After a long series of superficial tarot products, a renewed AGMüller/Urania Verlag presents an amazing new tarot book/deck, probably the most interesting new pack on the market for years.
From the very beginning, it is obvious that this pack is not just an ordinary tarot pack. It is heavy (it will cost a lot to mail) and the packaging is positively different from the plastic standard boxes we are used to seeing from this publisher. Attention has really been given to present this work in an agreeable way. It is not often the book/box designer is mentioned in my reviews, and if so, it is generally not for the good. According to the colophon, the book/box designer was Antje Hellmanzik and she did a very fine job. You can see this in small details, such as beveling the edge of the slipcase, which facilitates removing the box's contents. The contents are a heavy book (395 pages), a poster printed on both sides with diagrams for card spreads, and a likewise well-designed, solid box that contains the tarot deck proper. No plastic here.
The concept for and the force behind this tarot is the Swiss philosopher and author, Akron, whose civil name is Charles F. Frey. He is not unknown in tarot circles; he is an ardent tarot philosopher who was behind the profound "Baphomet Tarot", based upon H.R.Giger’s futuristic illustrations, published by Urania Verlag in 1992.
With Baphomet in mind comes my first and only objection to the Akron-Tarot; the cards are much too small to do justice to the many details. What at first sight appears to be just a decorative pattern turns out (with the help of a magnifying glass) to be tiny symbolic references. While the Baphomet cards were a large size, the cards in the Akron Tarot are standard sized, like the Waite-Smith tarot, and that is too small in this case. The otherwise excellent illustrations are in a surrealistic/symbolic style and are by the well-reputed German artist S.O.Hüttengrund.
"Der Akron-Tarot" is the official name of the deck and is the result of teamwork. With Akron as primus motor, main author, and editor, the text and descriptions of the cards are discussed in detail and some are partly delegated to Akron’s group of close devotees. Two extra cards are added to bring various aspects of the "Devil" into the deck. One of them, in upright position, is numbered XV-I and called "The Black Goddess" is a representation of the darker sides of the female soul. Turned around, the card becomes XV-II, "The Scarlet Anima", representing the hidden female forces in the male nature. The second new card is titled "The Dark Child." It is the self-destroying aspect of human behavior and is unnumbered. but has an upside-down Ankh-cross where numbers normally are placed. In the introductory pages, three members of the team give their personal comments on these cards in particular. The book in general focuses on the perplexities of the human soul seen in a Jungian perspective.
The major part of the book is, of course, a going through of all 80 cards, discussing the philosophical, psychological, historical, and mythological terms. The text for most cards are split up in three, four, or five sections under different headings, the last section always dealing with the aspects of interpretation in different areas of life: career, love, magic and spirituality. Akron himself states that he doesn’t feel comfortable with writing interpretations, so he delegated these to a member of the group only referred to as "Michelle." In a section at the end of the book, it can be seen to what extent others beside Akron have contributed or written in the text concerning any one card. In particular, his intention has been that many of the cards necessarily should include comments seen from a female point of view.
A number of card spreads, "Legesysteme," as they are called in German, follow after the descriptions of the cards; three of them designed with special emphasis on the Goddess-aspect.
The book ends with quite an interesting and open-minded chapter about the process of the deck's creation, which started back in 1990. The chapter gives an insight into publication activities and obstacles which otherwise do not become known to the readers, regarded as being business secrets as they are by most publishers. Besides Akron and the artist S.O.H, the various members of Akron’s group: Arjun, Michelle, Lussia Rudgar and merlYnn, are presented.
"Der Akron Tarot" is a unique publication among the endless stream of hastily-produced, superficial mass media tarot decks that flood the market. It offers a substantial text along with a pack of well-considered cards. It was Akron’s wish that the price for this prestigious package be kept to a reasonable level (which it is) and, at the same time, be a deck of longer standing than most other decks that survive for only one season. It is expected to be published in an English edition, but the translation will probably take some time; it is not easy reading either. We can only hope that the easy way is not taken as was the case with Akron’s text to the Baphomet Tarot, which in the English version was cut down to almost nothing. It deserves better then that.