I’m always envious of the thrift-store finds of others – when trawling Aeclectic Tarot Forum I’ve read so many stories of people who’ve walked into second-hand bookstores and found rare, out of print decks, or obscure little treasures at flea markets. Even though I live on a street with three second-hand stores that I scour hopefully every week or so for decks, I’ve never seen any… until the other day. I was walking past and had a feeling there might be something worth checking out, and on a table out the front there was a Chinese astrology board game, what looked like a oujia board-based game, a copy of the Mythic Tarot handbook (cards sadly not included), and this strange little deck, unnamed, with a sticker on the front saying $3. How could I refuse?
I couldn’t wait to get home to see what treasure I had found. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it still had all 78 cards, and only a couple had tiny creases. It is a strange little deck indeed. It feels like a deck that doesn’t quite know what it is. The symbolism in the majors is fairly limited, but for the most part consistently RWS. But where it is lacking symbolism there are also some quirky little details I quite like, like the monkey perched on the Magician’s table, reminiscent of the Ape of Thoth on the Thoth Tarot’s magician. While most of the minors are plain pips, for some reason the suit of wands is scenic – and the Six of Wands looks a bit like a certain Four of Wands. Some of the Pentacles minors are a little Thothy as well – the speckled vine coiled around the Two of Pentacles is almost the serpent from the Thoth, the Rose Cross features in the centre of both sixes and the same tree blooms on the Eights of Pentacles.
But for all its inconsistencies, its absent details, I find myself quite liking this deck. There’s a certain naivety to its bright colours, is simple, rough artwork. And I love the mystery of an unknown deck – It came with no title card, no name on the box, no publishing details. I can’t help but wonder what it is, where it came from, who owned it.
Edited to add: Some wonderful people on AT helped me ID this deck – it’s the Jonathan Dee