"THOSE WHO KNOW ITS POWER KNOW TO FEAR IT..."
So, I have spent the last few days getting to know the latest acquisition to my Tarot Collection: The Necronomicon Tarot, from Donald Tyson, illustrated by Anne Stokes.
Having long been a student of the Occult and the Arcane, The Necronomicon of Abdul Alhazred, as described by the venerable H.P. Lovecraft in his Cthulhu Mythos, is a familiar text to me, so I was intrigued to see how Donald Tyson would treat the subject material in transferring it's myths and meanings to the Tarot format. And, my first impressions are - very impressive!
Given the subject matter, it is natural to expect that these would be a dark set of cards, and, indeed, they are. Tyson's interpretation of the Major Aracana utilizes a lot of the dark aspects of the Cthulhu Mythos, with powerful, evil monsters, necromancy, dark magic and ritual bloodshed. Into each of the four suits of the Minor Arcana Tyson has grafted a tale that is graphically told through the visions that make up the pips. Bloodshed, conflict and dark deeds flow through each of these tales, and serve to make this one of the most interesting Tarot decks I have encountered.
The imagery in these cards is fantastic. Anne Stokes has done a wonderful job of translating Tyson's descriptions into graphic form. Given that some of the creatures encountered in the Necronomicon need a lot of imagination to visualize makes Stokes' achievement even more impressive. And, let's be honest, it's the visual image on a Tarot card that drives the reading rather than some, usually disconnected, esoteric attribute seemingly assigned arbitrarily and handed down in little booklets stuck in with the cards! The book that comes with this deck, however, is also impressive, detailing in depth each card, filling in the pieces missing from the images, and linking the narrative behind the tales to the cards in each suit.
The Ace of Swords is incredibly powerful and emotionally disturbing, while the detail of the Ace of Disks gives beauty to an otherwise tame card. The Hanged Man, The Wheel, the Knaves of Wands and Disks, and The High Priestess I also find visually and emotionally stimulating.
All in all, a dark but wonderful Tarot deck. My only advice, like that of Tyson himself, is to take care when using this deck for divination or meditation, to see beyond the darkness of the imagery into the true meaning of the spread. Perhaps the only negative aspect of this deck is that much of the imagery is based on Tyson's own expanded version of the Necronomicon legend rather than that of Lovecraft himself.