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The Gay Tarot

by Lee Bursten & Antonella Platano

The Gay Tarot
Price: $22.95

Number of cards in deck: 78

Measurements: 2.6 x 4.72 inches, or 66 x 120 mm.

Back of card: Reflections in a pool: On each half, a man, flanked by two columns, rises out of a pool of water. Overhead a crescent moon & stars. A white 16 pointed star shines out of the man's third eye. Greenish-grayish-blue tones predominate. May be inverted.

Booklet included: Yes, 64 pages, 2.6 x 4.74 inches, or 66 x 120 mm. Instructions in English, Italian, Spanish, French & German.

Publisher: Lo Scarabeo. Printed in Italy, imported by Llewellyn Worldwide.

Comments: When the new Kama Sutra Tarot arrived a week ago, it came with a list of other new Lo Scarabeo decks. At the next opportunity, I ordered them all. I was curious what kind of deck the Gay Tarot would be. Now I know.

Nothing bad ever happens to gays.

It's not that I expected to see cards showing clashes with militant straight groups, but I was expecting to see cards that showed everyday life from a gay perspective.

As you can see, above, the Fool is out for a good time. He has no reason to expect anything harmful or unfortunate. (I did a lot of hitching when I was younger.)

The Hanged Man shows a diver in mid air, upside down, arms pointed over his head, about to plunge into a pool. This is casual recreation, nothing more.

The Ten of Swords, one of the nastier cards in the deck, is here entirely inverted. It shows the Rider Waite Ten of Swords on a computer screen, with a hand pulling the plug. The meaning is clear: We can get rid of unpleasant things.

The Death card shows a young man in front of a grave stone, on which a Greek equal-arm cross is inscribed. The dates are partially shown: Get out your magnifying glass: 1903-21--. The card does not show change, but absolute loss.

The Three of Swords, based on the Rider-Waite card, shows three umbrellas in a tangle in a puddle on a city street. The water is white, it drains into a culvert. I can think of all kinds of gay interpretations for this card. They all start with the observation that in New York, broken umbrellas, such as these, are commonly thrown in the street as trash. You see them every time it rains.

Major arcana 15, which is usually the Devil, is here titled, Self-Hatred. It shows a man in a museum standing in front of a painting of a husband, wife, two kids & a dog, all in front of a nice two story house with a red roof. The husband stands between the wife & kids, which makes both the wife, on his left, and the kids, on his right, his personal property. The observer has his sleeves rolled up. His left arm is visible & is in a black body stocking. His hand is clenched. The museum setting implies that the happy heterosexual family was both male-dominant as well as a relic of the past. There is a little card below the painting. Its only function is to explain this historical oddity to the enraged observer. I cannot see a self-referential point in this picture, I cannot see the "self-hate". (If the picture was in an old photo album, that could be self-hate.) A heterosexual family is being held up to discreet, but public, ridicule.

I had, frankly, expected a deck larded with bulging crotches & hot man-on-man action. While many cards show men arm in arm, actual bedroom antics are limited to two cards: The Six of Cups shows two lovers in bed exchanging a gift. Both wear boxers. The Moon shows two men in bed in coitus. It also shows how hard it is to kiss when you're coming from behind.

All the females we might expect in a tarot deck have been replaced with males. The Empress, for example, has become the Intuitive. All Queens have been replaced by Guides, who are all naked men with wings. On the face of it, this does not seem a very creative solution to me, although if the authors want to make the Guides symbols of other worldly inspiration, I can go there. The other face cards: Pages are Youths (they all look to be in their mid-20's), Knights are professional Men of indeterminate age, and Kings are Sages, ie, old men.

The Two of Cups shows a man in front of a mirror. Taken on its face, such an image denotes masturbation of one sort or another. It also reminds me of that famous skit between Groucho & Chico. If we consider the image as a personality unto itself, independent from the man who projects it (all Twos imply duality), then we get into Guide territory. And though this linkage exists, I don't think the this deck brings it out strongly enough for me to bore you with that diversion, amusing as it may be.

Acting & the theatre are the major sub-themes to this deck, and with reason.

The primary theme to this deck is shown by The Magician. In a deck that hides so much & shows so little (and I'm not talking penises here, as there are none in this deck, not even the Tower, which in this deck shows a young man coming out to his distraught parents), the Magician is a crucial card. Making him a Jesus Christ substitute (as is plainly the case in many other decks) gives the game away. Making him a simple juggler - as seen in most Marseilles decks - denies gays the polish, the style, the creativity they have long claimed as theirs. Here he is a stage magician. Such a man is one who openly practices deceit, in front of a gullible audience. Since the man shown on the card is presumably gay (all the other men shown in this deck are presumably gay), we may presume his audience to be straight. (There is no point in gays fooling each other. Magicians do not perform for the sake of other magicians.) The Magician's job is to deceive his audience, ie, to deceive us. This makes him a symbol of power. Put together: powerful deceit.

Yet the authors of this deck are unable to leave the Magician as a single card. They establish the card as powerfully as they can & then use the magic hat motif on four of the most significant cards in the deck: The four aces. In my displays, I always show one ace. I show another here (the Ace of Wands) to remove any doubt.

This makes the Magician part of the Theatre set of cards, which, in addition to the Magician, comprise: The Emperor (marionettes), Strength (the circus), 4 of Cups (dress rehearsal), 4 of Coins (lighting), 4 of Swords (asleep on the set), 4 of Wands (set & lighting design) & Youth of Wands (more lighting). The 5 of Wands (professional hockey match) and Sage of Cups (pro heavyweight boxers) could be included, as these contests are held only in front of audiences.

We have established that our theatre troop is gay, and that the audience is straight, and that we, the audience, are witness to a magic show. The cards clearly indicate the performance will be one of inversion. There is only that left to cover.

Normally the Magician is shown with the symbols of the four suits: A sword, a baton, a pentacle, a cup, implying that he is their master, and as such, has risen out of the minor arcana into his place at the head of the majors. Here the Magician is shown only with a cane (or staff) and a hat. The symbols of the four suits are dimly shown on the curtain in the upper right. As the curtain is swept aside to reveal the Magician at the center of the stage, so the four symbols are swept along with it, no longer relevant. This means the "wand" the magician holds is not a Wand, just as his hat is not a Cup. The lemniscate (figure 8 on its side), the symbol of infinity, which is usually prominent on this card, is not to be found. This is a temporal card, in all senses of the word.

Instead of the Magician drawing the minor arcana into himself, in the Gay Tarot, it is his magic that is pushed outwards into the minor arcana, as his magic hat is shown on all four aces. This inverts the normal relationship the Magician has to the rest of the deck. This deck is full of this sort of inversion, as is already clear.

Inversion is how black magic (aka evil, if you want to go there) functions. White magic - which often has to do with physical healing - has no need of inversion. The common, everyday, messing around magic - that which has long been promoted by Llewellyn Worldwide - is generally weak & has no need of this kind of horsepower. Inversion is where we take a powerful symbol - a five pointed star, a Latin cross, a swastika, invert it & force its energies to run backwards. For a time the inversion works & great power can be had, but it eventually ends up ruining the inverted symbol, which is then discarded. For a time it can even ruin the proper symbol itself, which is still the case with the unfortunate swastika. The black magician then moves on to invert other symbols. The symbol is only a symbol. What is actually inverted is process. The 78 tarot cards, representing a distinct sort of process, is therefore an apt subject for wholesale inversion, which can be seen on almost every card in this deck.

By extension, one could consider the remaining minor arcanas to be the play the theatre is presenting, and the remaining majors as the principals (director, producers, etc.) behind it. In this light, the Wheel represents the producers & crew & shows their agreement to undertake the production. In this deck, the Wheel shows six men clasping hands across a ship's wheel. Traditionally, as the Wheel turns it shows the vicissitudes of life, our changing & uncontrollable fate, now good, now not. It is upright. The Wheel in the Gay Tarot functions as a round table, although, with a nod to its usual upright position, we may consider the three men on the top to be the play's producers, the three on the bottom to be the director & stage hands. The Wheel is one of three cards shown on the box, so a closer look is justified. Of the six men, we can group them in three opposing pairs. When we do this, we see the two white-haired men, top & bottom, clasp left-handed. The pair at 10 & 4 o'clock clasp right handed, and the pair at 2 & 8 o'clock clasp right to left. If, for the sake of this deck, we consider "left" as "gay" and "right" as "straight", the card shows the union of gay & straight in the production of a play giving the truth about gays (as the gays themselves would see it).

More evidence of the minors as the play itself are found on the aces. The ace initiates & undergirds its suit, and undergirding each ace is the magic hat.

I had expected to be annoyed if this deck turned out to be the typical biceps-bulging, crotch-protruding pornography that gay culture is too often infested with. Initially I was disappointed the deck was so very dull. But close study shows this deck to be something else entirely. This seems to be a blueprint for the next phase of gay life. I want to say "gay agenda", but too many of you will object & say the gays have no agenda, only a desire for "equality". As such there is no point in my pointing out the ongoing attempts to impose openly gay clergy onto the Catholic Church, nor the extreme reaction the Anglicans of Nigeria have taken to gay ordination in the Church of England.

The Aquarian Age, which started, according to many, in or around 1913, is ruled by the planet Saturn. Because of Saturn's rulership, Aquarius is the Gay Age. Gays should be encouraged, as the Age has some 1900 years still to come. In every other Age, including Pisces, gays were seen as magicians (usually black), were considered dangerous, and were condemned on that basis. According to this line of thinking, sex is serious. It has a purpose. People who engage in sex are considered to be engaging in it for a reason. Those who engage in sex for casual or frivolous reasons ("chasing skirts") were condemned as immoral. It was therefore presumed that when a man had sex with another man, or a woman had sex with another woman, that they did so in order to create a particular kind of world, a magical one, and that this was in order to influence the larger society around them, for their own purposes. Sex has the power to do this, of that there is no doubt. Society then reacted, partly from fear, partly from revulsion. In this regard, the witches in Macbeth come to mind. (You may assume that I do not believe the ridiculous story that gays are "born that way" and are powerless to change. Gayness is a choice & if it is as honorable as the gays claim, then it is one they should be proud of.)

Will the Aquarian Age be free of the feared gay black magician? Is the Aquarian Age the exception to that rule? We are still in the early days of the Age. Time will tell.

Because there are various changes, here are the major arcana:

0 Fool - hitchhiker
1 Magician - in Las Vegas
2 Intuitive - glum, with the moon reflected in a pool of water
3 The Protector - holding a little girl aloft
4 The Emperor - manipulating marionettes
5 The Priest - marrying two men, right hand raised
6 The Lovers - a white/night, black/day couple
7 The Chariot - a skateboarder being pulled by two dogs
8 Justice - prisoners in cells reaching out across the aisle
9 The Hermit - the space shuttle heading towards the Earth
10 The Wheel - six men around a ship's wheel, clasping hands in the center
11 Strength - Siegfried holding a hoop of fire with tiger alongside
12 The Hanged Man - man diving off board
13 Death - man at graveside
14 Temperance - a chef making a sauce
15 Self-hatred - a man looking at a painting
16 Revelation - a young man coming out to his parents. Lightning in the background.
17 The Star - what looks like the Devil in any other deck, in the night sky above a village
18 The Moon - two men in bed
19 The Sun - two old men building a brick wall
20 Beyond Judgment (!) - a multi-cultural gay pride march
21 The World - a gay Atlas with the world on his back
I am left wondering to whom this deck may appeal. As a roadmap to what may be coming, well, frankly, there are just not that many people who will push the cards as hard as I have. On less rarefied levels, I can't see the Gay Tarot relates to gay life as gays themselves live it, as the deck is too pollyannish. On the surface it is rather dull, lacking the creative flair gays are so proud of. It might appeal to straights who want to "do right" & be politically correct, except I don't think there are many who will spend $20 for a tarot deck - any deck.

The gays are making a major power play. More about them needs to be known. Some parts of this deck, such as the children, are mere fantasy & can be ignored. The male-male household collapses the first time the little girl cries, "I want my mommy!" Otherwise, for those with eyes, this deck can be a useful guide.

A note to the artists: For The Wheel card to function as well as it could, the faces of the men shown on it should be recognizable characters from elsewhere in the deck. The Magician, for example, should be among them.

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Tel: 410-638-7761; Toll-free (orders only): 800-475-2272

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