Like most people who will pick up this deck, I love David Bowie. I still mourn the loss of his genius, compassion and artistic talent in this world. I was very eager to get this deck and so was thrilled I had the opportunity to get the chance to review this deck! I got the cards, savoured opening the very snazzy box (brilliant job Lo Scarabeo!) and looked through the cards…. and went ‘ugh’. I will admit that my first impressions of this deck were not great; psychedelic, chaotic, bizarre and garish, the hideous love child of Carroll’s Epoch and Postmans’ Cosmic Tribe tarots. All with the odd random David Bowie face on a card. Double ‘ugh’.
A week later, and everything was different. I picked up the book and the cards, shuffled and it was like my eyes, mind, and/or psyche were ready to see the deck in a new light. I could see through the veil of those impressions before and actually saw the beauty of the Starman and their (as a gender neutral pronoun) Tarot. Whilst others may be drawn to the deck because of Bowie – this is not a deck about Bowie the man. It comes from the perspective and spiritual dimension of the Starman as Bowie’s Muse and creative Genius.
The book explains the Starman thus ; “We are being invited [by the Starman] to see the inherent nature of the human condition and look at what has been fashioned by culture through the ages, the belief and value systems we have simply adopted. His glorious presence awakens us to see another realm entirely and, in that resonance, seemingly irrefutable facts are seen as fictions’ (p.24). The ‘alien messiah’ and his tarot is a medium we can use to explore ourselves and to bring us into a higher level of consciousness and bring in a New Aeon for humanity. This obviously draws on from other magical currents including Thelema and the work of Crowley, although not really mentioned in the book were obviously influential to Bowie.
And so, with the Starman and not Bowie the man in mind – I could really see the cards in a greater light. They were no longer too chaotic, but just layers of reality one needs to peel through and get to the symbolism and inner work the reader can do with the card. Let me explain what I mean with some examples. The Chariot card to me felt very dense and hard to penetrate at first, but then the work to ‘get’ the card reflects the energy of it – the discipline, balance, force and movement of the Chariot itself. The Death card at first felt very ‘teen emo’ to me with all the black paint everywhere, but then Death is felt by us truly as that all-encompassing pains and emotions that bleeds into all life until you understand the lesson that death is only a new beginning. Justice (Trump 11 in case you were wondering about the 8 vs 11 placement) does not mean legal or nature’s justice, but that of ethical and philosophical justice, of head and the heart and Justice draws cosmic light to be the pivot of these scales. And the most inward and powerful card for me in the majors was the Wheel. The many faces of ourselves ‘the different parts of ourselves that struggle for dominion in a world that operates on the principle of scarcity’ spin around the Wheel, but truly we need to find the centre point of who we really are in the Chaos (p42). Other cards, like the 2 of Cups, usually full of the potential of love and unity. An image full of the tantric unity and kundalini energy that a passionate deck like this would depict, comes with advice on who we really ‘merge’ our energy with can greatly enhance us and our journeys, or can diminish it and so we must choose wisely.
There is a lot here in these cards for the intermediate tarotist to really work through – lots of layers of meaning, symbolism and inner work that you can do with these cards. The idea of the cards is that they do bring you into closer contact with your Self, breaking down the facets of who we are and to piece it back together again with Divine Light, making your Soul a beautiful piece of kintsugi pottery. The book also aids in this too. Each card in the book is explored with a page – page and half of text that explores the card (but not all of the symbolism or imagery, so you have to do some work too), including some divination meanings for upright and reverse cards. There are some real gems of insight and understanding of Tarot in these pages over all the cards (not just the Majors as other themed decks), which all Tarot readers can learn or explore something with. There is a lot of thought and psychology as well as art and passion that has gone into these deck and book and many fruits for the reader to garner with patience and courage.
The court cards are King, Queen, Prince and Princess. The suits are the conventional RWS arrangement of wands/fire and swords/air. The minors are inspired from the RWS but not just a clone deck in any way shape or form. Looking at the 5 of pentacles, it seems heavily based on the RWS card, as the two figures are outcast from the Garden of Eden. Fairly typical 5 of Pentacles, yet the book explores not just usual meanings of poverty or exclusion, but challenges the reader what your issues around poverty, inequality and unfairness , as well as the possibility of overlooking the true worth of simple treasures in your life. This is just an example that the minor cards are not an afterthought, but are just as deep and well thought out as the Majors in this deck. There is some real tarot experience in these cards, not just an art project or a gimmick deck.
However, no matter much I want to wax-lyrical about this deck, there are few cards and details that I still struggle with. The Hermit is renamed the Alien in this deck, with weird like pins in its chest. Judgement has some odd cyborg-type lights either side of this torso which look odd, complete with a waist of dripping caramel. There are definitely some ‘oddities’ in this deck which the book doesn’t completely decipher to the reader. For example, the card backs show some ‘alien calligraphy’ which is never explained at all in the book which is odd for a motif that repeats in many of the cards as well. A lot of the cards have handwritten texts which could be really insightful if you could a) read it on the card or b) it was explored in the book.
The book is 191 pages long and reads like a standard deck guide. The first few pages are a little jumbled as the author/designer recounts his experience of Bowie and his creative energy. There are snippets of explanation that actually aren’t very clear or helpful to anyone on how to approach or understand this deck. It did seem that De Angelis was trying to suggest the deck was created with Bowie, but actually it wasn’t until after his death that the work on the deck actually happened. It seemed a little disingenuous to me at times. Anyways, after that preamble comes the standard card by card walk-through and finally we are given only 2 pages on how to work with the deck (pretty standard stuff), and then 2 pages of 2 potentially very insightful and interesting Starman spreads of self-discovery, breaking down and integrating the psyche. It would have been really interesting to have had sample readings or something more ‘juicy’ around these spreads, but I guess they just ran out of space. Also, each of the cards has a mantra or affirmation in the book, and I presumed that there would be more about how to use them in meditation or journaling for more in-depth study and analysis – but I was sadly disappointed.
Overall, there is a lot in this deck. I feel that there is a lot of knowledge, experience and spiritual dimensions to it which are very healing and great for self-development. I have tried this deck out for a few readings and found it very much throwing back that psychological/self-development angle back to the querent, and I feel that the book could have done with another chapter on working with that. However, the Starman is here now in tarot-form now and so can inspire, help and guide us all now , not just the late great Bowie. Would I recommend this deck to beginners? I would have to say no, because the book isn’t entirely clear for newbies to tarot. Plus, the ideas behind the deck are a little ‘off the wall’ compared to the traditional RWS and some tarot foundation is needed for this deck. For the intermediate and advance reader, I would really recommend the deck, to be challenged and see things a little differently! For those who already have ‘fluency’ in reading tarot, this does ‘plug and play’ really well, but with a voice that is a little ethereal and otherworldly that fits with an Aquarian alien guide to help us unpick and dive deeper into ourselves and reality. It is a deck that keeps on giving and I will continue to keep using it and hearing the voice of the Starman in my readings!
The essence of a new understanding and evolution of human consciousness that is guided/instructed/inspired by a facet of the Divine we can all the Starman. You can think of him/her.