Cocktail Tarot by Shinmei
Review by Diane Wilkes

Since there's no little white booklet with this Majors-only deck from Japan, one must take context clues wherever one finds them. Mine came from the card backs, which look like stained glass, and have a Jewish star at the center. Aha, said I to myself, perhaps there is some kabbalistic influence to be found in this deck. (I talk to myself--must be the kabbalistic influence!)

And, since I was in detective mode, I found his online site and did a little more investigating. His assignments are selected from Crowley and are as follows:*


Tarot Card Hebrew Letter and Keyword
Fool Aleph - Spirit of Ether
Magician Beth - Magus of Power
High Priestess Gimel - Priestess of the Silver Star
Empress Daleth - Daughter of the Mighty Ones
Emperor He - Chief Among the Mighty
Hierophant Vau -Magus of the Eternal Gods
The Lovers Zain - Oracles of the Mighty Gods
The Chariot Cheth - Lord of the Triumph of Light
Justice Lamed - The Holder of the Balances
The Hermit Yod - The Prophet of the Gods
The Wheel of Fortune Kaph - The Lord of the Forces of Light
Strength Teth - Leader of the Lion
The Hanged Man Mem - The Spirit of the Mighty Waters
Death Nun - Lord of the Gates of Death
Temperance Samech - The Bringer Forth of Light
The Devil Ayin - Lord of the Gates of Matter
The Tower Pe - Lord of the Hosts of the Mighty
The Star Zadi - Dweller Between Waters
The Moon Qoph - Ruler of Flux and Reflux
The Sun Resh - Lord of the Fire of the World
Judgement Shin - Spirit of the Primal Fires
The World Tav - The Great One of the Night of Time
Card Back Cheth - Lord of the Triumph of Light

* I have used his assignments and spelling (ie., Zadi not Tzaddi), but made the occasional correction, ie., "Nun" instead of "Num"

This information offers some illumination on the cards themselves, if not the name (Cocktail--does it refer to an alcohol-induced state or that this deck is a mere aperatif in the great liquor cabinet of tarot?). But you don't have to be a kabbalist to appreciate the beauty of this deck (and, in fact, if you are a kabbalist, you will probably be disappointed at the relevance of the assignments to the art itself).

The art is a combination of collage and a computer graphic program, and the artist has a real eye for detail and whimsy. The Fool's proportions are as outlandish as his attire, and the animals capering at his side may not attract his attention, but they surely attract mine.  The Magician has two sets of arms and stands in front of an aged paper including text in a foreign language, but I can't decipher it enough to say which one. There is something very powerful and mocking about this image--very Magician-like, I think.

The dramatically-attired High Priestess would not look out-of-place at a Fleetwood Mac concert--perhaps a stand-in for Ms. Nicks? See the Strength description for more details. The Empress has a Barbie-doll face and figure to match, but the lovely background in shades of yellow, along with the seriously steel shield at her feet, gives an air of strength to this plasticene image. The Emperor is far more substantive and important looking.

The Hierophant, with his emerald green attire, reminds me of the gatekeeper in the movie, The Wizard of Oz, which seems ever-so-apt for this card. The Lovers card makes me laugh--two ethereal blondes dressed in pastel--I can just hear Abba playing in the background (it's not a pretty audible).

Justice (numbered VIII) is unusually active--she is in ballerina pose--but she's aptly severe and linear, as is the art. The Hermit also seems remarkably dynamic, although he stands on one of several mountains. The background is vibrant and vibratory and it carries him along in its mesmeric sway.

Strength is also quite peppy. Stevie's new prop: a green and roaring lion. Stevie appears again in Temperance, but now she's got wings and urns instead of a living feline. Not my idea of a good trade.

Quite a few of the backgrounds transfer their electric aura to the cards--the Hanged Man's vision is intensified and Death is on a bad trip at a Grateful Dead concert. Someone clearly took the brown acid by mistake, man. I really like this deck, but I like dynamism...those who prefer traditional decks would do better to order a drink than the Cocktail Tarot.

Some card backgrounds are particularly effective--the Tower emits waves of chaos clearly ignited by the staticky flash of lightning that knocks its roof off. And the Moon's (see top) murky emanations foreshadow the treacherous depths of the archetype.

The cards are smaller than average, and are made with a very thin laminate. The grey marble borders often seem tame compared to the pyrotechnical backgrounds.

Unfortunately, this is not an easy deck to find, except on eBay and other expensive sources. But if you like computer-enhanced graphics (ie., the Sacred Circle Tarot), you could do worse than track down the Cocktail Tarot, with or without a chaser.

And this will be my first and last review that I write accompanied by a glass of port. I didn't want to imbibe at all, of course, but the deck seemed to require it--and there are no sacrifices I won't make for Tarot Passages.

  Yes No
78 cards   X
Reversible Backs X  
Strength VIII, Justice XI   X
Color Images X  
Standard (RWS) Titles of the Major Arcana X  
Traditional (RWS) Suits (Rods/Wands, Cups/Chalices, Swords, Pentacles/Disks) N/A N/A
Traditional (RWS) Golden Dawn Suit-Element Attributions N/A N/A
Standard dimensions (approx. 4 3/4" X 2 3/4")                     X
Smaller than standard
 (approx.  2 3/4" x 4 1/4")                                         
Larger than standard                                                X

Review and page 2003 Diane Wilkes
On loan from the Brigit Horner Collection