‘The Housewives Tarot - A Domestic Divination Kit’ card deck;
Design and collage illustrations by Paul Kepple and Jude Buffin;
Well made box containing 78 cards and 96 page instruction booklet;
Published by Quirk Books, ISBN: 978 1 931686 970; Cost: £13
‘Guaranteed by the Housewife Occultists of America’, so the booklet explains. This is an oracle card deck ‘The Secrets of Domestic Empowerment’ and it offers a 1950s style comedy divination card pack. There are five suggested spreads; The Virgin, The Neapolitan, The Dinette, The Closeline of Life and The Martini. The backs of the cards are red gingham tea towels and we are offered recipes for a ‘Madame Marlena’s Mystical Martini’, ‘Divinated Eggs’ and an ‘Ice Box Fortune Cake’ to accompany a retro evening of card readings. I thought I saw this deck being used in the film ‘The Help’!
The deck depicts:
Dinner plates as pentacles (which “deal with money matters, careers and possessions – everything real and tangible. You may find yourself admiring all you’ve worked so hard to attain, or watching in horror as it slips through your fingers and crashes to the floor”).
Cutlery and scissors as swords (these tackle “the troubles of the mind, quarrels, conflicts and aggression. They can represent mental breakthroughs as well as nervous breakdowns”).
Tall stemmed glasses as cups (which “deal with the ups and downs of love, relationships, anything emotional. This suit is usually brimming with joy and happiness, and teaches you to pour your troubles down the drain”).
Wands as brooms (which concern “growth and taking an active role in your destiny. A little elbow grease is all you need to get things done, but a nail or two might get broken along the way”).
We are introduced to the ‘Legend of Mystical Housewives Tarot’, where, according to local gossip of the time, Marlene Louise Wetherbee showed this deck to her bridge partners. Inside the card index box, we find the cards that depict middle class America in the era of the 1950s.
Four of Cups shows us a housewife with coiffured hair, wearing a blue tailored dress with matching kitten heeled shoes. Three glasses are empty, one full of iced martini with a cocktail cherry on a miniature metal sword stick. The booklet provides three key words: Boredom, Overindulgence, Ennui. The card interpretation: An intoxicated housewife stumbles back from a foolish binge. Another glass is offered to her, but she wisely refuses it. The Four of Cups warns of overindulgence, whether it is in matters of the heart, the home, or the bottle. Too much of a good thing leads to boredom – or worse, rehab! Change, not escape is the answer.
The retro era is very popular today. It reflects a time of greater certainty when surburban couples aspired to the ideal life in which to raise a family after the insecurities of the financial crash of the 1930s and the second world war. A husband’s regular and routine job provided a house, a saloon car and leisure time and a wife was a home-maker, buying ease-of-life gadgets to keep the home neat, children happy and the meals interesting. Many look back with nostalgia. However, the card deck reveals an element of laughter and questions a life of complete domesticity, The Hanged Man for instance shows a pinafored woman hanging a man by his feet with clothes pegs to a washing line, alongside her pink, lace rimmed nickers. This deck will be used at 'rock 'n' roll weekends at Hemsby, kept in the purse with red lipstick for girls' night in and summer garden parties!
Check out the enjoyable interactive website: http://www.housewivestarot.com/
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