I have to admit that I was somewhat reluctant when asked by Lynyrd Narciso to review his Tarot deck, Vanessa Tarot. I had noticed it in the U.S. Games catalog and already written it off as yet other fluff deck. Certainly it was cute and kitschy, but not the kind of deck I would think would be worth studying or using for actual readings. Yes, I am most definitely a Tarot snob. But, at the same time, I am never one to turn down a free Tarot deck.
When the Vanessa Tarot arrived in the mail, the first thing I noticed was that I really liked its tin box. What a good idea it is to package a Tarot deck in a box that can actually be used to carry your cards in your purse! And that is when I started to understand Vanessa Tarot's real deal. Yes, this is exactly the deck to carry in your purse. And, if you are like the characters of this Tarot, your purse may be a Coach, a Louis Vuitton , or a khaki backpack or leather briefcase.
I am in no way a designer girl. In fact, what I am is a crusty old Gloria Steinem-type feminist from the Seventies. But, as I looked through Vanessa Tarot that first time, I had to admit that this is really a special deck.
Vanessa Tarot is smaller than most, measuring only about 2" by 3," according to my thumb. The card backs are reversible, and done in a nice purple pinstripe with lavender stars. The cardstock has a matte finish, and is of the good quality that we have come to expect from U.S. Games. Overall, it is a nice deck to look at and to hold in your hands. For all of its great quality and special packaging, Vanessa Tarot retails at only $15. That, girls, will leave you some money left over to spend at the mall!
Vanessa Tarot comes with a standard-sized LWB (Little White Book) that gives quick descriptions of the Major Arcana card images, and upright and reversed meanings for all the cards. The Minor Arcana is sorted by numbers rather than suits, and there is a paragraph about each number preceding the interpretations for the four cards of each number set. There seems to be no mention of the four elements, but from the pictures I assume the standard associations of Swords-Air and Wands-Fire could apply. The card names are standard, with a court of Pages, Knights, Queens and Kings. Strength is card Eight and Justice is Eleven.
Each Vanessa Tarot card is illustrated with cartoon-like drawings of women and girls. There are some male figures in the deck, but they are supporting characters. Vanessa Tarot pays tribute to the girls and women of pop culture from today and yesteryear. Television and movie stars make an appearance, as do many "types" of modern women. There are business women, glamour girls and daredevils. They are all either pretty or cute, and all skinny. They are dressed in styles from many periods of fashion.
The Minor Arcana cards are as detailed as the Majors, which is a feature I appreciate.
The deck truly won my heart when I saw that my favorite TV character from childhood, Samantha Stevens (Bewitched, played by Elizabeth Montgomery) appears in her classic pose, sitting on her broomstick, as the Eight of Wands.
The thing that truly bothers me is that the LWB doesn't tell us which cards are which characters. I am pretty much a pop-culture drop-out, and haven't watched TV in more than ten years. When I showed the deck to my twenty-two year old daughter, she recognized many more of the characters than I did.
She felt that the Three of Cups may be the cast from "Charmed," for instance. But nowhere in the booklet could I confirm that, or discover which other pop culture heroines had found their way into this cute-but-powerful little deck.
I passed the deck around to many of my students. Overall, the reaction was positive. Many felt that this would be a particularly good "first deck" for our daughters. Even some of the more mature students liked it, especially those with an eye for glamour and fashion. One older student, whose favorite expression is "It's all about the outfit!" was particularly taken with it.
Another great thing about Vanessa Tarot is that none of the images are particularly dark or scary. This would be a great deck for some of the professional bookings that I often get, in nightclubs, at college parties and all-night high school graduation parties.
And what about my crusty feminist self? Well, bear in mind that the second deck I ever owned was the Motherpeace, and I have a particular penchant for Goddess Tarot decks, such as the beautiful one by Kris Waldherr. But Vanessa Tarot, with all of its cuteness and glamour and designer-type fashion, is the only one I have seen that had the ovaries to make all four Kings female! Yes, all of the main characters are female. And they all seem pretty happy doing what they're doing, whether it's being dressed to the nines, keeping house or jumping out or an airplane. And if that's not female empowerment, I don't know what is!