Review by Solandia
It’s always special to follow a deck’s progress, beginning with digital card images online and progressively seeing more and more card images as they are completed, then coming to fruition as a printed and published deck of cards. Some are picked up by a major publisher and altered to suit their specifications, and others are brought to life by the artist on their own terms.
The Langustl Tarot is one of the latter. It is unlike many self-published decks, in that it isn’t handmade or homemade – these cards have been professionally printed, cut and boxed. Self-publishing also allowed artist Stephan Lange to have the cards printed in a much larger size than may have been otherwise possible - 8cm by 15cm - and the art is shown off to best effect.
Stephan Lange is a "sculptor, carpenter, therapist, and musician". He can also add tarotist and talented artist to his list of accomplishments; he has worked with tarot and tarot symbolism for more than twenty years. In his words, the Langustl Tarot’s “strong contrasts, intense colours and a simple mode of representation make the images emotionally available to the viewer’s inner child”.
The art is not standard by any means, but it does have a traditional basis. Stephan wanted to find the common foundation in the works of Waite and Crowley, and the disparate systems of numerology, Kabbalah and astrology. He pulls these together in paintings that are bold and powerful; the tarot scenes in close focus with an emphasis on shapes and colours and the major elements of the cards, rather than realism or fine detail. I am not normally drawn to this type of artistic treatment, and didn’t expect to like this deck as much as I did - but these paintings really work and bring something new to the world of tarot. The colours are fantastically vibrant: bright and alive.
The cards are unusual in that they only feature people on the court cards - the majors and pip cards use hand gestures and colour instead of body language but convey the meaning just as effectively. The colours are roughly analogous across the suits; swords use cool colours; pentacles lively primary colours; cups purples and pinks; wands are red/orange. There is still plenty of variation though – there is nothing boring about his deck; the images speak to the emotions rather than to the analytical side of the brain.
Printed at a size big enough to see the texture of the paper and the acrylic paint, they are surrounded by thin grey borders that provide a frame but not a distraction. Titling is basic, with roman numerals on the majors and a number and suit symbol on the minors.
The set includes the 78 tarot cards, a title card, and a slightly different version of the Magician card (minus titles). The cardstock is sturdy but not overly thick, and with a fairly matte laminate. The cards are non-traditional in imagery but traditional in titling and ordered in the European style - Justice is VIII and Strength is XI – and using the standard Rider-Waite suits of Wands, Swords, Cups and Pentacles. The backs are reversible (as expected considering the provided booklet meanings) and have a check pattern and grey line-drawn flower.
There is a 32-page booklet in German and English, 16 pages of each. There is a quick intro to the deck’s concept, then upright and ‘shadow’ meanings for the major and minor arcana. They’re all packaged in a standard flip-top cardboard box. (Mine was a little damaged in transport from Germany, but Stephan has since solved this problem and future decks should arrive in good shape.)
The Langustl Tarot is not a beginner’s tarot – a good knowledge of tarot would allow you to get the most out of the inspired images – but it is a novel deck for the more experienced tarot reader, a stunning art tarot, and a collector’s item.