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Not since the release of Julia Turk’s Navigators of the Mystic Sea has there been such a bizarrely surreal yet artistically satisfying tarot deck. Patrick Valenza’s Deviant Moon images are reminiscent of Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas,” with dashes of the “Beetlejuice” cartoon series. Backgrounds feature gothic stone cathedrals, misty, bare-branched trees, winter-sere farmland, deserted seashores, and urban industrial smokestacks. These barren landscapes reinforce the deck’s dark, spooky mood. Nevertheless, the art is meticulously planned and cleverly executed.

The deck’s title refers to the morphing moon theme expressed through various shapes, images, and applications throughout the deck. The moon appears in the sky in some renderings, while many of the figures are depicted with half or full-moon faces. Happy moon-faced newlyweds in the Four of Wands are making their way to a green awareness pod. A moon-faced jinni with a glowing third eye rises from a wishing lamp in the Nine of Cups.

Valenza more or less follows the RWS template. For instance, in the Two of Pentacles, a woman juggles two coins. This is where the similarity ends. The woman is a Medusa-headed belly-dancing biker babe with red toe-nails. The Minor Arcana strays further from the RWS, so this is where the tarotist will find the most delightful surprises. In the Major Arcana, Valenza constrains his post-industrial, computer-manipulated medievalist visions to relatively tame renditions of the RWS trumps. For instance, the basic card form of the World card is preserved, except that the dancing woman has a mermaid’s tail, and the four corners host composite fantasy creatures.

Valenza shows us just how much fun an artist can have when figures aren’t limited to two arms and two legs (or two breasts). Abandoning human physique allows the artist’s characters a lot of latitude and attitude. The Queen of Wands shows us just how cool having four arms can be; the Bulgarian judge gives her an 8.5 for Gothic wench hipness. The Knight of Wands is a bug charging forth on a beetle; the Knight of Cups is semi-crustacean. Oh, to go through life with a built-in splatter guard!

The artist is at his best when he steps away from the RWS path.  In the Seven of Swords a contorted man is poised to swallow a sword. Crowds laugh at a Punch and Judy show in the Six of Cups. Its cards like these that push this deck to a new level.

Valenza wrote the LWB provided with the deck. The card descriptions help elucidate the images on the cards. The upright and reversed meanings don’t break new ground. A 16” x 20” fold-out spread form is included in the package, and features the 10-card “Lunatic Spread.” The deck comes packed in a tuck box inside of a larger sleeved box. The card backs feature textured circles and lunar crescents and are reversible. Card size is 2.75” x 5.125”.

The Deviant Moon Tarot will be prized by readers and collectors who appreciate surreal, edgy, Goth-slanted fantasy art. It may not be suitable for all clients or readers, but will be a shoe-in crowd-pleaser for Halloween parties. Valenza’s creepy, crawly characters are oozing with arachnid wisdom.

~review by Elizabeth Hazel

Deck and Book by Patrick Valenza.
US Games Systems, Inc., June 2008.
Boxed set includes booklet and 78-card deck in a tuck-box with tarot-spread poster. $22.00.


(previously published in the ATA Quarterly Journal, Summer 2008 issue)

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