Friday, May 30, 2014

Deck Review- Deviant Moon Tarot Borderless Edition

I am back, with some exciting reviews to share with you all.  Let's start with the Deviant Moon Tarot Borderless Edition by Patrick Valenza, and published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.  This is a deck that is near to my heart and one I was already utterly devoted to, as evidenced in my original review of the deck, and the many posts it has appeared in over the years.  The Borderless Edition is only more fabulous, which is gushing praise for a deck I already thought was pretty near perfect.

Do you know how whenever a favorite product is reformulated, whether it is Coke or our best conditioner or whatever thing was recently changed for no good reason and it irritates you?  I sincerely doubt you will feel that with this deck.  The card stock is better, the colors much more saturated, the images crisper and cleaner, and more space is left for the enchanting art.  Size does matter when it comes to real estate on a card for art versus border.

If you want to just read the specifics of the deck, go ahead and skip ahead, but I will share a few small details before I go on-

Me & the Deviant Moon, A Love Story

My own personal story with the Deviant Moon Tarot is a long and deep one.  For over 15 years, I had one tarot deck, and I was very happy with it.  It never occurred to me to get another tarot deck, for what was the need?  But one day, broken hearted and nearly drowning in my own sorrow, I was compelled to pick up a new deck.  It was not this one, but another beauty which I doubt you will ever see me use, for it served its' purpose in my life of helping me to heal and to use it again just doesn't feel right now.  It is Legend: The Arthurian Tarot, and it will always remain dear to me, but is no longer a reading deck.  But once I had two decks, and since the first was my soul mate and the second a heart-saver, I decided why not have as many beautiful decks as call to me (and I can afford), and seven years and thousands of decks later I have never regretted that decision.

Published in 2008, the Deviant Moon Tarot was one of my original ten decks, maybe even one of my first five decks, and the first one that I watched being created at Patrick Valenza's site, and while many more decks followed, this was the first deck that I had to have.  The artwork called to me.  I yearned to hold this deck in my hands, physically yearned, and the images danced through my foggy dreams at night.  I was obsessed, and no other deck could fill the need I had.  At much trouble and expense, I was gifted the deck by a man with a beautiful soul and smiling eyes, the day it was released, and I tore into the package like a six year old into their Christmas morning presents, no elegance or delicacy in my manner at all.  And it was everything I thought it would be.  No, it was even more.  It even told me when I would reconnect to my now husband ("That long?" I had sighed and the Deviant Moon was silent because we must be respectful of the answers we are given, even when they are not the answers we want in a given moment.)

Self Trimmed Deviant Moon Tarot
As time went on, I became more specific in my needs for a working deck, so while I would (and still) buy most anything that appealed to me, where I spent my most valuable resource, my time, were decks that I could fall into, really get into the artwork and let the images spark a story for me to tell.  For me, that was decks without borders most often, for I adore the way the images look butted right up next to each other, no boundaries, nothing to keep everything from spilling over into each other and my imagination.  One day, I became brave enough to begin to trim my working decks of their borders, and that is a practice I am likely to never stop.  Of course, my beloved Deviant Moon was a prime candidate for a border-ectomy, and while the result was not as precise as a professionally cut deck, I was in love.

On a practical level, publishers usually use borders because it is easier to cut the giant sheets of cards into a deck when there is a border to work with, and aesthetically, art often looks better framed.  That is, after all, why we spend so much finding just the right mat and frame for our treasures.  But for me, tarot is more than art, and most decks work better for me when they are borderless, and many colors, especially in a moody twilight deck like the Deviant Moon, are washed out by a white or conflicting border.  Note in the image above, my Deviant Moon deck which I released of its' borders how much deeper the colors look, and the printings are the same.

But deck trimming is not for everyone, as it is a labor of love, resulting in sore thumbs and while I am perfectly happy to use my slightly irregular decks, if you can have better, why not?  U.S. Games Systems deserves a huge round of applause for taking consumer feedback seriously and adjusting to provide their customers with something they want, as the new Borderless Edition shows a commitment to listening to what is being said.  Sometimes we, as collectors and readers, forget that tarot is a super tiny niche in a very small market, and physical publishing in our ever more digital world leaves little margin for error, because unsold copies can lead to financial disaster for even large publishing houses, and even more so for the small independent publishers of tarot decks.  I want to extend a large thank you to Stuart Kaplan and everyone in the company for responding to what we, as consumers, asked for in forums, blogs, social media, and emails.

The Review

Deviant Moon Comparison- Wheel of Fortune
2008 Original on left, Borderless Edition on right
(click to enbiggen)

The structure of the deck is unchanged, with 22 Major Arcana, with Roman Numerals on top of the card and a black strip to showcase the title at the bottom, with the exception of XIII, with no strip or title.  Justice is found at VIII and Strength at XI, in traditional European numbering.  One of the fascinating things about the Deviant Moon Tarot in any edition is, to me, the very archetypal stoicism of the Majors, while the Minors are much more active and more about telling stories.  This actually makes perfect sense, as we are usually dealing with the lighter and more changing Minors in our day to to day lives, with the deeper and heavier Majors tending to be more about themes and overarching plots in our lives.  However, most decks, if there is a discrepancy between the Majors and Minors, will spend more time and hence "better" artwork on the Majors, sometimes leaving the Minors feeling not as finished, or without the same amount of detail.  Not so with the Deviant Moon.  The artwork is even (and exquisitely rendered, even if not to a particular taste) throughout the deck, but the Minors really are about details, and the Majors more about the characters.

There are 56 Minor Arcana, divided into the suits of Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles.  The Aces, made up of elemental beings, mostly angels, with one notable exception, are titled with the same black strip and "Ace of ..." handily written across the bottom.  The Court Cards, which are the Page, Knight, Queen, and King, are given the same treatment, while the fully illustrated pip cards are simply graced with their Roman numeral at the top of the card.  There are the proper number of each suits' symbol, 10 Swords, for example, 3 Cups, so each card is readily identified, although the pictures are truly worth a thousand words.  This is a deck firmly rooted in Waite Smith tradition, with its' proverbial tongue sticking out and its' own unique voice which expands the meanings.  A small booklet of meanings is enclosed, and the images are quite easy (for me) to read, but this deck will also benefit from a companion book when it becomes available.

Deviant Moon Tarot Comparison- Four of Wands
2008 Original on left, Borderless Edition on right
(click to en-biggen for detail)
Tarot is a language of symbols and its' syntax lies in how we, as readers, respond to the art.  It is not my place to tell you how you feel about the art, but I have observed how much this deck, more than any other I have ever seen, provokes a response.  That response is not always positive, and not everyone wants to use this deck, but I have yet to see someone feel neutral about it.  It seems to be love, or hate which is probably rooted in "the creeps" but it is not the kind of deck which gets a "meh" response.  What reaches one reader may not necessarily reach another, but I can attest to this deck reading like a dream for me, being full of symbolic and literal language to grab a hold of.  My kids are now all teenagers, but even at their youngest I was comfortable sharing this deck with them, as the slight nudity, mostly pointy, highly stylized breasts, and mild violence is both contextual and tastefully done.  However, this is not a deck for everyone, as the familiar but somehow Other characters and landscape can be disturbing to some people.

Do you need the Borderless Edition if you have one of the original copies?  I would say yes, as I expect the success of the Borderless Edition will render the original printing an artifact, and besides the pronounced difference having a border versus not makes, this printing is, in all ways, better.  The lines are sharp and crisp, which I never realized was an issue until I had something even better to look at, and the colors are deep, dark, and fully saturated.  As mentioned before, the colors become somewhat washed out next to their white borders, and fairly sing against a reading cloth without them.

Original- Left, Borderless Edition- Right
Since the decks are nearly the same size, both being 5 and 1/8 inches long, and the borderless edition just slightly slimmer at 2 and 5/8 inches wide, the art simply has more space to exist in with the Borderless Edition.  The centimeter of white, and inner colored border, of the original really took up a lot of space where the art is better used, in my opinion.  The Borderless Edition is on thicker card stock, as evidenced when the decks are stacked next to each other and the Borderless comes in a centimeter taller.  Speaking of card stock, the Borderless Edition is matte, while the oldest original is a shiny and slick with lamination.  If you want an original, with borders edition that is shiny, you will be looking for (probably for a long time) one printed in Italy, and if you prefer one with borders that is more matte, that version was printed in China.

If you are convinced that you need the Borderless Edition in your life, please make sure you take note of the two different images on the box, and the words "Borderless Edition"emblazoned in gold on the box featuring the Queen of Pentacles.  The back will feature the already familiar Wheel of Fortune.  If the original version, with borders, calls to you, you are looking at a front with the The Moon card and its' puppets featured, and The Magician on the back.  Currently, US Amazon has the proper pictures with the proper editions, but they are notorious for switching information without changing pictures, so if you do not get what you want from them don't hesitate to send it back.  Of course, your local metaphysical store or small book shop will likely have it, or can likely order it, and they always appreciate the business.

The lovely bag in my images to the right is by Tarot by Sulis, and the quality is unmatched.  The random scribblings notebook is all original, by me, probably rubbish, and the Borderless Edition is on the left, while the original is on the right.

If you love the Deviant Moon Tarot in any form, a companion book with Patrick Valenza's unique insights into this immersive world he has imagined into creation is forthcoming, and his other art projects, including more tarot decks, is sure to delight.  I own several prints and they proudly grace my walls, and I feel confident recommending this Deviant Moon Tarot Borderless Edition as a not to be missed deck!

These cards are from the Deviant Moon Tarot Borderless Edition by Patrick Valenza, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.


  1. Fab imagery in either deck. I found you via another blog and very pleased I did!

    1. I never get tired of looking at this deck, with or without borders. Thank you for coming by!

  2. I appreciate your blog comments. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

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  4. Thank you for this post. This is very interesting information for me.

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