I was extremely excited at the opportunity to try out the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot, which a beautiful friend let me use for a while. I have been studying it now in hand (I did study the material before), after drooling for months to get it, so I would like to share some initial impressions with you.
Box and companion book cover via Amazon.com
This is a themed Tarot deck of 79 cards (one extra wild card, the Barons) and follows Voodoo and Santeria traditions. Should you be looking for an RWS clone, stray from this deck – although according to the semantics, it is a “tarot” deck, it is really more of a Voodoo-Santeria oracle, hung upon the pegs of the Tree of Life. Every title, suit and court card has been replaced so you must definitely acquaint yourself with the companion book before you dive in.
The artwork is stunning and because of that, I cannot fathom the reasoning behind the card design – they are tiny, almost playing card sized, and with heavy white borders that don’t do the artwork any justice. If there was ever a deck that would benefit from being borderless, this is it.
The companion book offers an overview of the Voodoo tradition, but mainly the post-slavery background. I would have loved to see more Yoruba or Fon topics – we are, after all, dealing with one of the oldest religions in the world, which does not exactly come off in the book. But this is only my initial impression.
As far as I understand, there are some “errors” in the cards regarding the representation of some of the loa, but this doesn’t irk me as the magic of Voodoo comes from being a brave brew of all the religions it touches – if the artist felt a certain image would be appropriate, thus it would be.
The artwork is very strong, very magical and instantly makes me hear drum beats and virile singing, even chanting. There are few decks that tickle my crown and third eye this eye, NOVT is most definitely one of them.
It is a wonderful deck and book set for those who want to deepen their understanding of Tarot and the Tree of Life. The deck structure relies on the architecture of the tree and since the creator uses the Tree as a structure onto which she “hangs” the deck, it is fairly easy to understand the initial logic of the deck.
However, if you expect to witness any major similarities to Tarot (or RWS, for Laveau’s sake), be warned – you will not be able to read without acquainting yourself to the companion book. As I noted, all the titles are replaced, all the suits are replaced, and the meanings are heavily altered.
Above is a good example – card Zero, The Fool, is seen here as the World Egg in between the jaws of a reptile. The egg does represent the circle of life (thus the fool’s journey) quite well; it does have a cyclical ring to it; if you think about it, it does become quite easy to relate to the card meanings.
But then again, The High Priestess becomes Marie Laveau, an iconic figure of New Orleans Voodoo movement (community?) and the meaning becomes “connection” and “joining two sides that were unlikely to connect”. Again, it will make sense eventually. I mean, you could argue that the beaded curtain is actually the veil of the abyss…
I am having immense fun with this deck – mostly because of all the studying it entails. I hate getting lazy, and you tend to get lazy once you are very deep in a subject; with Tarot, of course you learn every day, but you tend to get into a learning routine and nothing is really that new. I honestly knew nothing of voodoo before (yeah I knew about the zombie thing, gris gris bags and dolls, but you get the idea). It has been an amazing journey only for the learning quality!
The art and feel of the cards is completely different. When handling it, I get a similar feeling to when I find some arcane artefacts in my grandmother’s centuries old attic and then handle them with care, almost hearing the subtle whispers that surround them.
This is a deck anyone should try on to see if it fits. For me, it is a perfect fit and although very untraditional, I think it would rub anyone excited about learning Tarot the right way.
I will be sure to post a deck interview soon. Have you ever used this deck? What are your impressions?