The Tattoo Tarot is a new Tarot deck designed by Diana McMahon-Collis (a co-founder of the Tarot Association of the British Isles) and illustrated by tattoo artist MEGAMUNDEN. It’s a 78-card, traditional TdM-style deck done in the illustrative style of traditionalist tattoos. The deck is accompanied by a small companion book (25 pages) with keywords for each of the 78 cards and a couple of introductory spreads.
MEGAMUNDEN’s background as a tattoo artist definitely shows through in the way the cards are illustrated. Each of the Major Arcana is a self-contained image that could easily be a tattoo. The cards have a distinctive color palette and shading style that I haven’t seen in any of the decks I own, and that’s refreshing. I also appreciate the fact that most of the human figures depicted in the deck are, themselves, tattooed. This deck really takes its theme to heart.
The Minors are done in a TdM pip style. Each suit has a color scheme—blue for Swords, yellow for Cups, red for Wands, and green for Coins—although there are highlights done in different colors to help provide some variety in the cards.
I admit, the cards in this deck do feel a bit sparse for my taste. It is perhaps a necessary evil in a tattoo-themed deck that the backgrounds of the cards aren’t going to be fully illustrated, and that can at times make the images feel a bit flat. Part of that complaint, though, has to do with the fact that this is a TdM deck; unillustrated pips are, by nature, more spartan than the illustrations you’ll see in RWS-inspired decks. I’m not primarily a TdM reader (which is ironic, considering that I learned Tarot with an unillustrated deck), so the amount of negative space on these cards sticks out to me. However, for readers who work consistently with TdM decks, the illustrations on the Tattoo Tarot will probably feel much more comfortable. MEGAMUNDEN’s card design is an homage to the longstanding tradition of Marseilles-style decks, and it fits flawlessly in with the Tarot cards that inspired it.
Moreover, I should point out that the deck is not without symbolism; small details populate the cards to help nudge the reader in the direction of an interpretation. We have hearts on the Two of Cups, a weeping eye on the Four, and a setting sun on the Six of Swords. In a minimalist deck like the Tattoo Tarot, these small details become all the more important, and it is clear that a great deal of thought has been put into each image added to the deck.
I think this would be an excellent deck either for seasoned TdM readers who want to expand their deck collections or for experienced readers used to working in other traditions (i.e. RWS or Thoth) who want to branch out and start learning how to read TdM. MEGAMUNDEN’s illustrative style is quite expressive, and I suspect that this would be an easier deck for those new to working with TdM than one of the more classic packs.
My favorite cards in the Tattoo Tarot are, far and away, the Court Cards. They have such a great deal of personality—no easy feat for the sixteen cards that many readers struggle most with. I would wed the Knight of Cups in a heartbeat, and that tells me that Ms. McMahon-Collis and MEGAMUNDEN succeeded in capturing the essence of his card.
I’m pleased to have added this deck to my collection. I suspect it will give me an opportunity to reacquaint myself with reading in the TdM tradition, and frankly, I could do with a little reeducation. I would only recommend this deck to people who are already somewhat grounded in Tarot and who are comfortable reading the cards; the Tattoo Tarot seems better suited to intermediate or experienced readers than to absolute novices. This deck has a lovely, unique illustration style and is well grounded in Tarot tradition.
A brief note: I received this deck from the publisher for the purpose of publishing a review. Everything I’ve said in this post is my honest opinion.