Bought an interesting tarot deck last week. The Night Vale Tarot is a theme deck made by the people who produce the Night Vale podcast. Night Vale is a fictional US town, located somewhere, in a desert, in the south western states, that we get to experience via the fortnightly news broadcast by its one and only radio presenter.
“WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE is a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events.
Turn on your radio and hide.”
I discovered Night Vale after listening to another podcast by the same crew, “Alice isn’t Dead”, which is an ongoing serialized almost-novel written from the narrative viewpoint of an unnamed female truck driver who is criss-crossing America looking for her missing wife. It is atmospheric and compelling. I found myself drawn into the story within minutes. It’s surreal, fantastic and very believable.
When I ran out of Alices (waiting impatiently for the next one), I turned to Night Vale and, although it is completely different to Alice, the podcasts soon drew me in. Pootling around the website, I was thrilled to find the tarot deck and at around £14 including shipping, thought it was worth giving it a go.
The card stock is pretty good quality, but being mostly black, I expect the edges of the cards to scuff with use. However, for the price, I’m not complaining. The deck comes in a purple cotton velvet bag – none of that cheap netting stuff – beautifully embroidered with the Night Vale logo. When it comes to shuffling, you realize just how thick the card stock is – see the comparison with my well-worn, and very grubby, Robin Wood deck (right).
The artwork is cartoon-like, and excellently rendered. The backs are not reversible and there’s no LWB. The whole deck was conceived and illustrated by H. Holloway. The images are interesting, They feature characters and events from the town of Night Vale, although I haven’t got very far with the podcasts as yet (there are 88 at the time of writing this).
The Fool is our mellifluously-voiced, somewhat naive radio presenter, Cecil Gershwin Palmer (Cecil Baldwin). Cecil often fails to see (perhaps deliberately) the truth of what is happening in the town and fits the ‘unreliable narrator’ viewpoint perfectly. Cecil also appears in the Hanged Man as younger version of himself.
While a few of the cards, such as the Eight of Wands, can be linked to RWS imagery, the majority cannot. So it helps to have a little knowledge of the podcast series, though I think they could be read by anyone who reads tarot intuitively. You can read more about the characters that feature on each card, as well as why H. Holloway chose a particular character/event on the artist’s site.
Night Vale Tarot Reading
I haven’t tried a reading with them yet, so here goes. I’m asking the deck what challenges and adventures it offers me.
The Hermit, Ten of Wands and Three of Cups
The Hermit is illustrated by a pyramid, and I guess a member of the ‘secret police’. My take is that the Night Vale tarot holds mysteries only to be discovered by exploring and experiencing it. That I have to suspend preconceived ideas and be prepared to let it teach me.
The Ten of Wands depicts tie-wearing skulls (is that possible?) looking down on a running figure, possibly that of Tamika Flynn, who is also the magician. A disembodied arm reaches down, not quite able to grab her. The event portrayed is Parade Day. Tamika, if it is her, seems to be on a mission but is fighting the odds. This card suggests that to get the most out of this deck, I simply have to keep going. Mustn’t dismiss it just because it doesn’t conform to my usual expectations of a deck.
The Three of Cups is based on Cecil’s vacation and features three children, a giant white dog and two other figures – I really must catch up with the podcasts! Relaxation, harmony, fun and friendship – I think I’m going to get along with this deck just fine.