Tag Archives: Tarot

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

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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! 😀

Lenormand Has Served Me Well (& two new decks)

Hello all – I’m here to discuss cartomantic simplicity. It may be seeing a minor renaissance.
Caitlin Matthews has a new book , Untold Tarot: The Lost Art of Reading Ancient Tarots, and Toni Puhle’s review of it really drives the point home.

Some of us are “system readers”, meaning we have meanings for each card and rules for when the cards fall in certain positions. This has always been called “traditional” reading, which has spawned many, many internet fights with people who try to say that tradition is frozen in time and outdated (it isn’t). But in any case, “system reader” is a good descriptor and I give props to Toni for it.

Even the Crowley Thoth can be read in that manner. After all, you have to remember the paths, elemental dignities, etc. (Which I am no wiz at, as my memory appears to be stuffed already. But I can see the beauty and incisiveness of the Thoth – as a system reader.

There is much discussion, nit picking, and hair splitting on internet forums, facebook, etc. over details in the Tarot – is the man walking away on the RWS Six of Cups leaving the past behind? Etc. It all seems irrelevant to me. Waite’s PKT gives a nostalgic interpretation. Crowley (who spilled the s00per seKrit Golden Dawn meanings, lol) simply calls it “Pleasure”. Who actually gives a f*** about that guy walking away?

That brings us to – well, everything else.

,

What is happening here? Do we need all manner of esoteric noise?

No. There is a brunette woman (me) who is catching flack from coworkers, but she’s staying on top of it.

Cards are actually very simple. Don’t overthink them. 😉

Petit Oracle des Dames bridge sized edition available here The Cartomancer

Another deck I want to mention is Patrick Valenza’s Oracle of Black Enchantment, the latest installment in the Mildred Payne cycle.

Like all of Valenza’s decks, it reads flawlessly right out of the box – eloquent, is this not?

(Look at that mess. I do need to mind my P’s and Q’s, lol)

The crazy thing is that Valenza has stated that he doesn’t read. But all of his decks have that precision, like they were designed by a constant reader.

The OBE is available here Deviant Moon Inc.

Anyway, my card reading philosophy is rooted in Lenormand and Kipper. (A man is a man, unless context absolutely doesn’t allow. He’s not “qualities you should take on”, or “advice”, he’s a person. Yes, I started with Tarot, but it took Lenormand and Kippers to show me what cartomantic precision actually is! I don’t fault Tarot itself, I fault modern reading styles.) Approach things that way, and the answers are right in front of you. *wink*

Get Yourself Sane

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One can’t be an effective reader while putting on an act.

And by “act”, I don’t mean dressing all boho. I mean being FAKE.

If memory serves, it was the Scots who called prognostication “the tongue that cannot lie” – even if it means being burnt in a spiked tar barrel, as was said to be the fate of the Brahan Seer. Whether this actually happened or not is debatable, but the point is that while there are a lot of liars out there calling themselves “readers”, real readers are not bullshitters. We learn to read cards, you pay us to read cards, we tell you what the cards say.

There are certain psych disorders that interfere with one’s effectiveness as a reader, and a big one I want to talk about here is the Martyr Complex. You’ve all run into them: those pagans who are always screeching about the evil Christians and “never again the burning times!”, those rubber room feminists who accuse every male who answers a simple question of “mansplaining” and paint all men as “the patriarchy”, or worse, “rapists”.

I run into these types often. Here is one who apparently collected over $27,000 from 374 backers and didn’t produce the goods, and is now attention whoring all over facebook and playing the victim. All the while blaming everyone but herself and libeling at least one friend of mine that I know of, which I don’t take kindly to.

This person is not a reader. This person is a fake. Don’t be this person. Study, practice, and above all – Be Real.

That is all.

Counterfeit deck alert

I think the world is aware of this by now, but just in case you are not on facebook or AT or any of that, the Victorian Romantic Tarot by Baba Studios has been counterfeited by Oranum.

This is the REAL Victorian Romantic:
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And this is the fake one. All cheap plastic and loud colors too, a really bad print. Très trashy, is it not?
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They did not get permission to do this. Karen and Alex are NOT amused – that deck took ages to perfect.

Karen wrote this:

“Please help us to fight illegal bootlegging and counterfeiting! Were you offered any of these counterfeit decks?

We have discovered that Oranum has taken our Victorian Romantic cards and bootlegged them with their own brand put on the back. We believe they did this over a year ago.

By the way, although they have been informed of this, and have been asked to remove all images and references to this deck, two days later they are still showing these illegal counterfeit goods on their Facebook page and we think, in many other places.Their social media manager has been in touch with us, but has apparently made no effort to remove these images and references.
facebook.com/Oranum.Global/

This damages us not only financially, but also in terms of brand and reputation, as the cards were not done under any license from us and we would obviously never have authorised this.

Please help by letting us know if you have seen, were given or offered any of these illegal decks (you can of course PM or email us).

We are proceeding with full legal action and all evidence will be helpful to us when this reaches court. Please help small studios fight this theft of our work.”

Oranum has always struck me as somewhat sleazy. I tried working for them a few years ago. You have to hang out in an open chat room doing free mini readings and booting perverts out, waiting for someone to take you to a private video chat for a paid reading (who is hopefully not also a freak that you have to boot). As time goes on and you boot more and more guys who want you to watch them snap their carrots, your traffic goes WAY down.

Kind of makes you think the whole thing is a cover for a jack site, doesn’t it?

Anyway, enough meandering. If you have any of the information Karen is looking for, you can contact her through the Baba Studios facebook page, or use the contact email on the Baba website.

And if you somehow missed the Victorian Romantic and you MUST get a copy, the authentic ones come up on ebay all the time. Or you could just give it some time, Karen is talking about doing another edition in a year or two. In any case, save your ducats for the real thing and not this Oranum garbage.

Needful Things: Tarot Talismans, Hallowstones, & Fin de Siécle

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(A nod to Mr. Stephen King for the title – tis the season!)
Just checking in with a quick mention of Carrie Paris’s Tarot Talismans, Professional Dreamer’s Hallowstones, and Ciro Marchetti’s Fin de Siécle Kipperkarten deck. I will be blogging more on each separately as time allows, they’re all fabulous.

The Tarot Talismans are pure genius. There is a charm for each Trump, and the rest of the deck has been reduced – you can determine the rest via four suit charms, a ten sided die, and four chess charms that represent the Courts. It’s all explained thoroughly in the free PDF download available here. The tin is beautiful and large enough to hold a few extra things, the charms themselves are in a small organza bag and more portable than all but the tiniest mini deck. You can toss it in a little sling pouch along with your keys, wallet, phone and a little makeup and be ready for anything. 😀

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When it first arrived, I made a game of guessing which charms represented which card, and it was very easy. The meditating Kuan Yin makes a perfect High Priestess/Papess, the ballerina is obviously the dancing lady from The World. And a lot of them are literal, like the Sun, Moon, Star and Tower.
It can be purchased here, along with other Needful Things: http://carrieparis.com/shop/

The Hallowstones are Halloween/Samhain-themed, but I’m going to use mine year round – it’s my favorite holiday, after all! 😉 They’re somewhat like those wonderful Crowstones, but distilled down to twelve symbols that still manage to give a nuanced reading. Robyn is just really, really good at coming up with these things, they always work well. Even the pickiest of us love the Crowstones, and the Hallowstones are equally good, I think. It’s another very, very portable casting oracle. And it comes with a laminated casting sheet:

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The whole thing is very cheery and playful-looking, but it will dish the dirt, too, if you need it to do that. 😉 It’s available here, also with other Needful Things: http://tarotgoodies.webs.com/apps/webstore/

Now to get away from casting for a bit and talk about a deck. Ciro Marchetti has done a Kipper, not “Kipper inspired” or any of that, it just IS a Kipper, as much or moreso than Leidingkarten or Mystiches. It’s called the Fin de Siécle (pronounced “fon duh see-ECK-luh” – audio HERE) Yes, there have been changes – the cards are slightly larger to show the art, and the images have been done in a way that’s less ambiguous in many cases, and easier for beginners to understand. Compare the Original “Getting A Gift” and Ciro’s Gift card:

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It’s a lovely deck, somewhat more shadowy than other Marchetti decks, both in color values and subject matter – it has cards that convey some extremely gritty elements of life. The deck balances the Gilded Age lifestyle with the Dickensian poverty that went along with it and makes for a great spot-on reading deck that’s relevant today.

The stock is good, flexible and lightly coated. It comes with a printed satin bag and a personally autographed card. When you purchase, you’re sent a link to a downloadable Companion PDF that I’m honored to be a part of, along with Susanne Zitzl, Fortune Buchholtz, and Mr. Marchetti. The Companion Document contains cards descriptions, meanings, spreads, and Ciro’s commentary on the creation of the deck and the rationale behind the changes he implemented. At sixty-odd pages, it’s substantial. There’s also instructions for downloading a free app that’s a lot of fun – you point your phone at a card and it becomes animated – sound and movement! – and it shows you the card meaning (or, in the case of the Courthouse, the judge tells you!)

So it’s good value for the money. I’m told that US Games and Königsfurt-Urania Verlag have already licensed the deck, and we’ll be seeing that in a year or so, but I like these less-coated cards with all the bells and whistles. 🙂

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It’s available here (and you can also see a sample of the app in action): http://www.ciromarchetti.com/#!kipper/c1irz

And here is a teaser video that gives you a good idea of the art:

And because some of the cards reminded me of this movie, here’s the incomparable Lon Chaney Sr. and little Jackie Coogan (who grew up to be our beloved Uncle Fester!) in 1922’s Oliver Twist:

The Roots of Idiocy

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(No, not the things in the photo…read on!)

Comments are welcome, because I’m really, REALLY trying to find the root of this – so I can douse it with gasoline and enjoy the bonfire.

If you’ve followed this blog at all, you’ve seen many, many posts about learning Lenormand rather than pulling meanings out of your ass. And “new thought” vs. “new age” (AKA “sewerage”).

Now I’ve found this old thread http://www.tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=98307 (pardon me if I don’t keep up with the purple shithole – also, profound props to you, Scion, whoever you are – eloquent and well put) on AT where some are defending a book by Arrien Angeles that is purportedly an instruction on the Crowley Thoth – with the caveat that she suggests ignoring Crowley (WUT) and goes on to give made-up interpretations of the images on the cards. (Crowley’s pelican, according to this dribble-of-misapprehended-symbols-by-someone-who-couldn’t-be-bothered-to-research, is a “swan” and “the ugly duckling”, the venom is “tears of the spirit”)

Look, if you want to learn the Thoth, read Crowley. The Book of Thoth, 777, and The Book of the Law at the very least. If you still can’t make sense of it, read Duquette. But not this Angeles fuckwittery.

The same goes for anything else. Read the real stuff, not the fake stuff. Jeez.

None of this is news, it’s been all too common since the 80’s. But what broadsided me and led me to mention it here, is that this execrable Angeles book came out in the late 70’s. The shitting down the throat of Lenormand – and all things cartomantic – has a precedent going back further than I previously realized. New age BS predates the 80’s. It snuck in when I was unaware of it, blithely shuffling my battered University Press RWS with Trapeze or BOC playing in the background. A lifetime ago.

Maybe Crowley was right (and not just yanking our chains) and we’re really in for another 500 years of Dark Ages. Say what you will about him, he was still a brilliant SOB.

ETA: Further digging has shown me that apparently, the pulling-meanings-out-of-your-wazoo school of reading goes ALL THE WAY BACK TO 1969 and the publication of “The New Tarot: The Tarot for the Aquarian Age”. The premise of this dribble is that just looking at the magic pasteboard unlocks wisdom in your subconscious, and is probably what set off this whole “learning is bad!” trope. It claims any idiot’s “insights” are just as valid as Waite’s, Crowley’s, Wirth’s, or anyone else who actually learned the cards. It was allegedly channeled with a Ouija board and published along with a hideous deck.

I can only conclude that the new agers and the Pat Robertson type wacky evangelicals are two sides of the same coin and we’ve gotten ourselves back to the Dark Ages.