The Jamie Hankin Tarot by Jamie Hankin
Review by Diane Wilkes

I am often frustrated by art decks and Majors-Only decks because neither is suited for doing readings, my tarot raison d'tre. But the Jamie Hankin Tarot is both--an art deck and a Majors-Only deck--yet it's one of those decks that make you value the niche. While I often exclaim in reviews about the art in specific decks, I am well aware that it's exceptional for tarot art, not anything that would necessarily make Dali or Duchamps stand up (from cold storage) and take notice.

Check those graves for activity, though, because the Jamie Hankin Tarot is the real deal. Sandra Thomson has lectured about Tarot Noir, but she is focusing on the specific aspect of shadow work. Hankin has created a true Noir Tarot, complete with sensitive black and white photographs that make every use of shadow and light one could hope for. In addition, the poses, settings, and accouterments amplify the archetypes, resulting in images that convey the kind of mood Bogey and Bacall conjure in The Big Sleep--all foggy cigarette smoke and atmosphere you could cut with a knife.

Note The Fool, hips akimbo, carrying the eternal feminine's version of the knapsack--the ubiquitous pocketbook. Her legs are planted in an awkward position, yet one that conveys movement despite her still pose. What makes the image perfect, of course, is that high, slightly floppy topper--a hat simultaneously silly and chic. This is one of my favorite cards in the deck.

Hankin includes two cards providing a phrase or keywords for each of the Majors, and The Fool's is "One who walks without fear." We've all seen her in our travels, cutting into line at the airport, wedging her way to the front of the stage, always with a fetching winsome innocence that allows her to get away with not even possessing a concert ticket.

The Magician is pure Sally Bowles, part enchantress, part trickster, all flash.  If she is the performer at this mythical show, the High Priestess is the gal perched on a stool at the back of the theatre, smoking Gauloises and gently ignoring the stage because her own reveries are more potent.

I began describing these images by rote--yet I found myself transported to another world, a world populated by Hankin's living archetypes. That is the essence of their power. Other notable denizens of our imaginary concert event include The Chariot, a motorcycle mama whose shouted-out  song request is, in fact, an imperious demand, and Justice, the ticket taker who scrutinizes every driver's license with merciless efficiency.

I'm going to leave our rock and roll chimera now to comment on a few other cards. Another one I just adore is the Seeker, who is more commonly known as The Hermit (the other cards are traditionally named, except that the Hierophant has been anointed "Pope"). This particular Seeker has cheekbones to die for, and holds her lantern in that Katherine Hepburn-as-Tracy-Lord pose that suggests the goddess Hestia (as opposed to Aphrodite). A patterned terrycloth robe accentuates the resemblance; it's a garment that Edith Head could claim as her own without shame.

Temperance is another exceptional work of art. Hankin's keywords for this card are "The Creator, The Alchemist," both of which are very dynamic terms. This divine human (or all-too-real angel) blows a kiss to the Universe as she glides on by, fashioning a more beautiful and serene world simply with her presence.

The Tower (at top) makes me think of those 50's Donna Reed-type housewives who can maintain a home, raise picture-perfect children (2.5 of them to be precise), throw the perfect garden party, and look perfect, all at the same time. The Tower aspect is the addiction to Miltowns--unfortunate, yes--deglamourizing, no. Read Jacquie Susann's Every Night, Josephine if you don't believe me.

The last perfect card I want to draw your attention to is Judgement. The Angel in White sees all, knows all with the safety of judicious distance (her keywords: "The Analyst, Evaluator, Seer")--yet always rises above expectations, with a diaphanous scarf serving as her mode of transport. This image is breathtakingly beautiful, but it is more than that--as you meditate upon it, you feel yourself ascending, your spirit rising to match hers. You find yourself feeling like you did as a child watching people fly in the movies and thinking you, too, could aviate. This image not only defies gravity, it makes you believe you could, too.

That's a pretty powerful image. Which makes it a pretty powerful deck.

Not every card is as adroit as the ones I lingered over. The Pope looks like a dominatrix (which could be Hankin's concept of "The teacher, counselor, consultant," but it's hardly a universal one). The Lovers shows two women embracing in a gently erotic pose, but they look too similar to effect the yin-yang dynamic this archetype requires.

Three models enact the various phases of the Fool's journey, though never all at once (only two cards include more than one at a time). Needless to say, they are highly-stylized, high fashion models. In that vein, the card composition is also elegant in a cutting-edge way; the images are framed with simple lines and numbered in silver, sometimes to the left, sometimes to the right, but always placed at the top of the card. The large size of the cards augments their powerful impact. The almost-reversible backs are striking and modern.

The cards are printed on relatively sturdy construction paper, but were not treated for hard use like constant shuffling--perhaps because the artist created them as a business promotional tool, not for the tarot community. The deck is packaged in a shiny silver "shield bag" that you can re-seal. In addition to the two keywords cards, the deck includes a card defining Tarot and Tarok, along with a quote from Lady Frieda Harris and--I love this!--a credits card that includes the names of the models, stylists, hair and make-up artists, assistants, and the design firm responsible for the modish composition. Even the printer and photograph processing companies are acknowledged. It's very in keeping with the cinematic quality of these cards--kind of like a Jamie Hankin Tarot Oscar fact sheet.

I recommend this deck for tarot collectors and those who appreciate exquisite photography. At $23.85, including shipping, the price is almost ridiculously reasonable for a deck of this quality. My friend who recommended the deck to me enthused that she'd have been happy to pay twice the amount.

The artist only has 50 decks remaining, so dilly dally at your own risk.

You can see all of the images and order the deck from the artist's website.

  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/Discs) N/A  
Traditional (RWS) Golden Dawn Suit-Element N/A  
Standard dimensions (approx. 4 3/4" X 2 3/4")                     X
Smaller than standard                                           X
Larger than standard                  (6 1/4" x 4")              X  

Review and page 2005 Diane Wilkes