Ator Tarot by Robin Ator
Review by Diane Wilkes

A friend was visiting when I received this deck in the mail. As soon as she started looking at the deck, she began to laugh and laugh, not in derision but in genuine amusement. And that is what the Ator Tarot is: genuinely amusing. Like the Gummi Bear and Stick Figure tarots, this deck is a Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) clone with a disarming difference: traditional figures have been replaced with clunky, bulbous-nosed block figures. These figures are based on the artist's cartoon characters, Stodgy and Starchy. Ator had earlier exhibited at various animation festivals and now brings her artistic sensibility to the tarot.

Several of these silly drawings could make the most serious tarot curmudgeon smile. Particularly amusing are the Major Arcana: Death, where is thy sting in the Ator Tarot? The Devil and Tower cards have been similarly de-fanged of their fear factor. And what could be more Fool-ish than a yellow-maned cartoon figure standing at the edge of a cliff, his dog-pal ready at the arf? The Chariot is not only driven by a cartoon figure--even the sphinx are Ator-ized into humorous, big-nosed beasts.  The Wheel of Fortune is particularly wacky, with the four corners inhabited by cartoon animals and an Ator angel.

However, the joke does wear a bit thin by the time we reach the Minor Arcana, especially in the images that don't include figures, such as the Eight of Wands and Three of Swords. Without the zany characters, the cartoon art is somewhat dull and unsatisfying. I have to acknowledge that the Aces, with the ham-fisted hands, offer an entertaining twist. The court cards are exactly what you'd expect: the throned King of Cups, for example, perches on a blocky surface that matches his body-type, as the waves ripple beneath his wooden platform.

The deck colors are bright, very similar to the standard RWS. The blue and white backs are adorned with the four suit symbols (wand, cup, sword, and pentacle) against the background of the repeated word "tarot." This is in keeping with the esoteric word pun of the author's last name "Ator" (which can be formed to create the words rota and taro, as well as orat and tora). One advantage to the deck for me is that it's smaller than standard decks--small-pawed folks like myself often prefer decks that are easy to shuffle. The quality of the cardstock is good; the entire deck is very professionally done, especially considering that this is a self-published deck.

While this deck isn't an aesthetic delight, anyone familiar with the RWS or a variant should be able to read with this baby right out of the box. I recommend it to collectors and those interested in a quirky variation of the RWS.

Click here to see more cards and purchase this deck. The artist also has an onsite, Flash-based coloring book, wherein you can color in three of the cards for yourself.

  Yes No
78 cards X  
Reversible Backs   X
Strength VIII, Justice XI X  
Color Images X  
Standard (RWS) Titles of the Major Arcana X  
Traditional (RWS) Suits (Rods/Wands, Cups/Chalices, Swords, Pentacles/Disks) X  
Traditional (RWS) Golden Dawn Suit-Element Attributions X  
Standard dimensions (4 3/4" X 2 3/4") X  
Smaller than standard X
Larger than standard   X

Images 2002-2003 Robin Ator
Review and page 2003 Diane Wilkes