By Barbara Moore (and illustrated by Aly Fell)
The Steampunk Tarot by Barbara Moore is one of my favourite decks of all time. As you can probably tell by the design of this website, I am a huge fan of steampunk, so naturally, this deck piqued my interest the moment I first laid eyes on it.
There are several steampunk tarot decks out there and, in my humble opinion, this is the most beautiful set. Many other decks of the same theme is collage style – some are intricate and exquisite while others look haphazardly thrown together. This deck stands out from the crowd because it is drawn.
The costumes of each character is a true steampunk delight. The gadgets and machineries that defines this genre are cleverly incorporated into the images and, in some of the cards, instead of being mere décor, actually help tell the story. Most of the cards have a gold/copper tone, which further adds to the theme and helps build a coherent feel for the deck.
Aside from being a visual delight, it is also a very practical deck.
One of the main flaws of novelty tarot decks is that the images aren’t descriptive enough to provide meaning . The only way to read them effectively is if you are already very familiar with tarot and can, thus, interpret the cards without pictorial assistance. The Steampunk Tarot, however, is a Rider Wait Smith derivative, which means that the images are rich in meanings. As such, it is a deck that can actually be put into service. I would even argue that it can be an effective beginner’s deck for those who don’t prefer the RWS deck.
In addition to being beautiful and practical, there are two other aspects of this deck that I find noteworthy.
The first is the back of the cards. Most tarot card back designs are symmetrical so that it looks the same whether it’s right side up and upside down. This is so that you don’t know whether a card is upright or reversed until you turn it over. Moore deliberately chose to deviate from this norm as she feels that giving a different meaning to the cards when they are reversed feels arbitrary. Instead, the positive or negative tendencies of each card can be found by interpreting the entire spread.
The other interesting I found about this deck is the court card descriptions in the accompanying guide book. Instead of providing a traditional meanings for these card, Moore describes the personality of the court member being depicted. For those who have trouble interpreting court cards, this style of explanation may contribute something new to contemplate and help clarify their meanings.
Lastly, I would like to end this review by listing out my favourite cards in the deck. Someone once told me that she has a favourite card in the tarot and, every time she buys a deck, she has to look up the deck and see if she likes that particular card. I don’t have a favourite card but I do find that, in almost every deck, there are a few cards that I particularly like. For me, these cards provide a different point of view and help expand my understanding of that card.
In this Steampunk Tarot deck, these cards are Death and The Devil.
The Death card in this deck focuses on – wait for it… death.
While it may sound obvious to the point of imbecile to point out that the Death card is about death and endings, many of the modern decks tend to gloss over this and, instead, focus on new beginnings. This version of Death reminds us that endings are sad and mourning is natural and even healthy.
I think this is an important reminder to all tarot readers because we live in an age that fixates on making people feel good about themselves. While offering comfort can be one of the benefits of a tarot reading, such comforts must be based on truth. We must all be careful that we don’t go overboard and end up providing false hopes. We can’t always tell people that things are going to be okay. There will be times when what needs to be said is, “Things are rough right now and it will take some time to heal. Now is not the time to move on and focus on bigger and better things but to mourn what has been lost.”
This is one of the cards that incorporates the steampunk machine as part of the story. It shows two people feeding coal into the furnace to fuel the machine that controls them. It is uncertain who is the master and who is the slave.
This card really helped me reinforce the idea of what The Devil means in the tarot. It is not a beast who emerges from the ground and tempt us into evil. Rather, The Devil is our own creation. It is built, fueled and put into action by our own choices and actions. Evil is a result of our own weaknesses, not external factors beyond our control.