Posted by: Nyxks | July 18, 2007

The Housewives Tarot

The Housewives Tarot
By Paul Kepple and Jude Buffum
Headcase Design, 2004
ISBN 1-931686-99-8
Available from Quirk Books
Review by Daven

Once upon a time, there were the 1950’s. During that decade, all women were told they had to be super moms, had to care about waxy buildup on their floors and had to wear pearls for their husbands at all times.

Men had to take care of the family, including their parents and the parents of their wife by working themselves into an early grave. They were supposed to wear smoking jackets to have that after dinner drink. This was the newly created middle class and everyone wanted to be a part of the single family Levittown tract housing suburbia. And thus, the nuclear family was born. If you still don’t know what I’m talking about, watch “Leave it to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best” for a few days straight since these were held up as the paragon of all that is “The American Family ™”.

Kitsch was the order of the day. Pretty ladies in dresses pretending to be housewives told us how wonderful “Super Suds Cleaner” was and how the new Amana self defrosting refrigerator was the answer to every family’s dream. A Sponge Mop was a super invention because you could wring it without your hands touching the water. Canned Soup Casseroles were a wonderful time saver and a good meal to boot.

Flash forward 5 decades to today. Take the artwork of the 1950’s and the assumptions of life from that time and make it into a tarot deck. I mean, martini glasses and highball glasses as the Cups, the kitchen knives and garden shears as Swords, dishware of the time as Pentacles, and finish up with the feather duster and rakes and hoes as the Rods. Then these fiends continued the time warp by making a Fonzie-style greaser the Knight of Swords. Make a “Dennis the Menace” kind of child the Page of Pentacles. Wrap it all up and put it into a recipe box, and you have the Housewives Tarot.

The packaging is innovative. The box itself is kind of hard to get apart, simply because it is made so tightly that it acts as a vacuum seal. Really. So be very gentle when getting it open.

Once it’s open, you will find that there are index cards separating the cards, just like in a real recipe box. There are even recipes on the divider cards. I kid you not. On each divider card are several pictures, and on the back is a real recipe supposedly for use during divinations. But the cards….

I told you a bit about the Minor Arcana, but the major Arcana are one of several gems to be found. They have reordered the cards somewhat, with the High Priestess coming after the Emperor in this deck. Anyone who reads cards will laugh when they see it. The High Priestess is a bottle of “Secret Syrup” that is reminiscent of Aunt Jemima. The Hermit is a lady pampering herself in an Ivory soap bath, and the Hanged Man is a man literally hung by his feet on a clothes line, put there by his wife. The Devil (which is normally used to represent bondage to the material) is a Devil’s Food cake on a beautiful woman’s legs surrounded by cigarettes, alcohol, valium, ready cheese and so on, all the vices.

My wife confiscated the book before I could see it, but she’s been reading choice parts to me from it. Things like “The Martini” spread, laid out in the shape of a martini glass, “The Clothesline” life spread, laid out in a line, “The Dinette” spread which is laid out as the primary problem being the main course, and all the cards around it (the silverware and glasses) being factors affecting the main situation. My favorite is “The Neapolitan Spread” which is simply a three-card layout, with the chocolate layer being the past, the vanilla layer being the present, and the strawberry layer is the future. Too cute.

The symbolism of the artwork is subtle to the point of non-existence and, unless you know the cards intimately (and I DO mean intimately) it may be very hard to figure out what the card means if you use visual clues on the card as mnemonics. Some are obvious (the Two of Pentacles is a woman holding a plate in each hand while children run around her feet, a balancing act if I ever heard of it) but some are not easy to extract from the picture (the Eight of Cups is a woman wiping her brow with eight cups of coffee around her).

So an intimate knowledge is necessary to read these accurately.

Other than that, I don’t have much bad to say about this deck. It is humorous, it’s a wonderful novelty item, it will have many people crying out in joy and humor when they examine it. On that basis alone I think this is going to be a good seller for the publisher. There are blurbs on the box talking about how great this is, and even a “Housewife’s Occultists of America” seal of approval. These are great and if you want a deck to show off with, this is the one.

But more, there’s wait! If you act now you can go to the housewifes website and get wallpaper to fit in with this deck. You can also find interesting facts, like where the Tarot came from. I know I was surprised to find it came from a discussion over a card table.

All in all, I’m giving this deck 4 stars out of 5. It’s fun and useful and can be used to give very accurate readings. Combined with the new layouts that are themed with the rest of this deck, it can be extremely useful. As I said you have to know card interpretations in order to use them to their full potential.

Let me put it this way, from the time I saw them in the Books-A-Million store (where you can pick up a deck if you want to) till I got them today, I have looked forward to owning these cards.

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