Tag Archives: disturbed divination

Disturbed Divination: The Necronomicon Tarot

Not many tarot decks in my collection fit this month’s apocalypse theme, aside from the Zombie Tarot (reviewed last November) and the Necronomicon Tarot by Donald Tyson. And boy, is this one bleak.

In case you aren’t familiar with Tyson, he has written a series of books (Necronomicon: The Wanderings of Alhazred, Alhazred: Author of the Necronomicon, Grimoire of the Necronomicon, and The 13 Gates of the Necronomicon: A Workbook of Magic) outlining a system of occult practice based on H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction and the various Elder Gods, monsters, and aliens of Lovecraft’s “Cthulhu Mythos.” That Lovecraft indirectly spawned an occult system and a tarot deck is ironic, considering that he was vocal about his atheism and that he worked with Harry Houdini to debunk fortune-telling and spiritism. Authors such as Tyson would argue that Lovecraft was an unwitting prophet with insights into the malign forces at work in the universe.

Tyson’s Necronomicon Tarot is intended as a companion piece to the aforementioned books, and follows the Rider-Waite format. It is not a beginner-friendly deck, however, and those used to working with Rider-Waite images may not see the resemblance. (It’s there, but obtuse and twisted.)

Despite Lovecraft’s dislike of religion and fortune-telling, the art of the Necronomicon Tarot does, for the most part, faithfully convey concepts and themes present in H.P.L.’s fiction. But…if you know Lovecraft’s fiction, you can guess this makes for some pretty depressing readings. Between the often grisly art and Tyson’s dark interpretations of even the most positive cards, you will end up with a cold and unforgiving answer to any query, reminding you of your insignificant place in the universe and of all of the indifferent forces influencing your meaningless life.

The Mary-El Tarot

For this month’s Disturbed Divination feature, I wanted to cover a Christmas or Yule-themed tarot deck. But since I have none in my collection, I’m opting instead to review The Mary-el Tarot: Landscapes of the Abyss, in which Biblical and apocalyptic imagery abounds. This is one of my favorite decks in my collection. Marie White’s cards are simply stunning, and come with an in-depth guidebook detailing each card’s symbolism.

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She draws upon the Rider-Waite, Thoth, and Marseille decks with results simultaneously sacred and devilish. My favorite variation in this deck compared to other decks is that the Aces (beginnings) are represented by the Four Heavenly Creatures of the Bible and the 10’s (ending or completion of cycles) are represented by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It’s a morbid, yet appropriate, touch. The guidebook finds connections between Biblical, Pagan, Qabalistic, mythological, and pop culture concepts. Although somewhat unconventional, this deck is appropriate for beginners and for any tarot-lover.