If you take the San Francisco poster art style from around the turn-of-the-century that depicted bawdy saloon life, mix it with that same style, repurposed decades
later for rock ‘n’ roll posters (again in the San Francisco area), throw in Andy Warhol’s Factory for good measure, and stir in a cartoon style that was popular in the ‘70s and ‘80s, you come out with the delicious Dame Darcy Mermaid Tarot deck. The deck is
stunning and it is uniquely its creator, Dame Darcy.
Some cards, like the Moon, are mystical and deep, some cards, like the Chariot, are playful and whimsical. The Magician looks like he just left Studio 54, while the
High Priestess looks timeless, reverent, and connected to spirt. The Nine of Swords illustrates a woman who is torn or distraught, the art in a style reminiscent of the comic strip character Mary Worth, and the Queen of Wands looks like a gal who’s full of
fire and up for a good time somewhere along the Barbary Coast. There are pirates, showgirls, sailors, mermen, and, of course, mermaids.
In short, this is
not a boring deck.
Despite its rebellious joie de vivre flair, the 78-card, independently published deck strictly adheres to the Rider-Waite-Smith system and for this reason, would make
a great deck for beginners and a wonderful alternative for anyone looking for something other than traditional RWS art. It doesn’t come with a guidebook but you can go to Dame Darcy’s website for a deck guide.
I also recommend this deck for anyone who has astrological associations to water or for anyone who feels drawn to the ocean. If you’re a Cancer, Scorpio, or Pisces,
or these signs are significant in your chart, I can’t help but believe these cards would make a perfect fit for you aesthetically and content-wise.
Originally published in 2012, there have been three editions of this deck that I know of. These editions include some changes in art, for example, the Moon and the
Ace of Pentacles, and there have been changes to the border. The edition I worked with was published in 2018 and has gold gilding and thick cardstock. The cardstock is my one complaint. It is so thick that, with the gilding, overhand shuffling is quite a clunky
affair; better if you’re a riffle shuffler.
I absolutely love the artwork in this deck (I literally gasped when I opened the box, it is that beautiful). So I was surprised to find that it isn’t a good reader
for me. But the hard truth is, I’m not a mermaid person. My theory is that the people who do resonate with mermaids and ocean themes are Cups people (makes sense, water and water). I’m more of a Pentacles/Swords person who sometimes wishes she were a mermaid
person. They seem so carefree, they seem bubbly and optimistic, always seeing a beautiful sunrise over the ocean in their minds. They’re all about the feels. I’m all about balancing my checking account and perfecting my gluten-free bread recipe. And I firmly
believe it’s because I hold the dubious honor of being a triple Earth sign – Sun, Moon, and Ascendant all firmly rooted in terra firma – that reading with this deck, for me, is a little like trying to breathe underwater. But like art, that is the way with
tarot, which is to say, it’s subjective. And in terms of reading the cards, again, this is subjective. You can be unsure about a deck, then you use it, and you fall in love with it; the readings come easily and the images click with your subconscious to elicit
clear conscious meanings and thoughts. Then there are decks you absolutely love, like this one, that just don’t quite jive. It’s as mysterious to me as tarot itself. But that’s not to say it wouldn’t be a good reader for you. Not at all.
In spite of my landlubber limitations, or maybe because of them, I wouldn’t hesitate recommending this deck to others. The deck is exquisite, the artwork evocative
and fun, and it has a diversity and hipness to it that somehow manages to make it feel both vintage and very modern at the same time. It’s not just a frolic in the waves; I’ve gotten some serious readings with this deck.
On the back of the box, Dame Darcy writes about growing up in the mountains but always being called to the sea. And within her deck, the Queen of Cups, fittingly, is
a self-portrait of Dame Darcy herself. When you use this deck you can feel her love of the sea and you know it must have been the song of the mermaids that inspired and called to her. May you be inspired.