Tag Archives: decks

Thomson Leng, where have you been all my life?

The question is rhetorical, of course. The Thomson Leng Tarot has been around since 1935. The art is very 1930’s. And while the RWS is theatrical (some of the scenes are actually taking place on a stage), the Thomson Leng is cinematic.The extra card shown above reminds me of those prologues you see in movies from that era. Here’s one from 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood (starring Errol Flynn and the marvelous Olivia deHavilland, who recently left us at the age of 104):

The Thomson Leng was originally published in 1935 as a promotional giveaway for a womens’ magazine in the UK. You can see the RWS influence – some things are almost identical – but some cards are quite different and there are other influences at play. Compare the arrangement of the Rods suit symbols to the corresponding cards in the Knapp Hall, published 6 years earlier:

I think using this deck could really open up the Knapp Hall. For all of Manly P. Hall’s wisdom and erudition, he wasn’t helpful in this regard at all:

and so I’ve been falling back on TdM/playing card meanings. It will be good to have a better understanding of the suit symbol configurations.

As it turns out, both the Thomson Leng and the Knapp Hall are influenced by Eudes Picard:


(Photo/scan credit to Philippe at http://www.tarotforum.net/showthread.php?p=4352748 )
(And wouldn’t I love to get my hands on a copy of THAT deck!)

The elements are switched around – Swords are water, Cups are air. Additionally, the Fool is numbered 21. So if you’re heavily invested in doing it differently, this might irk you. But I just view it as vacationing at a place where the rules are a little different. “When in Rome…” 😉

There may be some Vera Sibilla influence, as well. I wish I knew who drew the TL, I think they must have been pretty knowledgeable! This was in the 30’s, long before the internet, which makes it all utterly amazing.

All of this geeking out is fun, but it’s important to remember that this is a reading deck, designed for housewives and single working women, most of whom were surely hoping to become housewives. There’s no nudity other than one exposed boob on the World card, lol. And these women had questions about what will happen and cared not one whit for occult correspondences, the historical sources for the ideas behind the deck, or how/if the Fool should be numbered. They just wanted to tell fortunes, and the Thomson Leng delivers beautifully.

The reproduction includes spreads from the original instructions. Here’s one that Mary Greer blogged that looks fun: it has cards you can’t look at or “all the favorable indications will be reversed!” https://marykgreer.com/2009/07/16/the-eastern-cross-spread-thomson-leng-deck/#more-1755

They’re interesting, as spreads go, but when the rubber hits the road I don’t care much about spreads, and I wish they’d included the meanings, which are available free in PDF form where the deck is being sold. just scroll down: https://www.tarotcollectibles.com/store/p148/Thomson-Leng-Tarot.html

Those are the REAL treasure, purely cartomantic, stripped-down fortunetelling meanings with no filler, self-help pop psychology or new age platitudes. No tough esoteric nuts to crack, either. Here’s an excerpt:

When I was researching the deck online, I saw that someone said these were “wonky meanings”. Has Tarot fallen that far? Are practical meanings concerning things that people actually ask about considered “wonky”? Ghaaa.

That’s one thing I would have done differently, I’d have certainly included those meanings with the deck! The other thing is that this deck would be sumptuous in linen. The original was linen – in 1935! And going by photos I’ve seen, it was that old style cambric/linen finish that actually looked like woven cloth, not the tiny raised squares that pass for linen nowadays. But the stock is still excellent and the cards fan and shuffle beautifully. And they do make the PDF available on the website, so I really can’t complain too much. I hope they take these things into consideration for future editions, though. It would be enough to convince me to buy a second copy!

Here are more images. The Majors:

And a few notable Minors:

I suppose we have time for a quick test drive! Let’s do a fun one: Will Trump go to prison?

I like the Torah that the Great Priestess is holding, it suggests a reckoning. And she’s a card of secrets – what new information will come to light? The 5 of Swords is a card of loss…ours? We’ve collectively lost a lot because of him. But it could also be his loss. He’s done so much damage, virtually nobody wants him to get away unscathed. And the final card – hahaha, I love that the way that bound bundle of yellow wheat looks like his hair, and it’s hemmed in on four sides and guarded by a lion. But I’ll check the LWB since this Tarot is so new to me. “Power and plenty, with a fine chance of health and happiness, will be yours.” It’s obviously a harvest card. We will harvest what we have cultivated, and in his case that’s lies, hate, and greed.

The cards don’t promise prison. But there will be consequences. Seized assets and imposed limitations at the very least.

All in all, I love the deck. The 30’s are my favorite decade and I adore things from that era: movies, Art Deco, fashions…well, everything except the appalling racism, grinding poverty and the rise of fascism in Germany. But (with the exception of racism, we still have a lot of work to do to eradicate that) I think that for the most part, people dealt with those things effectively. Of course history repeats and these things are rearing their ugly heads again, but I like having a historical template of what worked. It’s a very relatable time. And the deck seems relatable, too!

You can purchase the Thomson Leng (and download the LWB) at this link: https://www.tarotcollectibles.com/store/p148/Thomson-Leng-Tarot.html

The Impact of Pirated Decks

I’m featuring a little of Ciro Marchetti’s work* in the photo above because there won’t be any more new decks. Ciro has announced publicly that he won’t be doing any more. Shoddy pirated copies of his decks have been turning up for a long time now. It’s everywhere, and he’s tired of the constant effort of fighting it. I think he means it. He’s out. This is what he had to say:

“As I have already indicated, I will probably not design any more decks, and certainly not license the remaining ones I’ve self published. Because I simply can’t deal or compete with the pirates. Who are pretty much just sitting there waiting for whatever my next deck might be so they can get to work and steal it. I’m not even going to discuss anymore the absurd justifications that people have for buying them, for example that it’s the only way they can afford a new deck…and quite frankly I’m becoming increasingly cynical that anyone can be that gullible as to think that a new deck going for about $7 is anything but a rip off. So it is what it is. All I ask now, is please at least don’t add insult to injury by contacting me directly and asking if I can provide the companion book or meanings of the cards, because that “bargain” copy you bought didn’t come with a book…I’m simply not that nice a person…”

I’m sure there will be much more piracy to follow. Virtually everyone who’s been creating popular, well-received decks for awhile has had their work ripped off this way, and it keeps getting worse.

The biggest offenders seem to be the printers in China, Russia, and the Ukraine. This is what Mr. Marchetti has to say on the difference between Russia/Ukraine and Chinese piracy:

“Russia and the Ukraine as a source of piracy was, based on my experience, more one of opportunistic individuals. From what I could tell they were small scale and basically producing their rip offs by scanning a legit deck. Not nice, still theft but the scale wasn’t a great threat. China was also of course dabbling. But I sensed a ramping up of the quantity and sophistication of the operation in China over the last year. It seemed to me that this had gone from individuals such as those in Russia and the Ukraine who I had had some success in shutting down to a more ominous operation. More titles and more savvy. The number of decks being offered on platforms such as Amazon, Etsy, Wish etc, were too many and it was obvious they were connected. Despite the variety of price range and product description, they often used the same product photos. This approach serves a very practical purpose, by scattering their presence via supposedly appearing to be different sellers, they are in fact one and the same, as such they are somewhat invulnerable to any cease and desist letters that might cause one of their many tentacles to be taken down, the others remain actively wriggling away. This to me suggests a more organized infrastructure that knows what its doing, along with access to duplicates of the original files…not simple crude scans. This is far more ominous, and despite my sharing my fears, the publishers seemed to be reluctant to even consider this possibility. They were sure their suppliers were legit. And so they might be, but doesn’t mean that everyone in the art department who has access to those files isn’t a potential source of the duplication…it would be naive to dismiss that possibility. Based on more recent communications with them, I sense the publisher now seem to be acknowledging the seriousness of the threat and are beginning to take more active steps in their attempts to combat it.”

This site is currently offering more than 200 different counterfeited decks and many examples of stolen art on spreadcloths, bags etc.:

A closer look:

If people were free to speak openly about this, the offenders would be known and noted. One deck creator who was badly burned by a printing company in China, and advised by their legal counsel not to send files there, was recently accused of racism simply for quoting that advice.

But it’s not racism – pirating IS a major problem in China. The copyright laws have no teeth over there, and it’s very difficult to sue if shoddy $5 copies of your deck end up on Wish. With few or no consequences for deck pirating, people take advantage. If it were the same here in the US, you’d see people of all races doing the same thing. It has nothing to do with race, it just happens to be taking place in China on a large scale because of issues with the legal system. We have issues with our legal system, too, just different ones. We’re not “better”, we just have different issues.

Warning people not to send files there after being badly burned that way, having files leaked, having to shut down unauthorized sales, and seeing it happen to many others, is not equal to calling on people to “boycott China”, which was another accusation. It would be impossible to “boycott China”, since most of the things people use are made there. Those words were never used. This whole thing is being twisted. People are starting to open their eyes and acknowledge that a lot of what goes on in the world is racist. That’s a good thing. But it’s disingenuous, to put it mildly, to exploit these good intentions in order to gaslight and attempt to destroy a business rival, deflect attention from the real problem, defend one’s own connections with printers, or whatever might be at play behind the scenes.

I’ve gone to the mat with people who disparage the Chinese – and other races – both IRL and online. People who know me know that I do this. But if one is not familiar with every printing office in China, which factories are affiliated with or contracted by them, and the full history of all of these, then it’s a huge risk to send files there due to the difficulty of suing in the event that the files are leaked. NOT because Chinese people live there.

Of course, there’s nothing to stop them from obtaining a deck and scanning it. But those scans would not have the quality and resolution of files from the artist. And when you hire them to print your deck, there’s nothing to stop them from running extra copies without your permission, and selling them. That’s happened, too.

Piracy is rampant, and should not be tolerated. Every printing company that leaks files SHOULD be called out, named and shamed, even if they happen to be in China. All this gaslighting is going to accomplish is to make people hesitant to speak up. It’s toxic.

We have a choice: Call them out, or lose our artists.

*The top photo features the Mini Tarot of Dreams and spreadcloth. This deck and more are available here https://www.ciromarchetti.com/

The Grand Jeu, An Introduction

Don’t look away…
Years ago, when I started blogging here, some of my first posts were on the Grand Jeu. I shared what I knew and tried to figure out the rest. In time I moved on and wrote about other decks, but I’ve continued to use this deck over the years, in spite of the fact that I still have some questions about it that have never been answered to my satisfaction and probably never will be. The deck is accurate – it WORKS, even with the unanswered bits – and it keeps you honest.

I know that when blogging about something, the Standard Operating Procedure is to set yourself up as an expert and pretend to know everything about it. I see a lot of blogs like that, but a quick read-through usually shows that the author knows very little. I’m always happy to find people who know something. A good reader grows, changes, and revises. And I totally get those people who take down their blogs and youtube channels and put them up again in a different form (the ones I admire most do that!) and I would do the same, but I’m lazy and justify that by letting the old stuff stand as a record. It’s here, warts and all.

It’s very difficult to sugarcoat with this one. It’s full of myth: Jason and the Argonauts, Isis and Osiris, the Trojan War…these stories still resonate. People will still read them, watch movies about them. Seriously, virtually any rando you ask has seen bits of THIS:

Myth is full of war, murder, rape, torture, exploitation, and some profoundly dirty dealings. But here we are: people RELATE to that. It still happens, and as much as I’d love to be back in Mayfield with Ward and June telling me about Wally and the Beaver’s latest peccadillos, that world doesn’t exist now – it didn’t even exist then, for a lot of people. A wise lady once said, “Soft dreams are for soft times.” Or, as another wise lady once said:

A lot of card reading advice I see tells people to put a positive spin on the reading to the point of absurdity. And I totally understand not wanting to be the bearer of bad tidings – but our job is to deliver the message the cards give us. Once, when I told a man I was a card reader, he asked, “How can you lie to people like that?” I answered that I don’t lie – I’m paid to tell people what the cards say, and I do that.

We step aside, and we relay the information. That’s basically all that’s required. And even if you feel obligated to “fix” people (and that is not, and should not ever be, the function of a card reader), you owe them your honesty.

The Grand Jeu isn’t ALL carnage. Thee are some very lovely cards in there. But there are also cards that will keep us honest, in no uncertain terms.

“It’s too hard!”

OK. If you say so. Be a Barbie girl in a Barbie world, you do you.
But I just want to mention that a lot of people use the Thoth. Yeah, that’s right: do you think all of them can play around with the paths like this guy? http://www.tarotforum.net/showpost.php?p=4312387&postcount=17 And what of the Hebrew letters and astrological stuff?

I’m not saying that you should be an Angeles Arrien read-off-the-pictures-and-ignore-the-literature type. That woman made some regrettable mistakes. But as long as you understand the large and small illustrations, you can get answers out of this deck. The flowers, playing card insets, constellations, geomantic signs, and letters are different expressions of the same concept – just like the Thoth correspondences are. They are useful and not to be written off as unimportant. But everything in time. 😉 Are you game? Let’s do this!

Next: Part 1, a breakdown of the card images

Where to go?

OK, the picture doesn’t really express exactly what this is about. It’s Robert Johnson at the Crossroads, the place where all that stuff you labored at finally falls into place and you become badass. If you’re not a Lenormand badass by now you won’t be. But there’s a “Where to go?” element to it, too. That fits, so I used the image.

This has been primarily a Petit Lenormand blog. There’s been other stuff, sure, and lots of it, but it’s always come back to Lenormand. And a lot of us want to take a break from writing on that.

I feel that it is now safe to do so, since the 2011-2013 gangbang has come to an end long since and there ARE some of you out there who GET IT. As for the others, let them pound sand. Let them post bad readings on forums, let them sing the praises of the Dreaming Way and Under The Roses. What they do is nothing to do with me, or the Lenormand method, for that matter.

I’ve explained it many times over. I’ve told you to get Andy’s book, or, if that doesn’t do it for you, get Rana’s. I’ve had a Q&A going for years upon years, and it’s still open, but I just want to do something else.

I’m seriously considering going back to the Grand Jeu. It has issues, yes…the racial stuff that one finds in an 1840’s deck is appalling. But it’s complex and violent enough to keep the crowd with the veneer of new age white light away.

I guess that’s what it takes to keep the idiots away: complexity and violence. (A sad commentary, don’t you think?)

Don’t get me wrong, I will always USE Petit Lenormand. It just works too well. If you learn the system, the method, and the card essences, something that’s been explained many times over, nothing beats it.

But I don’t have any more to say about it at the moment.

What do you guys think? Do you want to do this for awhile?

I hate oracle decks (but not the Literary Witches)

It was the face on the box that caught my eye as I was browsing. I thought it was Charlotte Brontë. And there were wolves and hands and trailing vines…I had to find out what this was.

As it turns out, it’s not Charlotte. It’s Emily, the Wuthering Heights sister. The book that spawned multiple film adaptations and that Kate Bush song.

Any one of the Brontës would be a clear indication that this deck is not here to lead you down the primrose path with affirmations and assurances that Your Angels Love You and everything will be All Better. It promises to SAY what’s wrong, and if it delivers good news, well, you can bank on it.
The same could be said of Toni Morrison. Or…

Virginia Woolf. Agatha Christie. Sylvia Plath. Emily Dickenson. Sappho. Anaïs Nin. Flannery O’Connor. Mary Shelley. People I’ve read, people I need to read. The collection is by no means complete, but it’s a pretty damn good sampling of female authors.

There is another set of cards in the deck, “The Witches’ Materials” Little everyday things to drive the plot along, so to speak:

It’s a substantial deck with some size and weight, and it’s linen. The box is sturdy. All in all, above average quality.

by Katy Horan and Taisia Kitaiskaia. And there’s a book. You don’t need the book to read the cards, but it looks like a good book.

Le Tarot Astrologique

Imagine, if you will, a deck published by Grimaud sometime between the late 1800’s and 1917 or so, very roughly coinciding with the Belle Époque. Imagine the strange old art, the fantastic vibe.
Now imagine it’s not yet another Tarot, but an astrology deck. Yes, there are “Majors”: the planets, ascendant, nodes (split into ascendant and descendant) and Part of Fortune. The “Minors” are three cards for each sign – one for each decan.

And it’s an easily readable deck. I’m decidedly not an astrologer (and if I were to deep dive into that particular field, I’d do classical, not modern) but it doesn’t matter. I can approach this as a cartomancer with my smattering of astrological knowledge, and get a clear reading out of it.

The LWB is printed on extra cards, and it’s useful (in spite of such curiousities as “Synthetically, here is the meaning…”, lol.)

It’s an easy deck, but it’s so NOT new age, so NOT “What’s your sign, baby?” (EW.) It predates all that. It’s more elephant-at-the-Moulin-Rouge. A Having Fun In Paris kind of deck.

There are several spreads included in the instructions, but you’re really only limited by your imagination here. There cards can supplement any other system, or stand on their own.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to play around with these some more. 😀

Le Tarot Astrologique is available here https://thecartomancer.bigcartel.com/product/le-tarot-astrologique-c-1927-astrology-tarot

“About astrology and palmistry: they are good because they make people vivid and full of possibilities. They are communism at its best. Everybody has a birthday and almost everybody has a palm.”
—Kurt Vonnegut

Frankie Albano, please call home

(Disclaimer: the title of this post is intended to be tongue-in-cheek, and is not an actual plea. 😉 )

One of the most fascinating mysteries of the Tarot world is “What ever happened to Frankie Albano?” He seems to have dropped off the face of the earth after publishing his tres 60’s recoloring of the RWS.(But he appears to have colored his deck according to B.O.T.A instructions, not as an attempt to create anything “psychedelic”. Note the purple mountains on the Fool: https://www.tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=186698 and the rainbow on Temperance http://waitesmith.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/bota_sm_trumps2-min.jpg )

The first thing one turns to when looking to see if fresh information has surfaced is google. And this page features prominently in the results: https://waitesmith.org/index.php/tarot-productions-resident-genius-frankie-albano/

From it, we can see that there was someone named Frankie Albano making records. The text, however, leaves much to be desired. It states that Frankie Albano and the Deadbeats “released a promo single for Dondee records in 1936, even though the single was originally set down in 1922” But if you’ve ever spent any time with old records, you know that 45 RPM singles with big center holes requiring an adaptor didn’t even exist in the 1930’s. From Wikipedia: “The 7-inch 45 rpm record was released 31 March 1949 by RCA Victor as a smaller, more durable and higher-fidelity replacement for the 78 rpm shellac discs.” Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single_%28music%29#7-inch_format

As we can see here, “1936” would have been the catalog number: http://www.45cat.com/label/dondee I have no idea what the number “1922” is, but it’s certainly not a year, either.

I did find the record on the Tower label on youtube. It’s got a Jan and Dean/Beach Boys flavor, but Albano’s vocals seem to be influenced by Frankie Valli:

A bit of trivia: Besides Frankie Albano and the Deadbeats, there was a Tommy Love and the Deadbeats recording on the Dondee label. https://www.discogs.com/artist/3684242-Tommy-Love-And-The-Deadbeats
They recorded for the Orbit label as well, and you can easily find them on youtube. From listening to the vocals, it’s obvious that Tommy Love is NOT Frankie Albano. But one can speculate that they knew each other, if indeed they’re backed by the same band.

There is also a Frank Albano (born 1939, making him about the same age as our guy) who is the current reputed underboss of the Trafficante crime family in Tampa, Florida. But this is not the Tarot guy, obviously. I DO think the singer is the Albano who did the deck, though. In the early to mid 60’s, he took a shot at fame and fortune with a mashup of beach music and Frankie Valli style vocals. When that didn’t work, he left the music business, and in 1967 he did a mashup of Tarot and Ouija:

Are you starting to see a pattern here? A man who likes to combine things? Beach music and Frankie Valli. Tarot and Ouija. RWS and BOTA. 😉

Then the deck came along in 1968. And not a peep out of him after the deck.

Mysteries like this are perfect for reading cards. So why not ask HIS deck?

“What became of Frankie Albano after he disappeared?”

First, we have Death. And I suspect there’s a literal slant, he’d be very old if he was still around. But I don’t think he ended up like Jimmy Hoffa. The other cards are saying he was around for awhile. Death is also “That’s it, the end”, talking about him walking away from his old life. There’s a finality to it. Next, we have the 10 of Pentacles. It’s a card of monetary success, he made a decent living doing something else, for awhile at least. Pamela Colman Smith’s image is interesting in this reading: Odysseus has returned home, and nobody knows him but his old dogs. There’s a certain anonymity about it. Hiding in plain sight, not being recognized. The Six of Pents is also a card of Success, but we’ve dropped back down to 6 from 10. It also reflects the Death card. So it’s probable that the prosperity of the 10 didn’t last, but I still don’t see him as one of the beggars here. He just did VERY well for awhile, and then something changed and he just did OK. For those who are interested, the Qabalistic correspondences are the axis Tiphareth – Netzach, Malkuth through Earth, and Tiphareth through Earth. Almost like a round trip.;)

All of this makes me wonder if “Frankie Albano” might be a stage name. At the time he was recording, the industry was full of Italian teen heartthrobs like Dion, Fabian, Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, and so many others – including the aforementioned Frankie Valli. A name like “Frankie Albano” would have seemed like a pretty good strategy at the time. Maybe he retained the name during his Tarot phase, and then dropped it, dropped out of sight, and started going by his legal name again. That goes a long way towards explaining why there’s no trace of “Frankie Albano”.

This is pure speculation, but one possibility is that he went back to wherever he came from and went into the family business. I can easily imagine “Frankie” rebelling and running off to California to try to be a rock star, and later, to make a name for himself in Tarot. But when it didn’t pay off as planned, returning and taking up the yoke.

He could have repaired your washing machine, or owned the corner liquor store, or sold you a car, or installed your Aunt’s carpet…

I like to think his later career was something more creative. But he could have been anybody.

No Time Like The First Time (University Books RWS)

OK, Betty’s talking about sex. But I want you to do this for me if you will: think back…to your very… first…DECK.

Mine was a University Books RWS, a lonnnnng time ago. I had it for about 10 years, from about age 13 to 23. It finally got lost in a move.

I loved that deck! (In spite of the crazy pink ankh backs.) I used to practice while my roommates were watching boring television, endlessly riffle shuffling and laying the cards out. One guy, superstitiously, got scared I was putting curses on him. 😆 I probably should have, he was a shitbag! But the Karminator eventually got him. 😉 All hail the Karminator!

A few years after I lost that deck, a friend gifted me another RWS, a “normal” one with plaid backs, but I couldn’t love it. I didn’t know why, and guessed that maybe I’d moved on? The deck was special for sentimental reasons (the gifter was a good friend, the best anyone could hope for – Brandi/Judy if you’re out there, leave me a comment!) but I just couldn’t get into it the way I used to.

The years went on. I got an “Original” RWS, and I liked the green tones in the deck, but not the lines. (The lines were so borked, some of the facial expressions were changed. Case in point: the Empress.) That deck isn’t really original, I’m told it’s from a 1930’s print made when the plates were quite worn.

But – besides the “Original” phase, the font phase, the copyrights on the card faces, etc. – all of which I could overlook – something else was not right. And it took getting another copy of the University Books deck on ebay for me to figure it out. Look at these brilliant turquoise blues!

And the curious details like the extra rock on the island behind the 2 of Swords lady:

    And the half-shadow on Rosalind’s face:

    Compare the colors. The USG High Priestess has dull, greyish blues and near-invisible greens. But the University Books High Priestess – well, see for yourself!

    For me, there is no RWS that can compare with University Books. Not the Centennial, hell, not even a Pam A or B. The only beef I ever had with it was those pink ankh backs (they bugged me back then!), but now I appreciate the sheer kitschiness of them. Of all the RWS repros I’ve seen, none beat this one. ❤

    What was your first deck? 😀

VAMP: the Theda Bara Tarot from Jook Art

Sample of the Majors and the card backs. The sepia tone on some of the card faces is from a lamp, and is not actually present on the cards themselves.

Haven’t we all been intrigued by Theda Bara since we were kids? I remember the first time I stumbled across a photo from Cleopatra – I think it was in Encyclopedia Britannica – the intense, heavily made-up eyes, the snake bra…this was not the wholesome, cute, boring little thing that we were expected to like and try to emulate, no Gidget or That Girl. THIS Cleopatra made Liz Taylor’s look boring! Theda was a different kind of icon, the likes of which my eight year old self had never encountered before.

In real life, she was different: a hardworking girl who never actually drained a man of his resources and vitality, or lured him to his doom. But she had people believing in the persona:

“…her popularity was unstoppable. In 1915 alone, she starred in eleven pictures. Labeled “Hell’s Handmaiden,” she received two hundred letters a day, including over a thousand marriage proposals. Adoring fans named their babies after her. Her movies ran continuously, sometimes playing six times a day.

“Some fans failed to distinguish Bara from her fictionalized roles. One bitter moviegoer wrote, “It is such women as you who break up happy homes.” Bara replied, “I am working for my living, dear friend, and if I were the kind of woman you seem to think I am, I wouldn’t have to.” Another, a criminal defendant, claimed that he killed his mother-in-law after viewing one of Bara’s films.

Bara defended her role: “The vampire that I play is the vengeance of my sex upon its exploiters. You see, I have the face of a vampire, but the heart of a feministe.” But she also worried about the image she perpetuated: “I try to show the world how attractive sin may be, how very beautiful, so that one must be always on the lookout and know evil even in disguise.” Besides, she added, “Whenever I try to be a nice, good little thing, you all stay away from my pictures.”
– Source: https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/bara-theda

And another article, with some outstanding photos: Cinema’s First Sex Symbol was also America’s First Goth

I have only seen her early film, A Fool There Was, and her comeback attempt, The Unchastened Woman. In the former, she’s predatory, rapacious, and unencumbered by ethics. In the latter, she’s a wronged wife and her vamping is justified. Both films could use some TLC and restoration. Almost nothing survives. I’m not sure that there is anyone left in this world who remembers seeing the others. We have little but her first starring role, tiny fragments of film, and the still photos. We don’t get to see her develop as an actress. We don’t have her Cleopatra. We will never get to see her read the cards in Carmen:

But somehow, she is still having an impact. The Vamp type is alive and well, still luring men to their doom in contemporary media. People still emulate her look, or emulate someone while unaware that the person whose look they copied was emulating Theda.

So when it was announced that there would be an entire Tarot with Theda on every card, I had to check it out. Warily, at first, since so many theme Tarots go horribly wrong.

I need not have worried. This description at the website drew me in – I HAD to have this deck.

“For the major arcana, the text is taken from ‘The Symbolism of the Tarot’ by PD Ouspensky published in 1913. This book consists of pen pictures describing a journey through the 22 cards of the majors.

“For the VAMP majors, snippets of this text can be seen intertwined with the image so that only certain words can be seen, and I have found that depending on the question, different words make themselves apparent to me.

“For the minor arcana, the text is taken from the 15th century tarot poetry of Count Matteo Boiardo. He proposed a 78 card tarot deck with the minors being split into suits based on the Four Passions of Fear, Jealousy, Hope and Love. The VAMP tarot deck uses these minors which are well suited to the themes of Theda’s films dealing with such passions and emotions.

“Boiardo wrote a three-line poem for each card, and these are shown in their entirety on each minor card in the deck.”

– from http://jooktarot.com/theda-bara-tarot

I’m normally not a fan of renamed suits, but these are so flawlessly done. I ABSOLUTELY make an exception for this deck! And the text – these are not bland little affirmations and useless new age promises of getting things just by thinking happy thoughts. This is a roadmap for life. Some examples:

The Four of Fear:
“Fear keeps four horses at the service of a chariot
Under a cane, tied to a yoke
It also keeps many in servitude, whom I do not excuse.”

The Three of Love:
“Love, the end and final goal of your earnings
Is a continuous sighing until you die;
And he who laughs one day, cries thereafter for a year.”

The Four of Jealousy:
“Jealousy, when it comes,
it is better not to think that you can fight it,
Because it wins everyone:
But it is good to be able to tolerate it.”

The Four of Hope:
“Hope, when it comes together with reason
Is the sweetest food for the heart that wears it;
If it comes another way, it brings more suffering.”

A sample of the Minors from each suit.

One would expect a theme deck about an actress to be shallow and kind of dumb. That is emphatically NOT the case here. This deck is deep. There are references to mythology – it would be fascinating to read alongside the Grand Jeu AstroMythological Lenormand (it’s one of those rare decks that could definitely hold its own with that one.) Or just by itself.

The calligraphy and photos are exquisite. You get a unique hand crafted box and accordion-style booklet. The card backs are in the style of the early 20th century Art Deco Egyptian Revival that was so popular in Theda’s time.

I can’t find a single thing to criticize about this deck. I can’t put it away. I may have to get a backup copy.

And I am on tenterhooks waiting for their wet plate collodion process deck! http://jooktarot.com/wet-plate-process

Jook Art is a father – daughter collaboration, Steve and Katherine, and they are superbly good. You can get a copy of the Vamp Tarot here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/694810115/vamp-the-theda-bara-tarot-self-published?ref=shop_home_active_1&crt=1

Box, deck, and extras – all the loot.

You can watch or download A Fool There Was here https://archive.org/details/A_Fool_There_Was

Or just watch right here. 😉

And The Unchastened Woman

Get. This. Book.

I’m about to advise you to get this book. , Untold Tarot: The Lost Art of Reading Ancient Tarots But the deck in the image above isn’t an ancient Tarot. It’s a Lasenic Tarot, first published “between the Wars”, and full of Wirthy occult goodness. (From what I gather, Lasenic studied with Wirth.)

For you shoppers (and I hope you are here for something besides that!) the deck can be purchased at Pyroskin, the pouch is from Baba Studios,

Now, an occult deck by a strange and wonderful man is by all means worth study and contemplation. Lasenic certainly has my attention! (Karen Mahony once shared this gem at AT: “certainly many occultists hid everything (Madame de Thebes was killed by the Nazis, Lasenic was questioned about occultism by the gestapo and escaped – in what we now recognise as true Lasenic style – by EATING the charge papers when his interrogator left the room for a minute. The super-efficient Nazis could not cope with this and let him go – wonderful story and apparently true).”

But even the Buddha didn’t sit under the Bo Tree all his life. Sometimes we have to roll up our sleeves, put on our high boots, and wade into the poomp: the dirty dishes, the bills, the crazy lady across the street who hates your kids, the middle management guy who thinks he can grope the help, etc., etc. ad nauseam.

And that is where Untold Tarot comes in. This is the best book for reading TdM-type decks that I have come across. It’s an actual, pragmatic card reading manual. There’s a disturbing tendency in Tarot literature -old as well as new – to talk and talk but not give any useful information. You don’t see that in this book at all. There is no such mumbo jumbo going on here. It’s all useful and clear:

“The Fool shows you what you are not taking seriously, which will be the card he faces.”

There’s history, too, and it’s always interesting and relevant to reading the cards, never dry or tedious.

She separates this from GD/Crowley type reading. This has about as much in common with RWS or Thoth as Kipperkarten does.

If you feel the need to (at least temporarily) jettison elemental dignities, hermetic Qaballah, etc. and just want your Tarot to talk to you like your Lenormand does, this is the book you need.

I also want to add that even though it’s a paperback, the pages are stitched in. Better quality than I see with a lot of hardcovers! This book will stand up to years of constant referencing.

Caitlin has truly outdone herself this time, this is the pip-Tarot book I’ve been waiting for. Color me impressed! 😀