View Single Post
Lee's Avatar
Lee  Lee is offline
Join Date: 18 Oct 2001
Location: USA
Posts: 4,815
Arcana Tarot Playing Cards by Chris Ovdiyenko

There's already a thread about this deck in the Oracle section, but now that it's available as a full 78-card tarot deck, I thought it deserved a thread in Tarot Decks too.

This deck began as a Kickstarter project. It was a set of French-suited playing cards with RWS-inspired courts and it included four Majors, with a complete set of Majors planned as an expansion set. There are two versions of the deck, one dark and one light. I bought both versions of the deck and pre-ordered the expansion sets. The expansion sets were to be available at the end of 2015, but didn't actually get printed and mailed until a year later. In that time I'd moved twice. I sent them address changes both times, and they did a good job of keeping track, and I was pleased to receive the expansion sets last week.

The complete deck, light and dark versions, are available on the artist's site, Dead on Paper. The page for ordering is here and you can see some of the cards here. Those wanting the full tarot deck will want to order the item called "Tarot Cards - Arcana Full Tarot Light" or "Dark," which is $34.99 USD. The $15.99 decks are the playing-card-plus-only-4-majors versions.

The Kickstarter page has a lot of great scans of the cards.

The Majors and Courts are extremely well-done. They're unusual for being black and white and playing-card size. At first I thought they were collaged from already-existing artwork and photographs, but Chris writes on the Kickstarter page that while they're inspired by other works and photographs, it's all hand-drawn. To me they have a Victorian Romantic Tarot vibe. I see them as a great all-around, general-purpose RWS-inspired deck.

The Minors are French-suited playing cards (Diamonds, Clubs, Hearts, Spades). When I first ordered the deck, I was very excited about this aspect. I love playing cards, and besides wanting to read playing cards, I've always wanted to have a tarot deck with playing-card Minors, so this was right up my alley.

Now that I have the cards in hand and have looked through them and thought about it a bit, I'm less excited about the concept than I was. I still think a tarot deck with playing card Minors is a great idea, but in this case, the combination of the French suits with RWS-inspired (in other words, Italian-suited) Courts (Coins, Wands, Cups, Swords), creates an inner tension in the deck.

The artist tries to bridge the gap in two ways. The Aces show large pip symbols which are combinations of the French and Italian pips. And each pip card shows a small Italian pip in the right-side card index.

This is problematic for a couple of reasons. First of all, the user is now dealing with two sets of pip symbols, which seems like one too many. Secondly, the user is forced to use Chris's assignment of French suits to Italian ones:


People who already read with playing cards might use that assignment, or another assignment, or no assignment at all (in other words, assigning meanings to the French suits without reference to Italian suits or to elemental associations). Those readers who use a different assignment or no assignment might be frustrated at having to look at a Wand, for example, on a Clubs card.

For example, right now I'm studying the meanings from Ana Cortez' Playing Card Oracles (I'm using regular playing cards, though, not the accompanying deck illustrated by her father A.J. Freeman). This method uses a different set of elemental associations, which means if I want to use those meanings with this deck, I have to ignore the Italian symbols on the pip cards, as well as the pip objects held by the Court figures.

The ideal might have been to have Court cards which aren't so RWS-inspired. The distinguishing factor of RWS courts was the innovation of showing the figures interacting with their pip symbols in a more naturalistic way, with a heavy and imaginative emphasis on elemental symbolism. So to combine French suits with Courts which delve deeply into Italian-suited symbolism makes the deck seem at cross-purposes.

I don't want to be too negative about this deck, though. It's an interesting and visually highly appealing deck which could work out great for anyone looking for nice, general-purpose RWS-type Majors and Courts with non-scenic Minors.

The dark deck in particular is very striking, with red Hearts and Diamonds and white Clubs and Spades against a black background.

I should also mention that the production quality is truly excellent. The cards are printed on a nice stock with linen coating, and the original playing card decks came in boxes with blue foil stamping and embossing. I also ordered the full-deck boxes, which don't have the foil stamping or embossing but which are still really nice. They're thick cardboard boxes with lift-off lids, very well-designed, with blue metallic foil lining the insides.
Top   #1