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Saturday, 9 November 2013

Fangs for the memories

A few weeks ago I finally decided to order Robert Place's Vampire Tarot. It was just a serendipitous thing. I quite like vampires in general, though I find most vampire tarots too gothy and adolescent. But I'd been reading Stephen King's Salem's Lot (his second, and in my opinion, scariest book), and happened upon LeFanu's post. The deck arrived in its well-known stuck-together-in-a-brick state, and I dutifully peeled all the cards apart and snipped the corners off as I went. Then to my shock I discovered three cards were missing! St Martin's Press has no customer service at all. So I emailed Robert Place asking him for advice -- and he posted me the three missing cards himself! What a star!
So now my Vampire Tarot set is complete, and I think I'd like to take a look at it this week.

First a word about the box. It is beautiful, a big chunky, solid box in vivid black and red. The lid fits snugly in place, so you have to shake and slide and grumble a bit to get the box to slide apart, then within, a substantial companion book nestles perfectly inside the box, on top of a plastic insert which fits perfectly, the cards snug in a recessed compartment that fits them perfectly. Now, you wouldn't think everything fitting together snugly and perfectly would be such a big deal -- unless you'd bought a few Llewellyn decks. Then you'd know what a treat it is to get something that is so tidy and well constructed. Yes, it's a shame there were cards missing, but still!

The cards themselves are relatively thick and actually quite plasticky, though not as thick and plasticky as, say, the Tarot of Sidhe. Nearly all 78 cards have a black background, and all cards are framed by a white border. LeFanu has trimmed his cards of borders, but I rather like the white border, so I'm leaving mine for now, though I did decide to trim the pointed corners because they made handling the deck painful. I can see why having sharp, fang-like corners is a fun idea for a vampire deck, but it isn't fun when you're trying to shuffle the thing! In typical Place style, the majors are fully illustrated, the pips are sort of 'semi' illustrated -- the pips are at the top of the card, and at the bottom is an illustration. Place does not integrate the pips into a scene, but has them floating above the scene. Finally, the courts are a curiosity, being made up mostly of friends of Bram Stoker, with a few characters thrown in. I hope I draw a couple of them for you to examine during the week.

The companion book is also typical Place. It starts, as usual, with Place's examination of the history of tarot. Then there is an interesting look at the vampire in legend and art, a short biography of Bram Stoker, and a 24-page plot summary of Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula. This deck is called the 'Vampire Tarot', but it could probably have been called the 'Dracula Tarot', because most of the deck makes reference to the novel Dracula and some of the classic Dracula films, such as Nosferatu. The book continues with the usual sections detailing meanings of each of the cards, with, as usual, much more page space devoted to the majors than to the minors, and ends with a couple of sample spreads.

So let's take a look at my three least favourite and my three favourite cards from the deck:

Vampire Tarot, Robert Place 2009
Maybe it's unfair to dislike a card from a scary deck for being too scary, but this Renfield card (The Hanged Man, or in this case 'The Mad Man') is the very reason I avoided buying this deck for four years. It is so disturbing to me that I have to turn it face down when it comes up in a draw. In fact, I hesitated to post it because of the thought of it leering out of my blog for days and days. The other two cards are just because the meanings I associate with the cards bear no relation to those given in the companion book. To be fair,this does happen quite a bit in this deck. These are just two examples. The 5 of Swords does not mean skilled work to me, but it does to Robert Place in the Vampire Tarot. Similarly, 5 of Cups does not mean 'a break with expectation' (because here we see a vampire with old books and an oil lamp using a laptop). This sort of departure from more traditional card meanings annoys me, but I can adapt I guess. And if I'm honest, I won't be using this deck much for readings,anyway. It's more a novelty item.

I adore the Fool card, which shows the unsuspecting Jonathan Harker, with his mundane coat and hat and his little brief case, climbing the stairs to the entrance of Dracula's castle, on his way to do some basic paperwork. Little does he know! In the face of warnings from the locals, he carries on. It's a wonderful substitute for the tarot Fool. The 6 of Swords is also fabulous, Dracula making his way over the dark and stormy sea to land in Whitby, where he'll meet his obsession, Mina. Finally, a beautiful Moon card. I like it just because it is fantastically lovely, evocative and also sinister at the same time. Strikes the perfect note for me for a vampire tarot.

I look forward to exploring this deck more this week, but have to admit, I'm alone in the flat right now typing this, and no music or anything in the background, and I'm a little creeped out already. What a wimp!


  1. I am happy for you the deck is complete now. It has a special dark vibe. I find it more sinister than the gothic vampire decks.

  2. Hee hee, mind you close the doors and windows well ;)
    I'm not a huge fan of Robert Place's style of artwork, but I have most of his decks, because the companion books and themes are just so interesting! Still, like you, the first thing I did with this one was round the corners. The vampire fangs things ounds like a good excuse for cost cutting to me...

  3. I like this deck!!! I had decided to order an entirely different deck, Barbara Moore's Silver Witchcraft Deck, but after reading your blog I'm starting to have second thoughts on her deck!!!

    1. Oh, don't let me put you off, I am notoriously critical of LoScarabeo decks. They are not to my taste, but if one looks a little different, I order it. I'm almost invariably disappointed. But that's not to say others don't love them, because they certainly do! :)