In 1921, renowned horror and science-fiction author H.P. Lovecraft created a literary and occult monster when he published his short story "The Nameless City." In this story, an explorer describes a mysterious underground city he once found that had apparently in antediluvian times been populated by a race of intelligent reptilian creatures. He notes that the city is the one dreamed of and sung into poem by the mad Arab, Abdul Al-Hazred, and he quotes a couplet from that poem. That same poem is quoted in a later story, "The Hound," and is revealed to be part of a book - the dread tome called Necronomicon. With these two stories, and over the course of many more, Lovecraft began to develop a pseudomythology of mad gods and obscene magicks that has captured the imagination of readers, writers, and mystics for decades. In these stories, Earth's hapless inhabitants are constantly in danger of being overrun and annihilated by evil extraterrestrial gods, and some humans are power-mad (or just plain mad) enough to want to help these gods come in and take over. Possessed of a morbid imagination and a brilliant creativity, Lovecraft was able to create stories of creeping paranoia to chill the blood - weird tales of monsters, warlocks, desert nightmares, and unpleasant deaths. These tales sparked ideas in other writers, who in turn took up Lovecraft's themes, characters, and images, to make frightening and entertaining stories of their own.

A central, integral image of these short stories and novellas was the book Necronomicon. This book was purported to be a evil grimoire, bound in human skin, and of such obscenity that simply reading it could drive people mad. While Lovecraft would always deny that the book had any basis in reality, the idea of this unclean and dangerous volume has always caused as great excitement for readers as have the stories themselves, and this one image, more than any other from Lovecraft's work, has come to symbolize the Lovcraft Mythos. Several other authors have taken up that image in recent years, publishing Necronomicons of their own, some clearly fictional, others claiming to be non-fiction. So when noted occult author Donald Tyson decided to create a tarot deck based on Lovecraft's fiction, as well as on his own forays into writing Lovecraftian fiction, perhaps Necronomicon seemed the most logical name for the deck.

Published this year (2007), the deck has already gotten rave reviews from tarot aficionados, both for its entertainingly gothic vibe and for the stunning beauty of its artwork. The cards of the Major Arcana each portray a character from either Tyson's Necronomicon or Lovecraft's. The blind, idiot god Azathoth, who represents the forces of chaos, portrays The Fool. Trump Five, The Heirophant, depicts the giant cycloptic sea-monster Dagon, claws scooping at unfortunate humans foundering in a stormy sea. The Strength card shows a Shoggoth, laboring beneath the whip to fashion great stone blocks into a towering edifice. Great Cthulhu, no longer dreaming beneath the sea, rises with furious power as Trump Fifteen, the Devil, the blighted city R'lyeh looming in darkness behind him.

Divided into the traditional suits of Wands, Cups, Swords, and Disks (each suit representing its own traditional element of Fire, Water, Air, or Earth, respectively), the Minor Arcana tells four tales from Tyson's fictional work. The suit of Wands, predominately colored in shades of red, tells the tale of the corruption and destruction of ancient Atlantis, as the Atlanteans begin to practice debaucheries and to use technology for evil ends. Passion and brutality intertwine in this suit, whose pips are represented by stout wands tipped with crystal pyramids, diamonds, and cubes. In the suit of Cups, tinted in blues, the tale is told of a young man who joins the cult of the Egyptian cat-goddess Bast, and learns that the cup of service can be sweet or bitter. The Ace of this suit is particularly striking - a great silver goblet, out of which rises a fountain of blood in the shape of a rose - and the pips are, of course, represented by goblets, each filled with juice, blood, wine, or milk. The suit of Swords, done in shades of yellow, tells a classic tale of jealousy, betrayal, murder, and vengeance in Damascus, and swordplay is indeed the order of the day. And lastly, the suit of Disks portrays a classic horror tale - a necromancer and a sorceress join forces to unearth the location of a strongbox containing an artifact of great power. The disks in this deck all portray versions of the Elder Seal, and the predominant color of the suit is an eldritch green.

As you can see, the themes of this deck are dark, even gloomy. Rage and mayhem, madness and corruption rest side by side with images of passion, love, and dark, terrible beauty. For this reason, the experienced reader will want to rely on intuition when reading with this deck, in order to avoid getting overly negative readings - going by the imagery alone on these cards, it could be a challenge to get a positive, hopeful answer to your querent's concern. Seasoned and intermediate readers alike might take note that this deck uses more modern, esoteric correspondences, being based on the Golden Dawn tarot system. For example, in older, more traditional decks, Trump Eight of the Major Arcana is the Justice card and Trump Eleven is Strength, whereas in this deck and many other newer decks, that numerical order is reversed in order to keep true to the order of the Hebrew alphabet, each letter of which the Golden Dawn system assigns to a card of the Major Arcana. However, in spite of that difference and others, the creator of the deck has gone to great effort to ensure that while his images are faithful to his own fictional work, they're also faithful to the actual correspondences of Tarot, so this deck is entirely appropriate for any Tarot application, from divination to meditation to magickal workings, especially those of a darker nature.

Packaged as a set, including the deck, a black organdy bag, and a 240-page book by the creator about the deck and how to use it, Necronomicon Tarot is essential for fans of Lovecraft and for students and practitioners of nightside spirituality. In addition, it's an outstanding deck for experienced readers and collectors of unusual decks, or for any novice reader who likes a challenge and who doesn't want to start with a novice's deck. Arriving just in time for Samhain gift-giving, this deck is a welcome addition to the growing available selection of nightside Tarot decks.