Saturday, July 05, 2014

Testing, Testing: Robert Place's Vampire Tarot

I want this to be a post you can sink your teeth into.
And I've been stalling, fearing I won't do the scholarship of the deck and its creator justice.
May 2014
After spending a couple of dark and delicious hours reading background material in Place's companion book, perusing the deck's Majors, and sitting with my Kobo and some early chapters of Bram Stoker's Dracula, I felt a need to go outside and drink in some spring sunshine.

April 2014
Robert Place was set up in his usual corner at Readers Studio, displaying his decks, books, art, handmade silver jewelry, and conversing generously with anyone who stopped by.
He's an impeccable researcher as well as an artist. I had to ask him why a scholar and historian would choose to produce a Vampire tarot. The topic didn't seem to fit with his earlier works (Alchemical Tarot, Buddha Tarot, Tarot of the Saints) and surely was too trendy, trashy, teenagery to lure in the likes of Robert M. Place.

How wrong I was! He eloquently explained the links between alchemy, Buddhism, Christianity, tarot, and vampires. Unfortunately I wasn't taking notes and have a memory like a sieve, but all have to do with seeking transformation, and variations on eternal life. Catholics and other Christian religions drink a stand-in for the blood of Christ at every service. The connection between alchemy and vampires is particularly strong; the Philosopher's Stone is said to be a red liquid.

His court cards feature a blend of real and fictional characters; we find Bram Stoker, his family, and his musician and artist friends (Franz Liszt, Lord Byron, Pamela Coleman Smith to name a few) alongside characters from Stoker's novel Dracula. Place has tastefully identified vampire characters by a tiny trickle of blood dribbling from their signatures on the cards.
He told me that he deliberately left the card corners sharp, as befits a Vampire deck!

July 2014
Shuffling much more slowly and carefully than usual, I laid out cards for the following questions.

1. What do you consider your best feature? Nine of Knives
My elegant artwork.
My images never sacrifice beauty and readability for gore and sensationalism.
I stay true to Stoker's elevated literary standards and I use what we know of vampire lore to sharpen my observations for you as my reader.

2. Do you have a weakness as a tarot deck? Six of Knives
I am not aware of any.
You, the reader, may find my secrets hidden in the hold of the Demeter as Count Dracula makes his way to England.
Sneak aboard and plumb my depths.
Try not to be alarmed by my occasional stormy elements.

3. You're a little bit scary. How do you recommend I get acquainted with your style? 
Ace of Garlic Flowers
Begin at the beginning.
Learn of my roots and grow alongside my wisdom.
Not all my images are frightening; some are quite gentle.
I can't hurt you if you stay close to the garlic flower.

Thank you, Vampire Tarot. I appreciate you taking the time to converse with me today.