At first glance, one may not believe there to be any relation between steampunk and tarot. However, I think the two are perfectly suited as they both speak of adventure and storytelling and neither are bound by the present but instead look to the past and the future. So, I was particularly excited to discover that there are a number of steampunk tarot cards. Most tarot decks like this are considered novelty decks ie; beautiful to look at but not very useable. However, my favourite steampunk deck is one I use, and I have been working with the tarot for almost twenty years. So while some may unfairly refer to these as ‘mere novelty decks’ I think the steampunk illustrations can really help give an extra dimension to the messages that you receive from your readings. No dirigible or time machine is needed as these cards take you on an adventure and a half! Here I will show you three steampunk tarot decks, ending with my favourite one.
How to Use Your Steampunk Tarot Deck
Before we get to the decks, I want to take a moment to look at how you can use them. Of course, you may be an experienced reader and a collector of tarot decks, in which case you could use your steampunk tarot deck in the same way as you would your others. But you actually do not have to use these in a divinatory fashion. The images on some of the decks, especially the second one listed below, are a great inspiration for any aspiring writer. In fact I defy you to leaf through the cards in any of the decks and not come up with an idea for a character or a story. Also, if you are choosing to attend an event as a Steampunk Fortune-Teller, these are the perfect accessory and trust me, no matter how new you are to tarot reading, other steampunks will be enthralled by any of the decks shown below.
The Victorian Steampunk Tarot
The Victorian Steampunk Tarot is true to its name and has the industrial fantasy grittiness of Steampunk, combined with a real Victorian flavour. Rather than looking like paintings or drawings, the images on these cards make me think of a collage. This works well because when reading the tarot, we do look at the different parts of a card’s image. However, even if there is this layered, sometimes almost three-dimensional look, they do come together as a whole, in my opinion, rather amazing image.
The Major Arcana cards are particularly vibrant and while the Minor Arcana does not have the same type of images, it is comprised of something more than just mere pip cards. The suits are made up of Dragonflies, Beetles, Bees and Moths, and each of these cards also have a Cup, Pentacle (old coin) Sword and Wand on each card, showing which traditional suit the insects correspond to. I like the use of insects, as this also has a very Victorian feel to it.
Due to the more basic nature of the Minor Arcana, I would not recommend this as a deck for beginners, but if you love Steampunk and especially the more Victorian side, this is the tarot deck for you. There is a very British feel to them, which I really like.
The Steampunk Tarot: Wisdom from the Gods of the Machine
There are two Steampunk Tarot decks (I’ll move on to the other one in just a minute) and this one has the by line ‘Wisdom from the Gods of the Machine’ and by golly do the images show this to full effect. There is a real industrial feel to these cards, with machines, contraptions and dirigibles aplenty! This deck is not just vibrant but bright and pulsing with life, so much so that at times it is like looking at photographs. This is because some of the people are represented by photographic-like images, in very colourful and detailed settings.
The Major Arcana, follows the standard set by more classical decks like the Rider-Waite, but the majority of the cards do not have the same names. Still, this is not too confusing and I actually found the interpretations of the classics very intriguing. The Hermit becomes the Inventor, The Wheel of Fortune is the Time Machine and Judgement is the Regeneration Machine, to name but a few. These are explained in the accompanying book. The Minor Arcana also does not follow the standard suits; Cups, Pentacles, Swords and Wands are replaced by Submersibles, Leviathans, Airships and Engines. Each card from the Minor Arcana is a unique and intriguing image, just like the Major Arcana cards.
Of all the steampunk tarot decks I have seen, The Steampunk Tarot: Wisdom from the Gods of the Machine is the one that is the most true to the sci-fi origins of the genre. Some people may say that this is not a deck suitable for beginners, but I do not see why a beginner could not use this deck. The book that comes with it is full of information and even unique spreads to use with the deck. I think by allowing yourself to be drawn in and lost in the steampunk world of this tarot deck, there is so much that can be seen and learned; sometimes the best thing we can do is to forget what we think we know and embrace the knowledge of the new for exactly what it is.
The Steampunk Tarot
Ah The Steampunk Tarot! I have saved the best for last, or at the very least my favourite tarot deck until the end. My first cursory glance at The Steampunk Tarot made me wonder if it would even be usable as the images are very dark, but on closer inspection, I was totally bowled over by the beautiful artwork and detail on each card.
This is a classic tarot deck, very much in the vein of the Rider-Waite, so it is very easy to use whether you are brand new to the tarot, or have been working with cards for years. The Major and Minor Arcana all have the traditional names, but the images are portrayed with brilliant steampunk artwork. There are hundreds upon hundreds of tarot decks that are based on the Rider-Waite, but unfortunately very few bring anything new image-wise to aid in interpretation and meaning. This deck does bring so much more. So it is a great tarot deck to use to enhance your readings.
I love that each card looks like a painting; it makes me want to blow up the images and frame them. For me, this deck strikes the perfect balance between steampunk and tarot, coming together in a way that combines the best, mystical, fantastic and adventurous aspects of both. You get drawn into this steampunk world and that gives you free reign to explore and receive your own messages. Oh, and the book that accompanies the deck is amazing! It is a book that I would buy based on its own merits. It has a real Victorian feel to the way it is written and presented and covers everything from what steampunk is, all the way to extensive meanings and information for each of the cards and well as spreads.