Deck Name: The Sickly Tarot
Creator(s): F. Raymond Sickly
Publisher & Year: Self-Published, 2017
If ever there was a tarot deck that left me utterly speechless, it is the Sickly Tarot by F. Raymond Sickly. This deck project began back on September 30, 2007 and the final card was completed on April 9, 2017. That’s a 10 year span! Each card took between 20-140 hours and was done by hand with gel pen and graph paper, no pencil or rulers. That alone deserves a standing ovation!
As a fellow ink artist, I find this deck extremely intriguing and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I just knew that I had to see it in person, I could tell the illustrations were heavily detailed. One of my favorite features of this deck is the hidden symbols and imagery you find throughout the cards, for instance, tiny spiders can be found here and there. It’s details like this that truly make this deck unique.
The Sickly Tarot is a large deck and I don’t mean size, it’s a whopping 109-cards and that doesn’t even include the title card and two blank cards. I love a thick stacked deck, I cannot lie! This deck contains two extra suits (of 15 cards each) and an extra joker-like card called The King of Limbs which is a nod to Radiohead. In case you didn’t know, Radiohead is my all time favorite music group so seeing this extra card was the icing on the cake for me.
The cards measure roughly at: 3” x 4.75”.
Picking just a few favorite cards out of 109 is not an easy task, let me just say that. Although, a few did stick out as significant to me and I thought I would talk a little bit about these three – The King of Limbs, Judgement and 8 of Limbs.
Naturally, I had to keep the King of Limbs card in the pile of top favorites, it’s the extra joker-like card in the deck. I absolutely love the meaning placed upon it, some of the keywords associated with this card is a sudden awakening, evolution in thinking, awareness, and action after much inactivity. The image was inspired by Radiohead’s 2011 album, King of Limbs. The imagery contained in this card is pulled from the songs in the album including the feral child, lotus flower, and Mr. Magpie, to name a few.
Another instant favorite of mine was the Judgement card. I feel like when I look at this card, it tells me that it’s all or nothing. You accept it all as a whole or you accept nothing, you can’t have the good without the bad. The imagery details a giant head filled with a mix of other card depictions like the 2 of Tesseracts (Pentacles) and the Tower. The head contains the awareness and responsibility of one’s own actions, you’re owning up to it all and learning from it without covering it up or stashing it away out of sight.
Lastly, I really love the imagery of the 8 of Legs (Wands) and how it gives off a Tim Burton-esque feel. Usually this card shows 8 wooden rods flying through the air but in this deck the imagery illustrates eight giant, spider like legs stepping from the left side of the card to the right. Talk about a quick travel! While the imagery is much different, you still get that familiar energy of fast, quick action.
The Sickly Tarot’s illustrations, as earlier mentioned, were created from a series of gel pen drawings on graph paper. The original cards were drawn on 11” x 17” paper, so the detail contained on these cards is truly remarkable. All of the illustrations are done in black a white and feature bold linework, geometric design, stippling (dotwork) and the use of negative space.
Now, there are two extra suits but the standard, more common tarot suits have all been renamed as follows: Wands (Legs), Cups (Skulls), Swords (Arms), and Pentacles (Tesseracts). The two extra suits are called the Sickly Suit and the 7th Suit, they each contain fifteen cards. Both of these extra suits remind me of oracle cards in a sense but still really feel like new tarot suits and I really like that these were added to the deck. They add an extra layer to the reading and just work really well.
The Sickly Suit is made up of more internal aspects of the reader or seeker and how they interact in the world around them. The 7th Suit is not for the weak of heart. A word of warning, this suit contains imagery and wording that may be offensive to some readers, so tread lightly if you plan on picking up this deck but you can certainly leave this suit out if you wish. I’m not easily offended, so I found great humor in this suit! Some of the cards are exactly what I need to hear, it’s a “no bullshit” type of suit indeed.
I noticed right away that the deck reads like story, the cards are so clear on what’s going on when laid out on a table with others. I was pulling 3-card draws one after another to see how the cards interacted with one another and they just flowed effortlessly.
CARD STOCK + SHUFFLING
When getting a new deck, cardstock is always a mystery with indie decks. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Sickly Tarot has phenomenal cardstock! It’s smooth and slides like butter. The cards are thin but in a very good way, they’re bendy and flexible for a great shuffle. You would think a deck with 109 cards would be difficult to shuffle but this deck shuffles beautifully both in a riffle and overhand shuffle.
GUIDEBOOK + PACKAGING
The Sickly Tarot comes with a 60-page booklet that features a full story of how this deck came to be, keywords for all the cards (upright and reversed), as well as a game that can be played with the cards. I really enjoyed reading the booklet and the introduction to the deck itself, it was a fascinating story and the creator took us on a mental journey of how the deck came to be.
When it comes to packaging, this deck really went above and beyond. The deck arrived in a sturdy lidded box that featured the Fool card glued to the top and sealed with a wax stamp. On the side of the box was the limited edition numbering (166/500) and was really beautifully presented. I love it when a creator takes the extra time with the packaging details and not only just the deck itself. Truly a beautiful deck, inside and out!
I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’m quite taken by this stunning and well executed deck. I’m excited to work with it further and I think it would be a great addition to any tarot readers collection. It’s not just a gorgeous deck but an impressive tool that demands to be used and worked with. My best advice when working with this deck is to really soak in the imagery and take your time looking over each card, there is so much to see!
Where to buy – https://www.alpineruin.com/shop-the-sickly-tarot
Creators website – https://www.alpineruin.com
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/sicklytarot