Traditionally the image is a character holding the mouth of a lion, but in the Lisa Frank universe there are surprisingly few lions (one cub that I can think of). So I chose the image with a sea lion.” It's hard to say no to rainbows and puppies, especially at the killer price of $0.00.
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