Saturday, April 26, 2014

Deck Review- Tarot of the Silicon Dawn

Where to start on this one? This deck, created by Egypt Urnash, isn't really a conventional Tarot deck, and in many ways this is a breath of fresh air. It seems a lot of people, readers and deck makers alike, kind of stopped at the level of the Rider-Waite or Thoth Tarot decks, and while these symbols and associations have certainly served us well, keep in mind that the Tarot is meant as a microcosm of human experience. Human experience retains the same fundamental elements, but does change over time. Egypt Urnash kind of puts the eccentric in eccentric artist, bless her odd little heart. Other works include Decrypting Rita, a graphic novel about a female robot who is jolted out of reality by her ex boyfriend, and Five Glasses of Absinthe, which is really on the racy side, but a good read, and obviously the author put a lot of herself into the story. Same thing with this deck, it seems. So having said that, let's go to the deck.
One of the cooler cards from the deck, this gives you a feel for the bizarre but cool nature of this beast

 It seems Urnash really did her homework on this one, and has a leaning towards the Crowley-Thoth side of things. Many of the associations in the deck come from this, though the Majors retain a strong flavor of Golden Dawn us readers are so familiar with. But this deck is almost deliberately different. I'd say the creator is first and foremost an artist, and as such sets out to create a work of art. Like every other artwork, this one leans towards impressions. The artist wants to communicate something, though that can now and then get lost, mutated or changed in translation. This, I think, is often an error Tarot readers run into: "Ok, this card means this, this card is that, so there you go." Don't memorize your Little White Books, guys- learn them, know them, use them, but don't let them limit you. And so coming from a more traditional background of Tarot, this deck was quite a culture shock. There are 90 cards instead of 78, although the entire 78 card deck is here as well. The extra cards are additions to the traditional Tarot- there are four extra pip cards, one for each suit, numbered 99, as well as an additional set of Court cards, the Voids, all dead black and done in a specialized varnish that allows images to be seen when you tilt them in the light. There are also additional Major Arcana cards, including multiple Fool cards- kind of like the Thoth deck's multiple Magus cards, each with a different emphasis. Perhaps the most striking thing overall about this deck is the fact that it's so impressionistic. The author provides a guide to the cards, telling you what was going through her head (occasionally nebulous though it may be) to provide some insight and meaning to the cards. But most importantly is what you, the reader, or you, the person being read for, take away from the images. And really, isn't that where the utility of a deck comes from?
 The artwork is an interesting hybrid of art deco, science fiction and anime, with a good dose of NC-17 material thrown in. And yes, the NC-17 stuff does actually have relevance to the deck, it's not just there to appeal to your prurient interest. I keep going back to the Thoth deck on this one, and like the Thoth, there's a lot to see and a lot of symbolism contained in the cards. But symbolism aside, this got me thinking. We like to put things in neat little cognitive boxes- friend, enemy, good, bad, food and not food. Okay, that last one might actually be pretty important, but the point being that we fit things into boxes to make life easier. But the world is not so easily categorized. The real world is messy, organic and liquid, and you can't put a liquid into a container without in some small way changing its nature- perhaps even limiting it. This deck calls on us to forget what we know and take a fresh perspective.
 So there are some limitations, as well. This deck is a complicated one, and assumes a basic knowledge of the Tarot. So unless you want to spend a lot of time explaining things, use this with discretion where clients are concerned. Not that clients are dumb, please don't think that; it's just that a lot of the cards have some funky imagery that may leave many people scratching their heads. The 90 cards are beautifully done, and the companion book is a useful resource. But again, if you're looking to cut your teeth on Tarot, I'd suggest a simpler deck than this one. Learn the basics, then come to this deck to really get a shot in the arm for your reading prowess. Interestingly, the suits of Pentacles and Wands are different- Wands are assigned to the element of Earth, and Pentacles to Fire. This one threw me for a loop- I've seen decks where Swords were assigned to Fire and Wands to Air, but this is new. Actually, it took a good deal of thought, but really this does make some degree of sense.
The 99 of Wands, another of the non-conventional cards

 As an overall theme, this deck deals with rejecting duality, and seeing things as a big messy whole. Not so much forgetting what you know already and starting from ground zero, but rather looking at what's going on around you in a new and perhaps more holistic way. I'd absolutely recommend this deck as a study aid for both Tarot students and students of the world on a grand scale. As a first Tarot deck, look elsewhere, it's a complex and fascinating deck, but just a little much to start out with perhaps. But first and foremost, keep this in mind, that the world is there waiting for us to find it. When we're ready to step out of the comfort zone, ready to start looking beyond the cognitive labels and organization we place on everything (including ourselves), we find a much larger world out there! None of us is completely free from this, but when you can take a step back, look around and see things from a different perspective, that goes a long way, in my experience.

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