Saturday, August 13, 2011

Deck Review - Prairie Tarot

I have spent a contented week working with the Prairie Tarot by Robin Ator, available from his website, and also the awesome folks at Tarot Garden.

I have been dreaming of these cards at night throughout this week, and they have awakened not a little bit of nostalgia, for sourballs and the tobacco and hay smell of my Grampa,  his scratchy salt and pepper whiskers and the feel of the fur of my Australian Shepard, Vixen, between my fingers.

I like this deck.  I understand these images.  I grew up on the eastern plains of Colorado, where green grass dances gracefully in the winds that sweep over the prairie, and the seasons passing can be measured by the fading to yellow color of the sea of grass.  We tickled each other with foxtails and searched out pussy willows on the marshy banks of the Platte river.  The wind, with nothing to break it up or say it nay as far as the eye can see, caused the snow to drift up over our heads at times, and the branches that reach out to the clear blue sky mark every swimming hole and watering place for miles.  We shivered in delight in the gloaming hour, when bats would blot of the twinkling of the first star and the coyotes would call to each other, and look for our kittens to bring them inside where 60 Minutes would come in over the rabbit ears antenna, assuring us we weren't really so far from civilization.  The purple mountains' majesty rose in the west, snow capped peaks you could almost reach out and touch, and we all dreamed of cool mountain nights in the shimmering heat of August.  There is a song that sings itself over the prairie, and it has nothing to do with the Garth Brooks the radio was lucky enough to pick up from time to time.  (Though I DO have friends in low places...)

The Ace of Pentacles is particular favorite card of mine, the sun setting over the splendor of the Rocky Mountains.  These are the kinds of colors we get to see every day, folks.  Be jealous.  Before reading his biography, The Man and I speculated Robin must have been raised in Colorado, because no one does mountains like Colorado.  Apparently, Montana comes in pretty close though, as it turns out that is whence the artists' inspiration came.  The cards are lively, with a lot of movement and color to them, while maintaining a bit of a melancholy feel with is perfectly evocative of the sometimes lonely life on the prairie.

The deck is in many ways derivative of the famous Pamela Colman Smith deck, but it has been painted by an American, and the iconography is distinctly American.  Anyone with a background in tarot, or Americana, should be able to pick this deck up and read it with ease.  The images speak gruffly at times, the way cowboys do, and there may be a bit of a twang in their speech, but they are easily understandable.

There are no cards I would find objectionable to read with for anyone, although there is the barest hint of buttocks visible in the Nine of Cups.  The Hanged Man does depict a painful looking scene of a Native being strung up, although the ritual involved is a willing sacrifice kind of ritual, and the Ten of Swords features a dead or dying buffalo laying on the grass as a train hurtles past in the distance.  This is the kind of waste and horror that the push westward brought, as well as the wonder and amazement, and I feel is fitting to the meaning of the card, but it may disturb some people.

The cards are are glossy and what I think of as standard tarot size, about 2.75" x 4.75", with reversible black backs featuring a gray scale wagon wheel in the center.  The colors are soft but saturated, and the deck feels very gender neutral, neither masculine nor feminine, but incorporating the energy of both.  The deck comes in a sturdy two part box that will protect it well, with no title cards or booklet.  The 79th card is the Jackalope card, the old west's answer to today's Happy Squirrel, maybe.  I think that collectors would enjoy having this deck, as well as anyone who waxes nostalgic for the good ol' days.  I can see many American readers enjoying the deck, as well as people who have never visited here but are curious about our culture, before television told us what to think and wear.  America is a young country, but rich in mythology, and it is a delight to see some transposed onto this very workable deck.

These images are from the Prairie Tarot created by Robin Ator, available here.


  1. I must have this deck. I love the idea of a deck of the American mythos. BUT...I've bought so many decks already in the last two months. Hope it doesn't sell out too quick.

  2. I'm sure there will be one waiting for you :-) It's a great deck, I am a fan!

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