Tarot and Oracle Decks have exploded into the common experience since the 1990s. Today there are literally thousands of decks to choose from, including out-of-print decks and published ones. Reviewing anything involves subjective judgment based on various criteria. I will be looking at the quality and size of the cards, visual accessibility of the art, quality of the companion text of the deck, and potential usefulness in professional practice. This month I have chosen to review the Halloween Tarot by Karin Lee and Kipling West.
The Halloween Tarot
The Halloween Tarot was published in 1997, and a premier edition in a tin was released in 2008 by US Game Systems. This deck only comes with a pamphlet book, but you can purchase a separate book that was published in 1997 for $57.02 USD at the time this article was written.
From the Amazon review:
You don’t have to wait until October 31 to jump into the festive, spooky world of Halloween. You can experience it all year round with Kipling West’s Halloween Tarot! The 78-card Halloween Tarot deck offers both the fun and the mystery of the holiday–monsters and other creepy creatures, eager trick-or-treaters, and the ubiquitous black cat. The Minor Arcana suits are Pumpkins (Pentacles), Bats (Swords), Ghosts (Cups), and Imps (Wands).
Karin Lee’s entertaining guide to the Halloween Tarot delves into the history, symbols, and traditions of All Hallow’s Eve–from the story of the jack-o’-lantern to the origins of trick-or-treating to finding your true love’s name in apple peelings. So grab your Halloween Tarot deck and a pillowcase to hold all the treats you’ll find along the way as you explore Halloween! –U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
The card stock is good quality, so the cards will hold up with limited to regular use. The cards are slightly larger than playing cards and flex easily for shuffling.
I have rather average to small hands (I cannot palm a basketball), so the size of a deck of cards matters when it comes to shuffling them, especially in front of clients. The deck is easy to hold so I can make the shuffling action look good to a client. This deck is more rectangular than square, with rounded edges, and a nice print quality, so the images have good color for the quality of the artwork, which is clean and simple.
The Halloween Tarot is a useful deck for professional readings around Halloween, which is pretty much the only time I pull it out. Based largely on the Rider-Waite designs, the artwork is fun and playful, even when looking at a card as challenging as the 9 of Bats, which is equivalent to the 9 of Swords. Amusingly and cleverly, the artist places a black cat in every card, which adds to the enjoyment of the imagery.
I have used this deck in public and do so every Halloween. Even though it is holiday-specific, it is still a solid deck to use in readings. The messages are just as effective as any other deck and some elements interpret even better, like the pumpkins for pentacles suit. Growing the vegetable works well throughout the suit as a metaphor for the physical world, production, and gain/loss.
Visual Accessibility of the Deck
This deck is definitely visually accessible, which shows in the creator’s choice of images for the themes described in the cards. In the cards below, the 6 of Pumpkins nicely conveys the message of the card through the giving of candy.
The 9 of Imps nicely represents leadership and responsibility, being the role model, that others look to for guidance and emulation. The 3 of Ghosts mirrors most any representation of this card as a celebration and good times among friends.
Finally, the Fool is a clown in a Halloween appropriate costume juggling spheres with different symbols for different aspects of the life journey while the Moon looks down smiling and the cat is paying attention to the edge of the cliff that the clown is about to walk off. In the other cards, look and see where the cat is and his/her expression through the drawing of the body language.
Explanation of the Cards
This deck comes with a very nice companion book that is as well designed and easy to use, but quite a bit more expensive than the cards themselves. If you end up purchasing just the cards, then you will get the standard small pamphlet that is the same size as the cards containing keywords and very little further explanation of the cards.
Since the deck mimics the Rider-Waite designs, you can easily go online and find more detailed explanations of the cards, especially through Wikipedia, which uses the Rider-Waite cards as their image for each card.
As a professional reader who started reading cards for pay in 1992, I can say that this deck is quite useful for clients, especially ones who might be getting a reading for fun at a Halloween event or party. It does have the usual difficult cards, like Death and the Tower, but the imagery dials back some of the gloom and doom more traditional decks may have in their art, so engaging for fun will not be torpedoed if some of the hard cards come up. Death, in this deck, is a skeleton watering a garden of smiling pumpkins.
I will give this deck a high rating for the very specific purpose that it is intended to address. Clients who have worked with this deck have found it fun and inviting, actually opening the door for them to consider looking more deeply into tarot. The deck has a nice artistic design, with all scenes occurring at night, using simple common symbolism (stars, the moon) and Halloween specific symbolism (gravestones, the black cat, treats, haunted houses) effectively.
If you are a tarot and oracle card collector, then this is certainly a deck worth having in your collection.