The Halloween Tarot

Author Kipling West
deck review by Lady Lorelei, CTR

What a funky (fun and key) set of tarot cards. At first glance The Halloween Tarot is an entertaining Waite clone, fun to bring out and look at for Halloween. The Emperor and Empress are Frankenstein and his Bride. It’s full of bats, and pumpkins and scary goblins. All the scenes take place at night. But after some study I found it to be a key deck that stands on its own merits. I’ve always thought of the Hierophant as having Big Brother connotations. Here, the Mummy is so bound up in rules, wrapped up tight in meaningless ritual. He is the letter of religion without its spirit, which I find a delightful nuance.

The pip, court, and major arcana are standard and familiar. Simply substitute Imps for Wands, Ghosts for Cups, Bats for Swords, and Pumpkins for Pentacles. The King of Pumpkins looks surprisingly like the Waite King of Pentacles. I was disappointed in the lack of Witches and Skeletons. The little booklet that comes with the deck (written by Karin Lee) quotes West, “ . . .Halloween archetypes are fairly limited . . .” When I think of Halloween, I think of witches and skeletons yet we have only 3 in the entire deck. Death is a happy skeleton watering the pumpkin patch instead of the black-clad Grim Reaper I’ve come to know and love. (Any Terry Pratchett fans out there?) One witch is found handing out candy to trick-or-treaters in the 6 of Pumpkins. At least she has green hair, but no warts. Another witch is found in Temperance pouring ingredients from a beaker into a bowl by a bubbling cauldron. She looks rather young and fresh, not at all like the Margaret Hamilton archetype from the Wizard of Oz.

The truly unique and powerful aspect of the Halloween Tarot is the black cat that appears in each and every card image. ‘What is the cat doing?’ adds a further dimension to every card’s interpretation. Especially striking to me was the cat in the 9 of Bats (9 of Swords). As usual we see a woman awake late at night with her head in her hands in despair. 9 bats hover overhead, instead of swords. But at her feet the black cat looks up at her with concern. How many times have I reached over to my own little black and white Sylvester for comfort? This reminds one that even in the depths of despair, there is comfort and support, if even from an unlikely source.

The cat may be watching the main actors of the card, bristling with anger or fear, sitting indifferently, or distracted completely from the action and playing with a stray pumpkin. What is the cat doing? How does this relate to the question? To the rest of the spread? To the client?

All the cards occur at night. The background is always black or purple and may have twinkling 5 pointed stars. The one clever exception to this is, of course, the Sun. We see a huge bright sun burning over sunflowers, and then notice it is outlined by the mouth of a cave. The characters and action take place within the darkness of the cave. A green two-headed ogre lies contentedly munching a thigh bone while yawning bats prepare for sleep overhead. The cat playfully knocks around grinning skulls.

My plan is to reserve this deck for the month of October, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find it sneaking out and saying Boo! at other times of the year.


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© Lady Lorelei 2000