The Vampire Tarot
by Nathalie Hertz
The myth of the vampire holds us in a powerful grasp that is bone-cold but sensual, terrifying but alluring. Vampires are not mere monsters, they are lovers. Their need for human blood is matched by their longing for human experience. From Klaus Kinski's horrible Nosferatu to Anne Rice's gorgeous Lestat, vampires excite us while they frighten. They are mysterious, compelling, and unknowable. They invite us into their secret darkness, and we follow, even knowing the imagined dangers. It must be this unknown darkness that intrigues. Although our own shadows do not express themselves by sleeping in coffins or shunning the sun, our shadows are seeking acknowledgement. Perhaps the vampire myth generates a pursuit or acceptance of our own darkness. And, as most of us don't believe vampires actually exist, the myth is a safe one.
Nathalie Hertz's vampires are alluring and captivating. They are powerful, sexy, and very cool. Their world is complete; through her artwork I am convinced her vampires have a place of their own - they live. They prey on humans, sit beneath fountains of blood, and revel in the moon. They also laugh, embrace, and brood in silence.
The images dance with light, even in this dark realm. The Knight of Swords, a handsome burly guy riding a huge horse, is illuminated from behind by the moon.
Even the horse's eyes shine. The Devil, a sinister gargoyle nearly sweating blood, glows with an eerie light. Whether brightened by the moon or by the reflection of their own paleness, these figures are made real, touchable, exposed to us, and inviting.
The individual suits are very well designed. Swords are sharp and gothic. Wands are carved wood with pointed tips. Cups are golden goblets adorned with scrollwork. Pentacles are silver disks. Each suit also has its own "theme." Swords feature gargoyles and figures of stone, except for the court cards (all of which are vampires). Wands feature framed pictures, as if the reader is walking along a gallery or long hall hung with portraits. Cups showcase windows and landscapes beyond. Pentacles focus mostly on people and vampires. Every pip card depicts a scene in some way. Of them all, the Swords seem to reflect most clearly their card meanings. Aces depict black coffins, draped in a red scarf, crossed or covered by their suit image. Pages are male vampires holding their instrument, often with ruffled or elaborate clothing. Knights appear with horses, more actively wielding their suit's instrument. Queens and Kings pose regally, fiercely, seductively, or humorously.
I was immediately drawn to this deck. The style is a balance of elegance and irreverence. It is creepy, but comic. Its dark sense is not overwhelming, it is just right. In addition, the little booklet that accompanies the deck is well done. The introduction, explanations, and interpretations are insightful and accurate. One could easily pick up this deck and begin reading without help from other sources. I imagine it will appeal strongly to Goths and vampire lovers, but people like myself who enjoy artistic and stylish, creepy and spooky things, will love this deck too. And what a fantastic deck it would be for Halloween.
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Card artwork by Nathalie Hertz
All writing and photography © N Levine - Illumination Tarot, unless otherwise noted. 1999-2021