Deck review: The Starman Tarot

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I always say that we live in the best time for tarot. Tarot is a constantly evolving practice, and these days we are seeing more and more artists emerge with new approaches to tarot’s artwork and interpretations.

Anyone who has taken one of my beginners’ tarot classes will know that I strongly recommend starting off with a Rider Waite Smith or similarly classic deck. Why? Because there’s a certain readability that those cards bring, and so many contemporary tarot decks are based off of the RWS.

But, I also believe it’s important to break tradition. And that’s what the history of tarot is about. After all, we are talking about a deck of cards that began as a game and evolved into something prophetic that evolved into self-discovery and the Fool’s Journey that evolved into reflection and meditation and spiritual growth.

Tarot isn’t ever just one thing, and there is never just one answer as to how it should look, or what it should be used for.

Tarot reading can be taught through methodologies and tried and true practices, but there is a non-linear quality to card reading that can’t be denied. How is it that a random set of images comes to hold some kind of relevance in a person’s life?

How is it that tarot, which is really just a series of artworks, comes to be able to answer our questions time and again?

I can tell you how tarot works for me, but I can’t tell you why it works – you just have to trust in the process.

It helps to be creative, to be willing to play, experiment, and embrace the unpredictable side of tarot.

Which is what I love about the Starman Tarot by Davide De Angelis. Inspired by the artwork De Angelis created for the late David Bowie, there’s no way you could pick up this tarot deck expecting it to feel like a RWS copy.

Much like the tarot, Bowie never followed the rules – he made his own, and constantly grew beyond past artistic expectations. And so it is fitting that this deck is wild with colour and saturated with psychedelic energy, sacred geometry, and rock ‘n’ roll ethos.

The overall style of the deck

No card is alike in the Starman Tarot. While the style is consistent throughout the deck, each image is incredibly layered with detail.

In the intro in the deck’s little white book (which is not so little and actually very generous – we’ll get into that later), De Angelis writes that “the energy of the cards spans forty-five years.”

As creative projects go, there isn’t always an obvious starting point. Ideas are seeds, and inspiration can begin at any point in time, though how long it takes to bring that idea to reality is not necessarily set in stone.

The organic nature of creativity is steeped throughout the Starman Tarot. One of the first impressions I had when I took it for a test drive with a three-card reading was that this deck would be perfect for readings about the creative process.

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Because each card offers so many details and colours, it’s difficult to rush through a reading with it. If your reading style is to do quick draws to get a snappy answer, the Starman Tarot may ask for a little more time.

This is a deck that requires deeper attention and appreciation to read from. It asks for imagination, daydreaming, and a willingness to be inspired by what the cards emanate for you.

And if the deck reflects an energetic process of forty-five years, it certainly deserves to be studied with care and patience.

IMG_0934The Eight of Wands is one of my favourite cards in the deck, and I pulled it in response to a question about a creative project I was launching at the time of this review.

Right away I felt the magnitude of possibility this card holds: That there are many seeds that sprout from this path, and that there is much potential to embrace – but you must be willing to step into this card’s otherworldly realm to make it happen.

So many cards in this deck speak in this way, as though they are reminding you to live in possibility. Later, as I was reading through the LWB, I was struck by De Angelis’ statement about the deck:

“I offer it as a powerful and dynamic tool to help you live your fullest creative expression.”

Reading level: Beginner, intermediate, or advanced?

The ease with which you connect to this deck may or may not have much to do with your skills or experience as a tarot reader. We all have our own styles of reading.

Personally, I look for certain symbols and similarities between the cards, and my eyes have become trained to the patterns of RWS-style decks. So for me, the Starman Tarot is stretching my limits – but in a good way.

Because each card is so detailed, beginner tarot readers may find the artwork to be overwhelming if they are expecting each card to give them an immediate message or “intuitive hit.” Remember that the key with tarot is in learning how to read the artwork itself, and so patience will really allow for you to bond with this beautiful deck.

It may be that the Starman Tarot is in a class of its own, and anyone who is inspired to work with it will need to give credit to the tremendous work that has gone into it. Why rush to master it in one go when you are working with a deck that has so much history and so many years of inspiration behind it?

It doesn’t do the Starman Tarot justice to say that this deck is better for one skill level or another. I think it’s something that needs to be experienced individually.

We can all benefit from the Little White Book

Little white books are the booklets that typically accompany tarot decks. In many mainstream tarot packs, they are literally little white books, held together with a staple and offering simple one or two-word descriptions for each tarot card.

They are hardly substantial, and often cause more confusion than anything.

One of my favourite things about the Starman Tarot is the book. Clocking in at 192 pages, it is not little at all, and is beautifully written and designed, with full-colour images of each card. De Angelis co-authored it with wife Esther.

Don’t skip the introduction in this book. Before you even try doing a reading for yourself, read De Angelis’ intro about the deck first. Why? Because it provides really important context about the Starman Tarot that will help you develop a solid understanding about the deck and the philosophies behind it.

Just as the artwork of the Starman Tarot is unique to this tarot pack, so are the meanings provided in the accompanying book.

Each card description speaks to the energy and intention behind what you see in the Starman Tarot, which is key: This book can really help you to understand what this particular deck is about, rather than copying and rephrasing tired tarot meanings that we’ve all seen before.

The book is another reason why I feel the Starman Tarot stands in its own category, and can be adopted by tarot readers of all levels. The imagery may take time to deciper, but the book feels like a good, supportive friend who is there to talk you through it all when things don’t make sense at first.

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I also really appreciated that De Angelis included some personal anecdotes to go along with some of the cards – such as the Eight of Cups, of which De Angelis writes “very much reflects where I was at when I created it.”

Having some behind-the-scenes insight into why the artist chose certain designs for these cards makes it so much easier to build a personal connection to this deck. While the artwork takes you to strange fantasy lands, the book is a strong reminder of the human connection we can all have to tarot.

And bridging those two worlds – the personal and the transcendent – brings us back to the core influence of David Bowie.

Is this tarot deck for everyone?

No, but is anything ever for everyone?

Tarot traditionalists may struggle with some aspects of the Starman Tarot, such as the Alien that is in place of the Hermit, or the Wheel of Fortune being renamed the Wheel of Life.

And yes, the overall style makes a lot of deviations from classic tarot styles. If you’re looking for a fresh take on tarot with a bit of a sci-fi-meets-punk-rock vibe, start here.IMG_0931 (1)

If you’re a stickler for tradition, though, the Starman Tarot is probably not the deck to buy.

This deck is about creative expression, and the freedom to be inspired.

Come to it with an open mind.

Using the Starman Tarot

Earlier I mentioned using this tarot deck to support creativity. For me, it worked really well with questions related to projects, plans, ideas and inspiration.

I do believe that any oracular device, be it a deck of cards or charms or runes or anything else, can be used to answer our questions, and so don’t be limited by my suggestion here. If this deck speaks to you for other purposes, by all means let yourself play and explore.

There is no one way to go with the Starman Tarot. For the sake of my review, I’m sharing my impressions of the deck and what it stirred up for me.

Why am I leaning towards a more creative relationship with the Starman Tarot? Because I have always looked to David Bowie’s work as an inspiration to evolve beyond the everyday. And that evolution, whether it is coming through for me personally or through my own art, is a special process.

And one that requires a special tarot deck.

So if you are looking for a tarot deck to specifically map out a novel, understand your own creative processes, inspire an artistic practice, or to get you out of your comfort zone and ask, “What do I want to create in my life now?” the Starman Tarot would be an obvious go-to.

Or, you could use it to give my David Bowie-inspired tarot spread a try.

Until next time,

Liz xo

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