International Icon Tarot Reviews
The International Icon Tarot is a reworking of the Rider-Waite images, applicable to a universal audience by using simple iconic signs with neutral, faceless figures without sex or race. A modern classic (with the addition of The Happy Squirrel card).
Tarot Deck - 79 Cards - Self Published 2004
Review by Kate Hill
The International Icon Tarot could be classified as a Rider-Waite Tarot clone, but with a significant difference: the imagery of the International Icon Tarot is based on signage. International pictograms: the kind of signage seen at airports and on toilet doors.
These Tarot cards are universal, featuring humans in all the normal places and poses but without differentiating between race, gender, clothing, age, facial expression or other cues. While none are obviously or specifically men or women, some are shaped to suggest one gender. The King of Pentacles is broad of shoulder; the Queen of Pentacles has a chest, while one of the couple in the Two of Pentacles has a distinctly female silhouette and a nipped-in waist. Some accessories also remain, such as the blindfold on Justice and the Two and Eight of Swords, and the crowns on the Kings and Queens
The template for this deck is the Rider-Waite, and it follows its outline, titles and structure closely. In detail, however, the occult and esoteric symbols and connotations have been removed. The familiar art has become more abstract and lost its black outlines Ė itís reminiscent to me of coloured paper collages. The lack of extraneous detail and the planes of a single colour place the focus on the human figures, their poses and gestures and positions. They look like pictograms so we automatically try to decode their meaning. What is that person doing? What does the symbol mean? Itís not visually exciting as some other decks, but it is surprisingly expressive.
The colours used in the International Icon Tarot art are strong, but not clashing. The colouring of the majors have been matched to the Rider-Waite (the dominant colours have been used, eg. The Magician figure is red, while the High Priestess figure is white). Some changes have been made in colouration to the minors, but the alterations help with interpretation. I liked the appropriate choice of colours on certain cards: the Four of Cups which uses muted purple, olive, and dull yellow; the Five of Cups in browns with a black figure; and the Devil, which uses dark oppressive blacks and purples; the Five of Pentacles, with pale blue and cold looking people, one with crutches, while behind them is a stunning stained glass window in blue, green and yellow. At the other end of the spectrum, the Sun is bright - very bright - with high-contrast primary red, yellow and black and white.
The backs of the cards have a simple double-horned design in purple-blue. The deck has the normal 78 cards, a title card, plus an extra: the Happy Squirrel card, depicting a squirrel with an acorn on a red background. This card was inspired by The Simpsons episode where Lisa has her Tarot cards read, and I was amused to see this cardís inclusion in the deck, but was less pleased to see it appear in a reading (Simpsons fans would know why!).
The self-published cards are also packaged with a glossy companion booklet, which offers a brief but factual introduction to Tarot; an interesting section explaining the artistís motivation behind the deck, its foundation and symbolism; and finally upright and reversed keywords for all cards.
The International Icon Tarot is easily accessible for beginners, thanks to its simplicity, lack of occult symbolism, and its basis on the Rider-Waite, which allows the cards to be used in combination with most generic learning Tarot books. For more experienced readers, the cards are an inclusive and modern approach to familiar artwork.
Kate Hill is the owner, founder and editor of Aeclectic Tarot, and has reviewed more than 200 decks over the years.