Written by: Peter Mc Cann / Khonsu
I am lucky to have been given the chance to review the Tattoo Tarot Ink & Intuition for TABI and even before the package arrived I felt drawn to the deck; I had taken a sneaky look at the artist’s work on their publisher’s website, Laurence King Publishing Ltd.
Having been out all day looking at properties I got back to find the deck waiting impatiently for me; and I do really mean ‘impatiently’. It wanted to be unpacked and handled; but I was just too tired to comply. Fully refreshed, I carefully peeled away the wrapping to reveal a sturdy cream coloured box which is covered in fabulous and colourful images of interpretations of tattoo deigns; blended with concepts of the esoteric.
A short paragraph on the base introduces the artist (Megamunden) and acknowledges the author of the text Diana McMahon-Collis. The box is formed from rigid card and it is simply a superbly produced work of art in itself; the deep base of which sits perfectly into the full cover lid and provided comfortable and generous storage for the deck and booklet.
“Is fate being tattooed onto your skin as you read this?”
This is a clever and intriguing opening line and a really memorable way to introduce a deck which links tattoo and tarot. It also made me think seriously about the bridge between the art of Megamunden and the words of TABI’s own Diana McMahon-Collis. The booklet that comes with the deck continues this link by exploring, briefly, the origins of tarot and tattoo and speaking of the iconic symbols of the tattooist’s trade; which seem to me to sit comfortably within tarot and which can be easily recognised by readers. The booklet is both more encompassing and somehow less explanatory than I expected; it covers how to conduct a reading, how to draw the cards and how to consider the cards that have been drawn. Perhaps I found this a little more than I personally would need but it is certainly a great introduction to the deck; and I know many people who will find it enormously useful. This is not to say that I wouldn’t ‘get’ anything from these introductions; reading them for the review brought me closer to the idea of the deck and seemed to enhance its resonance.
The booklet flows well and the introduction seamlessly segways into three ideas for spreads that I found fascinating. These are, The Heart (great for relationship matters), The Blooming Flower (ideal for success in new ventures) and Third Eye Insight (perfect for general quick insight on any matters); which is the one I will trial. My initial feeling was that these spreads concentrate on just a few key cards with other, face-down, cards making the titular shapes. The Heart, for example, seems to depend on just 6 cards for the reading but the ‘heart shape’ is created by using another 15 face-down cards as infill. I think I would probably relate this concept to heavenly constellations such as Orion’s Belt where just the three brightest stars are usually seen although the rest of the ‘belt’ is present in shadow. On a personal level, and if I was to use the idea of face-down ‘shading,’ I think I may be tempted to turn at least some of the adjacent cards over if I needed clarifiers.
Of course, it may be that the illustration of face-down cards is simply there to emphasise the spread’s purpose. Nevertheless, these are good ideas and I would certainly use them in future readings. I loved the next part of the leaflet; it brings together the elements associated with the suits, gives a ‘nod’ to numerological interpretations of the pips, treats the courts as a genre in their own right and should provide very useful insights to anyone who wants to expand their knowledge. The main part of the booklet is divided between an ace to king rundown of each suit and the majors. I was both disappointed and exhilarated that the interpretations of the minors and majors are primarily one-word prompts rather than being more detailed descriptors; disappointed because I can be a lazy reader who occasionally needs more information than just buzzwords and exhilarated because the use of language is just superb; single words really jump into consciousness and such sentences as there are prompt myriad thoughts and encourage consideration of ‘different’ interpretations. “No pain, no gain” is used in one instance; I loved that, even though I might never comfortably use it to a querent!
The moment of truth is at hand. As I took the cards from their nest they felt almost warm to my touch; living breathing things that fit my large(ish) hands as if custom made for me. I’ve only had that reaction twice before; it surprised me as I’m so much older now and not quite so easily influenced. My scalp is crawling in anticipation as I sort the deck and I am having to really hold back. I place all of the swords cards in random places on my table and randomly build piles from these and the other cards, both major and minor. One card catches my eye and I put her to one side until I have built my piles and brought them together to re-form the deck. She is the Queen of Wands and I feel as if I have never seen anything so beautiful; even though Cilla Conway’s Intuitive Tarot Artwork has sung in my heart since I first held that deck. I feel that this queen may be a powerful challenger.
I think the aces set the tone for all of the cards, in each of their suits.
The Ace of Coins seems to me to capture the very essence of materialism with a ‘nod’ to the dangers of avarice whilst the Ace of Wands may seem to be the complete opposite with its empowerment of personal development and achievement that is not perhaps entirely based around financial reward and/or richness for richness’ sake. The Ace of Swords absolutely radiates power and encourages the ideas of achievement by realism and the Ace of Cups is joyously full; this cup genuinely ‘runneth over’.
The courts are superbly drawn and rich with symbolism.
In keeping with her ace, the Queen of Coins simply radiates the ideas of wealth and avarice; there can be no more jewels that this person can wear at one time. Everything about her is exciting but this is someone who could break hearts without a thought, who could strip someone of all their possession and yet who shows just the shadow of a tentative philanthropic side. Any one of these queens is an image that I would gladly have inked into my skin but, even amongst all of the power and beauty on display here, the Queen of Wands still speaks loudest to my soul. Her colours are rich, her hair is as golden as her crown and her pose is, to me, both enticing and terrifying; I would follow her anywhere. The image of the Queen of Swords, to me, perhaps belies some of the more base interpretations of this card. Her colours are primarily green which could be seen as a ‘nod’ to the potentially spiteful side of her nature; but to me, this queen is inked to more embody the ideas of strength and power. There is little to be said for the Queen of Cups; she is what she is. Drawn somehow like a 1940s screen goddess she would seem to me to typify everything that suggests that behind every great person there is an even greater mother.
This deck absolutely comes alive with the majors.
The Fool in particular is, to my mind, astonishing. I think we can sometimes forget just how important this card can be but the image here is of someone who is no fool; but who understands that they need to undertake a journey which may lead to enlightenment and freedom. The Lovers, though, is potentially my favourite major from this deck; it seems drawn as if a poster from a Lauren Bacall/Humphrey Bogart film and I now can’t think of another card which so completely embraces its place in the arcana. On the other hand, a small disappointment for me is The Devil; whilst it embodies the tattoo/tarot integration of Megamunden’s artwork for this deck, it seems to me that I may have seen similar depictions in other decks. I do emphasise my use of the word ‘similar’; this devil is certainly unique in its colouring and expression and I try to show that with the inclusion of another ‘devil’.
I am enthralled by this deck and I believe that many of you reading this will also take it to your heart. The cards are empowered by the strength of Megamunden’s vision and the collaboration between the artist and the author is simply magical. The colours are subtle yet powerful; some might say dull, but they are the colours of ink on skin and that is the whole point of this beautiful deck. The rose pink of the ethnic woodcut style image on the reverse of the cards is heartbreakingly beautiful; bringing a feeling of peace and continuity that sits well with the overall concept of the deck.
Diana McMahon-Collis has achieved something quite magnificent with her use of words and terminology; which sits so well with the structural inked artwork throughout the deck. As I got further into the deck and handled the cards more I began to feel that what Diana had done with her languages was to breathe new energy into me and I have become much more inclined to dig deep into my soul to bring reason and purity to my readings. I haven’t been so excited by a deck since I first handled The Intuitive Tarot; which, now looks like being forced to share my heart with the Tattoo Tarot for the rest of time.
Third Eye Insight Spread:
To explore this deck, I laid out the whole of the spread, a total of 11 cards face down; turning over, in order, the three card which fell in the positions in the spread where they knew they would be revealed.
6 of Wands: essence or focus of the situation
5 of Swords: what brings clarity
Knight of Coins: what brings balance
My interpretations; relying mostly on the booklet alone.
The 6 of Wands in this deck shows the wands interlocked and circled by a laurel wreath. There are stars around, but this appears to be so in most pip cards of the deck. The colours are deep and strong reds, greens, ochres and black.
This can be a card that heralds good news and the laurel wreath would support this as it is significantly associated with victory and reward. The 6 of Wands can also suggest that it is time for insight and honesty; to overcome any lingering doubts or fears. Because of this, I believe that the focus of this spread may be to find out if the path you have chosen will bring the success and security you seek.
The 5 of Swords in this deck shows two scimitar type swords crossed by three smaller swords that are piercing a rose; one of the most popular tattoos. The colours are emerald tinged with deep black and highlighted with ochre and red.
This can be a card that refers to introspection and self-knowledge both of which could support the focus of the reading in its suggestion of the need for insight and honesty. You can only know yourself if you can be completely honest and truthful in questioning your desires, feelings and fears. How appropriate then, that this is the position to suggest what brings clarity to you.
The Knight of Coins in this deck is a devastatingly handsome young man who holds an emerald in his left hand and who is facing to the right whilst keeping an eye on where he is right now. The colours match those of the 5 of Swords which may bring an incredible connection between what brings clarity and what brings balance. This can be a card of deep contrast. On one hand he is someone who knows order, method, perseverance and decency; but he can also represent inertia and stagnation. I think he may have chosen to appear here because he could feel, although you appear to have the drive you need to get where you need to be, that you may take the introspection of the 5 of Swords to heart and find yourself lost in your thoughts and unable to move on. In facing to the right, this knight may be reviewing his past (introspection); but you need to remember that he also seems to be focussed on his present. I think the core here may be to consider all of your past decisions, good or bad, and to learn what you can take from these without losing sight of what you have already achieved.
The three cards may suggest that you could be in a position where everything you have been working towards may be within your grasp; the five may be thinking that you need to be certain that the path you are on is one that will fulfil you and the knight perhaps warning against losing yourself in the planning rather than the doing. But altogether, I feel that you may be able to take all of this on board and achieve the success and security you deserve.
Name: The Tattoo Tarot Ink & Intuition
Creators: Diana McMahon-Collis and Megamunden
Publisher: Laurence King Publishing
Diana McMahon Collis
Laurence King Publishing Ltd