Review by Isthmus Nekoi
Vertigo is a stunning deck, and the online scans
do not really capture the rich colours of the cards.
The photomontage style is typical Dave McKean, those
who are fans of his work will probably love Vertigo,
although this is an excellent reading deck on top of an
artistic deck. Although this was my first deck, beginners
may want to be careful with Vertigo as it departs from
the Rider Waite deck in a number of ways.
the astrological associations are very different from
the Golden Dawn’s assignations. Not all astrological
signs are considered, and furthermore, some planets are
visited twice (Venus = Empress and Star, Jupiter = Emperor
and Wheel of Fortune).
The pips are also abstract,
following more in the tradition of Thoth than Rider Waite.
They are not as abstract as Thoth as some cards contain
faces, but overall, they are similar in that their
meanings are easily tied to numerological concepts. Hence,
they are very intuitive and their meanings can depart
greatly from more ‘traditional’ decks. While Pollack’s
suggestions for interpretation are helpful, I have found over
time that the minors in Vertigo are really quite
complex and flexible, more so than other decks. What is
also noticeable is the strength and originality of its
wands suit, and also, the bravery and honesty indicated
by its swords suit. Other decks place more emphasis
on strife and conflict with these two suits, although
Vertigo is not without cards depicting such.
majors also depart somewhat from the traditional meanings
in that new slants and layers are added. For example,
Justice wears a gas mask, and the scales hold crudely
drawn representations of eyes. Above, is the face of a
young boy and a newspaper bearing the words: sense of
justice, suggesting that our concepts of ethics are
constructions that are largely feeling based, rather than rules
drawn from objective principals. It is not necessary to
know the characters depicted on the majors and not
every major includes a Vertigo character, although such
knowledge does aid understanding.
One very unique aspect of
Vertigo I find, is the ease in which the cards interact
with each other. It takes me no effort to see for
example, the waters of the Star spilling into the 8 of
Cups, or Strength reaching up with her arms to hold the
Lovers apart. It makes it very easy to perceive a spread
as a whole and to chart out with a glance, the
dynamics between each card. Thus, Vertigo is very well
adapted to a more dynamic, holistic style of reading. I
have yet to find another deck that accomplishes this
with so much ease on my part.
Vertigo is often
described as dark, but I would say this quality is derived
from its introspective and commanding nature rather
than any morbid or negative tones. I often think of
Vertigo as the ‘artist’s deck’ because of an underlying
theme of creativity, imagination and questioning. I find
it is best suited for readings that require great
concentration, for it is not nearly as straightforward as Rider
Waite or even Thoth, in my experience. Even if it is
spelling out something clearly for me, its cards have
always forced me to excavate a wealth of deeper meanings
A former moderator of the Astrology forum at Aeclectic Tarot, Isthmus
has studied tarot and other esoteric systems since 2000.