It is interesting what people find distasteful when it comes to Tarot cards. Obviously, there are some who find the whole deck and, indeed, even the idea of Tarot distasteful, but we won’t waste any time on them. The obvious “dodgy” cards are the Tower, Devil and Death in the Major Arcana, along with the 3 of Swords, 10 of Swords and probably a few more faintly scary and challenging ones. Personally, I think that they all have their place and the real world has far more distasteful, if not downright evil, things in it. There are those who would prefer a “safe” Tarot deck, something about which I ranted in an earlier Hop. To me, this is akin to closing one’s eyes, sticking one’s fingers in one’s ears and saying “la-la-la-la-la…” to reality, but I will resist a further
rant digression down this path.
Reactions to “distasteful” cards can vary quite dramatically and even…umm…entertainingly, at times. Last year, the appearance of the Death card caused a client to leap from her chair and run about outside my tent squeaking for a minute or so. She returned with a somewhat hysterical and embarrassed laugh and an apology. I am not often speechless, but I was rather taken aback and thrown off my stride by this extreme and energetic reaction. Needless to say, the reading went just fine after I’d explained about the Death card and she left happy.
To the people who nervously ask, “Am I going to die?”, in response to the Death card, I usually reply, “Yes, though not necessarily imminently. We will all die, but I’m in no position to tell you when.” In many respects, it is often easier to explain to clients the less negative aspects of such apparently negative cards, than to include the pitfalls of the more overtly positive ones. For example, 9 of Cups: careful what you wish for; The Fool: watch your step, heed warnings; The Sun: don’t forget the sunscreen 😀
For the record, the cards I tend to find challenging, though not strictly speaking distasteful, tend to relate to the things I find difficult to deal with, such as conformity/religion, (Hierophant), authority (Emperor), vanity (Knight of Wands). These will be the ones that I find the most difficult to portray positively in the photographic deck that I am working on, I think, although I like to think I am able to present a balanced view even if I have some bias 😀
“A photographic deck?”, I hear you ask. “Tell me more”, you add excitedly… Oh, alright then, you twisted my arm 😀
I have hinted in previous posts about wanting to do a photographic Tarot deck, since photography is the artistic medium with which I am most comfortable and, after a good deal of planning (still ongoing), I began work on the deck seriously a few weeks ago. Thus far, these are fairly rough mock-ups of the cards and the final images may have a different aspect or colour balance – I’m just playing with the photos at the moment to see which ones work and which are distasteful 😀
Funnily enough, I began with The Tower:
My version of this card lacks falling bodies for fairly obvious reasons, since this is a realistic deck and I might quite reasonably expect to get arrested if I started throwing people off the top of tall towers for the sake of a photo opportunity. Nonetheless, I hope I’ve managed to capture some of the brooding drama associated with the card.
I have several more images of this particular tower from various aspects, but this one was taken at the pointiest corner and I liked the windows. Does this convey a sense of the Tower to you or is the absence of lightning and people a deal-breaker? I can, at least, attest to the crumbling masonry, although it is not evident from this angle.
Perhaps if you knew that this particular tower was named after King Alfred, he of the burnt cakes and his radical turnaround from despair (and a good scolding) to hope, victory and a reign worth of the title “Great”, you might see it differently?
You see, dramatic change does not always have to be for the worse.
Moving on to one of my “distasteful” cards, I will also share with you my take on The Hierophant. Traditionally, also known as The Pope, but that begs the question, which one? The role is something of an institution rather than any particular individual, and when you think of an organisation such as The Church or Education, it is not the individuals that run it that spring to mind but the physical structures – churches, cathedrals, schools. So, I opted to ditch the man in a symbolic hat and glory in the ecclesiastical architecture as a representation of hierarchy and the concept of order within human structures.
As cathedrals go, this is a rather modern one built by the Victorians, so it lacks some of the quirkiness, not to mention the impressive longevity of Medieval cathedrals. Nonetheless, I’m a sucker for soaring pillars and vaulted ceilings. The geometry and the undeniable stability of such a structure undeniably speaks of order and demands awe in the face of it. It says that there is most definitely a top to this tree. Pope? Pah! You need to be God with a capital “G” to get to the top of this one, but meanwhile, you must find your place among the lower branches and they are all fair game.
Still prefer a bloke in a hat?
So there you have it. Welcome to the Meniscus Tarot, a Tarot of the Lens, my lens to be precise. Don’t worry, there will be people in it, not just bricks – I’m brushing up my portraiture techniques as we speak, and I already have my Fool, taken on a Cornish cliff, complete with dog, and a genuine Magician lined up for, you guessed it, The Magician. Some of the cards will most likely be more colourful too, though I have a weakness for strong, dramatic tones. Anyhow, watch this space and I’d love to hear what you think – “distasteful” or of some interest? My ego is partial to a good stroke, but if you hate them, I’d like to hear why as well. I can take either, only apathy hurts! 😀