International Icon Tarot by Robin Ator
Review by Dan Pelletier


That I love the International Icon Tarot is not important.  Why I love the deck is.  It is what I have always wanted from a Waite-Colman Smith (WCS) deck.  Creator Robin Ator has removed the social, sexual, and esoteric symbology and bias.


It is simply form and color.


There is less ‘visual’ noise, which helps free the mind of prejudicial readings.


As an example, I was looking at the Four of Swords this morning, and it hit me… Robin has a wondrous sense of color.  He had told me about how he used cut-outs, and would come home from work and lay out the pieces for the cards, but I really don’t think you really appreciate it (I know that I didn’t) until I worked with the deck for a while.


There sat the Four of Swords displaying what no other deck has shown me… it illustrated ‘dawn’.  God’s alarm clock saying, “Wakey wakey – time to get up.  You have work to do.”

Take a look at the Five of Pentacles…it is so cold – so very very cold (they’ve almost made it…).  Take away the visual noise, and the deck opens up.


In the WCS deck, the Five of Pentacles is filled with minutia, bell clothing scrapes bumps bruises, and you get lost in the condition…never realizing goal.  Yes, the International Icon Tarot is still so very cold, but it is a feeling not conveyed by the couples' condition, but by the color and form that define the images.


In that last thirty years, many have come to expect a certain progression of elements illustrated in the tarot.  Many of these images were introduced by the art of Pamela Colman-Smith under the direction of A.E. Waite in the form of the Rider Waite, or the Waite Colman-Smith deck.  The Fool steps off a cliff as opposed to being shown ‘on the road’, The High Priestess sits between two pillars, the Magician is ceremonial in depiction as opposed to a wandering juggler are such examples.  This is not a re-coloring of the Waite-Colman Smith deck.  This is a whole new fresh way of looking at what has become the default tarot deck.


In my opinion, this deck brings the tarot into the twenty first century.


On a more serious note, this deck has 79 cards.  The 79th is a nod towards the NorthWest/Portland artist and The Simpson’s creator Matt Groening.


The 79th card is The Happy Squirrel card, which makes its appearance in Episode 2F15, “Lisa’s Wedding”.

Woman: I've been waiting for you, Lisa.

Lisa: [gasps] How did you know my name?

Woman: Your nametag.  ["Hi, I'm Lady Lisa"] Would you like to know your future?

Lisa: Heh, sorry, I don't believe in fortune telling.  I should go.

Woman: What's your hurry?  Bart and Maggie and Marge are at the joust, and Homer is heckling the puppet show.

Lisa: [gasps] Wow, you can see into the...present.

Woman: Now we'll see what the future holds. [turns over a card from what looks like a Tarot deck]

Lisa: [gulps] The "Death" card?

Woman: No, that's good, it means transition, change.

Lisa: [relieved] Oh. [the woman turns over another card]

Lisa: Oh, that's cute

Woman: [gasps] "The Happy Squirrel"!

Lisa: [timid] That's bad?

Woman: Possibly.  The cards are vague and mysterious.

Remember - the reader gasps.  If you've seen the episode, you know that The Happy Squirrel is the 'worst card' in the deck.

So you have got to read with the to the meaning?  Gosh...look at the time…here’s my bus…gotta scoot...


You can read another review of this deck here.



Dan Pelletier lives 13 miles north of Seattle Washington with his lifemate of 19 years, Jan Welsh, his two cats, Spook and Pookha, and 31 rosebushes.  He has been reading cards for himself and others for 30+ years. Dan is also one of the owners of The Tarot Garden, a resource for tarot decks and related information on the Internet.

Images © 2004 Robin Ator
Review © 2004 Dan Pelletier
Page © 2004 Diane Wilkes