The Daemon Tarot is a deck I had on my wishlist for a while, though it was an idle add and remained pretty low down. My interest was piqued even more however when I came across a YouTube video review for the deck and the cards themselves became a lot more interesting. I managed to pick up the deck and was instantly surprised by its possibilities, as well as how it blows most people’s, including my own, preconceptions about this deck out of the water.
At a glance:
More of an oracle deck-style deck than a traditional tarot
69 cards in the deck with no major or minor segregations
An interesting study deck with a folklore feel
Wider cards than the standard tarot size, with decent stock
Great guide book and presentation box
A surprisingly positive and empowering vibe
The deck and guidebook has been designed and curated by Ariana Osborne. The artwork and the basis of the cards has been taken from the 1863 edition of Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy’s “Dictionnaire Infernal”.
Although this was not the first edition of this book, the original 1818 edition was not illustrated. There is a wonderful feel to the illustrations and the borders are sympathetic to the overall feel of the deck. The first thing you will notice is that this obviously isn’t a tarot deck. There are no major or minor arcana cards, no suits or courts, each card stands independently and has its own meanings and correspondences which is more suited to an oracle label.
Presented in a red box with metallic lettering “The Daemon Tarot”, surrounded by the ink sketches of weird and wonderful creatures, it can seem rather ominous on the shelf. Ariana is quick in the introduction to try and reassure the reader that there is nothing demonic about this deck in the way a lot of people would perceive it. It is a historical documentation and exploration of spirits and beings, many of which you could imagine appearing in regional folklore such as Yan-Gant-Y-Tan with his candle-tipped fingers leading the lost in his trickster games. There also appears links to witchcraft with the Witches Round card and Brooms.
The quality throughout is really good, the presentation box is sturdy and well produced. The guide book has a lovely modern, clean design throughout and the card descriptions are well laid out. There is a plastic holder within the box which splits the cards into 2 piles for storage if you don’t keep them in a bag. Taking the book out of the box you are assured that there is plenty of information given to get to grips with this deck. There is an introduction to the deck as well as some history surrounding the Dictionnaire Infernal itself and the author’s history. The cards themselves are listed alphabetically, which in this case makes the most sense with the lack of suits and numbered cards. I found this very easy referencing when first using the deck itself.
One thing I did miss on my first glance through is the spreads provided. I didn’t feel as if I could just jump into a horseshoe spread or any other usual tarot interview spreads, so I scanned through to see what was on offer. The two methods suggested are a little hidden within the text in the introduction itself, without diagrams which are usually included. When I did find the suggested spreads I found it necessary, maybe because I am visually minded and find this easier, to read the method a couple of times and sketch my own spread diagram out in my journal. This is a 6-card spread which can be used for a wide range of questions giving insight on the heart of the matter, as well as advice on how best to deal with the situation. The other is a single-card pull or a 3 card spread.
There is a short background on each Daemon, any information found during the research and appearances in various texts as well as what they best represent in terms of divination. Each page is finished off with a short mantra to reflect on when you draw that card which is really useful if you like to get to know a deck by using it straight away rather than spend a long time reading the guide first.
The cards are wider than most tarot cards, they have a nice finish and are easy to shuffle. The mustard coloured background is visually appealing as is the surrounding design. There is a few sentences on each card which relates to the character appearing on it, but when actually doing a reading I still felt it necessary to reference the guide the first few times for the divination meanings. The etchings are all monochrome, they are large and clear and I love that historical feel which is created here. The back of the cards are non-reversible which makes sense as this deck is not designed to be used with reversed meanings. It shows presumably another illustration from the Dictionnaire Infernal on a light green background with the book title surrounding. Personally, I would have liked the backs to have been a little more simple with possibly a pattern rather than something so detailed, reserving the illustrations for the fronts.
Taking out a card and reading the meaning is often surprising. For example, Zaebos shows an armoured Daemon, riding a crocodile and holding his shield and spear in a readied position. Upon reading the lore around this creature however, we are told that he is the leader of those destined to find their soul mate and when he has lead them to meet, he ensures they fall in love. There are many pleasant and interesting facets to these cards which made flipping through the guide very enjoyable and quite addictive. I tried the 6 card spread given in the book and was very pleased with the resulting messages it provided.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a definite balance of positive and negative within the deck itself, as well as a fair few tricksters who make appearances you need to be wary of! This has definitely not taken lore and made it, for want of a better word, “fluffy”, but it has made it a useable system which offers the positives and negatives necessary to read with it. Overall I was a lot more into this deck as soon as I opened it than I thought I would be. I’m really glad I was lead to buying it and will definitely be using it for reads and reflections regularly, though I do feel devising a few more spreads to add to it’s repertoire would be a real bonus for those who wish to use it regularly.