The Cosmic Tribe Tarot - Review by Lee Bursten
 
If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.

This deck by artist Stevee Postman, which has just recently begun appearing in stores, is sure to catch your eye due to the attractive packaging. I found that the cards inside are every bit as beautiful and intriguing as they seem on the box cover.

One thing to get out of the way first: All of the human figures that appear in this deck are photographs, and most of them are nude. But anyone who thinks they will be put off by this needs to give the cards a chance. Unlike other photographic decks like the Vision Tarot, which seems disappointing and amateurish, these models have been excellently lit and photographed, and, most importantly, the figures have been seamlessly placed (via computer) into the most vivid, beautiful, wildly colorful, fantasy-laden settings. Almost every single card demonstrates a truly original artistry.

The deck follows the standard Tarot format (with a few of the Majors renamed), except that there are three versions of the Lovers; male/female, female/female, and male/male. This is a welcome innovation (at least I know of no previous deck which does this). It allows the reader to have a Lovers card which reflects their own experience instead of having to make a mental adjustment every time they see that card. Surprisingly, this tends to alter one’s attitude toward the whole deck, which seems somehow friendlier. Lesbians and gays will always have a certain tension with most traditional Tarot decks because of the overreliance on male/female imagery. Such imagery is a convenient way for deck artists to symbolize a marriage of opposites, but for lesbians and gays it unfortunately becomes part of the constant bombardment of heterosexual imagery that we all receive from birth.

This is actually a relevant digression, as many of the cards besides the Lovers show images suggesting sexual freedom and openness, while containing nothing pornographic. But it would be a mistake to concentrate solely on the nudity or sexuality. Even without it there would be quite enough to grab one’s attention. The Minors alternate between Waite-type scenes, for example the 10 of Swords showing a man punctured by swords, and Crowley-type patterns, i.e. the 6 of Disks, a characteristically complex arrangement showing a gold key resting on a rock, all bound up by flower stems, which are attached to six yellow flowers which surround the rock and which have keyholes for centers. This is just an example of Postman’s highly original and evocative imagery. His designs for the Minors fairly burst with energy.

The Majors are also fascinating. They are also a blend of Waite, Crowley, and Postman’s own original symbolism. The Fool, for example, is the familiar young man walking off a cliff. This Fool, however, bears butterfly wings and is in pursuit of a small butterfly which flutters out of reach. Below is a crocodile, from whose mouth emerges a hand bearing a flower. A small dog with tiny bird’s wings hovers behind the Fool, while clouds and a blue sky form a protective mandala overhead. To get the impact of such a picture you really have to see it. Words don’t do it justice. Looking at this picture, it really almost comes to life, and you can almost see the dog’s tiny wings beating furiously to keep up with its master.

I can’t resist describing a few more Majors. The Hermit shows a silhouette of a young man holding a lantern. He stands before a brick doorway leading to the Underworld, containing a black, starry sky with a moon. However, inside his silhouette we see a sunny day, blue sky, a tree, and grass. Beside him is Cerberus, the three-headed dog, as in the Crowley deck. This is obviously not the symbology we are used to, but I feel it is valid as Tarot.

Death is a wonderful card. Instead of the usual somber images, the card is all bright reds and oranges. From a serpent’s mouth rears up a tribal dancer in a burst of flame, on whose stomach is a giant mouth. Inside the mouth we see blackness and stars, out of which a dove flies. Again, the question to ask is not how closely a card follows traditional Tarot imagery but whether it is a valid expression of the theme of the card.

The Moon is a particularly evocative card. A figure in a white ball gown, with arms outstretched toward the viewer, floats in the air above dreamlike ocean waves. The head is obscured, but above the figure is the Moon with a human face. This is the aspect of the Moon who seduces us with dreams, fantasies and illusions.

The book that comes with the deck was written by Eric Ganther, and is surprisingly good compared to the books that come packaged with most decks. It describes an approach to the cards which matches Postman’s unique imagery, while maintaining a good amount of Tarot tradition. What I liked most about it was its refreshingly relaxed attitude about relating to the cards. For instance, in a section about storing the cards, Ganther writes: "It is important to treat your Tarot cards with respect while at the same time not being too precious with them. The Cosmic Tribe is generally a homey bunch and doesn’t require excessive formality." This is a breath of fresh air compared to authors like Eileen Connolly who dictate the type of table, type of cloth, direction to face, et cetera, et cetera. The whole book has a relaxed and creative feel.

I do have a few problems with this deck. It might be difficult to use when reading for others, as the novelty of the nudity might distract the client. I frankly find it difficult to use even for myself, because many of the models have various pierced body parts, which bothers me enough to distract me from the energy of the cards. I wish Postman had used unpierced models so that his cards would have a more universal appeal.

I also found some of the Court cards to be a little difficult. I’m used to the Waite model for Court cards, and these cards follow the Crowley system of Queen, Knight, Princess and Prince; but even taking this into account, I found it somewhat difficult to distinguish between the Queen, Knight and Prince of Wands, and between the Queen and Princess of Disks. I also found it difficult to apply the book’s meanings for these cards to everyday life.

Despite these problems, I still wholeheartedly recommend this deck for anyone who is open to something different. The vividness and energy of the cards will certainly inspire you to try it in readings. But even if you never use it for a reading, you will certainly gain valuable insights by being exposed to Postman’s unique vision.

If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.

Review Copyright (c) 1998 Lee Bursten

Images Copyright 1998 Stevee Postman



This page is Copyright 2000 Diane Wilkes