Review: The Zombie Tarot Deck

The Zombies Are Here

Zombie Tarot
Are you prepared to do what's necessary when the zombies invade?. Photo by Patti Wigington, Cards by Quirk Books

Oh, zombies. How I do love them. They’re everywhere in pop culture these days, from movies to “zombie walk” flash mobs to Jane Austen mashups to Internet memes. I’ve always enjoyed zombies far more than vampires, because there’s nothing sparkly or sexy or romantic about them - they are the undead, and mindless eating gnawing brain-sucking automatons.

And now, they’re infesting my Tarot cards.

Yes, it’s finally happened, zombie fans, there’s a Zombie Tarot Deck, written by Stacey Graham and lavishly illustrated by Paul Kepple. Right out of the box, you know you’re in for a treat. The Zombie Tarot Deck has a very retro look, as though you’re pulling something from the 1960’s out of that steamer trunk in Grandma’s closet. The moment you look at the Fool card, featuring a Don Draper-type strolling along a cemetery path, you know this is NOT your average Tarot deck at all.

The retro appearance and feel is made all the more creepy by the images of the undead interspersed with pictures of ladies in dresses and pearls, frolicking children, and little old ladies. The hanged man is wearing chinos and a button-up shirt and brandishing a pistol, while corpse-like hands reach up to grab him. The Knight of Cups goes surfing while nibbling on a tasty brain. Honestly, the Zombie Tarot Deck takes spooky to a whole new level, and the result is visually stunning.

Survival of the Fittest - or the Fastest!

The Major Arcana cards are chock full of images that tell you exactly what you're looking at, but in a far more twisted way than your average deck. Again, the symbolism draws on those 1960s images for inspiration - the Chariot is now a station wagon with a coffin in the back and roof-mounted artillery, and the Devil lurks within a cigarette vending machine. It's as though the folks at Sterling Cooper Draper Price are trying to adapt to the changing times that come when the bodies climb out of their graves.

Graham's instruction manual is cleverly done as well - in addition to describing the traditional symbolism of the cards, she plays with the warped humor that comes along with the zombie genre. For the Hermit, she warns, A much needed break helps you to recharge before heading back out into the ruckus of the zombie apocalypse. Take a few deep breaths before you open that door. What's that smell? The odor of power, my friend - and the pile of corpses in the back yard.

The Cup cards, represented by skulls, are all about relationships and emotional journeys, featuring great images like a corpse bride, an adorable little girl hugging her decomposing brother, and a happy family enjoying a day at the beach while disaster takes place just offshore. This is fun stuff here.

Six of Cups: Don't mistake a friendly kiss on the cheek for a zombie gnawing off your face.

Bones show up as symbolism in our Wand suit, showing us matters of growth, creativity and achievement. Slightly more malevolent than the Cup cards, the Wands include zombies fighting over a bit of leg meat, a throng of the undead invading a birthday celebration, and a corpsy infant gnawing on someone's femur.

Two of Wands: Make a decision - any decision - soon! You're starting to mold!

Sword cards are all about conflict and courage, and there's plenty of both in the Zombie Tarot! A heart on a barbecue fork? Check. A glittery femme fatale kicking her lover down the stairs into the arms of the awaiting horde? Check. Grandma in her favorite chair, holding an assault rifle, while a high-heeled foot sits as bait in a zombie trap? You got it.

Knight of Swords: His enthusiasm for getting the job done will leave you breathless, but don't be surprised if you find yourself cleaning up the carnage.

Finally, we have the suit of Hazards, which typically appear as Coins or Pentacles in other decks - but as I've mentioned, the Zombie Tarot is not quite like your other decks. These are the cards that delve into matters of material wealth, and the stuff we own - or would like to. In the Hazards suit, zombies become creepy house pets and laboratory specimens.

Five of Hazards: Buck up, little zombie slayer. The next alley just might have the escape route you've been searching for...

Are YOU Prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse?

The bottom line? The Zombie Tarot is the most fun I’ve had with a Tarot deck in ages. While it may not be for everyone - certainly not for the squeamish or faint of heart - it’s a real treat for anyone who’s a fan of zombies, vintage artwork, clever humor, or a combination of all three. Pick one up if you get a chance - it might be the very thing that saves you when the Zombpocalypse arrives!

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.