H.R. Giger’s Tarot Cards: The Swiss Artist, Famous for His Design Work on Alien, Takes a Journey into the Occult

The first tarot cards appeared in Europe in the mid-fif­teenth cen­tu­ry, and those who used them used to play sim­ple card games. But as the art of the tarot deck devel­oped to incor­po­rate a host of his­tor­i­cal, philo­soph­i­cal, and astro­nom­i­cal sym­bols, their imagery took on more weight, and a cou­ple hun­dred years lat­er the cards had become pop­u­lar instru­ments of div­ina­tion. From the late eigh­teenth cen­tu­ry on, one could obtain tarot decks specif­i­cal­ly designed for occult pur­pos­es, and their artis­tic vari­ety has only expand­ed in the 250 or so years since. In the 1990s, the imag­i­na­tive world of tarot col­lid­ed with an equal­ly rich set of visions: those of H.R. Giger.

Giger, a Swiss artist who first gained world­wide fame and influ­ence with his design work on Rid­ley Scot­t’s Alien (up to and includ­ing the ter­ri­fy­ing alien itself), unit­ed the bio­log­i­cal and the mechan­i­cal in a dis­tinc­tive and dis­turb­ing fash­ion.

After see­ing Giger’s art in his first book of paint­ings Necro­nom­i­con, a Swiss occultist by the name of Akron under­stood its poten­tial as tarot imagery. The col­lec­tion’s title pic­ture, Akron writes, showed a “fas­ci­nat­ing mon­ster” called Baphomet, “the sym­bol of the con­nec­tion between the ratio­nal and irra­tional world,” the same func­tion per­formed by the occult tarot deck itself.

When Akron approached Giger propos­ing to col­lab­o­rate on a deck, accord­ing to i09’s Lau­ren Davis, “Giger felt that he did­n’t have the time to cre­ate new works that would do the deck jus­tice. So he select­ed 22 of his exist­ing, pre­vi­ous­ly unpub­lished pieces” for the cards’ faces. In a lat­er inter­view, “Giger says that he nev­er stud­ied Tarot cards and in fact, had no inter­est in hav­ing his for­tune told with them. (Giger claimed he was too super­sti­tious, though he describes Akro­n’s descrip­tions of the indi­vid­ual cards as ‘some­times crazy, but fun­ny — but not prob­a­bly very seri­ous.’)” His “mix of occult iconog­ra­phy, demon­ic organ­isms, and his trade­mark bio­me­chan­i­cal aes­thet­ic make for apt, if unusu­al­ly dark Tarot illus­tra­tions.”

You can see more of Giger and Akro­n’s tarot deck, avail­able in both Eng­lish and Ger­man, at i09 and Dan­ger­ous Minds. Or bet­ter yet, pick up your own deck of cards. While brows­ing, do keep in mind two things: first, that Giger’s visions, even those select­ed to rep­re­sent age-old tarot arcana, can cer­tain­ly get NSFW. Sec­ond, even though the artist spe­cial­ized in night­mar­ish imagery (hence his pop­u­lar­i­ty on the grim­mer side of sci­ence fic­tion) we should resist inter­pret­ing them too lit­er­al­ly as rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the future. After all, the cards, as a much more light­heart­ed pro­duc­tion once joked, are vague and mys­te­ri­ous.

via io9

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Tarot Card Deck Designed by Sal­vador Dalí

Twin Peaks Tarot Cards Now Avail­able as 78-Card Deck

Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky Explains How Tarot Cards Can Give You Cre­ative Inspi­ra­tion

The 14-Hour Epic Film, Dune, That Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky, Pink Floyd, Sal­vador Dalí, Moe­bius, Orson Welles & Mick Jag­ger Nev­er Made

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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