Graham Cameron invites us to the stage of is Phantasmagoric Theater, the stage of life. There's a script, we all know it and follow it to the best of our abilities but sometimes we forget a line, we loose our context. To reconnect to the original script we have this beautiful and somewhat eerie deck of tarots to help us on the way.
While I don't particularly agree with the theory of predestination I do enjoy the metaphor of life as a stage where we perform a "play" of sorts. I enjoy the image of every human as an actor, or artist creating her/his own piece of art in living. Lets not forget that the root of tarot is in a game. Which, at least in my view, doesn't take away from the depth and guidance one can find in its symbology but adds to it. For if life is a game, a play, a curtain of shades as Plato would have argued, what better way to figure out the rules is there but to play?
What has Plato got to do with tarot you may wonder? Very little I suppose, but the again maybe very much indeed. To Plato the material world was an illusion, a flawed and unbalanced image of to unchangeable ideas that waits behind the veil of good, beauty and whatever. The point is what you see, what you can touch isn't real (which corresponds with the Buddhist concept of maya), it's a phantasma. "Something apparently seen but having no physical reality; a phantom or an apparition" (dictionary.com). And here we return to possible meanings of the word phantasmagoric, and as a result, a help in interpreting this particular deck of cards.
This was all to give you a background and a spiritual depth to a deck that could be mistaken for childish and naive, and in turned believed to be of less significance then a more "mature" deck because of the style of the artwork. Of course, it is childish and possibly even naive. It chooses a view of the world that's playful and innocent. In many ways, it's a new perspective to life in general and spirituality in particular which I find very refreshing and sound.
The deck in itself is loosely based on the symbolism of the classic Rider Waite deck but with a fresh and personal touch. The artwork is a very modern cartoon style, which I find very appealing. The High Priest has been renamed Grand Master which I think is supposed to correspond more to the spiritual side of the priest instead of the material power (the pope etc) it might allude to otherwise. The four suits are, as usual, swords, wands, cups and (the more traditional) coins. Every suit is accompanied by a special setting. Swords play in the labyrinth, wands at the circus, cups in the desert and coins in a small city. Every card is followed by a short story about the person seen on the card her/his name, what they've accomplished, what they want, where they're going etc.
Sometimes the meanings of the cards correspond with the traditional meaning, but more often the artist of this deck takes his own path. I find it easy to follow his lead and interpret his symbols, anyone who's studied tarot and has mastered the art of interpreting the symbology of this instrument by her/himself should be able to penetrate the symbols of this deck very easily.
I enjoy the depiction of two of cups as a love that is mutual and based un unity but is unhealthy in the way that it's completely shut of from the outside world. The meaning of the Judgement card is given a more modern view as it shows it as the great, big party, as do death seem to dance like life depended on it rendering a positive and affirmative dimension to the issue of "change". I think that the image of the chariot as a flying saucer led by sea horses as both charmingly whimsical and an insightful take on the marriage between sky and ocean, intellect and soul.
I have, and will continue too, enjoy this deck immensely and hope that other will find joy in it as well. It is a very unique piece though and I supposed it appeals to only a handful of people. To those who find the imagery compelling though I highly recommend it!
—Evelina Lundmark, Aeclectic Tarot
The Phantasmagoric Theatre tarot encourages us to think of our lives as a stage play. We are all actors, and the scenes have been carefully designed before we enter, stage left. However, as in real theatre, sometimes things don't go right: we flub our lines, we don't like our costumes, or the lights malfunction. These things very subtly change the play itself and can even change the very outcome. However, as Mr. Cameron suggests, "as a tarot reader, however, you can connect yourself through a psychic process back to the original script, and become informed of deviations you may have made to the performance that is your life, helping you to avoid any unnecessary disasters."
Mr. Cameron has produced an astonishing tarot deck as laden with heavy symbolism as any tarot I've yet worked with. Dice, question marks and puzzle pieces can be found in most (if not all) of his cards, and each has a special significance for him. Dice represent entropy or chance in our lives: we may WANT the roll of the dice to turn out a certain way, but often they don't. Like puzzle pieces, we are all interconnected and interlocked to each other in complicated matters. As far as questions, well, I certainly don't have many of mine answered, tarot cards or not!!
The characters in the deck hover in an odd realm somewhere between childlike and sinister. Many look like dolls with button eyes and happy smiles. Some are glowering in a powerful "I know something you DON'T..." sort of way that is almost eerie. When pressed to describe this deck, I often say it resembles something of a cross between the Beatles "Yellow Submarine" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas". Still, this analogy doesn't do the deck justice-there is far, far much more to see.
Many of the cards are modeled after what may be the most well known tarot deck, the Rider-Waite. Since most people start with the Rider-Waite (it's the deck most books use to illustrate the tarot) this will certainly help the reader gain fluency with these cards. However, be aware that the resemblance quickly stops-this is not like any other deck you are likely to run into. Two very short examples of how these cards are different are the card of the Grand Master, a sort of levitating, psychedelic visionary that stands in the place of the card of the Hierophant in most other decks, and the Ace of Cups, which is something of a coffee mug.
—“Chess Heart”, Amazon reader
In my experience, every tarot reader has one or two decks that especially resonate for them and help them to see things they might otherwise miss. I often use the dear old Rider Waite Tarot while giving readings on Keen because most people are familiar with this deck. However, my personal favorite is the Phantasmagoric Theater Tarot. I love this deck because it's colorful, quirky, and full of surprises.
There are so many unusual elements in this fantasy/circus themed deck that it helps me retrieve details I can't see with my other decks. Maybe this is partially due to the modern flavor of the Phantasmagoric Theater. For instance, the Four of Swords depicts a man relaxing in his easy chair, which is chained to the wall in front of the TV. And just look at The Lovers card. They came into the room through separate doors, reflecting their individual lives, rolled the dice to the number six (a perfect match!) and now they're sharing the same space in perfect, childlike trust. The Lovers can choose to exit by the doors they used to enter, or go outside together; and either way is okay. The puzzle piece in the corner represents the mystery and spice of the unknown that keeps love fresh.
If you're interested in the tarot, I encourage you to look around, experiment with lots of decks, until you find the deck that best speaks to you and reflects your personality and reading style. It took me several years to find the one that suited me best, and while I was searching I learned something new and wonderful from each deck I bought and tried out.
—Robin, Empress Tarot Blog