Chances are if you watch references to the craft as eagerly as I do, you’ve seen a tarot deck or 2 in action on screen. Sometimes especially made*, sometimes a good old fashioned Visconti or TdM. Quite possibly the wait for a series or movie to finally get the combination of a normal portrayal of a reader, deck and interpretation right might be a long one (Death isn’t death you guys! Consult a freaking reader!), but in the meantime we can at least enjoy a better executed romance between tv & tarot: movie or series themed decks. An invention 2018 seems to have a lot of. Plenty fora are buzzing with the release of the Game of Thrones Tarot (which is why you won’t see it here. It is already *everywhere*), but I chose Lo Scarabeo’s other telly-tarot: the aptly named TV Series Tarot.
Ever bought a LS deck before? Well, I think most of us have, so not many words are necessary to explain what you can expect. The TV Series Tarot comes in the typical Lo Scarabeo tuck box, with the multi-language LWB and the card stock no-one is really a fan of (maybe riffle-shufflers?). There is one exception to this stock though, and that’s the coating on the back. For whatever reason it feels smooth on the image side and rough on the other. Bit weird, but I got used to it fast.
The back of the cards show that typical streaming circle you get when you need to wait till a program is downloaded from Netflix (fe.). Since the spokes of the streaming wheel have a variety in color on just one side, they aren’t ideal for reading Rx.
What I did really appreciate was the fact that LS lately listens a lot to the general customer when it comes to borders. While some people don’t care or even prefer an extra frame, a larger group celebrates in bleeding imagery. More and more borders in Lo Scarabeo-decks are either very small, no longer show all the languages, or they’re completely absent. LS is sort of famous for their multiple language-decks, but that part still shows up in the companion and *not* on the deck.
The same can be said for the TV Series Tarot; bleeding art with just a small black bar at the bottom to reference the arcana – in this case only a Roman numeral for the Majors and a combination of tiny suit symbol and Arabic number on the Minors. Beginners have their crutch, advanced readers can easily ignore it and no client is able to read along with you and freak out over certain titles.
GCI & the small screen
The TV Series Tarot is what you call a GCI deck, the drawings are made within a computer program (beware: they aren’t made *by* a computer, there’s always an artist behind it. This is one of the biggest misunderstandings about decks like these). The images aren’t comparable to ‘true human faces’ in this case, but luckily don’t feel too dehumanised or wooden. The style reminds me a bit of computer games actually. That means the digital component is obvious. If that’s not your thing, this deck isn’t either.
TV-scriptwriter Gero Giglio and TV series lover & Tarot artist Davide Corsi were the creative brains behind the deck. Giglio wanted a deck that combined his two biggest passions – tarot and tv – to become one deck. His goal: no difficulty for an expert reader, while a neophyte gets some wonderful surprises. And he succeeded in that, partially. Every intermediate and certainly an advanced tarot reader can easily work with the TV Series Tarot. The deck uses the most iconic shows of the little screen in obvious ‘tarot-ways’. Meaning that well-known arcana and scenics do not suffer under their theme and that a more experienced reader can easily tell a story with this deck without faltering.
But…assuming that a beginner can do the same? I am not exactly sure of that. What is great about those early mentioned clean title bars is also the one thing I could call out as a ‘miss’ – and that also has to do with a lack of information in the companion. A combination of this makes it harder for a neophyte in the Waite-Smith to read with the deck and certainly to be surprised, even if they have an original WCS to check against…
Let me explain. First off: one of the cool things about the TV Series Tarot is that they used the history of popular tv as a theme, instead of just one series. That makes it a tv deck interesting for a larger audience. After all, no matter how difficult to imagine: there are still people who’ve never watched Game of Thrones or who did and never, ever returned.
The TV Series Tarot is a deck about…you guessed it: multiple tv series. You could even say the deck is a nice summary and overview of decades of tv. All 78 cards, majors and minors, focus on a different character or typical scene from a popular series, ranging from tv-history’s Magnum PI to current-day The Walking Dead. And within the characterisation of the programs the scenics are reinvented. Some are obvious in their reference to a minor or major, but at other times you will need to know the original to catch it.
No companion; no clue?
In several cases you also need to know the series to visually read the card as well (instead of just an analytical approach of suit x element x number). The classic and well-liked tv-series were easy to pick out. That wasn’t the case with every single card. And when neither LWB nor deck titles give us any clue about which series we’re talking about – which is the case here – there is a problem. When you buy a themed deck the theme either strengthens the archetypes and scenics you’re reading with, or it adds to it. But Lo Scarabeo never supplied a list with characters and that means your deck isn’t just a tarot, but also a bit of a puzzle. Especially if you are mid twenties or only have a few favourite ‘tv-remote & chill-moments’.
It is a shame some series don’t say anything to me, because without any explanation from the creator why they used a certain character or scene for that minor or major it does not add to the symbology of the deck. Frankly, especially at first it was very distracting. It made the deck a little one-dimensional. For me – and that has to do with the way I read. In my practice every single deck, even if they have the same foundation, has its own language and symbology and that means I need to understand what I see in front of me. I am not saying the deck didn’t read well…it answered all type of questions – even the tougher ones – if that is what you are worried about. For a deck with such a typical ‘fad‘ theme worth mentioning.
However, for all readers with the same style I decided to go back to the source. I asked Lo Scarabeo why they didn’t add this information in the booklet and got 2 distinctive answers.
The simple and practical one, given to me by Riccardo Minetti, was this: “We didn’t put any direct reference to the TV series in the booklet for a specific reason: copyright. The deck is a compilative effort, so it should not have any copyright problems. BUT… some of the copyright holders for TV series are solidly known to aggressively create problems. And we didn’t want that.” Logical. But is that the sole reason?
No, it wasn’t. Because at the LS offices they didn’t really care for a list. Where I thought the lack of info would make this deck too much of a WCS clone with a tv-layer and my constant thinking of “Which series is this, then?” would disrupt the flow of a reading, the designers actually saw it as a creative plus. “In truth we think that the [anticipated] What could this be?”-question can be made part of the reading. Of course it disrupts the flow of a normal reading, but what is lost is gained back differently… by the enquiry process within our mind as well as – as we expect – the sudden flash of recognition.”
Minetti is convinced that the TV Series deck will fortify and illuminate the connection between our Tarot world and our mainstream culture. “The Spiritual should not be seen as an Ivory Tower for the elected, so explains Minetti, “a Tower that despises and separates itself from the mundanity of the world. Rather the spiritual and the daily should be integrated, flowing together. A little bit of magic realism… in its own way.”
It is therefore that the Italian publisher advises us readers to take a different approach to use the deck. Don’t try to decipher the cards, but rather to let our favourite shows flow into the cards. Even if they are not the ones LS thought of, or if they will reveal themselves much later. Minetti: “ After all, we all have strong feelings about the drama we see on tv. What I’m trying to say, that it’s more about the connection than about the end result. ”
Satisfied? Well, perhaps you were already in #teamdisagreewithreviewer, meaning that you perhaps know all of the 78 shows, don’t really give a *^%$$* about a LWB to begin with; don’t read them, might even think they are completely useless or rather use the WCS – regardless of type art – in the way you always read, ideas from creators or altered imagery not important .
Regardless of which ‘team’ you belong to, Minetti assures me that when you look carefully – and especially if you watch plenty tv – you might…just might recognise all of them. The hint is in the deck (RM: “Like the red shirt in the 10S”). And if not, they don’t see a problem with it.
The TV Series Tarot is one fitting to the LS stall: it is fun, bold, colourful and up-to-date. As always the stock isn’t really to ‘write home about’ as they say, but it will be a deck that most of us can use straight out of the box. It could be that all those tv-references are a bit distracting when doing a professional reading, so I think it will be a deck used in ‘fun’ situations and not for in depth readings – though it did answer any question. Still, for me it is classified under party & event decks or collector’s tarot.
For what it is worth, the emotions behind tv characters and scenes are well translated to a tarot stage and especially WCS readers won’t need that booklet-info that *I* still miss a bit. Although Minetti is right that, if you let it, your brain & deck will offer alternatives. As a result surprises will be in store for more than just the neophytes. Whether that is a huge plus or a downside solely depends on the reader. End conclusion: solid deck for collectors and tv enthusiasts.
BUY THE TV SERIES TAROT
* Tarot of the Witches for a 1973 James Bond film being the most famous…and quite possibly the most hideous imho. Quite often the shown decks are either made for the show, or they use a Visconti (though rare), Waite-Smith or Tarot de Marseille that’s slightly adapted to get the ‘right cards’ for the scene. The most interesting ‘concept’ of a deck I’ve seen on the screen recently was Dr. Facilier’s on OAAT. But that’s only because his cards changed imagery depending on the querent and situation. The ‘main’ deck he used for himself was a Tarot de Marseille clone with one rather odd addition: a Waite-Smith 3 of swords. If there ever was proof they rarely consult true readers, there’s it…
* Tarot on TV & Film: Mary K Greer once started a list with mentions of tarot or tarot readings on screen. When she stopped adding information she asked for people to continue it in the comments, so there is more info and you can probably add a few yourself. I felt a little better after reading this article, because it seems – though rare – there are actually series and movies that have good portrayals of cartomancers. Some readings even make sense too. If you google a bit there are more lists out there.