Introduction to the Steampunk Tarot: Where the Past and Future Converge

Introduction to the Steampunk Tarot

Where the Past and Future Converge


steampunk tarot

“With a turn of the wheel and a spin of the cog, the oracular machinery lumbers into action. The curtains slowly draw back; the time has come to reveal your destiny.”

The Steampunk Tarot, written by Barbara Moore and illustrated by Aly Fell, “retools the gears” of the Rider-Waite tradition by utilizing Steampunk themes and archetypes. We are going to explore this mysterious, engaging deck and guidebook, which merges together a  “scintillating fusion of man and machine”.

Below is my Unboxing and Introduction, followed by an extensive review by Kelly of A Truth in Story


What is Steampunk?

According to the Urban Dictionary, “Steampunk is a subgenre of speculative fiction, usually set in an anachronistic Victorian or quasi-Victorian alternate history setting. It could be described by the slogan ‘What the past would look like if the future had happened sooner.’ It includes fiction with science fiction, fantasy or horror themes. ”

Different Genres of Steampunk:
Medieval Steampunk: Speculative fiction set during the Middle Ages.

Victorian Steampunk: A modern Science Fiction work (post-1930s) that is set in the early parts of the industrial revolution.

Western Steampunk: Science fiction set in the American Old West.

The author gives some other clever interpretations of Steampunk including what happens when Goths discover the color brown and retro-tech. Moore goes on to say that Steampunk is a genre, but even more so an aesthetic. Its roots originate in the early works of science fiction written by Victorian-era authors like Jules Verne, Mary Shelley, and H.G. Wells. It explores our understanding of science as well as our application of that knowledge through technology.


Why This Isn’t Another Novelty Deck

Steampunk fashion is one of the most common recognitions of this genre. Since the visual aesthetic is central to the Steampunk theme, the author, Barbara Moore, felt it necessary to explain why she feels this isn’t a novelty deck. A novelty deck by definition is a tarot that is set forth mainly to project a whimsical theme or element of popular culture.

Steampunk, and any genre or subculture, reflects our current struggles and concerns as a culture. This genre shares many similar elements with the art of tarot. In tarot, the cards explore opposing energies and relationships within society and ourselves. Like the spiritual concept of “Yin and Yang”, tarot is centrally themed around balancing opposites within ourselves. Like life itself, tarot cannot be read in a linear fashion. It is seemingly random, showing personal journeys and truths.  As the tarot explores contrary energies, so does Steampunk and the overall genre of science fiction. They explore opposing concepts of reality and fantasy, magic and machine, and facts and imaginations.  

Steampunk and Tarot

Another important similarity, is the actual reading of the tarot. Even more so than for its spiritual element, we use the tarot to read our fortune; to examine the past, consider the present, and speculate about the future. This is similar to the concept of Steampunk in that this genre is set in the past, yet explores different possible futures for the world. It experiments with how the world may have turned out if only a few things had been different. This is similar to many tarot readings. The concept of what would happen if… 

This is where tarot shows us the relationship between cause and effect in every choice we make, helping us to make better decisions in our lives for the best possible outcome. Both Steampunk and Tarot adapt as our world evolves. As a genre, steampunk is evolving to keep pace with our interests and concerns. Tarot is about our connection with the world, society, and our spiritual selves. As technology advances through the years, people evolve and their needs change. With that, the tarot changes to accommodate them and answer their questions.

As we explore this tarot, we will see the connections between steampunk and the tarot. Through the unique images and meanings, we will see the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot structure adapted with the steampunk archetypes. We will “step into a world of roaring engines and gleaming metal, top hats and corseted silk gowns, brass goggles and gliding dirigibles…where alternate histories play out in a film reel of adventure, fantasy, and magic!”

Stay tuned as we explore The Steampunk Tarot Guidebook and attempt to understand the messages set forth by the author and the illustrator! As always, feel free to post comments, questions, and suggestions in our Crystal and the Tarot Forum!

Sources: The Steampunk Tarot Guidebook

Nicole Farmer, community coordinator of the Crystal and the Tarot Community in the Crystal Inner Circle.

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