The Maniacal Rantings of the Urban Crone

Bear witness to the rantings of the Urban Crone as she emparts her wisdom in her own rather quirky way.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Deck Review: The Dark Carnival Tarot

The Dark Carnival Tarot deck is a hand-drawn 78-card, some what traditional, small press tarot deck. The artwork on the deck is based around what it's creator, Rachel Paul, calls "dark circus imagery", inspired by the Juggalo subculture surrounding the band Insane Clown Posse.  Available on Etsy from the artist, the very reasonably priced deck set includes the deck, a booklet and a bag with your choice of design.

I normally don’t comment on bags included with decks from the creators but in this case I felt I had to. Rachel went the extra mile here and I want to give her kudos for it. With your order, you get a black velvet bag on which Rachel will hand paint any number of designs, including a Lotus Cross, Butterfly, Violent J or Shaggy 2 Dope Clown Face, Ringmaster, Wraith (the one I got), or really whatever you like. Really liked this extra personal touch.

The Dark Carnival Tarot deck itself that I received is actually the new, third-edition. The first two editions, it is my understanding, were available at different Juggalo culture events, and were received very fondly. I will admit to not knowing much about the Insane Clown Posse (ICP) culture but was drawn to the deck because it is something my oldest daughter likes. So, while I am not a Juggalette, I can, as a Tarot reader, appreciate this deck and Rachel’s effort.

The cards are 3.5”x5" (making them larger than a standard playing card deck) borderless and professionally printed on thick, semi-gloss cardstock. The artwork is bold and bright, full of fantastic detail. Rachel does an interesting job of capturing the essence of the meaning of each card while holding fast to the Juggalo cultural references. The suits are Duckets (Pentacles), Faygos (Cups), Axes (Swords) and Gats (Wands) all who’s elemental correspondences hold to the RWS system. While I would not recommend this deck to a beginner, it is oddly readable. I would, however, recommend that a little bit of background in understanding the ICP culture would definitely further your understanding of the deck. Rachel uses the symbolism of the culture to further illustrate the symbolism of each card, and you would really be missing some gems with this deck if you didn’t at least take a moment to give a cursory look into the Juggalo culture, something you can find in the accompanying booklet.

 The 56-page booklet is an interesting read, giving you some small insight into the Juggalo culture. I will say that do not agree with a number of things Rachel said in her introduction, some of which bordered on the insulting for those of us with many years of Tarot reading experience. It is one of those thing where someone who is incapable of doing something talks down on those who can. But, it’s her booklet and everyone is entitled to their opinion, even when they are wrong. The rest of the booklet is an asset to this deck. It is written in the Juggalo vernacular (for a lack of a better word), full of slang and profanity that actually makes it amusing to read. But, it also gives you a fantastic understanding of her thought process behind each card, something I like seeing artists do and one of the reasons I love small press decks. I especially find her thought process when it came to the court cards (Joker, Warrior, Queen and King, in this deck) very interesting. Where some people stumble, she really has a decent grasp. Every card has a great interpretation and this makes the booklet both functional for the reader and an actual entertaining read, something some accompanying books/booklets fail to do.

My overall impression of the Dark Carnival Tarot deck is that it is one that is interesting to look at and would be interesting to read with. I, again, do not recommend this deck for someone who does not already have an understanding of Tarot as the standard symbolism is not there, and a beginner may find the imagery overwhelming. I also think that, much like the Deviant Tarot, you have to like the artwork, which I do find pretty interesting, to get into the deck. I will say that even if it isn’t something you could see yourself reading with, the Dark Carnival Tarot deck is one of those decks you will regret not having as part of your collection purely because of how well done and unique it is. Kudos to Rachel Paul on her fabulous creation!

Review at a glance:

Overall: 3 out of 5 wands

Card stock quality: Good

Card size: Good

Book/Booklet Quality: Really Good (once you get past the snarky intro)

Collectability: Very

Reader level: Reasonable understanding of Tarot symbolism and meanings.
Urban Crone...

Deck Reviews

   I have decided to start writing reviews on some of the Tarot, Oracle and Lenormand decks that I acquire. I am doing this because there are a number of deck I have gotten that I wish someone would have said, "hey you aren't going to like that deck." And there are a number of decks I have passed on that I wish someone would have said, "hey, this deck has some cool stuff you might like." There are also mass market decks that are born with tons of hype, only to be disappointments, and small press decks born quietly in the dark that are masterpieces. This will level the playing field somewhat.
  My deck reviews are my opinion of the deck, subject to my own preferences and biases when it comes to decks. I am purchasing these with my own money, so I have that right. But, keep in mind that behind my opinion is 25 years of experience as a teacher and professional Reader, as well as an avid deck collector. I am not saying you absolutely have to agree with me, but I would like you to at least keep in mind where I am coming from on this.
  My review will look at a variety of aspects of the deck, from artwork to card quality to readability to the companion book/booklet and so on. I will write a full review and then also offer a review at a glance at the end of the article which will look like this:

Overall: this will be on a scale of 0 to 5 wands, 0 being just awful to 5 being amazing.

Card stock quality: I am picky about this as it effects the shufflability (yup, made that up) of the deck. This will range from awful (with an explanation as to why) to excellent.

Card size: I have small hands so the card size does figure into how I feel about a deck. This will also range from awful (again, with an explanation) to excellent.

Book/Booklet Quality: I generally do not read much into the companion materials that come with decks but I know some people do, and with some decks, like Oracle decks, it is even necessary. For this reason, I will review this as well, with a range from awful to excellent.

Collectability: I am an avid, almost rabid, collector of decks. I have found over the years that there are some decks worth having in your collection and some that just aren't (unless you insist on having everything ever printed). This will range from not collectible (with explanation) to very collectible.

Reader level: This is important to me. Not all decks are meant for beginners. They just aren't. There are some decks that really require you to have some understanding of the meanings and symbolism of Tarot before you can really read with them. And there are some decks that are actually pretty clear cut and easy to read with. I will range this from Beginner to Expert, and try to make clear what I mean as applies to each deck.
Again, these will be based on my own personal opinions and experiences. I am not saying that it is the gospel according to all things, but I am hoping that it offers a valuable tool when you consider buying a deck.
Urban Crone