Mid-Century Tarot: Zombies and Housewives
I'm quite the design nut and I've always had a big fascination for all-things mid-century. From the Mad Men aesthetic to the furniture of Charles and Ray Eames, I have always been attracted to the curvilinear, warm wood, color pop quality of the mid-20th century. So when I first spotted The Zombie Tarot, I was intrigued. I am no fan of zombies, but what caught my eye was the box and the 1950s vibe it set off. With a price point below PhP1000 (it retails for $14.36 on Amazon), I made no qualms about buying the deck.
What it gave me were clear, almost collage-like images, spun off the concept of a 1950s zombie apocalypse. All the top secret lab experiment references, anti-virus-filled syringes, and CIA-looking folk? Very very cool. On top of all that, the Zombie Tarot doesn't scrimp on meaning and symbolism. It is a really good read and an excellent Rider-Waite Smith substitute for those who can't connect with Pamela Colman Smith's images.
I bought this deck before I dove deep into RWS study and while I learned my Major and Minor Arcana through The Wild Unknown, it was the Zombie Tarot that helped me figure out the court cards. Because TWU's courts are all animals, it was challenging for me to tell the difference between one swan and the next, between a Father of Pentacles stag and a Page of Pentacles deer. Because the Zombie Tarot personified the court and had very clear, helpful keywords associated with them, I immediately connected.
Fair warning—it's a hit or miss with the card stock of this one. I've been lucky enough to see a couple of boxes of these (if you're in Manila, Fully Booked usually has a lot of them in stock during Halloween time). Not all card stock is created equal, unfortunately. Some are incredibly sticky and tough to riffle shuffle. It's a good thing my deck has cards that have just the right amount of slip. I would also recommend overhand shuffling with the Zombie Tarot because the cards don't seem to have any coating or lamination and may easily be damaged over time.
I liked the Zombie Tarot so much, that I began to do some research on its creators. That's when I found that publisher Quirk Books was also responsible for yet another mid-century themed deck, The Housewives Tarot. A more feminine, sweeter version of the Zombie Tarot, this deck comes in an equally sturdy box that was made to resemble a classic recipe box (it comes with actual recipes!). The cards have an adorable gingham picnic blanket pattern, and its cards are color-coded to make reading even easier: black for the Majors, blue for the cups, yellow for the wands, red for the swords, and green for the pentacles.
This is one of my public reading staples, because its messages are so easy to connect to, even for people who have never had their cards read. When I was a kid, my parents would get me to watch a ton of 1950s movies (Gidget was a staple!), and this totally reminds me of that Pleasantville-esque era. Don't be fooled by the housewife stereotype—this deck can deliver a punch with its often ironic imagery that plays on the life of a typical stay at home mom from the 1950s. Think Betty Draper from Mad Men—there's a lot of depth and darkness there.
The card stock of the Housewives Tarot is flimsier than the Zombie Tarot's. At first glance, it the cards seem substantial yet easy to shuffle; but over time, because of the lack of lamination, their edges get chipped and frayed (especially if you riffle shuffle like me). I find that the well-worn look suits this vintage-inspired deck—it gives the 1950s aesthetic more gravitas. Its size is also ideal for me—smaller than a regular tarot card, it feels more like a deck of playing cards in my hands.
These decks are pretty and powerful, and look so lovely together on a shelf. I find that anyone who's a fan of the 1950s aesthetic would love this pair of heavily-themed decks. These two go way beyond their reputation as novelties that are only good for bridal showers, engagement parties or Halloween readings. The Zombie and Housewives Tarot both deliver so much more than what you see on the surface.