Baphomet: The Tarot of the Underworldbaph1.jpg (24983 bytes) - Review by Michele Jackson

This is a large deck, 4 1/4” X 6 6/8”, rendered mostly in tones of silver and gray, with a bit of brown occurring here and there. The edges are gilded with silver and it is sold as a deck/book set in a slip-sleeve case for the hefty price of $60.00, though I have seen it advertised on alt.tarot for $48.00. The deck is Majors only and the art has been gleaned from the existing body of work by artist H.R. Geiger. Geiger won an Oscar for his work in Alien, and if you saw the movie and got a good look at the alien, you have an idea of what this deck looks like. Although none of the creatures depicted in this deck has two rows of metal teeth, dripping saliva, most have a nightmarish quality about them. Some human body parts are incorporated into the work, but even they have thin, silvery skin, which allows you to see traces of the veins and underlying muscle structure. The art is in no way related to the traditional imagery of the Tarot and was not drawn with the Tarot in mind. Apparently someone went through Geiger’s work and decided which pictures would make an interesting deck. Here are a few descriptions to give you an idea of what I am talking about:

The Fool - A bald creature with some type of apparatus on his head (it resembles a set of head phones), is seated in profile and either smoking a pipe or playing some type of wind instrument ( I have since been told that the object is a shotgun). He looks more like he is smoking to me and appears to have smoked a bit too much, as his face has a weary and foggy expression. The bottom half of a woman kneels before him, with one leg on each of his hips, such that her buttocks are a few inches from his face. He seems highly unimpressed. He appears human-like, having eyes, a prominent nose, a mouth, arms and hands, but he also has what appear to be scales or striated lines on his head and chest. His skin is dark gray in shadow, and lighter gray in light. Behind them is a set of stairs going up to the sky, similar to those built by the Aztecs, only very dark.

Justice - A horned creature, reminiscent of the Devil, is holding what appears to be the body of the Crucified Christ in one hand. The Christ figure is not on the crucifix, though he has the same pose he would have if he were on it. An elastic or rubber band is attached to his outstretched arms and the horned creature is pulling it back like a sling-shot, while aiming with one eye closed. There are various worm-like appendages growing from the creature’s body, some of which have heads. The heads have skull-like faces and one has flowing hair, arranged as if it had stuck it’s finger in a light socket, while another is wearing a shiny black top hat. There are daggers floating in the background.

baph2.jpg (22554 bytes)There are many female body parts in the pictures, usually the lower half, including legs, thighs, buttocks and pelvis. Some are semi-clothed, usually in leather, metal or machinery, and some are not clothed at all. Generally speaking, the female creatures and body parts are shown in some type of submissive posture, either being penetrated by some object, or about to be penetrated, or shown as adoring acolytes hanging on the sides of some other creature. Two of the card names have been changed: The Hanged Man has become The Hanged Witch. Again only her lower 1/2 is shown, legs splayed with some type of apparatus attached to her genitals. Temperance has become Alchemy, though the central creature in this card looks more like it should be in The Devil.... Well what do you know, it is in the Devil card as well. The book that comes with the deck, does not explain the symbology, though it does list the paintings the cards were taken from. Perhaps some research into what the artist has to say about those paintings would be helpful, but I doubt it, as the paintings were not done with a Tarot deck in mind. The book begins by describing the history of Baphomet and how he is seen in various cultures and guises. It then goes on to give "Some Fundamental Reflections", starting with Carl Jung’s Model of Synchronicity and going on to describe the Tarot’s use in exploring our inner and outer realities. There are 9 spreads provided in the book, all shaped like stars, pentagrams, or circles. Finally interpretations are given for each card. The interpretations are quite good actually, though not always traditional. Finally there is a brief biography of the artist and the author of the book. Overall this deck is quite dark and depressing. If you are familiar with Geiger’s work and like it, you might be interested, or if you are a hard-core collector of decks. Many women will find this deck highly offensive. I am not a science fiction fan myself and find Geiger’s world of machinery, creatures, leather and metal quite oppressive.

Go to the Baphomet Tarot Website

Baphomet: The Tarot of the Underworld
Akron/H.R. Geiger
Published by AGMuller
ISBN: 3-905017-38-5

Review Copyright 1996/97 Michele Jackson
Page Copyright 2000 Diane Wilkes