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Richard Avila's

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 Vampire Tarot by Robert Place

The first deck I pulled out of the boxes was the Alchemical Tarot by Robert Place. Great thing about Robert Place decks - they're always beautiful, interesting, and each one is a learning experience. The one we're looking at today fits that mold perfectly. The cards below are from Mr. Place's Vampire Tarot. It was originally published in 2009. It comes in a big box, and aside from the deck itself, there is also a companion book of just under 230 pages.

As you can see, the deck is striking. Given the gothic theme, it's not surprising the colors are mostly on the darker side. Look at the Magician. It's Dracula with his cane, vanishing into a mist. As Mr. Place points out, Dracula is a magician, an occultist, and a practitioner of black magic. He's the Magician from the Rider Waite deck in his knowledge and abilities, but he's also Le Bateleur from the Marseilles deck, because he uses his considerable power to deceive and to trick people.

Now look at Mina. Mina is the High Priestess. In the Waite deck, the High Priestess stands between us and the mystery. She is the guardian and the gatekeeper who protects the secrets. Here, Mina is in a trance. (If you're a fan of art history, you may notice she also bears a suspicious resemblance to Dante Rossetti's painting Beata Beatrix.) She's been bitten by the vampire and stands between life and death. While she is devoted to Jonathan, she's also becoming more and more the creature of Dracula, so like the High Priestess, Mina too is at a point of crossover. The connections between vampire lore and Tarot are there, and this deck makes them again and again.

It should also be noted that the minor suits have been changed as follows to better fit the deck's theme: 
- Wands - Staves
- Cups - Holy water
- Swords - Knives
- Pentacles - Garlic Flowers
The same way the suits are the tools of the Magician, these are the tools of the vampire hunter.

The cards themselves are 3.5" x 5.25", and although I very much like this deck and have owned it for years, I find they're too big to be of practical use. I've never used it to lay down a spread, and it's long been my desire to cut the cards down and round the corners off. There's a white border all the way around them and it's at least 1/4" on each side.

Along with the deck however, there's the book. It weighs in at 230 pages and like all Robert Place books is remarkably detailed. We get a history of the cards, a history of vampire lore and how it can be linked to Tarot, a guide to the cards, and a section on reading them with three spreads. Even if you knew nothing about Tarot, you'd learn a lot from this book.

There are a number of decks combining vampires and Tarot, but none of them do so as beautifully and eloquently as this one. The only problem is there was only one printing of this deck, so they're not cheap. The lowest price on Amazon as of this writing is $90, and the lowest on Ebay is $70, which is for the deck without the box or book. Much as I'd like to trim my copy down, the price for another (should I botch the job completely) keeps me from doing so.

Tarot and vampires - not as far apart as you thought !

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