Deck Review: The Steampunk Tarot

Enter a world of industry, machinations, adventurers and pioneers in the long awaited and highly anticipated Steampunk Tarot from Barbara Moore and Aly Fell…
Getting a new deck is always exciting and unraveling what lay inside is always a big event for me. Unwrapping the Steampunk Tarot was no different. The outer packaging is sumptuous and builds the anticipation for what’s inside – a beautifully written, very comprehensive 300 page Steampunk Tarot Manual penned by Barbara and a set of stunningly beautiful tarot cards skillfully painted by Aly under Barbara’s insightful and creative direction. The result is delightful, stimulating and thought provoking.

This deck remains true and very close to the Rider Waite tradition, if you’re familiar with that deck, the Steampunk Tarot will feel like an old friend very quickly. There were a couple of cards that made me double-take though and reach for Barbara’s very informative book – the 6 and 8 of cups and the 10 of Wands. Gorgeous as they are, I wanted to know what Barbara had to say about them.
The descriptions given for these cards more than do them justice, it brings them to life and stretches your tarot muscles and preconceived ideas about what a card should look like or say. I like that. I like a deck that makes me think as well as makes me feel comfortable.
steampunk tarot 6 of cups 8 of cups 10 of cups
From the book:

6 of Cups
Happy Memories. So a small change away from the general Rider Waite-Smith definition. Barbara goes on to explain that this card is also about creating happy memories amid sad or difficult times, which offers hope and reminds us that magic is everywhere, sometimes we have to create it.
8 of Cups
Leaving something behind to search for something else. Barbara talks about being very prepared for something only to find it wasn’t what we really wanted, or that it failed somehow, and to move on; the fuzzy line between our dreams and reality and when to cut our losses.
10 of Wands
Carrying a large burden or many burdens. Doesn’t seem unfamiliar but the explanation in the book is a great one talking about the burdens being our responsibilities created through cause and effect, the result of our choices as opposed to some enforced situation. She reminds us that the will of the wands is more than capable of coping with this situation and to not despair.

Despite its lineage from the Rider Waite-Smith, it does break from it, which is a good thing. No deck will be an exact replica of the Rider Waite-Smith, and neither should it. Each new deck should have its own personality and while I did have reservations that this deck would be a fashion deck, I was delighted to find this deck isn’t just good looking, it has a personality. A big one.

Meeting the Court Cards

Following her own heart and way of doing things, Barbara played with the court cards. Keeping to the traditional name of Pages, it stops there as these pages are all female and not all young like children. They represent the spirit of adventure and all that’s new. The Knights are also given a makeover with the Knight of Wands, Swords and Cups again all being represented by feisty females not afraid to get their hands dirty or be where the action is. They are Knights after all. The Queens and Kings maintain tradition and are represented by adults – glamorous adults mind you, with the Queen of Pentacles stealing the show. Of the Kings, the King of Wands is notable with an edginess that borders on delectable danger.
steampunk tarot court cards

Stand Out Cards

Aside from the cards that made me double-take, there were some that also made me look longer at them than others. I was intrigued by what the image was saying, by what new direction it was stretching me in. Again, the Steampunk Tarot Manual was a great companion and guide in presenting the subtle changes in these cards from what I’m used to or had thought of.
These include:
steampunk tarot devil 6 of swords 3 of swords

The Devil
Feeding the machine, becoming a slave to what you’ve created. This Devil shows us that our obsessions are not always related to the sensations of the body, but of the workaholic, our businesses and anything else that takes over our lives and demands to be put first.
6 of Swords
In a reading, this card indicated the need to move to a different location to secure the answer to the problem.
3 of Swords
Because sometimes things are just broken. However, the swords really only need removing for the machinery that pumps the heart to start beating again. This 3 of Swords offers hope.

And my absolute favourite tarot cards in the whole deck? These beauties:
steampunk tarot 2 of swords the moon justic

2 of Swords
The balance of the mind and emotions; centering and being still to find your answers.
The landscape is barren as always, but the light of the moon shines the way, this is not a dark, scary moonscape, but one that can be traversed more easily.
Apart from thinking this card represents Barbara, the weighing of responsibility and moral conduct is depicted using crystals and a feather. And what better depiction for the hand that life deals us than through the representation of tarot cards. Neat.

Reading With the Steampunk Tarot

No deck review would be complete without a tarot reading, so I simply asked this deck, “what kind of readings will you give me?”
steampunk tarot 4 of wands high priestess wheel of fortune

In a nutshell
Predictions, and lots of them. A fortune-telling deck. Nice.
In more detail
Solutions to problems through goal setting and pro-activeness; deeper intuitive insights, with the unknown being made visible; seeing the hand of fate and when to act and when to ride the storm – all in all, a complete and honest tarot reading. How fabulous!

The Steampunk Tarot Manual

I’ve mentioned the accompanying book several times throughout this review because it’s provided clarity and described cards in such a beautiful way that it really does deserve it’s own section. This is without doubt Barbara’s best written work to date. She has allowed her creativity to flow throughout the pages and has produced not just an informative and helpful guide to her deck, but has also brought it to life in a way only she could.
As well as definitions and explanations of the cards, there is an introduction into what steampunk is, what tarot is, and how you can use and apply it to your life. While Barbara encourages the reader to develop their own style, she selflessly provides her own reading style and process as a basis for beginning to read tarot. More than 30 pages of the book are devoted to this section, and she doesn’t leave anything out. If you’re a beginner, you’re in very good hands.
There are a number of spreads to choose from, with the stalwart 3 card tarot reading presented with many different reading options. The popular Horseshoe spread gets a makeover and a stripped down, reworked and renamed Celtic Cross takes center stage as the Panoramic Photograph. The pièce de resistance though is the exclusively created Difference Engine which shows how you can rework your outcome, steampunk style.
The Steampunk Tarot Manual is a book that would stand against any other tarot book for sale in its own right. Explorative, creative, expansive and informative. Yes, it’s really that good.

In Summary

I like this deck. It has a lot to say and it says it well. The artwork is attractive but not cutesy. It’s realistic and believable and reminds me somewhat of the work of my favourite modern painter, Jack Vettriano. Most of the settings are dark or dimly lit but these cards together in a reading actually produce a clear vision of the story they’re telling, and they hold no punches. The book holds its own ground and together they provide the reader with everything they need to not just learn tarot, but to expand upon what they may already know.
Get your copy today, you know you want to….


steampunk tarot steampunk tarot

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