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Pirate Tarot - tarot decks

Playing Cards
Playing Cards -> Tarot decks

Price: US $14.47

ProductID: alt0548

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About this item
  • The Pirate Tarot is Schiffer Books printed edition of the wood-carved irate Tarot. It's a full 78-card deck with a Rider-
  • Waite basis, and a fantasical piratical theme. The only downside is the very large borders added to this edition.

Name Pirate Tarot
Creators Liz Harper, Carrie Amodio
Publisher Schiffer Books 2009
Deck Type Tarot Deck
Cards 78
Major Arcana 22
Minor Arcana 56
Deck Tradition Rider-Waite-Smith
Minor Arcana Style RWS-Based Scenes
Suits Pistols, Swords, Coins, Cups
Court Cards Cabin Boy, First Mate, Lady Captain, Captain
The Fool is 0
Strength is 8
Justice is 11
Card Language English
Card Back Reversible
Back Design Wood-grain look with pirate skull and crossbones.
Companion Material Small fold-out leaflet with instructions to read the cards and to play a tarot game.


The original limited edition Pirate Tarot was the first wood-carved tarot deck I’d ever seen. Linocut or etched prints aren’t uncommon on tarot cards, but the original edition had actual wooden cards with the imagery laser-carved into cherry wood. This, the printed card-stock edition from publishers Schiffer Books, has tarot scenes that are identical to the carved version.

It’s also an easy to follow deck for beginners. With its Rider-Waite basis, it can be used with a generic tarot book to assist with making meaning from the cards. That’s if there is a need to – the deck is clearly and cleanly etched and blends tarot symbolism with well-known pirate imagery. Using the cards for readings is made even easier by the addition of three keywords at the base of each card (which are part of the carvings, not a publisher addition), for quick interpretations.

The major arcana titles have mostly been changed to fit the piratical theme. They are:

0 – The Fool
I – The Chirurgeon (which shows a combination surgeon, apothecary and first aid officer)
II – The Figurehead (as in the figurehead on the prow of a ship)
III – The Empress
IV – The Emperor
V – The Bosun (who is the man in charge of the deckhands)
VI – The Lovers
VII – The Chariot
VIII – Strength (showing a girl holds the tiller fast during a storm)
IX – The Hermit
X – The Winds
XI – Justice (she holds a noose as well as scales)
XII – The Hanged Man
XIII – Death (a sunken ship and skull, of course)
XIV – Temperance
XV – The Devil
XVI - The Tower (the main mast has broken, and someone is falling)
XVII – The Star
XVIII – The Moon (a ghostly galleon, sailing under a full moon)
XIX – The Sun (a happy, virtually smiling ship’s cat)
XX – The Plank (an unfortunate young man walks the plank)
XXI – The World

Two cards are really effective translations of typical tarot symbolism to the pirate scene. I like the choice of The Winds and the compass image for the Wheel of Fortune equivalent: a ship and its crew are at the mercy of the winds to bring them safely to their destination, much like the Wheel is a symbol for fate or destiny. The Star also becomes directly related to pirates; the guiding light of the star is not just backdrop but a vital navigational tool when far out at sea. A pirate holds a sextant and checks the course of the ship by the star and their mathematical calculations. The pirates on the whole are very clean, well-fed and civilized looking people, almost Disney-ish pirates.

Strength was my favourite card in the deck; a young girl in a ragged skirt holds the wheel of the ship steady, through storm-tossed seas, rain and lightning. Close behind was the Seven of Coins, where a bandanna-wearing pirate - on a desert island with palm tree, naturally - pauses to lean on his shovel in the middle of burying an overflowing box of coins. Judgement is perhaps one of the most familiar pirate scenes - the walk off the plank. A young boy walks gingerly along a flimsy-looking plank, a sword held by an invisible antagonist prodding him along, and three toothy, very hungry sharks below.

The suits of the deck are altered to fit the theme, as are the court cards. The suits are Coins (Pentacles), Cups, Pistols (Wands) and Swords, while the courts are unique: Cabin Boy, First Mate, Lady Captain, and Captain.

The deck package is relatively simple; just the outer flip-top box, a fold-out companion leaflet, and 80 cards (the two extra are non-reading cards; one promotes other pirate-related products from Schiffer, the other is a title card with info about the deck). The leaflet has a few common tarot spreads, and less commonly, instructions for playing card games with the tarot deck. This harks back to the original uses for tarot cards – long before there is recorded evidence that they were used for fortune-telling or spiritual purposes – they were used to play card games.

There is one major downside to the Pirate Tarot, unfortunately. The cardstock edition has had large white borders added, with the word ‘PIRATE’ running down the left hand side. I thought this was rather unnecessary - I can usually remember which deck I am using without a visual aid on every card – and it increases the size of the cards and difficulty of shuffling without the benefit of more detailed tarot scenes.

That said, this is a decent entry into the tarot world for the beginner. Who is not familiar with the image of a pirate captive being made to walk the plank, or the pirate in the midst of burying his treasure? Sometimes difficult tarot imagery becomes linked with more familiar pirate myths and legends, giving the beginner an easy angle to understand the cards.

Even for those well past the novice stage - if you don’t miss Talk Like A Pirate Day each September, you won’t want to miss having the Pirate Tarot in your collection.

Combine shipping is possible.

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