T: The New Tarot for the Aquarian Age by John Starr Cooke
Review by Diane Wilkes
Talk about your sixties memorabilia! This deck is the quintessential hippie tarot, a total revisioning (called reversing by the author) of the 78 cards we all know and love. The deck was designed by messages derived from a Ouija board! Like wow, man! I found myself rolling my eyes repeatedly as I read the not-so-little white booklet (LWB) that came with this deck, as it's all written in this spacey, "Be Here Now" voice that immediately evokes annoyance on my part.
I've had this deck for a while, but it was missing a card and the LWB. The images didn't appeal to me enough to overcome these minor barriers to study. However, when the I am One Tarot, which was based on T: The New Tarot, was released, I knew I had to "return to the source," and fortuitously obtained another copy of The New Tarot, this time with LWB and a large-sized insert of "The Royal Maze," the spread designed to use with this deck. And I was now able to play with a full deck, always an asset!
This independently published, out-of-print deck came out in 1969, but was formulated in the early sixties. The author and a group of friends "channeled" the material via the aforementioned Ouija board. There are the obligatory hip references to/influences from Taoism, Buddhism, Sufism, and other spiritual ways of thinking that were just beginning to get "hot" in the United States in the sixties, but I can't help being reminded of the guru mentality that made Charlie Manson such a dangerous guy. Not that I think this deck is evil or anything like that--just self-referential and a tad self-absorbed, two of the downsides of that period in our history.
The cards aren't numbered, but you can tell their intended order by where the cards are listed in the LWB. Some Major Arcana titles are similar or akin to the traditional archetypes (Lovers: The Unity, The Chariot: The Victorious One, The Hermit: The Seeker), but most are quite different. Some, like The Mother for the High Priestess and The Knower for Judgment, seem more applicable to the Empress and High Priestess, respectively.
Number Traditional Title T: The New Tarot
II The High Priestess The Mother
III The Empress The Feeler
IV The Emperor The Actor
V The Hierophant The Speaker
VI The Lovers The Unity
VII The Chariot The Victorious One
VIII Justice The Donor
IX The Hermit The Seeker
X The Wheel of Fortune The Royal Maze
XI Strength The Deliverer
XII The Hanged Man The Hanging Man
XIII Death The Renewer
XIV Temperance The Reverser
XV The Devil The Thinker
XVI The Tower The Citadel
XVII The Star The Way-Shower
XVIII The Moon The Reacter
XIX The Sun The Doer
XX Judgment The Knower
XXI The World The Virgin
XXII - 0 The Fool The Nameless One
The artwork is fairly primitive, but quite powerful. While the scans show the borders as blue, in "real life" they are black. The colors are bold and the imagery is quite untraditional for the most part. The Hanging Man, for example, shows an upright avatar of some kind, with a woman hanging from his right wrist, a man dangling from his left. The woman is suspended above a short archway with a high door, the man, above a tower. I imagine this symbolizes the feminine and masculine sexual organs. Three animals form a bridge between the two hanging ones.
The Victorious One (The Chariot) offers a more conventional take, yet even here there's a major difference--a man is walking his black and white sphinx's down a road together. The cart/chariot sits unused on the road. Behind a curtain two wild beasts quarrel, but the man has triumphed over his animal nature and lives in harmony with all of those around him.
The Reacter (Moon) shows a boy baby (a young Apollo, who is normally associated with the Sun?) grasping keys in both hands. He stands at the front of the card under a rainbow archway, where the full moon shines in the distance.
The Minor Arcana suits have also been revamped. Suits are Serpents, Pears, Blades, and Stones. These cards are numbered and are rather unattractive pip cards. Sometimes I can't help but think the pears look like ungainly yellow turds, but maybe that's just me.
The Court Cards, with the exception of the Knights, depict a shield of some kind filled with symbols of the suit and energy of the card.
Cards measure approximately four and a half inches by three inches and are printed on sturdy matte paper. Backs are almost-reversible--they show a flaming lemniscate against a galaxy of stars. There's a large star in one corner and two smaller stars in two other corners. One corner has no stars. So, if you don't look closely, the cards are reversible.
The deck comes with a large, fold-out insert of the spread, "The Royal Maze," which is described in the LWB. The spread is also featured on a card that comes with the deck.
You can read another review of this deck here.
This deck was re-published as Word of One Tarot with an additional deck in 1992, but was never easy to track down. You can read a review of that deck here. There is a website devoted to the Word of One Tarot where you can see all the Major Arcana cards from this deck and read all about them as well. There's even a section where you can read transcripts of how some of the cards were created. Recently, the I am One Tarot, a deck based on T: The New Tarot, was released. You can read a review of that deck here.
You will occasionally see this deck for auction on eBay, and the price can be quite reasonable for an out-of-print deck.
Images © 1969 Three Kings Productions
Review and page © 2002 Diane Wilkes