Musings on Tarot Decks: The Deviant Moon Tarot

The Deviant Moon Tarot

I’ve had the Deviant Moon Tarot Card deck, illustrated by artist and teacher Patrick Valenza, since it was first published by U.S. Games systems in 2015. I was captivated by the decks use of haunting and surreal imagery and uniquely alternative interpretations of the traditional Rider/Waite tarot system, and I ordered it from my local bookstore. I was really excited and fully intent on using it.

But, I didn’t.

Maybe it was the intense, stylized moon-faced characters, or the backgrounds of distant smoke stacks, tombstones, insane asylums, graveyards and abandoned buildings. Whatever it was, I just couldn’t get comfortable using these cards. They felt dark to me. I put them on a shelf and never took them out again until this year.

Meanwhile, the cards developed a life of their own without me. The Deviant Moon Tarot is considered in the ‘TopTen Tarot decks of all time by Aeclectic Tarot. It has been considered a masterpiece since the first day it was released, and is always on any list of ‘The Most Beautiful/Popular Tarot decks of all time’, and considered an essential deck in any collection now. The 22 Trumps all retain their traditional Rider-Waite names, but Justice and Strength are in their original position in the deck: Justice is Trump VIII and Strength is Trump XI. Both the Major and Minor Arcana cards are reinterpretations of classic tarot images and ideas but with a unique surrealistic midnight-in-the-graveyard style. The first original printing was done in Poland, and the cards were printed on quality card stock without borders.

When U.S. Games Systems picked it up they moved the printing to China. You can still buy a deck of borderless Deviant Moon cards:

Or the premier version, which come with white borders around the edges. This is the deck I have:

It comes in a larger outer 6”x9” box but the size of the cards and the little enclosed book are the same.

Each Minor Arcana suit has its own border color: Pentacles is black, Cups is blue, Wands is green, and Swords is red.

    The Pentacles suit has a different Coins version. The author created twenty-two unique Coins to put in his cards in the style of the ancient Greeks that he called “deviant ancestors”. 

Notice the black borders, and each coin is actually different.

The card backs are a design combining the different phases of the moon:

      But the book! Also named “Deviant Moon Tarot”, it is truly a masterpiece.

As Valenza tells us on his website, the characters residing in the deck and the book came to him in his dream and his imagination from childhood onward. In his book he tells us the characters’ stories and how they evolved. The book accompanying the deck is simplistic and tiny, like in most decks. This book, though, available through separate purchase, sets a standard for other deck creators. It’s very large and printed on really heavy cardboard (4 lbs). 

The Deviant Moon Tarot’s book is formatted so that the card image appears (beautifully printed) alone on the left page and on the right page Valenza describes each card in detail, explaining the symbolism, how he chose it, it’s progression, and what each card means to him.

Then, there’s the website

This is displayed on the home page:

“Welcome to the AsYLuM!Deviant Moon Inc. (A.K.A. Fenwood Asylum) was founded in 2015 by Patrick Valenza. Browse the Asylum for strange tarot decks, original artwork, and other oddities. Please be advised that the management is not responsible for injuries incurred while window shopping.”
The plethora of unique tarot and Deviant Moon merch offered on the Deviant Moon inc. website boggles the mind.

He has a special ‘‘Witches Bundle’

Deviant Moon Tarot decks wrapped in custom pen and ink paper:

T-shirts, antique tarot decks, original artworks, and something called original uncut sheets:

”Deviant Moon Tarot-UNCUT SHEET (Signed)$95.00 VERY RARE ITEM! Hard to acquire!(Borderless)Direct from the printers! Measures a whopping 29 x 43 Inches!Signed by Valenza in Silver, Shipped in super strong tube.”

Even ‘Graveyard Dirt’ (sold out last time I checked):

I do think if you sell a ‘Premier Deck’, in my humble opinion, you should probably add the cool book you made instead of the tiny standard booklet, but I forgive Patrick because he did include one of my favorite pieces of tarot merch ever—a custom ‘Lunatic Card Spread’ fold-out insert created to facilitate laying out The Lunatic Spread.
Yes, it’s really called that.

This is such a cool thing. It’s huge once it is unfolded. And, the readings seem to be spot on. Perhaps the tactile nature of the foldout chart combine with the intense visuals of the cards increase our perception.

Example: I just retired from one career and trying to decide which direction to take my next cycle . I’m a painter and a writer and a tarot reader/teacher, but also my husband and I just released a new album.

Card 1. The Enquirer (a better word than ‘The Querent’), present dayCard

2. Past influencesCard

3. Subconscious influences

Card 4. Secret desires and wishes

Card 5. Hidden forces

Card 6. Events yet to come

Card 7. Surrounding influences

Card 8. Influence of others

Card 9. Spiritual forces

Card 10. Final outcome

Now, one of the miraculous things you realize when you use many different decks is, cards represent different things in different decks.

I’m not going to tell you where this card appeared in this layout but I was a bit in awe:

Let’s Talk About Bread

Let’s talk about bread. Let’s talk about a warm loaf of homemade bread, fresh out of the oven. Since our earliest beginnings, humans have used bread to connect and nourish. It’s comforting, satisfying, and easy to share.

As a nation we seem to be baking a lot of bread right now. In the middle of the pandemic, markets all over the country were hit with surprisingly empty shelves where flour and yeast once lived, and colorful bread baking books are now a hot commodity.

When they couldn’t find yeast, creative bakers got sourdough starter from friends or made it from scratch and switched to baking beautiful, crusty boules of sourdough, posting their results on social media pages. Even novice bakers who never quite made it to sourdough pulled out their dusty loaf pans and made banana bread.

But why bread? Why this obsession about baking? Why is baking bread more satisfying than cooking? What is it about baking bread that feeds us, not just physically, but spiritually during the pandemic?

Maybe because bread has been the foundation of all civilization or because it has historically been considered life-giving, bread baking seems to be a thing we humans do in a crisis. There is an intense satisfaction in baking bread—It’s a sensory experience. It’s combining the simplest of all ingredients, using our own hands to knead the dough and form the loaves. We watch and wait while the dough slowly grows, like a magic trick. It feels good to pop this thing we made into a hot oven and peek at it through the tiny oven window as it browns up, then slicing into a warm loaf, slathering it with real butter and sharing it with those we love.

Or, just eating it ourselves.

Baking bread can bring us all sorts of psychological benefits. It’s a productive form of self-expression, and the whole process can be a kind of mindfulness. It gives us a feeling of control, so important when the world around is scary and uncertain.

Making a loaf of bread is a healthy distraction and a great source of stress relief, what therapists call ‘behavioral activation’—“a structured, brief psychotherapeutic approach that aims to (a) increase engagement in adaptive activities (which often are those associated with the experience of pleasure or mastery), (b) decrease engagement in activities that maintain depression or increase risk for depression”

Homemade bread gives a sense that all’s right in the world. Nothing smells better than a home filled with the aroma of fresh, baking bread. It brings us back to our roots. Life is confusing for all of us right now, and none of us knows exactly what to expect from our immediate future. There’s a certain comfort in controlling exactly what goes into the food we feed our loved ones. There’s a certain comfort in making bread from scratch, knowing our mothers and grandmothers did the same thing to feed their families.

Bread is fundamental.

Bread is sustenance, wholeness, primal.

Bread is magic.

Bread is life.