The Tarot of the Zircus Magi (Duck Soup Productions, 2014) is a fun, circus-themed deck. The suits have been renamed Batons (Wands), Buckets (Cups), Blades (Swords), and Rings (Pentacles).
The card stock has a nice feel to it, and is durable, if a little thicker than I prefer for shuffling. And I find some of the graphics choices for the titles a little strange. The Majors and Courts just have a yellow lower border with red lettering, while the Minors also have a red upper border with yellow lettering. The intention, I guess, was to mimic the stripes of a circus tent. Still, with the image in between I think the borders could have been the same colour top and bottom. Another minor gripe is the full stops after each title, which looks very odd to my eyes.
Turning to the images themselves, these are recoloured collages of old photos, as is apparent with the Five of Cups showing Charlie Chaplin. Overall, I’d say the images are well chosen, and the effect gives the deck a nice consistent feel. And they certainly connect with both the humour and the pathos of the Circus!
In the Lovers, we see a showgirl-type figure (perhaps a Magician’s apprentice or acrobat), stroking a clown’s head. Above them is an angel figure that appears to be part of one of the circus tents. It is an interesting representation of love and choices: why do we make the choices we do, in the face of other people’s assumptions?
The Courts have also been partially renamed, with the Page becoming the Billposter, the Knight remaining as such, the Queen becoming a Duchess, and the King being a Governor. The Duchess of Rings (Queen of Pents) is an enterprising lady, riding a monocycle. Traditional elements such as the bunny and the roses around and above her are nicely done, and the card has a warm, playful feel to it. Certainly, she is someone who enjoys beauty and comfort, yet who will make the best of whatever she has to hand.
The Ace of Batons is also fairly traditional, with a huge baton rising up across the card. An interesting touch is the hand holding it, which changes our sense of perspective. The baton isn’t huge just because it’s in the foreground. Rather, it seems like a pole to hold up one of the big tents for the circus show, perhaps the one being spread by a host of men in the background. While the green leaves on it point to the traditional idea of growth and energy, the pole-ness of it makes me think of the energy that underlies a big project – a slightly different twist.
As for the Minors, these mostly follow Rider-Waite-Smith conventions, in context if not in content. For example, here in the Ten of Batons, a skinny male figure struggles under the weight of two suited gentlemen on top of a barrel, suspended from his mouth. A big top rises in the background, raising the question, are these show-goers? The suits could also suggest people in a more official capacity, causing burdens for the circus folk who have to jump through their bureaucratic hoops…
This is an interesting deck, with enough of a nod to tradition to make it easily readable out of the box. Yet, it also has plenty of variety to allow for more intuitive readings and different perspectives.