This is one of these decks you either hate or love. Which probably makes it a typical Battersby & Aguilar production. They – kind of – have a track record of releasing decks that conjure up some heated debate. Their Twisted Tarot Tales recently came out. Heated debate: check, love & hate: check. If the curiosity is killing you, or you are yet undecided to which team you belong: read along.
The Twisted Tarot Tales is a deck by James Battersby and Christine Aguilar. The couple is already known for their King’s Journey tarot and their much discussed (apparently James was booted from ‘the purple forum’ because of it) The Cultural Revolution Tarot (renamed: Propaganda Art Tarot).
113 horror stories
Christine’s inspiration for the Twisted Tarot Tales came from her love for horror comics and desire to create something new – comic books style tarot art is still relatively untouched. For James it was the wish to draw those comics and the influences of Jack Kirby, considered the father of the Marvel style of work, and Joe Kubert (House of Mystery). In other words: coming up with and illustrating Twisted Tarot Tales was somewhat of a dream for the tarot team. Their hope for us readers: to make it accessible for those who don’t like overly morbid decks and create a fun, eye-catching and tasteful tarot deck.
So, let’s me pump up my old skool Lacrimas Profundere a bit and get right into it. They play rock and metal in horror movies all the time, so I am setting the correct mood ;-). I was lucky enough to receive the complete Twisted Tarot Tales set to review. This includes the official deck of 78 cards, the Waldo querent card (in case you like to use a significator), and the entire add on pack. Together they make a huge amount of hand illustrated horror comic themed tarot cards. The website says a total of 106, but I guess they forgot how many extra cards they delivered their Twisted fans. I am counting 113: 78 for the tarot deck, including one Waldo and a total of 34 amazing bonus cards.
No box, meager stock
Let me first get a little minor ‘negative’ points out of the way before I go into adore-mode (did I spoil it for you now?). Decks will usually come wrapped in cellophane. Some – directly from their studio – in an organza bag. My add-on came in the pink with golden hearts organza bag and the deck in cellophane. I was a little bit surprised about pink with golden hearts. The organza does not fit the deck itself and together with the add on the bag is a tiny bit on the snug side for all of the cards. So I am in need of better housing, so to speak. I do miss a good (tuck) box to hold the cards in, preferably all of them. If you want something themed, they do sell Twisted Tarot Tales baggies on their site with prints of a major arcana. But my minor point here is that it would have been nice to have decent storage for at least the 79-card deck.
The cardstock on the twisted tarot deck is okay-ish. It is on the thinner side, but it holds up pretty well during shuffling and it has survived a couple of riffles up until now. No chipping either. I would have loved seeing a little thicker stock though. Not only because I worry how it will hold up with a little more extensive use., but because this art deserves it. However, it is still a ‘passing grade’ ;-).
If you buy the deck, you can download a free PDF with card meanings, so the LWB is provided. They are comparable to a very simple key-word booklet like in most mass market decks. During my use of the Twisted Tarot Tales, I missed some background here and there. If I see a 6 of cups I know what it means to me, but art and story can add so much and that is something that this PDF won’t give you. It’s useful for a beginner, this printable LWB, but for more background you need the companion book.
During the writing of this review that book *just* became available. It’ll give the story behind these pictures, the road they took with ‘meanings’ and the inspiration in horror movies and comics. Especially if you were planning on using this deck on a regular basis, that companion seems like an extremely useful at times (I can’t comment on the quality though, I haven’t read it. But I think it will give you what you need).
So, those were my negatives. Now on to why I *really* like this deck. It basically was exactly what I thought it would be. I followed the production of this deck closely on social media, so I already knew the cards would have rounded corners and no borders. No borders! Yay! Seeing it in real life made me even happier. It is definitely the right choice for this deck: the art is very in your face and super colorful. It deserves to get every centimeter of the paper… It needs it!
Before I go into how Twisted Tarot Tales reads, you need to know I’m holding 78+ cards of quality artwork. Not only is this an amazing rendition of several horror stories and movies; this was thought out, card by card, painting by painting. Yes, the Twisted Tarot Tales is true to its inspiration: known horror stories and figures. But the essence of tarot and each tarot card was kept as well.
Art-wise I was not surprised to read on James Battersby’s Facebook page that a renowned Disney artist complemented this deck as exceptional work. Even if you would never decide to read with The Twisted Tarot Tales, this deck is an amazing collector’s item. Definitely get the bonus cards too. In my humble opinion: some are even more amazing than the ones they chose for the standard deck. But tastes can differ.
Point is: you can assemble your own version of Twisted Tarot Tales and have a few cards framed if that is your thing. The art is immensely strong. Yes, I am pretty sure the Twisted Tarot Tales won’t appeal to very traditional readers. It is just too ‘out there’. However…That is not to say that it deviates in an extreme way from traditional reading.
Tarot wise it was, honestly, a bit of a surprise. With such a theme you can never know if it reads well enough. I know the quality of Battersby & Aguilar, so in a way I knew it *should* read well, but one can never know. But, for those still on the fence: I am actually quite sure that every one familiar with Waite-Smith symbology can pick up the deck and connect the dots with Pamela’s art. Yes, some cards will ask for more time, but the majority is ‘easy’. While the symbolism is completely different in some cards, all the images seem to fit eventually.
Cheeky & career
Funnily enough the deck, as nontraditional as the art is, reads incredibly ‘traditional’. And by that I mean according to those meanings that you see most often named in books by experts on the RWS/WCS. Having said that, the cheekiness and ‘I don’t care’- attitude of the couple behind the Twisted Tarot Tales has definitely seeped into the deck. You can expect some tongue-in-cheek humor, a sarcastic wink here and there. But I would have been surprised, and actually disappointed, if that wouldn’t have been the case with this designer team.
Lately I have been focusing on career readings and advice for life path’s. The Twisted Tarot Tales is great for that. It is not really a deck to give you answers in the spiritual realm, but it’s more straightforward. The ‘ it is what it is’. Sometimes is hard to tell the more positive story when you have gore and freaks staring at you. I think if I had to name a downside to the horror-theme it would be that. My suspicion is that The Twisted Tarot Tales will be used for less emotional questions and triumphantly taken out of bags on Halloween or parties. I actually could see it used for shadow-work…with the right querent and reader.
Because the cards have so much detail and are based on stories, there so much to learn whenever you pick up the deck. One issue I can have with Waite-Smith inspired tarot decks is the fact that I continuously see the same similar scenics, limiting my own story and new vision. There is no innovation. Sure you also have the one scenic per card here, but due to the theme it opens up things. Here I see enough new art to challenge my intuition and offer new nuances. It is original, despite being so very close to the WCS.
When I did a little deck interview, which is something I do every now and then for a review, I asked what Twisted Tarot Tales wanted me to say about its personality. Not surprisingly it gave an answer very close to my experiences. Knight of pentacles, Death (one of the most awesome cards in the deck), Queen of cups. Indeed, surprisingly this deck can be a ‘traditional’ work horse. It is definitely completely different from everything I have seen so far and one of the first to touch the graphic novel angle and to innovate the Waite-Smith. And my intuition was both needed and triggered.
I understand the Twisted Tarot Tales is an acquired taste. Horror=horror and even in comics, movies or books that doesn’t appeal to everyone. To have it in your tarot deck is another thing. It is fun, although not always. Eye-catching for sure. But if it is more accessible than morbid decks, I wonder. It seems pretty gruesome to me at times. If you’re a little sensitive to pictures like that, this might not be the deck for you.
For more spiritual questions (or love readings) it is not the most comfortable deck. To me it also felt a bit ‘wrong’ doing those with this deck. Of course, that could be totally different for you – after all: ain’t love a horror story so many times? So, don’t let my ‘thing’ on that part ruin it for you. On all other accounts this is an amazing deck: the art is fantastic, thought out to a T. Every detail from the horror stories ‘fits’ with the symbolism in regular tarot decks. It isn’t just a copy/paste job where a designer thought it was fun to have his hobby featured on a divination tool. It is consistent, logical and original.
The Twisted Tarot Tales seems excellent for self reading, parties and special occasions. The fact it is a collector’s item seems clear to me too. Horror-fan? Then you absolutely must buy this deck. But even if you’re not, I would for sure recommend throwing some money that way…you know, before Death rings the doorbell to trick or treat!
|Author or artist||Publisher||Publication|
|Battersby & Aguilar||self-published||2016|