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The Earth-Noise Intervene
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Essay: Why I Collect Cards: I Swear To God This Is A Sensation Play Essay 
23rd-Aug-2013 01:30 am
marvel - purple barton
I go on and off with collecting things, but one of the things I love to collect is card decks. Card decks have a lot of attributes that I find excellent in a collectible- there's an endless variety, they're small, I can be satisfied with cheap ones, and I can play with them to my heart's content. I don't just find them pretty or useful, though prettiness and utility are nice. I like the physical sensation of holding a card, of feeling its surface, of weighing it in my hand. That, to me, is one of the most important things about a deck: the kind of sensation it will produce, and how.

There are a lot of decks I could show you, but I just moved, so everything I own is scattered to the winds. But I keep my tarot decks together and on hand, so let's stick with tarot, shall we?

Six tarot decks, all wrapped or boxed, and a copy of the Fantod Pack

These are my various tarot decks. Clockwise from upper left we have- well, let's see, shall we?

First things first, let's examine a brand new deck.

A copy of the Zombie Tarot, opened to the information booklet

This is the Zombie Tarot (this and all links go to Aeclectic Tarot, an excellent site), as you can see here. Most tarot decks come with what's referred to as the LWB (little white book), the book that tells the history of the cards and/or the tarot in general, gives some helpful ideas for spreads and interpretation, etc. Most LWBs are small, pamphlet style things, but this is a nice meaty one. I enjoy it when the LWB has a good heft to it, because it's more satisfying to read, whether or not it actually contains any more useful information than a pamphlet.

I've also chosen to keep this card deck in the deck box, unlike all my others (until I lost the ribbon on the Shakespeare Oracle, whoops). I don't plan to read with these cards much, if ever, and it's a good, sturdy box with a nice flocked lining, so I'm keeping it.

So let's work back to front, shall we?

The card back of the Zombie Tarot

I like to start with the card back. It's important- a lot of people overlook it in their quest to see the pretty fronts, but it's the thing that unites all the cards, and it should be appealing to look at. I like this one, though I prefer card backs which are the same up and down, for technical reasons.

Here on the back of the card you can see one of the important things about a card deck. You see the shine coming off of it? These cards aren't particularly slick, and they are a little thicker than a regular playing card. It changes their weight, the way they handle, and the way they fan out.

The Zombie Tarot, spread out

The fan is very important to me, and I'm not particularly sure why. There's something appealing about it, the way I can run my fingers along it and delicately click my nails over the edges of the cards. As you can see, these newer, thicker, coarser cards don't fan as well as they could.

The most important factor for me in deciding on a tarot deck is this:

The Hierophant from the Zombie Tarot

For reasons that I'll discuss later, the Hierophant is the make-or-break card for me. I actually bought this deck on a whim without seeing this card. I enjoy it as a curio, but for a deck to read with, I wouldn't have picked it, because this card and I don't click. It's neat, but I don't find it particularly visually appealing.

So. A decent deck, brand new, not my favorite, based on entirely physical concerns.

Now, let's see the opposite end of the spectrum.

The Tarot of the Dead, wrapped in a black bag, wrapped in a purple rosary

This is my copy of the Tarot of the Dead. It's the very first deck I bought, the one I chose to learn on when I started reading, lo these many year ago. The bag is the one that came with the deck, and it still has the same stiff, slippery feel as it did when I first bought it, a feeling that is very particular and memorable to me.

The card backs of the Tarot of the Dead, fanned

These cards are very similar to standard playing cards in their slickness, weight, and thickness, which gives them a good, familiar feel. You can see how much more easily they fan here, but you can see it better in this picture:

The card fronts of the Tarot of the Dead, fanned

Isn't that pretty?

And here we see my friend and yours, the Hierophant:

The Hierophant from the Tarot of the Dead. He is a skeleton decked out in a bowling shirt, hanging out with a plastic flamingo.

So let me tell you the story of why I have these cards. I did a lot of research when I first decided that I wanted to get my own cards, and I agonized about it, because everybody says different things about it- you should start with a standard deck, you should pick your own, you should receive them as a gift, you should buy them yourself, blah blah blah. But as I was looking around for decks, I found images of the Major Arcana of this deck, and this is the one that really struck a chord with me. At the time, I was really into osteology, and my osteology professor would adore this- I'm pretty sure he has that outfit. I looked at it and saw him, and I knew that these were the cards for me. So, ever after, I have judged all decks from the Hierophant. Trufax.

I've talked about feel and look when judging cards, but what I haven't really touched on is the sound of cards (or the smell, but I gave up on that. Mmmmm cardstock.). I struggled to represent what I like so much about it, but then I realized that all I needed was this:

Direct Link

This is the sound of an overhand shuffle, which is the kind of shuffle you use when you're trying to prevent bend and wear. Here is a youtube clip of an adorable kid showing you how to do it. I do a loose overhand shuffle when I'm reading tarot, because the cards get shuffled a LOT, and I don't want mine all bent up. I like the rhythm of it, the steady strike of the cards; in the audio you hear the way I do it, which is to do it a few times, bring the deck back together, and do it again, though you can overhand shuffle pretty much endlessly.

Now this is something that may be more familiar:

Direct Link

This is the sound of a bridge shuffle, which is the kind of shuffle you see in casinos and in general usage with playing cards. Here is a youtube clip of a dude doing it poorly, because everything else was friggin like four minutes long. I don't bridge my tarot cards, because it causes wear and bend, but I did it just for you, internet. Scandalous! It has such a satisfying sound though, doesn't it? And the feel of it in your hands is also neat, all the cards woven like that. I dig it.

So those are two experiences of cards, a new, pristine deck and an old favorite. They're very different, not just because of their histories and meanings, but because of the actual physical things that they are, the way they feel, sound, smell (I don't recommend tasting them).

Since I'm here, a quick tour of my other cards:

This is the Shakespeare Oracle:

Card backs for the Shakespeare Oracle

The Fool from the Shakespeare Oracle

The Shakespeare Oracle, from the side

The deck is called an "Oracle" but is actually a tarot deck, not an oracle deck, for those of you playing along at home. I like this deck a lot, because it's quite pretty and the pip cards are very unusual- they have pips as well as Shakespearean quotes that relate to the card- but it's wildly impractical for reading. You can see how very big and thick the cards are, enough so that shuffling them is a real pain. My motto is usually go big or go home, but indeed, there is such a thing as too big.

The next contestant, the Art Nouveau Tarot:

The Art Nouveau Tarot, fanned out, face up

A size comparison of the Art Nouveau Tarot and the Tarot of the Dead

I like a slick card, personally, but these are a little too slick, a little too small, and a little too light for real usage. They're also very lovely designs, but way too heteronormative for my tastes. A miss, but a pretty miss.

Rounding out the set, the Morgan-Greer Tarot:

The Morgan-Greer Tarot, fanned out, face up

The Morgan-Green Tarot and the Necronomicon Tarot, face up

I have the Morgan-Greer mostly for its interesting history and its colorful, full bleed cards; it doesn't ring my chimes as a deck to read with. In the second shot, you can also see the Necronomicon Tarot, which I bought for the lulz. Quite pretty in places, but takes itself a leeeeeettle too seriously.

I could go for a billionteen years more about how tarot reading is a unique sensory experience, but those are my tarot cards and why I love them: because I like them in my hot little hands. And there you have it!

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