Horror is the future. And you cannot be afraid. You must push everything to the absolute limit, or else life will be boring. People will be boring. Horror is like a serpent: always shedding its skin, always changing. And it will always come back. It can't be hidden away like the guilty secrets we try to keep in our subconscious. – Dario Argento
I know very little about horror movies. I grew up in a strict Christian household where I didn’t get to watch ANY movies (save Benji). I never played “catch up” by viewing Child’s Play, Predator, Alien…or even Pyscho (I know, I know).
I know even less about horror comics, radio programming or TV shows (although I did buy the entire Twilight Zone series two years ago and gobbled them up!). However, I did discover Stephen King as a teen, and his books somehow passed under my Mom’s radar…as did the horror of Dean Koontz, Robin Cook and Michael Palmer…
So when I saw that James Battersby was at work on a new deck with his partner, Christine Aguiar—the Twisted Tarot Tales—I had just a passing interest. I liked James’ art in Simply Deep and A King’s Journey—and I admired how he and Christine tackled the Chinese Cultural Revolution (I think they may have balls as big as mine!)
But…I had little interest in a horror deck. I mean, how in the hell can you read with a Tarot deck based on horror comics, movies, old time radio programs and vintage TV shows? Wouldn’t it be, like, a deck stacked with only 3 of Swords and 9 of Swords cards?
Yet, I kept watching James and Christine talk about the cards on Facebook, and asking for feedback. I heard some of the back-story of the cards. I laughed at the cleverness—and how some people took offense (I mean, grown men needing a “trigger warning” for an old west card…Jesus on a BIKE.).
It was so…in your face. A trait I like.
And smart. Love that even more than boldness.
The images were colorful. Arresting. Intriguing. Weaved in with all the entertainment connections were Japanese mythos, cameos (helllooo Stan Lee!) and real-life “horrors” (or possibilities)—alcoholism, AI run amok, nuclear meltdowns, magic tricks gone wrong, environmental holocaust and so on.
OK, I was sold.
So when it came time for the Twisted Tarot Tales IndieGoGo campaign, I not only backed the project…I did so at the highest tier. (Go big or go home, as I like to say.)
I wanted it all: the 78 standard cards. The bonus cards. The General Audience Cards AND the Movie Expansion Pack AND the 14 Outtake Cards. 117 cards total. AND, of course, the full-color deluxe companion book!
The 4 ¾ x 2 ¾ inch card stock is slick and flexible—the deck shuffles like a dream.
Well, I’ve had the Twisted Tarot Tales deck for several weeks now. And, I’ve had the glorious 100-page, information-packed companion book for several days.
And I am a supremely happy camper!
To my surprise, the deck reads wonderfully. In fact, I did two personal readings today and received clear, accurate and (in the second reading) touching (!) insight and advice.
Unexpected! Enchanting! Relevant!
Who can ask for more in a Tarot deck?
And you know what’s REALLY cool? With the alternative Aces and other extra cards, you can actually SWITCH THEM OUT. That’s right: you don’t have to go with the “official” deck selections made by team Battersby/Aguiar…you can make your own combos (and I did)!
How gloriously subversive!
So let’s talk about the 11 x 8 ½ in. companion book. Seriously, this has got to be one of the best (if not THE best) Tarot companions ever produced. Now, some may say I’m biased, since I had the honor of writing the Foreword and supplying nine original spreads for the book. But, let me tell you something: there’s no way I’d write a Foreword for a deck I DIDN’T like…let alone create NINE original spreads based on the cards. Or plunk down my hard-earned money to support an IndieGoGo campaign. (Btw, did you know some “reviewers” beg independent deck creators for a freebie…never bothering to back the project at any point? And, lacking investment in both attention and money, tend to not know what in the hell they’re talking about? I’ll just put this here…)
Back to the book! There’s fascinating what-inspired-this-card tidbits, as well as pictures of the actual people, objects, buildings, comic book covers, movie art, etc. (e.g. the library where Christine discovered Ambrose Bierce for the King of Pentacles section, “Poker Alice”—the cigar-chomping broad in Justice, Rock Point—a vintage amusement park that inspired the 6 of Cups, the local Presbyterian church in Ballywatt that informed the 5 of Pentacles and so on). Keywords are given for each card, as well, and, repeated in a handy at-a-glance checklist in the middle of the book.
The ten exclusive movie cards are explained, and six pages are dedicated to “the cards that didn’t make it”.
And the games! Oh, the games.
• Granny G Needs You (count various supplies that appear in the cards)
• The Devil’s in the Detail (25 questions like “Where might you find a boy burning money?”)
• Treasure Hunt (find the images embedded in the deck)
• Elvira’s Creepy Crossword Puzzle
• Guide the “Christine” Car to the Gas Station Maze (complex and fun!)
• Charon’s Crossword Puzzle
• Jigsaw Pieces (which card did they come from?)
In addition to the nine spreads I created, there’s a section of 25 Animal Totems that appear within the Twisted Tarot Tales deck, along with their possible meanings. An oracle within an oracle!
Also peppered within the text are super cool “Strange Facts” like “The first crash test dummies were human cadavers” (Lovers) and “The name of the antagonist Charles Lee Ray [Child’s Play] is derived from famous killers Charles Manson, Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray” (3 of Cups).
For campaign backers, each deck came with either a black or red bag…but the higher tiers received the generous upgrade of a bag with one of the card images silk-screened on it. (In my case, the Ouija-consulting High Priestess catapulting through the air!) Those who get the deck from the Battersby/Aguiar store will have the deck shipped to them directly from the printer, with tracking, sans bag—but you can always buy one of their special bags to go along with the cards if you don’t have any extra on hand.
Although this deck could certainly be read out-of-the-bag, I feel Twisted Tarot Tales is best appreciated with the aid of the information-packed, illustrated companion book. For example, I now have a greater understanding of how the scarecrow in the cornfield connects with the Knight of Pentacles interpretation—and why the people in the 10 of Pentacles are portrayed as a “nuclear family”.
This deck is a treasure trove of Who’s Who in early comic books, horror movies, old-time radio shows and vintage TV. After reading the companion book, my interest is so piqued that I want to seek out the referenced stories, films and shows I’m not familiar with just to satisfy my curiosity!
I love the unusual insights I’m getting from the Twisted Tarot Tales deck, and although the cards could be used ANY time because of its readability, I feel it’s especially appropriate for Halloween—as well as issues related to shadow work, fears, frustrations or recurring challenges.
It’s obvious that an enormous amount of thought and care went into the design and execution of both the deck and companion book—and I’m so pleased with the results. Money well spent, indeed!
Kudos to mastermind Christine Aguiar and illustrator James Battersby for this original, out-of-the-box and most excellent deck and book!