A dollar store tarot deck.
And I'm not talking about a leftover deck that had been sitting in some shop collecting dust for years and then ended up making it's way to a secondhand store. I'm talking about an actual for-real tarot deck made specifically for the dollar store. And you KNOW there was no way I was going to pass that up.
And then I opened it. (Click the image to get a closer look.)
This thing is no kind of real tarot deck for numerous reasons, but considering that the packaging screams things like "READ YOUR FRIEND'S MINDS!!" and "AMAZE AND MYSTIFY!!", I figured right off the bat that it was tailor made for late-night junior-high slumber party shenanigans. It follows the barest edge of the usual tarot guidelines:
There are four suits made up of Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles (though the pentacles aren't really pentacles, they're pentagrams, which is an entirely different thing)
All the usual Major Arcana cards are included
The Minor Arcana includes all the court cards, plus illustrated aces
When it comes to EVERYthing else, these are not tarot cards
The suits of the minor arcana only go up to 7, which means this is not a "full 78 card deck", as touted by the packaging. And after poring through the very short instruction book, I found no indication whatsoever of what you're supposed to do with them. They're unillustrated pips, and going by the instructions, they have no actual meanings, so if you lay them out in a spread, they will have no bearing whatsoever on the reading, which is.....well, what's the point of even including them? Laying them out at all will only murk up the proceedings considerably. Now, if you're a tarot reader, you may be saying, well, if you know tarot meanings, then you'll know what they mean. Ah, but no. Because....
All the rest of the illustrated cards (including the court cards) include text printed right on them that covers three different specific meanings for each card, which is much more of an oracle card-type situation. There are concise, simplified meanings listed separately for past, present, and future, and according to the instructions, this is extremely important, because you're supposed to choose which phase that particular card will represent, and you're only supposed to read the meaning that pertains to that particular phase. Which is just.....weird and confusing. The spread the instuctions tell you to use is called the "triad spead", and you're supposed to decide as you go along what phase each card will represent and then read the according meaning. It leaves nothing to actual prophecy, because you, yourself, are manipulating everything as you go along.
When it comes to the spread, itself....well, that's just all kinds of a mess. It's fine up until all the wishing stuff, where you're supposed to lay out cards to make wishes upon. This is the major indicator, to me, that this deck is specifically targeted to giggly pre-teen girls. (Especially since the packaging claims it's meant for "ages 6 and up", which left me all "wow...hmmm...." when I was looking it over in the store.)
Now, you may think, whatever, what does it matter if it's all sillied-up and confusing, it's a tarot deck for kids. What's wrong with that? (For the record, my opinion regarding whether or not kids should read tarot or have readings done for them leans toward the resoundingly negative. Kids should be kids. They have no need to know their future, and their parents should be the ones explaining how to deal with situations, not tarot cards.) But then you've got to look at the artwork. To call it "severe" would be a crazy-go-nuts understatment. And it's not just the exceptionally stark red-white-and-black color scheme, which is actually kind of cool, though not very kid-friendly. Nearly every human figure on the cards is shockingly emaciated and desperate-looking, as if they live in a post-apocolyptic world where everyone is destitute and starving to death. And this includes the queens of the Minor Arcana, and the Empress.....the High Priestess is peering up at the sky with this look on her face like she's hoping and hoping for it all to end soon:
It's interesting how the situation dictates how I perceive the artwork here. If this were just your average tarot deck I picked up in a little shop, I'd probably view it as intriguingly austere and thought-provoking, although not at all my personal cup of tea. But since it's a tarot deck obviously made for kids/teens, I find it gross and unsettling and it actually kind of pisses me off.
Anyway. I certainly can't recommend this deck if you're looking for something you can actually read with. And I certainly wouldn't recommend it as a beginner deck, because the instructions included are ridiculously stupid, even by unconventional standards. I'm not going to go into what I think of the card meanings, because there are all different kinds of card interpretations out there, and the way I do it is definitely not the only right way. One way or the other, your mileage may vary. If you collect decks and want to have it for novelty's sake, or you find that it does, in fact, appeal to you, head over to Dollar Tree.
I mean, seriously, you can't go wrong for a buck.