Such is the case with the visually graphic, spiritually stimulating Zombie Tarot deck, meant to provide "insight and ammunition for surviving the uprising of the undead." And its release is perfect timing, seeing as how some poor shmuck just got his face eaten off.
I tend to enjoy my people either dead or alive (not both at the same time), which is why I was a bit apprehensive as I opened a box marked with the words "mythical prediction" and "oracle" in big letters. If what we're hearing in the news is any indication, we are all about one elevator ride away from being trapped with a bath salts-indulging, flesh-loving fool. For the most part, though, the cards are harmless -- if a little jarring.
A quick tarot 101: There are four suits (just like in playing cards) -- swords, staves (or wands), cups and coins (or pentacles, or disks, in some decks) -- and each card comes with its own interpretation and meaning. There are some universal symbols (The Tower, The Moon, The Sun, etc.), but the zombie folks put an even more explicit spin on this already mysterious art.
Carl Jung was one of the first heavy thinkers to attach psychoanalytical importance to the symbolism in tarot, and if the first card in Zombie Tarot (The Fool) is any indication, we're all fucked from birth: As a good-looking man in 1950s attire walks through a graveyard, hands reach out for the goods he's bringing, presumably for dearly departed loved ones. The Fool represents the beginning of endless possibilities, and mostly dead ones. The instruction handbook warns, "Our hero begins his journey with a spring in his step, unaware of the zombie claws reaching for his feet."
Yup, it gets worse from there. The cards are artfully done, with the traditional symbolism intact on a majority of them. In The Tower, for example, the fierce lightning taking down everything within sight is pretty normal for any tarot deck, while The Lovers is probably the most damning depiction in the Zombie version. Locked in an embrace with the honey of his dreams, a gentleman is holding perfume -- which he sprays on his love because she stinks. She's dead, you know. Love can stink.
The Zombie Tarot isn't all doom and gloom, however; even the scariest cards can hold a powerful meaning. Check The Ten of Cups, for instance: The terror is real, but so are the dreams of paradise.
It's all in your head anyway, you know. The images in this deck are different and graphic, yet the underlying premise of tarot remains the same -- and so does the mystery.
One thing is certain: You'll need a zombie apocalypse (or a damn chain-saw) to destroy these cards, as they're made on on some of the toughest card stock in creation. Good luck trying any fun shuffling tricks.
Below is a selection of twenty of the cards.