A tarot deck that’s designed using Guillermo Del Toro’s movies as inspiration? Yes, please.
Insight Editions, the publishing company behind the “Ghostbusters Artbook,” sent me a set of their newly released, “Tarot Del Toro,” cards for free to review. I am not sponsored by them, but I am incredibly excited to review this deck.
I will review this deck from a few different points of view, as an artist, as an amateur tarot reader (very amateur), and as a fan of Del Toro’s work.
From the View of an Artist
This deck is beautifully and thoughtfully designed. From the cards, to the guidebook, to the box itself, everything has a very classic textured feel all inspired by the creative works of Guillermo Del Toro. And there’s a good reason for that textured feel as each card design was hand carved like you would see for block printing. But instead of getting that 70’s block printed aesthetic, the cards were scanned or photographed so that the face of each carving is the card itself. This adds such unique dimension to the illustrations that I’ve genuinely never seen in a tarot deck before. I love the textured finish this gives the cards as it adds a sense of history and weight.
The guidebook that comes with the deck is a great read as well and offers a lot of insight into the design and creation of the cards. One of the stories I really enjoyed reading was about why the artist, Tomás Hijo carved all of the designs. The reason behind the decision Hijo could share his designs with Don Miguel, his blind friend and mentor in learning about Tarot. He carved them so that Miguel could, “see,” his designs by feeling the three dimensional cards. The story behind how these cards were designed shows such a passion and love for both Guillermo Del Toro’s work and for the art of tarot.
From the View of an Amateur Tarot Reader
I will preface this section by saying I have only dabbled in reading tarot and have a very basic of knowledge to guide my opinions of this section. But even as an amateur, there was one important detail I thought needed to be mentioned about the deck as it pertains to tarot specifically. The Major Arcana are perfect, I have no criticism to share there, but it is in the design of the numbered cards in the Minor Arcana that I noticed a bit of a problem.
For those who do not know, when doing tarot readings you lay out a series of cards as a way to answer a specific question. When reading the meanings of the cards, the orientation- whether the card is upright or reversed matters massively. A card in a upright position means something entirely different when it’s reversed.
For example, let’s look at the ten of discs, shown here.
As you can see, the discs are arranged in a very balanced way, where which direction is up is not immediately discernible. This balanced card design works well with playing cards but not with tarot. In our example of the ten of discs the upright position means, “Wealth, financial security, family, long-term success, or contribution.” In it’s reversed position the same card means, “The dark side of wealth, financial failure or loss.” [BiddyTarot.com]
Thankfully, this design choice does not make the deck unusable for tarot readings because the design on the back of the card does have a clear upright position. So, as long as you note the position before you flip the card, you can still use this deck for readings.
From the View of a Del Toro Fan
That being said, I don’t think this deck is best suited for practitioners of tarot- I think this deck is best suited to lovers of Del Toro’s creative worlds. Del Toro’s work feels like a slice of mysterious fantasy found in real life and this deck is like being able to hold it in one hand. His characters feel like real people, even if they’re covered in scales or were born with a stone fist and red skin. In that way, the Tarot Del Toro deck is a perfect experience for a fan of his work. Hijo, the artist, put so much thought into the characters and symbols he chose for each card’s design. He pulled not just the best looking concepts for the deck, but the ones that most closely tied to the meaning of the cards themselves.
Each card has something to enjoy artistically speaking, but it’s the Major Arcana and the “face cards” of the minor Arcana that Del Toro fans will find the most joy in. All of these cards feature a character from Del Toro’s films and you could practically play an entire trivia game just naming the characters and discussing why they were chosen to represent a specific card. The movies (and show) represented in the deck are:
- Pan’s Labyrinth
- Hellboy II
- The Strain
- The Shape of Water
- Crimson Peak
- The Devil’s Backbone
- Pacific Rim
One of my favorites out of the whole deck is VI- The Lovers. This card features Elisa and the Amphibian Man from, The Shape of Water. This card generally means, “UPRIGHT: Love, harmony, relationships, values alignment, choices. REVERSED: Self-love, disharmony, imbalance, misalignment of values.” [biddytarot.com]
This card is one of my favorites for a couple of reasons. 1st, just from an artistic standpoint, it’s gorgeous. The earthy colors and gentle ombre paired with the bold line work gives the card an antique feel. While the characters are still easily recognizable and add to the fun and novelty of it. The 2nd reason I love this card comes from the guidebook and the details Hijo goes into about his thought process behind the card’s design.
The Lovers’ meaning has to do with choice, especially emotional choice. In many contexts, it can be even more focused and refer to crossroads of passion of any kind. […] In Tarot Del Toro, this duality is depicted by the characters from The Shape of Water , with their double nature, both human and aquatic. It is interesting to note the Mantegna deck illustrates this card with a figure of Venus in a marine environment.”Tomás Hijo “A Tarot Deck and Guidebook inspired by the world of Guillermo Del Toro.” Page 26
What I enjoy so much about this excerpt from the guidebook is that it shows how much thought and research went into the making of this deck. Hijo researched different card decks and the symbolism used in their designs and found ways to parallel the meaning he found in his own card designs. Pair that with his masterful artistry and you have something incredibly special to enjoy.
All in all, I think the deck is absolutely beautiful and despite the balanced designs in the numbered Minor Arcana I still think you can enjoy this deck both as a Guillermo Del Toro collector’s item and as a tarot deck. Though, I would argue an experienced practitioner would be able to work with these cards more easily than an amateur like myself.
I’m thrilled to have such a beautiful deck in my possession and am happy to recommend it to any fan of Del Toro. 5 out of 5 stars for me.
If you are interested in purchasing a deck of your own or for a Del Toro fan in your life, you can find it via my affiliate link on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3odTC7U or wherever novelty books are sold.
I love how you described yourself as ‘very amateur’, the right amount of personality thrown in.
Wait, it has a textured finish?!
I like how you’ve done the review from different points of view.
Also love how you have suggestions on what Del Toro fans would find particularly attractive.
Hijo deserves all the love he’s getting for this deck. I am a sucker for an artist that puts their all in for us, and just for the love of what they do 👌🏽👏🏽
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Hey, thank you so much! I really wanted to do the deck justice with my review, especially since I am not a seasoned tarot user. I’m glad you like how I approached it.
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You’re welcome 🙂🌺
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Plenty of people read tarot without reverse cards, so I doubt the balanced minor arcana designs are a problem. Thank you for telling about the design choices behind the cards, it’s very interesting! I do have a few additional questions: Are the minor arcana illustrated or do they only feature the suit and number? What about pages, knights, queens and kings? Would you say this deck follows Rider-Waite style symbolism or does it have it’s own? At least some of the cards shown here seem similar to R-W tarot. Also, apparently the suits have new names, are these explained in the guidebook? It’s easy enough to figure out gears means likely pentacles, goblets means cups, but do they have the same divination meanings as average R-W tarot? Sorry for the many questions, I’m just really curious, haha 😁
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Oh that’s good to know about the reverseable cards. I’m very new to tarot and still have lot to learn! Also you’ve asked some amazing questions, so I’m actually going to do a follow-up post to answer them all. But here’s some quick answers: minor arcana: they have simple illustrations using the suits and numbers rather than character-based illustrations. The Knights, Kings, Queens, and Pages, all have character designs. Rider-Waite was mentioned as an inspiration in the guidebook, but now I’m super curious to know how closely it follows. So I’m going to do some more research. Good point about the new names for suits! The guidebook does explain their names in context of the more common suit names. And they do largely have the same meanings as other tarot decks I have experienced. (I’m assuming my other decks are R-W but now I’m not sure. ) Thank you for asking such great questions and teaching me some more about tarot. I’m excited to continue learning more! 🙂
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Thank you so much for your reply! Looking forward to hearing more about this deck. I’m trying to find a new deck for myself and it’s so tough to do online, because you can’t “feel” the cards or browse them. Online reviews like this help a a lot! I was considering this one, but unfortunately the lack of character cards for the minor arcana is a hard pass for me. I personally read the image a lot, and it helps me to memorize card meanings. Although, the gorgeous art style would make this into a gorgeous display item anyway.
R-W is one of the most well known tarot systems (might be one of the oldest ones too?), so a lot of modern decks follow it’s symbolism even if they have their own theme. It’s often seen in what characters are doing in the card’s illustrations, what items are visible, what’s in the background, etc. Usually Cups relate to emotional things, Pentacles to material, etc. This makes it easy to switch between different decks, because you can understand them more easily. But if one doesn’t like the R-W system, it can be difficult to find a deck with it’s own symbolism, haha 😅
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