Deck Interview: Tattoo Tarot, Ink & Intuition

At the same time that I was buying the soft, but surprisingly sharp Linestrider Tarot, I was also buying the stark-edged Tattoo Tarot: Ink & Intuition. I had the sense when I bought them that the two decks would complement each other, one soft and feminine and the other a little harder and more masculine. I don’t think that was a wrong impression, but I do think I underestimated the dark depths of the Linestrider and the strong women of the Tattoo Tarot. One of the other reasons why I bought this deck with the Linestrider was that it had something new to teach me: how to read a Tarot de Marseille style deck. In the Tarot de Marseille style, the pips (minor arcana numbered 2–10) are not all that evocative and the reader is forced to just know the meanings based on either rote memorization or knowledge with the numerology behind the cards and the elements and components tied to each of the minor suits. To be fair to the artist, the pips really aren’t as unhelpful as in a traditional deck, but I did have to learn where I could find helpful cues and where I might be forced to rely on memorized meanings.

What I didn’t realize at the time, and I still don’t actually always follow, is that Tarot de Marseille decks are not designed to be read with reversals. Each card has a range of meanings that often (but not always) incorporates the sort of meaning that you might find in the reversed entry for other decks’ cards. This was another challenge, although one I hadn’t planned on since I find reading reversals as reversals to be incredibly helpful the vast majority of the time. Here in this spread I have reversals and, not knowing any better, I read them as reversals. Again, I used the @matchatofu Tumblr tarot interviewing spread; the page no longer exists, but you can Google it.

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Interviewing the Tattoo Tarot

Tell me about yourself. The Tower.

What are your strengths? Justice. And your limitations? Three Coins.

What are you here to help me learn? The High Priestess (reversed).

How can I work with you most effectively? Judgement (reversed).

Where is our partnership headed? Knave of Swords.

Seeing four major arcana, and these four major arcana, right away fell completely in line with my assumptions about this deck. As the Tower showed, this edgy, modern deck was here to shake things up for me and force me to learn a new way of reading. The cold stare and straight sword of the colorful Lady Justice told me that the cards would be quick and decisive as I wanted of the Tarot de Marseille, but she reminded me that the cards don’t care what happens to you: they are pieces of cardstock from which we can read messages, but they aren’t talismans or guarantees, and they won’t hold back just because you’re feeling extra sensitive one day. As far as limitations go, the Three of Pentacles suggested to me that this modern deck wouldn’t include the well-understood, historical associations of older decks, and indeed it has a very different feel with some of its very different images: the passion of the Lovers without an angelic chaperone and the burning sacred heart of the naïve 6 of Cups are just two examples. Sometimes that can be limiting, as in the loss of any idea of responsibility in the Lovers, but sometimes it adds subtle new value, such as the idea of compassion through the sacred heart in the 6 of Cups. But even without those familiar visual cues, I’ve learned that there is enough to go off of when interpreting even the pips.

Having done this reading only hours after the Linestrider interview, I was floored by the literal complementarity of the fourth card: in the Linestrider Tarot, it was the High Priestess, and here she was again but this time in the reversed position. To me this was a reminder that I wouldn’t be relying on intuition as much with this deck because the images wouldn’t allow for as much intuitive inspiration (or so I thought at the time); instead, I would need to memorize meanings and think in terms of structured numbers and assigned suit meanings. I know now that this was an oversimplification, to be sure, but I think there’s still merit in that reading of the deck. I really enjoy the images, and I like doing certain types of readings with this deck, but I don’t dwell on the cards and try to find the secret details that will lead me to new intuitive insights as I do with the Linestrider. That’s not a bad thing—in fact, it’s good that the decks serve different purposes, else why have both?—but it is something I take into consideration. This idea was furthered by the reversed Judgement in the fifth position, a sign that I wouldn’t necessarily be working with people on their soul’s purpose using this deck, and that I probably would not be using it for what I believe to be my calling, helping people through those opportunities to dig really deep inside themselves. Instead I would be using the deck to focus on answering straightforward questions with clear and concise answers, including the yes/no and date-oriented readings that some practitioners avoid. If later down the road a client who came to me for a quick, direct reading wants a more in-depth reading, then the deck has helped me with my calling in an indirect way, and that’s great.

As for where I think my relationship with this deck will take me, it’s hard to say. I didn’t quite know how to read the Knave of Swords at first since it often means a messenger or a spy, and neither of those things seemed all that relevant to me. And since this initial reading, I’ve found this card to often relate to social media and the internet, and to a younger form of communication, not unlike the short, sharp interactions of a quick and direct reading that I find so useful with this deck. But what I like most about the particular card and what it might mean for the deck and my relationship is the glowing sword and the eye tattoo on the youth’s neck. There’s an awakening that’s possible with the newness of this deck, even when sometimes it feels like a limitation from that deck.

The cards shown are from Tattoo Tarot by MEGAMUNDEN and Diana McMahon-Collis (Laurence King Publishing, 2018).