Phantasmagoric Theater Tarot by Graham Cameron
Review by Gavin Pugh
If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.
The title says it all.
Phantasmagoric: "A shifting series of real or imaginary figures as seen in a dream."
Theater: Actors on a stage acting out a prewritten script.
This deck combines these ideas each card is a stage of its own with phantasmagoric actors in their own scene.
This is not a child's deck, even though the cartoon like imagery might imply that it is. A good example of why this is not a child's deck is the Two of Cups. The couple in this card are wearing rubber bondage gear and drinking
through hoses in their mouths. An image, for me, that is not scary but is, I think, inappropriate for children.
The cards themselves are oversized which does make it difficult to shuffle (for me, especially, as I have small hands). By making it difficult to shuffle them, it's been said that it brings back memories of childhood. I¹m not sure that it does. What I am sure of, though, is that it does make the artwork stand out. And it is outstanding.
The deck is not a Rider-Waite-Smith clone, but I think that if you are familiar with the RWS, it would not be hard to quickly learn this deck, as
the cards do echo Waite's in meaning.
In saying that this deck does have a symbolism and expression all its own. Graham Cameron introduces the symbols of: Numbers especially 56 which are described as a political statement as well as an expression of system. Jigsaw pieces as he sees us a part of a continuous link. They also represent feminine, masculine and feminine/masculine elements within the cards. Dice being a representation of fate and change in life? as life is full of unanswered question and is key to finding hidden meanings within the cards.
The major arcana have titles in the LWB, in addition to their card title. For example, The Hermit is "the seeker" and they each have an elemental or astrological association apart from the world.
The minor arcana are split into the themes of: Air/sword/labyrinth, Fire/wand/circus, Water/cup/desert and Earth/coin/Village. Knowing that makes it easier to build themes and meanings from the symbols used.
One thing that I am really impressed with in this deck is that court cards. They all have big heads! That's not the real reason that I like them though. Each one has their own personalities, which is always a bonus when trying to
interpret them. The Queen of Swords does give the impression that she is sitting in judgment, as she does look quite scary. It reminds me of the look you get when you get when you try and creep in late and your parents are still up.
As this deck has a symbolism and a style of its own, I think will it takes a while to get to grips with. It does come with little book that helps by giving descriptions of the card, including giving the characters names which helps to provide them a personality.
I would love to see a full size book for this deck as I think that a lot of thought has gone into its creation and think that the deck would be greatly enhanced with the fuller understanding that an in-depth book would bring.
I would recommend this deck to someone who is able to accept the alternative aspects of life. I would not recommend this as a beginners deck because there are other decks, like the Robin Wood, which have more accessible symbolism.
I think that if you where to take the time to work with this deck then it has great potential. I know that I am going to spend some time getting to know it.
If you would like to purchase this deck, click
The Phantasmagoric Theater Tarot
Author and Artist: Graham Cameron
Publisher: US Games
ISBN#: 1 572281 195 1
Gavin Pugh is the Guest Moderator for Halloween Tarot on Comparative Tarot. He also selects the "Best of" Comparative Tarot and publishes an e-mail newsletter for that e-list. He has recently begun to moderate an e-list of his writing called All78Degrees.
Images © 2000 US Games
Review © 2001 Gavin Pugh
Page © 2001 Diane Wilkes