As I mentioned on Monday, I’ve been waiting a very long time for the Urban Tarot (Robin Scott, 2016). It was begun in 2003, and has taken thirteen years to bring to completion. On the other hand, being part of the Kickstarter project set up in 2012, I’ve at least been receiving updates and seeing the cards as they were created, which I always really appreciate. It’s fascinating to hear the inspiration behind the art, and to see how the images come together from original photo guides to final artwork. Robin Scott’s art has also developed over that time, as has the technology to create it. Due to this, some cards have quite a different feel to them.
For instance, the Queen of Swords was the first image from this deck I ever saw, a card created in April 2003, back at the outset when Robin agreed to create a quarter of a deck, to be completed with three other artists. While it shows many of the hallmarks of later images, it looks a lot more simple and blocky that the Aeon (Judgement) card, completed in September 2013 (and a personal favourite – it’s such a nuanced image, both in terms of content and art style).
As for the basics, the cards are an easy size to hold, about 11.5 by 7.75 cms. The backs are a gorgeous, reversible design Robin created based on the New York subway map. The cards have quite large borders (one of my only grouses, along with the cards being a little overly glossy and slippery), with simple titles and a design feel that is reminiscent of the Thoth deck, which was Robin’s original and primary inspirtation.
Turning to the cards, I drew the Lovers. This shows Robin and her wife getting married. The doorway behind them is representative of the threshold such times of choice ask us to cross. The twining candle to one side is supported by a lion and an eagle candle holder, a nod to the Thoth alchemical image.
As for the Court cards, I think they are a particular strength of the deck. While I don’t always fully agree with the job attributions, they are always thought-provoking. For instance, I think the Day Trader has rather a large dash of Wands and Swords energy: a risk taker (Wands) who is very much into the numbers and rumours (Swords), with making money as a imaginal goal rather than a driving principle. He is very far from the slow and steady image I normally have of the Knight (Prince) of Pentacles (Disks).
The Aces and Minors are generally much simpler in their imagery. The Ace of Swords is once again one of the very earliest images created, but all the Aces follow this format – a suit object with an architectural background. In this case it is the Washington Square Arch, dedicated to the President of the same name, and with the Latin motto which translates as “The End Justifies the Deed”.
The Five of Swords is an interesting image: a poker-game slot machine! Certainly, that’s a sure-fire way to defeat yourself – gambling never pays against the house. I like the inclusion of playing cards, a reminder of the history of tarot, and of the inverted pentagram, symbol of placing the material above either logic or spirit.
This deck, like the city of New York, is full of architectural majesty and squalor, home to a diverse range of people encompassing different ages, sexual orientations and levels of wealth. It is a deck with a lot of novelty and insight, that also stays true to tradition. I really hope Robin achieves her aim of finding a mas-market publisher for it. And in the meantime, you can still buy copies from her direct.