Yesteryear Tarot by Laurie Amato
Review by Diane Wilkes

I think it's interesting to look at the last fifty years in terms of the explosive proliferation of tarot decks. The last decade, in particular, seems to be an era of personal creativity, with tarot enthusiasts of all stripes and artistic training desiring to express their (often multiple) visions of what the tarot can look like. Laurie Amato, a tarot devotee of many years, created her first deck, the Victorian Tarot, in 1999, and now has 8 (!) decks to her credit.

Her latest venture is the Yesteryear Tarot, a Majors-only collage deck in the form of a photograph scrapbook. This is a particularly appropriate format, as the heart of each card (with the exception of Death and The Tower) are old sepia photographs from the Victorian era that Amato chose to personify the archetype. She then found backgrounds, symbols, and items to enhance the message of the card.

The Fool is a sweet harlequin. The Magician is a dapper man dressed in a tuxedo, holding a bouquet of red roses. The High Priestess is a Theda Bara type, with elaborate headdress and earrings so long they could be taken as pillars.

But the magic is in Amato's attention to compositional detail, which conveys the mood and message of the cards with Six of Cups poignance. Note how the Empress' background is green, a color of fertility and growth, and edged in golden fruits. Flowers bloom at her feet, but all is not so tame and controlled in nature--hence the flowing and powerful rushing waters in the stamp affixed to the image.

The most intense and provocative image in the Yesteryear Tarot is the Hierophant. A small girl holds a super-sized crucifix within a gold window frame that evokes an orthodox church. Other religious images and icons show other dimensions of this archetype, as does the classic Greek font stamped in green, but the tape rule on the bottom remind us of the importance of structure and definition to this card. This version of the Hierophant is simply haunting.

Unfortunately, sometimes power is sacrificed for aesthetics in this deck. Strength shows a sweet little girl embracing a cat. Bordered by lace and roses, the picture is utterly adorable, but is somewhat toothless. The Hermit's background of marbled paper in earthy shades of tan and brown is the only hint of the esoteric, aside from the lantern the elegant woman holds in her hand. The Tower features old postcards, one showing the Eiffel Tower in pristine condition.

The Star, however, is quite potent. Amato includes a typed definition of "Hope," but the central figure expresses that aspect of this card most eloquently--and wordlessly. The photograph is slightly off-center, and, against a background of blue, seems like yet another star in an unusual firmament, half-earth, half-sky.

The booklet cover is breathtaking: a graceful female is the central photograph with words referencing Anne Bronte's Agnes Grey in French superimposed upon both photograph and a flowered background. The cards are not numbered, but Strength comes before the Hermit in the photograph book.

While the packaging is delightful, the color photographs are really are not suitable for reading purposes. Had they been duplicated on sturdy card stock, the clarity would have suffered, but it would be a useable deck. At $150 + shipping, this deck is for art lovers, Victoriana lovers, and collectors only.

You can order the Yesteryear Tarot and some of the artist's other decks by contacting her via email.

A complete list of Laurie's decks includes:

The Victorian Tarot 1999
The Stained Glass Tarot 2000
The Inner Garden Tarot 2001
The Inner Landscape Tarot 2001
The Celestial Tarot 2001
The Inner Shrine Tarot 2002
The Starlight Tarot 2003
The Yesteryear Tarot 2004

And another deck is forthcoming!

  Yes No
78 cards   X
Reversible Backs N/A  
Strength VIII, Justice XI                                     N/A  
Color Images X  
Standard (RWS) Titles of the Major Arcana X  
Traditional (RWS) Suits (Rods/Wands, Cups/Chalices, Swords, Pentacles/Disks/Coins) N/A  
Traditional (RWS) Golden Dawn Suit-Element Attributions N/A  
Standard dimensions (approx. 4 3/8" X 2 3/8")                     X
Smaller than standard                                    X
Slightly Larger than standard (4" x 6")                  X  

Yesteryear Tarot by Laurie Amato

Images 2004 Laurie Amato
Review and page 2004 Diane Wilkes