The Vampire Tarot Paperback – 2 Aug 2009
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About the Author
ROBERT M. PLACE is an artist and illustrator whose award winning works have been widely exhibited in museums and galleries and have appeared in numerous books and magazines. He is the illustrator and co-author of "The Alchemical Tarot "and "The Angels Tarot," as well as the author-illustrator of "The Tarot of the Saints "and "The Buddha Tarot." He lives in Saugerties, New York.
Top customer reviews
The book and cards are held in a wonderfully sturdy cardboard box. Should you feel so moved you can knock on it as though it were a door without damaging it, quite unlike the vast majority of modern decks.
The book is a fairly hefty 220 pages long, starting with a 60 page discussion of the history and philosophy of the Tarot. There then follows a 70 page chapter on the vampire in legend and art. The rest of the book describes the deck itself without including pictures of the card under discussion: a sensible move as you have the cards sitting next to you.
The cards themselves are larger than the average deck at 9 by 13.5cm and are heavily laminated. Almost too heavily as they slip and slide over each other, or else stick together which makes shuffling more difficult than it need be, especially given their size. They rest in a plastic holder. Unfortunately, there is no smaller box for the cards themselves, which makes this Tarot a little on the bulky side to carry around.
A further let-down is that the cards are cut square, instead of having rounded corners. Already, after only a couple of weeks, my cards are already showing some damage, despite the care I take in handling them.
Several of the major arcane have new names derived from Stoker's Dracula: The Fool becomes Jonathan the Fool, The Priestess becomes Mina, The Empress becomes The Brides, The Hanged Man The Madman, amongst others. The suits are Holy Water (Cups), Knives (Swords), Garlic Flowers (Pentacles) and Stakes (Wands). The Court cards are illustrated with people associated with Bram Stoker and the Dracula legend, Stoker himself being the King of Garlic Flowers.
The pip cards mix scenes from the novel with vampire legend and "vampirised" versions of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. I always feel that it's important for the suit symbol to be present on the card the appropriate number of times, and that certainly happens in the Vampire Tarot, with more than half the space of some cards being given over to the suit symbols.
Curiously, although the reverse of the cards is symmetrical, suggesting that the deck is intended to be used with reversals, the book is quite clear that reversals should not be used as the theme of the deck is quite dark enough already. The artwork uses little shading as such, almost resembling woodcuts. With some familiarity with Bram Stoker's novel the deck can be read quite intuitively, but it isn't a deck for a beginner.
I would give this set five stars; the box is excellent and the book is thorough, but the set is let down by the quality of the card stock and the square corners of the cards, so, regretfully, I can only give it four stars.
First a word about the box. It is beautiful, a big chunky, solid box in vivid black and red. The lid fits snugly in place, so you have to shake and slide and grumble a bit to get the box to slide apart, then within, a substantial companion book nestles perfectly inside the box, on top of a plastic insert which fits perfectly, the cards snug in a recessed compartment that fits them perfectly. Now, you wouldn't think everything fitting together snugly and perfectly would be such a big deal -- unless you'd bought a few Llewellyn decks. Then you'd know what a treat it is to get something that is so tidy and well constructed. Yes, it's a shame there were cards missing, but still!
The cards themselves are relatively thick and actually quite plasticky, though not as thick and plasticky as, say, the Tarot of Sidhe. Nearly all 78 cards have a black background, and all cards are framed by a white border. I did decide to trim the pointed corners because they made handling the deck painful. I can see why having sharp, fang-like corners is a fun idea for a vampire deck, but it isn't fun when you're trying to shuffle the thing! In typical Place style, the majors are fully illustrated, the pips are sort of 'semi' illustrated -- the pips are at the top of the card, and at the bottom is an illustration. Place does not integrate the pips into a scene, but has them floating above the scene. Finally, the courts are a curiosity, being made up mostly of friends of Bram Stoker, with a few characters thrown in.
The companion book is also typical Place. It starts, as usual, with Place's examination of the history of tarot. Then there is an interesting look at the vampire in legend and art, a short biography of Bram Stoker, and a 24-page plot summary of Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula. This deck is called the 'Vampire Tarot', but it could more suitably have been called the 'Dracula Tarot', because most of the deck makes reference to the novel Dracula and some of the classic Dracula films, such as Nosferatu. The book continues with the usual sections detailing meanings of each of the cards, with, as usual, much more page space devoted to the majors than to the minors, and ends with a couple of sample spreads.
I adore the Fool card, which shows the unsuspecting Jonathan Harker, with his mundane coat and hat and his little brief case, climbing the stairs to the entrance of Dracula's castle, on his way to do some basic paperwork. Little does he know! In the face of warnings from the locals, he carries on. It's a wonderful substitute for the tarot Fool. The 6 of Swords is also fabulous, Dracula making his way over the dark and stormy sea to land in Whitby, where he'll meet his obsession, Mina. Finally, a beautiful Moon card. I like it just because it is fantastically lovely, evocative and also sinister at the same time. Strikes the perfect note for me for a vampire tarot.
I look forward to exploring this deck more this week, but have to admit, I'm alone in the flat right now typing this, and no music or anything in the background, and I'm a little creeped out already. What a wimp!
The deck itself comes in a very sturdy box, which houses a very readable book and a plastic insert which holds the deck of large size cards. For the price that this deck is currently selling at is exceptional value for money. I would personally recommend you remove the insert and put the cards in a wrap, or nice bag and store them in the box with the book.
My only gripe and it's a minor gripe, is that the cards are a bit sticky and they have square corners this makes them hard to shuffle and deal, but they get easier to handle with use.
The artwork itself is breath taking, Based around The novel "Dracula" it gives an overall theam to the cards, rather than just being dark. It makes a nice change to the "Vampires are cool" attitude in current culture. The book itself also gives very good justifications for the card choice and a very good concise history of the Tarot and vampirte mythos.
The cards themselves give quite clear, if sometimes unsettleing readings, recommended either for subconcious type redings or maybe in conjunction with a lighter deck for light/shade type readings.
A must buy for all goth vampire types but highly recommended for any tarot reader/collector
The cards are great stock, very hardy but are not readily reversible but this can be overcome by ardent reversal fans like me with just a little thought and ingenuity
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