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  • Writer's pictureTero Goldenhill

Deck Review: Video Tarot

Deck Review: Video Tarot — A Cinematic Voyage by Teppei Ando (artwork) & Arnell Ando (text)

Published and Distributed by Arnell’s Art, October 2020

  • 23 Card Major Arcana Deck

  • Limited to 250, Hand-Numbered Sets

  • Art Medium: Hand-drawings, with Layered Colours Detailed in Photoshop

  • Card Size: Standard, 2.75 by 4.75 inches / 7 by 12 cm

  • Card-stock: Sturdy (330 GSM Royal), Semi-Gloss Finish

  • Borderless Deck

  • Card Backs: Unique Design, Reversible

  • Includes: Flip-Top Box includes 22 Majors + Happy Squirrel card, Reading Spread, Cheat Sheet, Book (76 pages, soft-cover)

  • Titles: Traditional, except: 2 - Witch, 20 - Liberation

  • Justice & Strength: Justice 8, Strength 11

  • ISBN: 978-0-578-74139-0

  • Publication: October 2020

I was really excited to receive my copy of the Video Tarot — A Cinematic Voyage. Arnell Ando, the other creator of this project, is a dear friend of mine, with whom I’ve shared many happy moments in Bella Italia during the Tarot Art & History Tours.

There was one thing which really struck me when I opened the box and took out the cards: just how incredibly authentic and from the heart the cards feel like. What happens nowadays all too often is that the end result, the finished cards, have got this… how should I put it - “trying to please everyone” feel. Sacrificing originality for mass appeal. How many Waite-Smith clones do we already have (or, in the rare instance, a Thoth clone)? So many - too many - artists are trying to force their creation to fit inside a ‘Rider-Waite-Smith box’. I find this rather sad.

This certainly can’t be said of the Video Tarot. It is original, it is fresh, it is authentic. It’s also 100% real life, despite being based on indie films. Arnell Ando writes in the LWB about the birth of the project:

“Video Tarot has been a deeply meaningful and gratifying project with my son Teppei; a prolific artist, adored by his fans, who cheered me with an offer to collaborate on a deck. Since discussing movies has always been our shared passion and ‘safe-zone’, it was the perfect means to explore Tarot’s rich layers so clearly present in the archetypal, storytelling medium of film.

Teppei returned home for a year on Mother’s Day 2018, after an especially challenging time with Bipolar Disorder. It’s been rough but he’s made incredible progress with the great resources available (shout-out to DuPage County Health Dept. and NAMI), his resilient, reflective nature and our family and friends’ stubborn belief in him.”

As a Jungian Tarot Reader, with a background in adult nursing and LogoArt (combo of Viktor Frankl’s psychotherapy and Steinerian Art Therapy), tarot and mental health - separately or combined - are subjects close to my heart. Coincidentally or not, it was only a couple of days ago when I was talking to a Chinese student studying at the UCL, who is working on a 360 documentary, dealing with tarot and mental health.

I didn’t want this to be just a review of the Video Tarot, but a review on where we are at the moment as human beings, in terms of mental health, and how tarot can play a positive part in this. Back in the early 2000s I remember thinking, that I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing a reading to a client, who would’ve been diagnosed with a mental health problem. Fast forward to 2010, and I was already having to seriously reexamine my thoughts. More and more of my clients were arriving to the reading precisely because of that: they were struggling to cope, whether with pills or without them. Fast forward another ten years, and we find ourselves in 2020 in a real shit show: the world as we know it seems to be collapsing all around us. Half of my clients - easily, if not more - have got a diagnosis. Half of my friends are on a medication.

To discover this about the Video Tarot’s origins; that it came to be because of a son who returned home to spend time with his family, in order to cope with his bipolar disorder, tells me two things for sure: tarot is here to help us, and we should never underestimate its power to do so. While tarot might not be able to cure anyone of their condition, it will provide direct means of being in control of one’s condition and situation, even if it’s only momentarily. Those moments can be incredibly important and meaningful. By organising the cards into specific groups, by connecting on a deep, emotional level with the images, by seeing ourselves in the cards (tarot is, after all, a projective, visual tool), we can better handle our reactions in the outside world. Or, by creating your own tarot deck. By doing so you’re not only leaving your own mark in tarot’s history, becoming part of a long tradition of tarot artists, but giving an outer expression for something that is within you — your own spirit.

I was incredibly happy to discover two of my favourite indie films included in the deck: Only Lovers Left Alive, directed by Jim Jarmusch and featured in the Lovers card, and Pi, directed by Darren Aronofsky, featured in the Hermit card. The dialogue in Pi (1998) between Max Cohen (played by Sean Gullette) and Sol Robeson (played by my all time favourite actor Mark Margolis), while playing the Go game, has got to be among my very favourite cinematic scenes (you can see an example here).

Teppei Ando, the artist of the Video Tarot, is an illustrator, animator and comic maker. According to his website, “striking the balance between dark and light, ugly and beauty, Teppei has been working as an illustrator and gallery artist since 2007 working primarily from Oakland, CA”. My own exposure to comics has been minimal at best; Donald Duck and a couple of X-Men issues in the 1980s, Gary Larson’s The Far Side and Comic Book Tattoo by Derek McCulloch and Rantz Hoseley. That’s about it. So I wouldn’t be able to tell you, if Teppei Ando’s style belongs to a particular tradition of illustrators within the comic maker universe or outside of it. But it does bring to mind a friend of mine from Finland, Jussi Seppänen, and his style of illustrating. Both of these artists seem to capture something essential from the real life, warts and all. It might not always be pretty, but it certainly is authentic. If you ask me, I’d rather have it that way. Oh, before I forget: I absolutely love the card back in the Video Tarot. Talk about VHS nostalgia:

reversible Video Tarot card back

Having a tarot deck based on a movie or a television series is nothing new under the sun these days. There’s The Lord of the Rings Tarot, or The Star Wars Tarot, or The Twin Peaks Tarot, or even The Golden Girls Tarot. However, having a deck which uses various movies as its framework is quite unusual. Another deck based on the same idea is The Movie Tarot by Natalie Foss, published earlier this year. That deck features the full 78 cards, but the Minor Arcana lacks any human figures or movie references. From my POV this is a flaw - if you go through the trouble of creating 22 Majors based on various movies, why not complete the entire deck following the same theme, as opposed to leaving the Minors featuring Marseille-style pip cards.

Having a tarot deck based on a specific theme adds something to it: you’re not only interpreting the cards based on various allegories, myths, archetypes, various esoteric schools of thought or other philosophies, but have a rather specific set of markers or signposts guiding your interpretation. With the Video Tarot, you open yourself to the wisdom of the particular movie in question, linked to the card, and how that relates to your question. In a sense, you're stepping inside that movie with your question, and seeing how the movie connects with it, and what you can learn about yourself by exploring the inner landscape of that movie through the corresponding card.

Before finishing, I thought it would be appropriate to take a card from the deck, and see what comes up:

20 - Liberation

This card is based on the movie Shawshank Redemption (1994), directed by Frank Darabont. Arnell Ando writes in the LWB: “Shawshank Redemption is a shining testament to the human spirit, with interwoven themes of friendship and hope, which fuse and reinforce the true meaning of Liberation (aka: the Judgement card).”. Keeping in mind the origins of the Video Tarot - a son returning home to deal with his mental health problem and ending up creating a tarot deck based on indie films (maybe this will become a movie itself one day) - and the fact that we are now in 2020, which can be seen as a ‘double 20’ or double Judgement / Liberation year, I can’t imagine a better fitting card here. I hope we can all find - or maybe “create” works better here - our own internal Shawshank Redemption end scene, releasing ourselves from our own prison, walking along a beach to meet that part of ourselves, which never gave up hope.

More info on the Video Tarot here: Arnell Ando’s website

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