Having pre-ordered the Tarot of Vampyres (Llewelyn, 2010) when it first came out, it quickly became my favorite ‘dark’ deck. And though there are some others I like, it is still my favorite vampire deck.
The suits have been renamed, giving us Scepters (Wands), Grails (Cups), Knives (Swords) and Skulls (Pentacles). As for the card stock, it is pretty standard Llewelyn/Lo Scarabeo fare in terms of size, thickness and lamination, which I find reasonably good and easy to shuffle. As for the images, to me they are beautiful and evocative.
Take the Strength card: a beautiful redhead holds a massive black panther with gleaming red eyes in check. Clearly, she doesn’t do this by force: though the panther is chained, it could easily turn against her if it so chose. Instead, it chooses to stay with her, and one reason may be related to her pose and expression. She looks almost blissful as she stands with arms outstretched, her face tilted upward. For me, this offers the message that when we are in tune with our higher self, or with something beyond us, we are better able to harness our inner strength.
The Court cards are a somewhat strange mix in terms of titles, and clearly influenced by Crowley’ Thoth deck. We have the Daughter, the Prince, the Queen and the Lord. And the Lord’s are very Knight-like, all on charging steeds. When we look at the Princes, they are more static, and youthful. Here, for instance, we have the Prince of Knives. He has a dashing, gothic air to him, almost a Knight of Cups romanticism with his pink rose and his lacy cuffs. However, we see the Swords influence in the dagger he holds, in the raven that flies above him, and in his wide open mouth, ready to bite either literally or metaphorically.
The Aces are very simple, yet still interesting. Each features its suit emblem on a dark background of tangled branches. They are each surrounded by some roses in strange, slightly glowing colours: red for Scepters, green for Grails, yellow for Knives and purple for Skulls. Each also features a heart somewhere in its design, part of the romantic, gothic feel of the deck.
The yellow of the Ace of Knives could be taken as a symbol of enlightenment. However, the slightly sickly cast makes me think of the yellow of cowardice. We might be hiding behind “rational” justifications, or hiding from our emotions through verbal obfuscation… Or hiding from the truth that the Knives can cut through to!
From the Minors, I drew the Five of Knives. A dark, winged creature sits over a sleeping girl, watching her. There is a knife behind the dark creature, its dark blade plunged into the ground at the girl’s side, with a venus sign at the top of the blade. The girl wears a white dress, and lies on a bed of flowers. In the background, a garden staircase rises up towards the suggestion of an ornate mansion. Is this an evil vampyre come to drain a sweet, innocent girl, hanging over her and giving her nightmares? Or is the dark creature a vampyre, looking down at this picture of innocence with envy, remembering all that she has lost? Or perhaps the girl is the vampyre, luring in another creature, a fallen angel, to gain her strength? Who is the vanquished, who the victor? The card is open to multiple interpretations, which I like a lot!
I find this to be a deck that at first glance is pretty and somewhat unusual. Looking deeper, it is always possible to connect the cards to traditional interpretations, but other meanings are also available to an intuitive reader. It has darkness and sorrow, as well as beauty, and makes a good deck for shadow work.