The Everyman Tarot is a male-centric 78-card tarot created with men in mind. The familiar Rider-Waite imagery has been redrawn to reflect how modern men experience life and relate to the world around them. Each suit is associated with a male character: Mr Buttondown as the Swords, Mr Athletic as Cups, Mr Bear as Wands, and the deck designer himself appears in Pentacles.
You may be wondering why I, as a woman, am reviewing a deck called The Everyman Tarot, especially when, to paraphrase John Mangiapane itís creator - it is a tarot for men, by a man, taking a male perspective on tarot, which has been missing in the past.
I made Johnís acquaintance here on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum a short time ago and we started having some discussions about publishing tarot decks, protecting copyright, the high cost and slow speed of shipping etc. Then John bought a copy of my deck from the GameCrafter for a friend who was into the movies. I must admit, I hadnít considered buying a copy of The Everyman Tarot - it felt a bit like I might be intruding into some sacred male space. Then someone had the brilliant idea to swap decks and review them for each other - yes it was me, but John immediately responded to the challenge and agreed.
After the initial rush of blood to the head - I had my OMG moment. OMG why did I do this? OMG whatever am I going to have to say about a deck for men? OMG what if I donít like the deck? Etcetera, etcetera etcetera... as the saying goes, you get the picture.
Well the decks duly arrived in our respective mailboxes, Johnís copy of my deck first, and my copy of Johnís deck a couple of days later (Iím not sure what that says about our respective postal services, but Johnís delivers on Saturdays and I got mine the following Monday). John had sent me another little surprise with his deck - his colored majors plus the 4 aces, but a bit more about that later in this review.
I spent Monday afternoon grokking the deck (as a friend calls it), laying out the majors and the suits, comparing them with my RWS etcetera.
So, first impressions. The deck is a 78 card RWS based deck and uses the standard interpretations with some quirky twists, more about those later. I liked the box design very much - much more than itís appearance on the images on GameCrafter - they just donít do it justice. It came with a folded LWB with meanings organised by major arcana first, then rather than suit descriptions the rest is organised by card number.
A huge endorsement came from my big, alpha-male, ginger, talking, Maine Coon cat Rufus. He couldnít get close enough to the cards. In fact he wanted to sit on them. When he was told to keep his distance he sat as close as possible and kept putting his paw on or pointing to The Hermit. He did this again even after the deck was reshuffled - The Hermit again. Iíve never seen him react to a deck like this. The Hermit forms the front of the box cover too. I took Rufus to mean that there was some hidden wisdom here. So I thought I probably needed to grok it better and bought Johnís companion book (Every Manís Tarot: Tarot and the Male Experience) available from Amazon as an eBook ($8-$9).
Letís start with the practical stuff first.
Major arcana - John appears as the subject of nine of the major arcana (Fool, Magician, Emperor, Chariot, Strength, Hermit, Hanged Man and Moon). Most of the cards are re-drawings of the RWS majors but there are some twists. Here is an example. In The Fool John has drawn himself in the classic RWS pose, but is dressed in bushwalking gear and carries a cane in one hand, a pencil and paintbrush in the other and his signature curling moustachios. He is accompanied by the little dog from the RWS. Many of the cards are a quirky mixture of the old and new - John uses many of the old symbols and inserts himself in more modern garb into the picture.
Then we get to the first traditionally female card in the deck - The High Priestess. In the Everyman Tarot not every card is male - there are female cards in the deck, and they are very sweet. Iím not sure what I was expecting, but I certainly donít find caricatures or dismissal of women in this deck.
Rufusí favourite card (The Hermit) depicts John as both the seeker and the sought. He stands holding a flashlight on the mountain illuminating another version of himself looking back at himself, if you get my drift. No wonder Rufus likes it - he is a complex cat! This theme repeats in The Moon card also.
Now onto the suits. John has used the classic RWS naming for the suits - Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles. The cards again follow the classic RWS images but here is where it gets interesting. A different (male) character tells the story of each suit, with the exception of the Queens, which remain female.
The Wands character strikes me as a bit of a redneck. He dresses in a flannie shirt, baggy cargo shorts and wears a baseball cap the wrong way round. We follow him through the suit where he drinks beer, lights bonfires, and gets into fights. My favourite card here is the Four of Wands. It looks to be a party in the woods. The bonfire is lit, the beers are chilling and a few people have already arrived. Mr. Redneck is waving a greeting, a beer in one hand and the four wands are festooned with a welcome sign.
A hippie type is the character for Cups. He has long hair plaited and held back by a head band. He wears sandals and a kind of tracksuit with a wavy pattern. We watch him partner up, party, have a hangover, make difficult choices, put on weight and have a joyous home and family. If I were to pick a favourite card here it would be the Three of Cups. Mr Hippie dances with two women in a field in the classic pose of this card. They hold up their cups in celebration and each carry a bunch of grapes.
The Swords character is a white collar worker of some kind. In his book John describes him as the classic A-type personality. He has a shaved head, wears a shirt, tie, long trousers, a large black belt and glasses. We watch as he outwits co-workers, climbs the slippery slope, steals resources and is overwhelmed with paperwork. Once he gets to the court cards, his tie changes to a sky with clouds, indicating a level of enlightenment. The Queen in this suit is very grumpy indeed. Two cards compete for favourite in this suit for me. I like the Six of Swords. Mr. White Collar is on a bridge or jetty of some sort. He prepares to climb some steps upward, but each step is formed out of a sword indicating that this necessary journey will not be an easy one. I also very much like the Nine of Swords. Mr. White Collar sits at his desk, head in hands, piles of paperwork in front of him and a wall of swords behind. It has a great feeling of being overwhelmed with negative thoughts - I think weíve all been there!
Finally we have Pentacles, and here John returns as an artistic, nature-loving type as the central character of the suit. He is dressed in a t-shirt, cargo pants and walking shoes. Of course, his glasses and curled moustachios accompany him. We see him juggling priorities, creating art, feeling isolated, being generous, working hard and relaxing at the end of a long day with his dogs. My favourite card here is the Three of Pentacles. Mr. Artist stands at his desk progressively improving a drawing of a pentacle. In front of him we see three versions, each more detailed than the last, which nicely spells out the meanings of this card around mastery of your trade. I also like the Five of Pentacles. Mr. Artist is in the classic pose, walking past a church. The quirky touches here are the broken glasses on the ground and the fact that he is no longer able to keep his moustachios curled - itís quite poignant.
What do I like most about this deck? I think itís Johnís way of telling the tarot story through his four personalities. It reminds us that there are different personalities in this world and that we each come with certain tendencies, skills, talents and experiences. We can react to the same events in different ways. There are lots of nice touches throughout but I wonít spoil them for you.
I also like the book. We hear a lot about the communication differences between men and women, Mars and Venus and all that. John uses a very direct, Ďin your faceí style of writing, that may suit more men perhaps than women. At the very least it provides a very down to earth option in tarot books. I would recommend purchasing this also ($8-$9 on Amazon) as it helps to explain not only the deck but is a useful general tarot reference.
John has been criticised for inserting himself so much into the deck, but I didnít find it problematic. If you view John as a stand in for Everyman, I quite like the idea that he appears as the Pentacles character (the mundane and worldly) and in the major arcana (higher self, spirituality) to show that we operate at different levels. The other characters help make concrete the interactions with other characters in our daily lives.
Do I think this is a deck only for men? Probably not. It is a functional RWS style of deck that can be used by any tarot reader. My working career has been in primarily male environments and I think this deck could be used to good effect by women to get a perspective on what might be going on in their male colleagueís minds.
There are also a few things I would quibble with. First is Johnís suggestion that most tarot decks are written for women by women. Being a bit of statistician I thought I would check my library - nearly 40% of mine are written by men. Then perhaps I am the exception that proves the rule!
Second is why John stopped drawing himself into the major arcana. Well itís not really a quibble, just a question. As well as The Fool and The Magician I would have liked to see him as The Hierophant and The Devil.
Finally, and this is just a personal preference, I like my decks to be colored and Johnís colorized version is still some way away.
summing up, I like The Everyman Tarot. Itís a bit quirky
and fun. It sticks to the RWS system so there isnít
a need to learn a new set of interpretations. It
has levels and layers of meaning to it. It
potentially opens up tarot to a new audience that might be
less comfortable with some of the more mystical and
fanciful decks (eg, vampires, fairies, angels, dolphins
etc). The companion book is written in a direct and
forthright manner. John doesnít pull his punches.
John Mangiapane, creator and self-publisher of The Everyman Tarot, is a man. I'm not. Yet despite this, and despite the fact that this Tarot deck is unashamedly weighted towards the masculine experience of life, I was surprised when I received it to find how accessible it was to me. Well, of course, the title cards helped as an ice-breaker: John had inscribed the title card: To Nisaba - Thank you for strong-arming me into inscribing this deck! Now that I have - will you use it, please? Thanks!" Well John, I have used it, and I will use it again.
Often a deck will be designed, then later a book will be written to explain and accompany it. In this case, the reverse is true: John wrote the book "Every Man's Tarot: Tarot and the Male Experience" some time before creating this deck, which was based on illustrations from the book.
It is a cohesive, comfortable, cosy deck. The suits are bound together not just by their usual Elemental themes, but by character: Pentacles as well as the Major Arcana are populated by a character bearing more than a passing resemblance to the creator of the deck, and each of the other three suits is principally populated by its own man, too. There are women in this deck - after all, we live in a world populated by both men and women - but that it is a male deck is undeniable. The illustrating style is simple, rough and naÔve. If you do not like black line-drawings on a plain white ground, then this is not the deck for you. But there is a softness about the deck (and presumably its creator) which is appealing.
There are some black and white decks, such as the Kurnay and the Hermetic, which are complete. Then there are others, often created for use within different magical orders, which are not, and which take the form of black and white line-drawings so that the student may, as a meditational exercise, colour in the deck, working out their own magical correspondences with colour. This deck comes across as one that could be coloured by the user, but I thing that would be quite a shame. What if your feelings about colour change with the years?
Symbolically, it follows close on the heels of the Rider-Waite deck, almost close enough to be called a clone. This has and advantage, as a lot of less experienced or less versatile readers will be able to pick up the deck and use it without any difficulty. At the same time, there is a softness in this deck that is not in the RW - you get a sense of the deck's great gentleness. This may have something to do with the waxed moustaches, podgy belly and cargo shorts throughout the Majors and Pentacles, the long, braided hair throughout Cups and so forth, or it may be a less tangible quality pervading the deck.
I would recommend this deck for beginners, collectors, experienced people, those in need of nurturing or just feeling a bit fragile, and everyone in between. When used practically this deck gives you the messages you need to hear, but delivers them less harshly than some other decks I've used, and with a tact, gentleness and acceptance of our differences which I believe is also intrinsic to the character of its author.