Tattoo Tarot, illustrated by Megamunden
Tattoo Tarot, illustrated by Megamunden

Tattoo Tarot: Ink and Intuition, by Diana McMahon-Collins, illustrated by Megamunden

Laurence King Publishing, 9781786272058, 155 pp., 2018

The art of tarot and the art of tattoo have separate, storied histories shrouded in both mystery and misunderstanding, so it’s enchant­ing to see them brought together in this rich new deck from Laurence King Publishing, titled Tattoo Tarot: Ink and Intuition.

As their first venture into the world of tarot, Laurence King lined up an experienced tarot practitioner, Diana McMahon-Collis with an artist whose images stay true to the classic old style tattoo, Megamunden. The result is a beautiful deck with clean, crisp images and bold colours, perfect for a new student to tarot as well as a work of art for a collector’s library.

The packaging is first class: a sturdy clamshell box combines the use of full colour against a creamy, textured background, which gives it an almost antique look. Highlighting the design on the box cover is gold foil that accentuates the title as well as the all-seeing eye at the centre, a hint at the third eye’s intuition coming through the cards. The inside is lined in red, matching the back of the cards, and maybe a nod to the colour of blood when a tattoo needle pierces the skin! The cards themselves came shrink wrapped, ensuring no damage to the edges or to the sides as can happen when a bellyband is wrapped around the cards too tightly. But the biggest plus is the use of a black cloth pull tab secured at the bottom, making it very convenient to lift the entire deck from the box with one pull. No fumbling to retrieve individual cards clinging to the bottom!

The cards are sturdy and matte, and as such they don’t reflect any glare from overhead lights. The design of the card back looks very similar to regular playing cards, which is perhaps the designer’s way of paying respect to the playing cards that gave tarot its origin when they entered Europe in the late 14th century. At 6-3/8 x 4-3/8 inches, the cards are large enough to see clearly, and they fit comfortably in hand. There’s no gilding on the card edges as is sometimes used on decks, and it would have matched the box cover perfectly. But the lack of gilding does give the cards a cleaner, simpler look that echoes the classic, old school style of the tattoo art.

Queen of Cups from the Tattoo Tarot

Some of the characters on the cards even have tattoos themselves, such as the full sleeve on the arm of the Knight of Swords and the heart on the back of the hand of the Queen of Wands. Talk about bringing consistency and continuity to the theme of a deck!

The Tattoo Tarot includes an easy to read, 28-page guidebook with the same cream colouring that matches the box. The use of black stitching on the spine instead of stapled closures really adds to the feel of a black tattoo outline.

The guide begins with an introduction to tarot and basic instructions on how to do a reading, perfect for the beginner or simply a refresher for the more experienced cartomancer. Three spreads (six-card, five-card, and three-card spreads) are illustrated and explained. The spread formations mimic classic tattoo imagery found throughout the deck, again repeating the theme. The guide offers keywords and short phrases, leaving more room for interpretation and other intuitive responses up to the reader.

The suits of the minor arcana are here named cups, swords, wands, and coins. But at one point, the coins are referred to as “pentacles.”1 Probably an oversight that hopefully will be fixed in the next printing! Later on, where the descriptions of the minor arcana are explained in the guidebook, they are again correctly referred to as coins.

Tattoo Tarot: Ink and Intuition is priced remarkably well for the quality of the deck. The deck itself is easy enough for beginners to learn, with all the features that experienced readers would look for and perfect for an art or deck collector. This exceptional divination deck signals a great start for Laurence King Publishing’s entrée into the world of tarot.

  1. p. 8 []