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Sun and Moon Tarot Review

Sun and Moon Tarot
By Vanessa Decort
Published by US Games
Review by Christiana Gaudet © 2010

The title, Sun and Moon Tarot, conjures celestial images, thoughts of outer world versus inner world, masculine and feminine, and, of course, two Major Arcana cards. In looking through the deck, it is unclear to me why it is so titled. There don’t seem to be any obvious references to celestial bodies, light and dark, God and Goddess, or inner and outer worlds.  The deck does have a sense of universality; we are all different, and yet all one. Perhaps that is what Vanessa Decort was trying to convey with her heavenly title; that we are all the same under the sun and the moon.

Unlike many tarot artists, Vanessa Decort is both a tarotist and an artist. Her first introduction to tarot was the Crowley Thoth Harris deck.  According to the deck’s accompanying materials, Decort designed the deck “to deepen her understanding of tarot’s messages”. It was her goal to incorporate in Sun and Moon Tarot “universal archetypes and symbols from many cultures”.  

The colors of Sun and Moon Tarot are lovely and the images are evocative. This deck is like no other I have seen, and yet it is grounded enough to make it serviceable and understandable. While there are many tarot decks available, there are very few that are both unique and truly usable. Sun and Moon Tarot is.

The cards are standard sized, and have a plain white border. The card titles are on the bottom, in the border. There are no capital letters; all words on the cards and the box are lower case. .Numbers are written out in the card titles; there are no roman numerals. New students will enjoy the ease with which they can identify each card, even the pips, by name.

Sun and Moon Tarot honors both Waite and Crowley. The Crowley keyword for each pip card is boldly printed in the top of the white border.   The images themselves are often reminiscent of Waite images. Justice is card eight, and Strength eleven, as in Crowley’s deck. Major Arcana fourteen is called “art-temperance” and twenty is called “the aeon-judgment,” melding the Crowley card names with the Waite card names. The Court is comprised of Princesses, Princes, Queens and Kings, but the Kings are pictured riding steeds, as Knights normally would.   The backs are reversible but no reversed meanings are included.

Sun and Moon Tarot people are shaggy, baggy, dreadlocked folk of many skin tones. They have no distinct facial features. They are dressed in cargo pants, stripes and layers.  In fact, they are dressed like the young adults you might see at an art opening, a drum circle, or on the way to Burning Man. This is adorable in some cards, meaningful in others, and ludicrous in a few. The Emperor, for instance, in his striped tee shirt and sneakers, needs to do his homework, take out the garbage and stop playing video games. Well, that’s what happens in my mind when I see him dressed and slouching like my fourteen-year-old son.

Many of the characters and images seem small, set against immense backgrounds; skies, moons, walls, oceans and fields that are often monochromatic and always textured. Occasional metaphysical “symbols from many cultures” sometimes fit well, and sometimes seem contrived and out of place. Some of the trees and costumes may have been inspired by Tim Burton and Amy Brown.

As in many tarot decks, the people in Sun and Moon Tarot are often accompanied by animals. The deck loses some favor with me in that many of the animals are so cartoon-like that they just seem silly. Perhaps they were inspired by anime and Spongebob; things I am just too old to understand.

Despite the monkeys and alligators, the Major Arcana is really brilliant in a lot of ways. The Magician is a Rasta dude with a djembe on the beach. The Moon has lighthouses for its two towers. Death is called “death-rebirth” and pictures a phoenix. The High Priestess is powerful and ethereal.

The Minor Arcana uses Swords for air and Wands for fire.   The elemental triangle is placed at the top of each card, just below the keyword. The icons of the suit do not appear in each image. The Minor Arcana cards are not as detailed as the Majors. In some cases it is hard to see how the Crowley keyword fits with the image. In other cases it makes an interesting point.

For instance, the Ten of Pentacles is “wealth”. Here we see a couple (he’s wearing a hoodie, she’s barefoot in a billowy dress) hugging each other with a tree between them. They each have their faces pressed against the tree. This neatly represents family legacy, being grounded to the earth, and the Kabalistic Tree of Life. That is a nice depiction of true wealth, better than the typical castle and coins!

Sun and Moon Tarot is youthful, fresh and casual.  I had thought perhaps it would be more appealing to younger readers and clients. I tested that theory at a tarot study group, and found that age played no role in determining which tarotists would fall in love with this deck. I also discovered that some readers rejected the deck on first view, and then began to appreciate it after spending some time with it.  Sun and Moon Tarot kind of grows on you.

The deck is packaged in the classic US Games box with a little white book, also written by the artist. I love it when artists write about their own decks.  However, Decort’s little white book is a little bit irritating. It may have been limitations of space, language or skill that caused Decort to feel complete sentences were optional in her card interpretations.

Not everyone will appreciate Sun and Moon Tarot. The fifty-year-old in me wants capital letters, realistic animals, complete sentences and appropriate dress. The professional reader in me wonders how clients will react to boldly written keywords like “failure” and “debauch.”  But my inner tarot intellectual thinks this is a smart, workable and unique contribution to modern tarot.   And my eternal, ageless, timeless inner child is delighted by Vanessa Decort’s Sun and Moon Tarot.