This is what I call a serious tarot shop. This is my favourite tarot shop of all. Maybe I dreamt it? Maybe I woke up this morning after some nocturnal journeying and found these blurred pictures on my camera and four new decks to be accounted for. It’s because I feel like I slip into another dimension whenever I’m there; nowhere else will you see out of print, hard to find decks still shrink-wrapped and available for purchase (maybe two, three or more copies on the shelf, but many for a price). Plus one open for browsing, for feeling the cardstock like a tailor fondles fabric. I think this is probably the most extensively stocked tarot shop I have ever seen or am likely to see. Please note; images are not the best quality (I think my hands might have been trembling), but it’s fun to identify decks obscured by mistiness. I visit this shop when I can but I have to be grateful that I don’t live too nearby as I would have bankrupted myself long ago and would probably be begging on the square in front of it by now.
Before I visit, I plan my budget, make a list, make a back-up list and still try to leave space for any surprises. Sometimes the upper end prices reflect the market value though I did find a Jacques Vieville cheap there once, and also a U.S Games Wonderland Tarot, but that was a while ago. Now I tend to go for the recently out of print decks which somehow slipped through the net, or back-ups of favourites, or just ones from smaller publishers that are not stocked by the main distributors. They know me there now. This time they even let me poke around behind the counter where all the really rare ones are kept. In the past they have sweetly gifted me free decks for being such a loyal – or maybe spendthrift - customer. Most customers come in and buy candles for spell work (candles for keeping envy at bay, to keep a lover from straying, to make business boom, bring in money, make tenants pay, undo all manner of other spells.) Or inexpensive incense. Small items; talismans, amulets, herbs. Most people going in to buy decks probably want only variations of the Rider Waite Smith, or maybe an Angel Oracle to tell them that their life really will get better. I suppose obsessively collecting customers like me must be in the minority, though while I was in there with my list at the counter, a handsome businessman in his thirties, dressed in suit and tie, came in and asked for the Camoin-Jodorowsky Marseilles by name (I wonder if he noticed my deranged look?) Of course they had it. Standard or mini. He took the standard.
What makes the experience even more exciting is that nobody really speaks English there so we have to communicate by pointing in the catalogue and (me) pointing at the shelves, while the helpful young assistant (who was putting a copy of the Bohemian Gothic Tarot in order when I arrived) gets his stepladders out because the decks I want to see are invariably high up in the rafters. On the way up (and down), he’ll pluck other ones off the shelf to tempt me (Navigators Tarot of the Mystic SEA? Got it. Héron Marseilles? Got it. Soprafino? Got it. Templar? Got it) It is easy to feel dizzy in there, but I try not to get too distracted from my list, though this time I couldn’t resist picking up an older printing of the Aquarian Tarot as it is a deck I have come back to using and wanted another copy. This was not on my list. I had a few majors only Lo Scarabeo Tarocchi d’Arte on my list too, but 78 card decks always win out when it comes to the crunch. One has to have focus in these moments to prevent making impulsive, disappointing purchases that might be regretted later. This shop is a plane (or astral) journey away.
In the end I bought four decks. One was the Joyce / Pamela Eakins Tarot of the Spirit deck published by U.S Games (1992), which is now out of print and whenever I see it the price tends to be more than this one was. I also bought number 344/3,000 of the Sakki-Sakki deck (2004), a deck I didn’t have and was curious about. I also picked up a Lo Scarabeo edition of the Rider Waite Smith deck which was the one published in 2006 before the more recent Centenary edition. This one was published in conjunction with Konigsfurt-Urania and has rosicrucian backs, very nice, silky matt cardstock (slightly thicker than usual Lo Scarabeo cardstock) and colouring which is more pleasing than most recent editions of the Rider Waite Smith Tarot. Unlike the Centenary one, only the Majors and Courts have titles (and in Italian since this deck was only released in Italy). As mentioned above, I also bought an older “printed in Belgium” matt version of the Aquarian Tarot because I find I use this deck more and more and feel that you should always grab classic deck editions with decent cardstock whenever you see them. With time, mass market editions of the big sellers only seem to get worse (but that’s probably my Capricornian pessimism seeping in).
I only bought these ones. I didn’t overspend; I didn’t want the rest of my stay in the city to be hampered by a scuppered budget. I still wanted to wine and dine, visit exhibitions, have a good time and not just sit in the hotel room with a suitcase full of decks. But it’s always the same once I get home; I start to reflect; did I make the best choice? Should I have bought that deck, this deck, the other deck? The one I almost bought? No; I am more than happy with what I have. I like to think I buy with a criteria which feels right for me. I have recently done the unthinkable and actually got rid of a few decks, sold them on and I have felt a fraction of that satisfaction which comes from knowing you only possess that which you really love (for whatever reason) and getting rid of the fatty surplus. Makes life feels so tidy, compact and ordered somehow. I should add, however, that it doesn’t mean I’m not already excited about my next visit.