The Vertigo Tarot is a modern, slightly surreal and very gothic Tarot deck with dark artwork. By comic-book artist Dave McKean, it is a very popular deck and has been hard to find - but is to be republished in 2008.
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.
Firstly, 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.
Finally, the 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