This is an update and addendum to the review I did of Dame Darcy’s Mermaid Tarot back in December of 2014.
A friend of mine alerted me to a fascinating thread going on over at Aeclectic, “‘Recycled’ art in Dame Darcy deck.” Worth reading through. It seems there are allegations of copying or at the very least hostile reactions toward the striking similarity between some of the imagery in Dame Darcy’s mermaids deck and the Tarot of Mermaids by Lo Scarabeo published back in 2003. So I took a look for myself. I’ve created easy side by side comparisons of selected cards from both decks so you can be the judge for yourself. I didn’t discover any of these similarities on my own. They all came from the discoveries noted on the Aeclectic thread, which again, definitely read.
So this is the Empress versus the Fool from the two decks and there are clear differences, of course. But… fishy? Hmm…
On the left side of each image will be a cut from the Dame Darcy (DD) deck and on the right side will be the Tarot of Mermaids (ToM) deck, photos taken from various sources online, namely Lo Scarabeo’s site, Aeclectic, and Pinterest, because I don’t own the ToM myself. My knowledge of ToM’s existence is, at this point, only a couple hours old! Anyway, let’s continue.
It’s a tough call, the above, isn’t it? Both use iconic tarot-Hierophant-y imagery and it’s not a far stretch to say that that would be what even I might come up with if I had to draw a mermaid-inspired Hierophant card, right? So again. You get some bad vibes but you’re also not sure what’s going on exactly.
Different, yes. But… oh boy. ::shifting uncomfortably in seat::
Either the psychic connection through the collective unconscious, Akashic Records, anima mundi, or the Odin Force is strong in these two deck artists or…
Aw, come on! These are totally different! One features a full moon and the other a waxing! ::smirks glibly::
Again, I did not discover any of these on my own. These similarities between the two decks are all noted one by one by the good people of Aeclectic. I’m just consolidating their findings into one place for easy, direct comparison so that you can judge for yourself.
Again, different. One is a seahorse splashing along the surface of the ocean and the other is a horse with a fishtail splashing along the surface of the ocean. Like, seahorse not the same as horse-with-fishtail, okay?
At this point I feel like I’m playing one of those childhood games of can-you-spot-the-differences on the backs of cereal boxes while I ate breakfast before school. The arrangement of oars that the mermaids in both card images is what gets me. Sure, if you asked me to draw a mermaid holding oars a la RWS Ten of Wands imagery, you know what? That is probably exactly what I would have drawn, too, and all my own without references (other than what I know of the RWS Ten of Wands). However, I’m not so sure I would have gotten the positioning of those oars that… um… precise with another person’s work of art. So yeah, like one of the commentators on that Aeclectic thread noted, it’s the positioning of the oars that gets me, too.
I might just give this one, the Ace of Cups a pass. Again, I see myself independently coming up with this idea for depicting a mermaid-seafolk-inspired tarot deck, too. It’s lovely, but not the most original idea ever. A hand holding a seashell up out from the waters with water spilling forth from said seashell to express the Ace of Cups. Yep. No one could have thought of that on their own.
Another tough call, but as you see one “tough call” after another, you certainly do start to get a sick, knotty feeling in the tummy.
An Aeclectic commentator shared the above. I couldn’t source the photograph on the right.
Sigh. Yep. That about sums up how I feel right now.
Now, as familiar as I am with IP law, I am not in the practice of peddling legal opinions on blogs and forums, so let’s just talk about art and tarot deck creating ethics.
What I’ll say is this. In grade school and junior high art classes, art teachers always taught us to take images and photographs we liked from magazine pages, and then let that inspire our own art. That’s basically how most of us are taught art in school. To be inspired by what you see around you and capture it with your own free hand onto paper, whether that source of inspiration is 2-D or 3-D, has always been considered creative.
But to create a mermaid tarot deck inspired directly from a pre-existing mermaid tarot deck carries the scent of bad faith, and I think that’s where people start to shift uncomfortably in their seats. It’s.. oh gawd, I can’t help myself— it’s fishy. So in that sense, what this is really about is tarot deck creation ethics. There are a lot of things that the law allows that my mama taught me was morally wrong.
There is a difference, for me at least– and this goes back to ethics– between (1) being inspired by a fashion photo I see in a glossy and letting that inspire my own freehand sketch that I then repackage into a totally different context, like a tarot card image, which I then piecemeal with other symbols and ornamentation and (2) creating a tarot card image by tracing the outline of another tarot card image from a deck of similar if not exact themes and then filling it out with my own ornamentation, but then calling that my own original work, unabashedly doodling a copyright notice across my art.
This is where free thinking comes in handy, isn’t it? You have to decide for yourself where you draw the line, and what you’ll support and not support. You don’t need the legal opinion of some random goofball girl on the Internets who writes a tarot blog to tell you what is right and what is wrong.