“All Hallows’ Eve has become a night of frolic where children wear costumes and run amuck.” Recognize those words? That’s right — they were said with overriding authority and a hint of disdain by Sanderson sister Winifred to sisters Mary and Sarah in the iconic 1993 movie “Hocus Pocus.” And now there’s a tarot deck!
“Golden Girls,” “Friends,” “Game of Thrones,” and “Stranger Things” have all been made into decks with varying degrees of success. The problem with some mass market decks that are based on popular movies or TV shows is that publishers bank on the deck’s theme to bring in buyers but don’t pay enough attention to the tarot side of it. The Majors can be haphazard and the Minors can be phoned-in pips. Not all the time but often enough for both the tarot reader and fan to be wary.
So is this deck the real deal, an authentic tarot deck that also captures the magic of All Hallows’ Eve and the tale of the Sanderson Sisters? Or is it simply a candy-grabber dressed up in costume? Let’s dive in, shall we.
This 78-card deck follows the Rider-Waite-Smith system with name changes to the suits: Wands are Candles, Pentacles are Pumpkins, Swords have become Lightning, and Cups are called Potions. Published by Insight Editions for Disney, the creators/writers are Minerva Siegel and Tori Schafer and it’s illustrated by DreaD (sic). It comes with a thick, 127-page guidebook packed full of useful information. The bios at the back of the guidebook state that both deck creators are tarot readers and enthusiasts who have practiced and written about tarot for years. Their tarot knowledge is evident as you work with the deck and become familiar with the cards.
The cards themselves are surprisingly lush with a rose petal finish and they shuffle beautifully. The printing on the cards is clear and sharp and the production quality is good. I love the illustrations — they can be beautiful, atmospheric, or funny depending on the card. The color palette is so Samhain— greens and yellows, oranges, black, and purples. The deck comes in a sturdy two-piece box with thumb indents and a purple ribbon to lift out the cards that nestle inside the box. The cards are just a touch longer and wider than standard-sized tarot cards, still easy to manage if you have small hands.
Could you read this deck without having seen the movie? Yes, using the guidebook you definitely could. (My question is, why haven’t you seen this fabulous movie?)
Could you read this deck without knowing the RWS system? Again yes, the guidebook provides enough to go on but some of the Minors are pips, and that might make it difficult for a beginner to understand.
And that brings us to the cards themselves. I did a “scientific” test and sorted the cards into two piles: cards that I believe fit the traditional meaning and communicate that meaning within the context of the movie in a clever way, and those cards I feel lack clarity or can’t be read easily using intuition alone.
There are 61 cards in the “Yes, this totally works and I’m here for it” category and 17 in the “Come on now” category. Stand-outs in the first category are Winifred as The Magician, Sarah as The High Priestess, and Mary astride her vacuum cleaner as The Chariot. Also the Spellbook as The Hierophant when put to use and the III of Lightning when taken from its proper owner. The Page of Pumpkins is delightfully October 31 in the best way and the Queen of Pumpkins is Allison dressed resplendently at the top of the staircase. In addition, all the Aces are magical, the X of Candles depicts melted wax weighing down a rod iron window, the IX of Pumpkins shows an abundance of fat, jolly pumpkins merrily strung up against the night sky, the IX of Lightning is anxiety-inducing turbulent lightning flashing in the darkness as bats cross the moon, and the VIII of Potions is Mary walking away with bottles of potions that need to be discarded. And so many more.
Of the 17 in the second category, most are in the suit of Candles. Although beautifully illustrated and visually emblematic of the magic in Salem that fateful night, too many are melting candles in the corresponding card number and simply don’t do enough to honor the Sanderson sisters.
But don’t let those few cards dissuade you from enjoying this deck. I certainly haven’t! I recommend this deck to Hocus Pocus fans and All Hallows’ Eve fans alike. And I don’t see it as a seasonal deck either because just like pumpkin spice coffee, I can drink this up all yearlong. I love this deck and find it to be a good reader.
So with regrets to Billy Butcherson, it’s time again for Winifred to proclaim, “Lock up your children. Yes, Salem, we’re back!”