I have felt myself pulling away of late, tired of tarot, tired of novelty, tired of saturation, a need to be alone and not to have to put words to things. Plus life of course and no overwhelming urge to aquire many new deck releases. But the Tyldwick, a deck I received very soon after it was released, has been beckoning me. I watched its development closely, swooned over its romantic atmospheres and forsaken, echoing corridors, even though it seemed as if it would never ever be concluded. Like a ruin in reverse; it appeared to take forever to come to fruition. But I sat by patiently and once it was released (I think I balked at the price a little) I bought it. After receiving it and admiring it, I put it to one side and forget what happened next – perhaps dull reality or Lenormand took over. So often my love of decks works on what I call (to myself) the bloated corpse theory. I receive a deck, it goes on the shelf with a determined vow and then other things take over and it seems to sink from trace. Then, later, usually much later, it rises to the surface like a bloated corpse from the depths of the river bed. Often I have all but forgotten about it and it rises unexpectedly and I find that I love it. This has happened many times now; I have received decks and positively disliked them, then months later, something has made me sit bolt upright and think of them and I have subsequently embarked upon a long term love. Some decks, it has to be said, never rise, just as some corpses are never discovered. For a while I struggled to understand this, but I now see it as me having to understand and come to terms with things in my own little vacuum. I have to wait until the chatter dies down. I need a sort of silence, far from giddy threads, to work out exactly what I think of things.
This is what has happened with the Tyldwick Tarot. I think I might have been disappointed with the size of the cards at first, perhaps I expected a sharper clarity of image. Plus there was work and a house move. Over the last few weeks I have been passionate about the Tyldwick Tarot and I begin to think of it as one of the most original tarot decks to be released in a very long time. There is no other deck quite like it; I see it as the antithesis of the noisy, colourful, special effect decks that we have seen so much of. Decks whose colours “pop” and who clamour for attention. So many tarot aficionados talk about “chatty”, blunt decks that “tell it like it is.” The Tyldwick is not one of these. It is not prone to chat. It has a peculiar depth, a mournful magic and is perhaps the only deck I know which seems to communicate through silence. I love this. The flaking walls and abandoned salons, the personality of the courts conveyed through symmetrical fireplace settings and obscuring mirrors. It is an uncomfortable deck. People have just left the room and we are not sure what is left behind to confront. I think it is as hard a nut to crack as some of the more up-front cerebral decks like the Haindl. But the advantage we have is that nobody writes about it. There is no instruction manual. It comes to us in silence (though if you listen carefully you might hear the trickle of a courtyard fountain). You have to sit in silence, contemplate it in silence and see what emanates. The creator himself seems largely silent. I respect this enormously. It has been sent out into the world and we have to decode its language ourselves and perhaps not quite get there. I also think that one of the reasons I love it so much is that it reminds me of a number of English stately homes I visited in my childhood, the faded chintz and chinoiserie, the ongoing struggle of families to maintain 18th Century furnishings in the austerity of the 1970s. I remember once visiting a dilapitated house that was still inhabited by one of the last surviving descendents of Lady Jane Grey’s family, and who died shortly afterwards. The stairwells, sculleries, plant pots behind the stables, hot houses and mosaic floors, the walled gardens, chipped statuary and abandonment to death duties – this is the world that the Tyldwick Tarot depicts. It is a strictly uninhabited world, apart from the nightmare vision of the 9 of Swords where a naked man squats with his head in his hands. This is one of only two cards with a tangible human presence (the other being the Hanged Man) and I feel that I have been craving a deck like this, free of human ego and foibles, where all that is left is the wreckage.
I winced last week when I read negative coments about this deck – and bit my tongue – because what many people object to in this deck is precisely what I love in it; its coldness, its deadness, the feeling of things crumbling, the impossibility of laying your hands on things and saying (as so many people want to when they come for a tarot reading) – this is solid, this is true. Nothing is solid, nothing is true, it is all fading away, all heading towards irrelevance and obscurity. I love the artful symmetry, the sense of layers flaking. Many people seem to find it a difficult deck to read, but I love the lack of explicit narrative; except perhaps if you squint you can see a number of faded tapestries in the background which might add a touch of narrative to the meanings. But don’t expect to see somebody weighed down with ten Wands. Nobody juggles two Pentacles; instead we have a potted plant hoisted by two connecting pulleys. The Seven of Swords doesn’t depict “craftiness”or “sneakiness”, it reminds me more of the Thoth Seven of Swords, a manuscript with calculations (and beetle scuttling); the idea of Science. As I get older, I find that I prefer slabs of atmosphere in cards rather than things happening. There isn’t a single card in the Tyldwick which doesn’t work for me and there are many which I find truly inspired. I love The World card – Shiva, goddess of destruction, enclosed in a garland between ionic columns and assumpting (isn’t that what goddesses do?) over geometric shapes. The Lovers depicts a statue of moon mistress Artemis over the mantlepiece, flanked by two portraits, lovers confined in their frames. Mirrors blur reflections, faces look at us from beyond. The cardstock – for those who want to know about practical matters – is exemplary. Perfection with gilt edges. Of course if the cards were bigger, you’d be able to see more, but it’s like having to sweep cobwebs away, all part of the atmosphere. You have to look closely to see how the muted colouring is set off by juxtaposition of textures, stone against sky, marble against wallpaper. The Tyldwick is unique amongst tarot decks; it is a deck that haunts us and which we the reader feel we haunt. Its wordlessness should be celebrated, its silence treasured.