Deck Review: Steampunk Tarot

The Steampunk tarot was a gift, and one of those that find you at the perfect time and have been chosen with care, attention to detail, and deep knowledge of who I am. Is it any surprise I fell in love with it?

Steampunk Tarot cover
  • Creator: Aly Fell & Barbara Moore
  • Publisher: Llewellyn
  • Year: 2012
  • Deck tradition: Raider-Waite-Smith
  • Suits: Wands, Cups, Swords, Pentacles
  • Court cards: Page, Knight, Queen, King
  • Minor arcana: Illustrated
  • Back design: Not reversible

General thoughts

The Steampunk tarot artwork is amazing. Some people are put off by digital media of any kind–if that’s the case, then you probably need to look somewhere else. However, I’ve realized that the thing that bothers me about digital media is that some cards (sometimes one or two, sometimes more than half the deck) look like a poorly photoshopped collage… and this is not an issue in the Steampunk tarot. Every illustration is done with the same amount of care, and you have to love that.

Some specialty tarots also put together themed illustrations with little connection to the cards’ meaning. Again, that isn’t the case: the Steampunk tarot does revisit every card to fill it with machinery and Victoriana, transforming it in a cohesive unit that flows with the entire tarot deck, but it also retains every symbolic significance. If you can read the Raider-Waite-Smith tarot, you can read the Steampunk tarot.

The creators of this deck don’t use reversed cards when reading, and so the backs aren’t reversible: this can be an inconvenience if you’re used to interpreting reversals. I didn’t mind, because I found that each card had a knack for letting me know the nuances of their meaning through their position, but just so you know.

Reading ease

If you’re starting out and want to steer clear of the old-fashioned looks of the traditional Raider-Waite-Smith while reading a solid tarot deck that upholds the traditional meanings and adds enough details to bring out nuances that actually reinforce those meanings, then the Steampunk tarot is a perfect match for you.

Besides, this is a fun tarot deck. If the esoterical aspect of the tarot makes you feel insecure, you shouldn’t have that issue with these cards. They’re a great way to bring tarot to those less concerned with the spiritual side, or those who are starting to feel their way around the world of tarot. If you have a party coming up and would like to offer readings to your friends and other guests, the Steampunk tarot will captivate their senses and help you provide a great narrative without seeming too “otherwordly”.

One detail that may be the only thing that bothers me a bit about the Steampunk tarot: all the Knights but one (pentacles) are female, and not a one of them is riding a horse. They look like a more mature, daring, outgoing version of the Pages–which fits with their meaning, but as court cards usually represent actual people in my readings, and Knights tend to represent young men… Well, learning that this deck had a different language in that regard took some adjusting.

My favorite cards

I love these cards ST

There are some cards that really resonate with me

The Empress is the first because it’s a card I’m usually out of tune with. I always have a hard time connecting with her at a personal level, and yet this Empress speaks directly to my soul.

The Devil must be the masterpiece of the Steampunk tarot deck. Instead of a metaphysical creature trapping and scaring us, we see a construct: something we have created ourselves, which we refuse to let go of because its absence would leave an inordinate emptiness in our lives. A man-made slaver, a task-master we keep on feeding so it can keep us chained. I can’t think of a better interpretation of this card.

The five of swords is a card that usually depicts violence and conflict, but the victory it announces is bitter, and there are so many unresolved feelings after the dust has settled. Instead of showing us the fight, the Steampunk tarot depicts the aftermath: the conflict is over, the winner takes it all, and the loosers brim with resentment. Perfect nuances added to the traditional meaning!

There are a number of cards that do this little trick in the Steampunk tarot. The nine of wands is a great example of the nuances I refer to. Here, the character is beaten bloody, tired–and yet, he’s looking onwards. He has the strength to keep going, keep working hard and late into the night until he reaches his goal. So, classic Raider-Waite-Smith meaning, but better.

These cards don’t resonate with me

Steampunk do not resonate

The symbols used in this tarot deck are so universal that it’s hard to find fault with any card, but…

There is one that vexes me. There. I said it.

The fool. His role as a chimney sweep makes me think of Mary Poppins, but mostly of the hundreds of starving little kids employed to do the job during the Victorian era. I struggle to attach the meaning of wonder, daring and curiosity that this card traditionally carries to a victorian chimney sweep.

Judgement is also a bit of a miss for me. It seems to carry an air of tragedy and mourning that is curiously absent from this card in most other interpretations, and it unnerves me a little.

Deck interview

This is a little something I do for every new deck I get my hands on. It’s a short drawing of cards to get to know each other better, and I thought it would be interesting to include it as a section for my tarot reviews. These are the answers this deck gave me:

Who are you?

Steampunk tarot The Hermit

A guide who will make you work to change your ways and find your own answers.

How will you help?

Steampunk tarot Death

I’ll tell you whenever a cycle must end, whether you’re ready for it or not.

Who can we become?

Steampunk tarot 10 of Cups

Someone happy, content, in balance with my emotions and my environment.

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