I got one of the very first copies of The Deviant Moon Tarot to reach Europe when it was first released in summer 2008 (maybe the first!) I cannot remember when I had last been so excited about a new tarot release. I used it for a while and then went back to my comfy old favourites, though I always knew this was a very special deck. I think of it as perhaps my favourite mainstream deck (not including The Rider Waite Smith and Crowley’s Thoth in the equation, as they are a class apart), one of the few mass market tarot releases which struck a chord with me. However, I never used it quite as much as I thought I would once the initial effervescence had faded. Then there was talk of a new printing. The first edition I had was “Printed in Italy” by U.S Games and, like many decks of this vintage, was uber-lacquered and pixelated. All sense of an actual card has been removed and they feel like bus passes or drinks coasters to the touch. I like to feel actual card in the palm of my hand, not lamination. A friend sent me a copy of the new “Printed in China” edition. I thought of it as a back-up copy as I was quite proud and fond of my very first edition, and yet didn’t really like the finish and cardstock to be able to use it on a very regular basis. Then when my “Printed in China” copy arrived (2nd edition), I was surprised to see that it had been signed by the artist Patrick Valenza and with a nifty little drawing on the box, signature on the title card and doodlings by the man himself on the accompanying spreadsheet. So I wanted to keep that one intact too! However, I recently stumbled upon a 3rd edition of the deck and this time I bought it and this time I’m going to use it. This one has no special value, it was picked up shrink-wrapped in a shop and bought with the intention of using it.
The Deviant Moon really is a very special deck with its own unsettling vibe, eternally twilight skies and industrial factories which feel like – but aren’t – crematoriums. Much has been written about the New England cemetery motifs and eerie moon people and their moonlet children. I have never found this to be an explicitly dark or creepy deck. Shortly after receiving it, I showed it to a child who was captivated and ponderously went through the deck card by card looking at it. If it holds a child’s attention for 78 cards and doesn’t produce nightmares, then it cannot surely be too terrifying. Sinister yes, playfully sinister (perhaps in a Punch & Judy kind of way), but it isn’t frightening. The new Chinese printing feels more muted and yet at the same time has deeper, richer colours and really does the images justice. The reds glow hellishly and and the steel shines more deeply than in the original 1st edition. There is so much I love about this deck and I ask myself, whilst going through and shuffling it, why on earth do I not use it more? Maybe because I have drifted away from the Rider Waite System recently, prefering to use Crowley’s Thoth, but when the urge seizes me to use the Rider Waite Smith system this is one of the first decks that I think of. The artist has created a unique, self-contained universe, which you feel has its own rules and prerogatives. It isn’t really a copy of anything, it just does its own thing, and will transport you if you let it, take you high over its lunatic landscape as if you were in the ornate, reappropriated Montgolfier balloon which sails across our line of vision in the 6 of Swords, and you can look far down below and see the privileges which deviancy bestows. This is the deck which I feel drawn to right now.