Yeager Tarot of Meditation by Marty Yeager

Review by Lee Bursten 


It’s interesting to see how some decades-old decks don’t seem dated at all, while others date themselves terribly.  The Yeager Tarot of Meditation, while having some interesting and attractive cards, unfortunately falls into the latter category.


This deck was originally published in 1975 by the artist and Ken Hickenbottom under the title “The Tarot.”  U.S. Games bought the rights and released a new edition of the deck in 1982.  The U.S. Games edition is notorious for covering up the male nudity on many of the cards with various articles of clothing and leaves.  However, the U.S. Games employee charged with finding the offending members apparently missed a few cards, such as Judgement and the Moon.


While the Morgan-Greer and Aquarian decks evoke a pop-art mode of ‘70s commercial art which is still palatable, the Yeager deck brings to mind other styles from the ‘70s which are not as fondly remembered, and sometimes borders on kitsch (defined in my American Heritage College Dictionary as “characterized by sentimental, often pretentious bad taste”.)  Many of the cards look as if they ought to be rendered in black velour and ultraviolet ink (I hope some of my readers will be old enough to remember such pictures!).  The orange and black borders and the typeface chosen for the titles don’t help matters much.


Yeager is a talented artist, though.  He is excellent at natural backgrounds; his Hermit card has wonderful mountains.  He’s also good at the human body.  But, unlike the detailed bodies, his faces sometimes seem hastily executed.  And many of the cards are strangely fuzzy, as if the camera which photographed the paintings were slightly out of focus.  Yeager takes a cosmic perspective and for the most part the Majors seem well-thought-out.


A good example of the aforementioned kitsch is Judgement (above).  The nude figures in their complicated pas-de-deux, each holding up one tush of their baby, are just plain ridiculous.  But I do like the way the angel holds out his arms to the baby, and the multiple trumpets surrounding the angel.


I rather like the Death card, showing a nude woman with a scythe, hiding her face, while in the background a rainbow stretches against a gloomy sky.  This card really evokes a mood, and is an original and interesting depiction of Death.  I also rather like the Moon card, where the two dogs are replaced by two nude men.


I wish that Yeager had conceived his Minor Arcana differently.  Some of the Court cards look like refugees from a poster for an all-male strip joint, especially the Pages, who mostly wear only headbands, briefs and boots.  The Knights all wear only briefs, the Queens only skirts, and the Kings briefs and sandals.  In another kitschy touch, the thrones of the Kings and Queens and the headbands of the Pages bear strange words which at first seem reminiscent of Enochian angels, but on close inspection it turns out they’re anagrams of explanatory phrases.  For the King of Cups the word is “FEEIL” (I feel), the Queen of Swords is “LYZEIANA” (I analyze), and the Page of Wands is “SIEE” (I see).  I’m terrible at crossword puzzles, so I’m quite proud of myself that I was able to figure these out!  The Court cards also bear astrological signs and sometimes Hebrew letters.


The Minors are all set against starry outer-space vistas, with different background colors for each suit.  Swords are dark blue, Cups are light blue, Wands are maroon and Pentacles are orangey-red.  The numbered pip cards (Ace through Ten) are a disappointment.  There are no pictorial scenes but rather Thoth-like arrangements of the suit symbols.  The suit objects have their corresponding playing-card suit symbols worked into them.  Unfortunately, while the arrangements are Thoth-like, the backgrounds are all the same starry vistas, so there is no evoking of mood as in the Thoth deck.  The suit symbols are very simply drawn, basically on the level of Saturday morning cartoons, and seem to have been treated as an afterthought on the artist’s part.  Since Yeager specifically intended his deck to be used for meditation, perhaps he felt that no one would be using the Minors much.  I don’t mean to be too harsh, though; if one can work with pip cards without pictorial scenes, then one could certainly work with this deck, and the starry vistas might well evoke a contemplative mood.  Golden-Dawn-derived meanings for the pip cards are given in the Little White Booklet (which is written by Yeager).


Overall, this is not the first deck (or even the tenth) I would reach for to do a reading, but I think the deck is worth getting for its curiosity value and for its interesting Major Arcana.  The Yeager Tarot of Meditation is not included in U.S. Games’ on-line catalogue, and it’s listed as out of print on, but it’s listed as available from Tarot Garden. I imagine the original 1975 non-censored version would be considered quite the collectible these days.


Yeager Tarot of Mediation by Marty Yeager

Publisher: U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

ISBN #: 0-88079-006-7


Lee Bursten has been studying the Tarot for 25 years. He is the author of a new tarot deck which will be published by Lo Scarabeo in 2004 or 2005. He owns over 170 Tarot and oracle decks and over 50 books on esoteric subjects including the Tarot, playing cards and astrology, and has written over 70 Tarot deck reviews for Tarot Passages.  He is available for professional e-mail readings at Aeclectic Tarot. 


Images © 1982 US Games
Review © 2003 Lee Bursten
Page © 2003 Diane Wilkes