The Illest Tarot
By Kristi Prokopiak 2017
Have you ever wanted something and kept looking at it trying to talk yourself out of wanting it, trying to convince yourself that you don’t need it, and deciding that even though it is not a necessity that it would enhance your life if you just had it? The Illest Tarot is a deck I lusted after for nearly a year before I finally clicked “add to cart” and I can say it was one of the most satisfying deck purchases of 2018 for me. Once I had the Illest Tarot in my hands, I knew it would be a permanent part of my collection. Kristi Prokopiak has done an amazing job capturing the nostalgia of my youth from the 90’s and early 2000’s, the energy, the feeling, the sounds, even the smell (I may be exaggerating a bit here but I swear I can smell the Pizza Hut and Taco Bell I used to eat for lunch every day in high school). I think people who were born in either the 80’s or the 90’s are a uniquely special group of people, not because they are considered “millennials” but because they were fortunate to witness a progressive time that affected their lives in the most significant way. The generations of our parents, grandparents, and in some cases great-grandparents, lived with the same technologies with little to no changes. Children of the 80’s and 90’s experienced the advancement of technology at light speed. Most of the things we grew up with have become obsolete in less than thirty years. I think the Illest Tarot does a nice job of capturing the feeling of the turn of the century in seventy-eight cards which highlight pop culture icons who elicit an emotional response. This response makes the Illest Tarot relatable and relevant.
The Illest Tarot is a seventy-eight-card deck that feature artistically enhanced images of pop icons from music, film, or television for the face cards including the courts however the minors are simple yet detailed pip cards. The color theme of the whole deck is soft pastels and muted earth tones and each suit has been assigned a respective color range within one hue. Pentacles range from a soft, bright, leafy green to a deeper but less saturated shade of emerald. Wands stand out with purple tones of gray, lavender, and lilac. Cups connect with the watery element through aqua, teal and turquoise. Finally, the Sword suit drives home the airy element with soft and richer shades of blue and gray. The box is the standard sturdy, two-piece, kit with cut-outs for thumbs and the soft color palate is reflected in the minimalistic design of the four suits on the cover of the box.
One of my favorite bits about this deck is the guide sheet that accompanies it. While I would have loved to see a full guidebook with detailed explanations for why each person or character was chosen, I appreciate the fact that your personal interpretation and connection matters more than what the artist thinks. Kristi Prokopiak makes up for this with a fun, quirky, and kitschy guide sheet that has been printed on what appears to be 3-holed, college ruled, lined paper. The handwriting font paired with the lined paper makes this guide sheet feel reminiscent of high school and college. I could literally place it in a 3-ring binder for reference later. The guide sheet is very brief and makes a point not to mention the celebrities but only the characteristics of the archetype assigned to them. There is a sentence to describe the elemental attributions of each suite and a quick note for tarot numerology. Once again, the personality traits of each court card are discussed in a few keywords. The whole guide sheet is basically a set of tarot crib notes.
As I mentioned earlier, I wish there were more detailed literature about the choices and identities of the icons Kristi Prokopiak chose for the deck. I consider myself a solid child of the MTV era so most of these faces are quite familiar to me however there are a few that leave me confused which creates a full-stop when trying to interpret the characteristics of those cards. I must make a bit of a mental note and go back to my knowledge-based interpretation rather than my more fluid intuitive/visual interpretation. Out of the thirty-eight face cards in the deck I was unfamiliar with three and I had to end up searching for references to shed some light. Another thing I wish was discussed further is why certain celebrities were chosen. For some like Oprah Winfrey, who is the King of Pentacles, I feel like this connection is obvious but for some like the group, TLC, for Page of Wands I’m a bit confused. I wonder if I should consider the whole group’s career as an aspect for Page of Wands or a particular song, for me the song that comes to mind would be “Waterfalls”. Another example is the Tower, which features Fairuza Balk as Nancy from “The Craft”. I’m sure the Tower is a reference to Nancy’s downward spiral in “The Craft” but I would love just a little text about it for clarity. Even a title on the card. Some of these people I am familiar with as celebrities, and not as a character from a role in a film, music video, or a song I’ve never seen or heard.
The Illest Tarot is a brilliant deck for many reasons. The color scheme is calming, I smile every time I see a familiar face, and the minimalism works well within my aesthetic. Overall, The Illest Tarot will always be one of the most cherished decks in my collection because of its nostalgia factor. In this era of lack luster reboots, and the lost art of R&B and Hip Hop, it is nice to have a reminder from a time not to long ago when I felt like I was invincible and MTV moved to the beat of my heart.