Indie tarot and oracle decks are having a renaissance at the moment, allowing new interpretations of classic cards to crop up in such variety that it seems impossible not to find one that strikes your fancy. The most recent to cross my path is the Mystic Mondays Tarot by Grace Duong, which is on Kickstarter until June 30, 2017.
This version of the tarot deck is focused on reinterpreting the cards, favoring intuitive readings that are still based on the Rider Waite tarot. From the Kickstarter: “Since the Mystic Mondays deck is based on the Rider Waite, it maintains the integrity of the meanings, while keeping the illustrations simple to get to the heart of the matter.” It’s worth noting that the image she shows as an example is the Quick and Easy Tarot that is illustrated using the Universal Waite. Duong explains that her own experience with tarot fell a little flat because of the way the meanings were written, and I completely agree, as I am not a fan of the Quick and Easy Tarot either.
The backs of the cards are black with the Mystic Mondays logo in – I believe – holographic foil. One commenter felt that the card back is a misstep because decks generally don’t put their own logo on the back, for multiple reasons. The logo itself is a geometric M with an open eye over it, and with “Mystic” printed above and “Mondays” below. Reversed this would look like a W, which would be a little odd. A simple solution is to take the words off and then mirror the logo, which would look really nice. Generally, tarot users like a symmetrical or patterned back so that the deck stays uniform, which may seem insignificant, but is actually a very understandable complaint.
The digital illustrations of the tuck boxes and decks have holographic edges, but the Kickstarter doesn’t specify what elements get the holo treatment, just that the deck is “premium printed with holographic foil”. No where on the page does it outline the printing stock (presumably paper) or packaging material, which made me hesitate to pledge. Will the deck come with an information booklet? What type of stock will the cards be printed on? Are the card edges holo as illustrated? Why is the 5 deck set labeled “wholesale” when the savings are only $5 per deck over retail (making the price $50 per deck)? Part of your marketing is “ignite your witchy side,” but are you a witch?
The 22 card designs that make up the major arcana are complete and pictured to the left (click to view larger). There are a lot of cards that stand out to me. First and foremost Duong’s love of color comes through; the cards feel consistent with an overall emphasis on indigo. I really enjoy that the people on the cards are are faceless, though I’m sure some will rightly note the lack of diversity among the all-pale forms. Pretty much every tarot lacks diversity in this way, however. The aesthetic of the cards is a late-80s-early-90s vibe, evoking Saved by the Bell and neon lights. There are flamingoes and a snow leopard, just like my Lisa Frank Trapper Keepers had on them. That’s really what I like about the cards, it feels nostalgia-inspired, yet modern at the same time.
Some of my favorite major arcana cards are the High Priestess, the Devil, the Moon, and the Sun cards. The use of color and balance in the Moon and Sun cards are particularly strong. For the Sun, the use of teal and orange together are a bold combination that I personally love. The Moon’s melty blue to purple to mauve is very pretty, and the person repeats the pattern of the two mountains that balance either side of the card. The High Priestess card is always a personal favorite, and Duong’s interpretation does not disappoint in shades of purple.
The Devil card is a particularly strong re-interpretation. First, it’s a woman, which is unusual and appreciated, because the Devil card is almost always a man. I also really like that there’s a staircase leading into the horned woman’s head, as if the devil is your own thoughts. Looking up the Devil card on the Mystic Mondays website, that’s precisely what you are meant to get out of it: “The Devil alludes to your negative behaviors and patterns that restrain you from moving forward in life.” That I can look at the card and get what the artist is going for makes me feel like it’s a well designed deck. I also really appreciate that Duong wrote her own regular and reversed readings for each of the major arcana cards. Most indie decks do not take this extra step; hopefully this information will be provided for the minor arcana as well.
The minor arcana cards are not pictured or specifically mentioned on the Kickstarter page. However, since it is a full 78 card deck, they will exist. I asked the creator (through Instagram) if she was going to use traditional suits or something different; she responded that the minor arcana will be designed once the Kickstarter was finished. As a side note I’m happy she responded because so many people don’t. The website lists cups, pentacles, swords, and wands, so it looks like the deck will keep the traditional suits. I got the impression that the minor cards won’t be designed until the Kickstarter has funded. Frankly, it’s not something all graphic designers want to do. I get it: designing 22 major cards can be fun, designing 56 minor cards can be tedious. If the major cards are a fun addition to your portfolio, the minor cards are a labor of love. I’m not saying that this is the case, but it gives the impression that it’s only worth designing the minor cards if they are paid to do so. I’m not even saying that’s wrong, but personally, that’s part of what’s holding me back from funding it at the moment. That combined with the fact that I missed out on the early bird price of $40 and that current price is now $55 is expensive, even for an indy deck. For $40 I probably would have chanced it because the deck is really fun and hits that nostalgia nerve for me.
On the whole I really enjoy this deck. I think it’s fun, vibrant, and interesting. It clearly pays homage to the older deck, but the cards aren’t simple redesigns either. Many indie decks fall into the trap of remaking the Rider Waite deck, just in their own style. The Mystic Mondays deck clearly takes it another step further. I am particularly impressed with the rewriting of all the information for the cards when many indie decks don’t even provide a guide. However, the Kickstarter falls short and leaves way too many unanswered questions for me to take the plunge. I was very, very tempted to though. I will definitely be following this deck and may snap it up after all.
Images via Mystic Mondays Kickstarter