By Ian Daniels
If you like vampire mythology, are under forty and want to learn the
Tarot but are intimidated by the traditional tarot symbols, you’ll
likely delight in this deck. The images are finely detailed and
reasonably capture the culture, characters and settings of the vampire
The images are not unexpected, gory or dare I say…original. This is
not a deck I would be inclined to reach for in conducting readings for
clients unless they were especially fond of Goth culture and vampires in
Most Tarot clients perch on a spectrum of anxiety from mild to severe
already without tossing out cards depicting vampires. This deck would
hardly settle their already fluttering hearts. Youthful, strikingly
beautiful, ethereal vampires in dramatic, dark settings stir thoughts of
soap opera rather than tarot in my imagination. Rather reminiscent of
the whole Twilight movie series, this deck is one best suited to a
romantic, teenage reader.
I noticed that each card featured typically one, sometimes two, but
rarely three characters which set me on a path to investigate the
traditional family cards. The Ten of Grails (in traditional Tarot the
ten of cups) and the Ten of Skulls (ten of pentacles/disks) were my
specific targets. What sort of family vampire images would the
illustrator use, I eagerly wondered?
Disappointed, all the tens depict a single, model-beautiful,
adolescent female vampire. Where is her family or her connection to
others in her life? The author has no excuse for this omission!
Vampires, according to lore are fiercely loyal and clannish about their
family relationships. Possessive and proud, vampires have a strict
hierarchal order determined by family bonds. The failure on the part of
the author to take advantage of this opportunity to express the
importance of family led me to ponder why. Does the author know the
true meanings of the cards he has illustrated? Does the author not care
to draw analogies between Vampire lore and the classic Tarot meanings?
Do why do a Tarot deck?
In the Accompanying Text “Phantasmagoria”
the author does note that these cards point to family yet he fails to
illustrate them in the cards. It’s disappointing when a tarot deck
fails to reflect its grander, timeless mystery but rather the mundane
and prurient preferences of its creator.
The text is a well written and thought-provoking. It’s
sophisticated, well rounded and succinct. It even stretches to explain
why a tarotist would use vampire imagery to depict the meaning of the
“A liking for horror and eeriness could be dismissed as morbid or
unhealthy, but it could also be said that it’s unwholesome to deny the
existence of our own darker shadows. If we face our fears, we can
master them rather than project them out onto the world and onto others,
which can reveal itself as irrational hatred, bullying, or illogical or
delusional morality. Denying fear isn’t only emotionally unwise, it
could be physically dangerous.”
Reading this however, failed to change my mind in terms of using this
deck to do readings for clients but it certainly went far to redeem the
creator of this set. I was star-struck realizing Ian Daniels is no
intellectual lightweight which one might deduce from simply perusing his
deck. He’s an illustrator by profession, not a tarotist, writer or
academic (as far as I was able to determine) yet the magic of this
vampire set lies predominantly in this aspect of the project. You must
read his card descriptions and explanations to fully appreciate this
body of work. His chapter on the Magician, Temperance, and Fortune are especially noteworthy. Every time I pick up this book I find passages I want to quote.
Would I Recommend this Tarot Deck?
I don’t know how long this project took Ian Daniels to complete but
I’m sure it was years. As I sit here contemplating whether I would
recommend it, I have to say yes. The book is so exceptionally good and
you wouldn’t want to read the book without having the deck to peruse at
the same time. They are indeed a set that must be explored together.
Although I might have been harsh about my reservations regarding the
imagery of this deck, I have only admiration for Ian Daniel’s artistic
gift. His images are creative, satisfyingly detailed, and hauntingly
beautiful. If you are a young person quite enamoured with vampire
culture, you would be enchanted by these images. If you are an older
Tarotist like myself, you will likely find these images somewhat
annoyingly pornographic and adolescent. Not that I’m a prude or
conservative by any stretch (is a tarotist ever?), but the overemphasis
on young, beautiful, seductive vampires staring at the viewer at every
turn gets old quickly.
I’m confident this deck will attract a large number of fans and I’m
happy to ponder those who will find a treasure of a book hidden behind
this unoriginal vampire deck. It’s likely that those who will be
attracted to this set will be just those who will benefit the most from
its insights and wisdoms.
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