Greg Traw’s Dracxiodos Tarot is a psychedelic experience in a box, and if ever there was a chaos magician’s deck, this would be it. What’s more, Dracxiodos Tarot presents that chaos magician as, first and foremost, the Artist. The only Major Arcanum card to be titled, in fact, is the Artist card, assigned to Key V, classically the Hierophant.
Reinforcing that theme of magician/alchemist as artist, the card back design features in the foreground an illustrator’s stylus pen and a paintbrush. Up top, in between the book pages featuring heiroglyphs is a razor blade pen, which I presume was Traw’s instrument of choice in the hand-cut collage works that this deck is comprised of.
By the way, the cards are huge! Above to the right is a deck at standard tarot size, 2.75″ x 4.75″. The Dracxiodos Tarot is 4″ x 8″. It’s a sturdy deck, too, 350 gsm white core cardstock with a matte finish.
The limited edition deck comes in a two-piece keepsake box and has been finished with this really incredible silver holographic edging that reminds me of labradorite.
Above in the bottom row, second card from the left with the pale green background, is Key V, renamed to The Artist. Every aspect of how this deck has been produced is in itself expressive of where contemporary art is today, and who the contemporary artist is. You’re going to see a global, culturally diverse influence. The point of view and visions are dynamic. Parts of Traw’s work are self-referential. These images are at once full of realism and surrealism.
Each work of art is a hand-cut collage, which was then scanned in to produce these card images. That’s distinct from digital art collage. There are 80 cards in total, with two versions of The Fool card and an extra card that features the card back design, which we”ll get to.
Here, Traw has gone with the Thoth numbering system, with Key VIII being Justice, corresponding astrologically with Libra, and Key XI as Strength, corresponding with Leo. There’s a Babalon Scarlet Woman vibe here in Key XI, though I also see Lilith.
Above is Key 9, the classic hermit card, presented as the Timekeeper. I intuited a connection between the hierophant and hermit here, where Traw intentionally reinvented Key 5 to The Artist, suggesting that the true channel of Divinity is The Artist, not the clergy, while here, the true hierophant is disguised as the hermit.
Traw describes his deck as an autobiography of his own initiatory fool’s journey into the tarot, because when he started his deck, he was still relatively new to tarot, and the creation process was a rite of passage.
After completing the Dracxiodos Tarot, “the energies surrounding the creation of this tarot deck has synced up and amplified my personal life. All of it. They now seem inseparable from each other.”
What if the world of tarot was told through a visual Jabberwocky language? That’s what the Dracxiodos Tarot feels like to me.
I’m so glad Traw went with the oversize dimensions for the cards, because you’ll need it. Heck, it’s fascinating to me what a magical, intentional decision going with the much larger size dimensions turned out to be. Had Dracixodos Tarot been produced at standard size, it would not have the power to captivate to the far extent that it does in this larger size.
To design this deck, he needed to take, in his words, three trips up and down the Tree of Life. “This is my two cents on how the tarot spoke through me.”
The Dracxiodos feels like an inverted world of the tarot–a post-structuralist tarot. It’s as if Traw studied the traditions, then dismantled them piece for piece, and tossed the pieces onto canvas, like bones, charms, and shells for a divination on divination, and came up with the arrangements you now see.
The collage art itself expresses the human history of space and time dismantled, juxtaposing imagery of astronauts in space with ancient Greece, Sumerian and Egyptian mythology, Hindu gods with modern skyscrapers, medieval alchemical illustrations with Japanime.
Above left is the second version of Key 0 this deck comes with. Also, let’s talk a bit more about the card back design. It features Hexagram 13, Heaven over Fire, over on the left and Hexagram 4, Mountain over Water on the right.
Hexagram 4 is one of the funny hexagrams in the I Ching– its oracular message is, in essence, “You’re being a fool. Try again.” Or, more formally. “You are focused on the wrong inquiry. Divination does not seek out the inexperienced fool. No further information shall be given by the Oracle until the inexperienced fool returns with the proper sincerity.”
Hexagram 13, on the other hand, is beautiful. It’s the symbol of community and fellowship. Tong ren— kindred spirits come together.
Above are the four suits from the Minor Arcana separated by element. Right to left: Fire (colored in pink to red tones), Water (blue tones), Air (white to yellow tones), and Earth (green tones). Out of the box, the Minors are ordered: Earth/Disks suit first, then Air/Swords, next Water/Cups, and concluding with Fire/Wands. So that’s the order we’ll be reviewing the suits.
Is there such a genre as avant-garde tarot? Well, now there is. Loving the Dadaist aesthetic here. This deck was published this year in 2020, and it has very much encapsulated the transgressive and insurgent energies of 2020. No question, the deck is still very much a tarot deck and fits within the standard definitions of a tarot deck, and yet it blatantly repudiates common tarot canon.
The court cards, numbered XI through XIV in each suit, is distinguished from the pips by their borders. Traw has also done something unique with the ordering in the four courts. When a suit is feminine, such as the Cups and Disks (I say Disks here instead of Pentacles due to the stronger Thoth influences), the ordering of the courts are: XI – Princess, XII – Knight, XIII – King, XIV – Queen.
When a suit is masculine, as it is here with the suit of Swords, and also Wands, the ordering becomes XI – Knight, XII – Princess, XIII – Queen, and XIV – King. Knights, though, will be presented as both male and female. The center card above featuring the woman and the border of chains would thus be the Princess of Swords.
So how does the deck read? It reads like prophecy spoken in tongues. The best way I read with the Dracxiodos Tarot is to pull a single card in answer to a question. I start by noting the featured alchemical quality, whether that’s an element, zodiac sign, planet, or decan ruler and begin there. Color matters a lot to me, too. If you are into reading auras, the frame color of the card is its aura, so I read that.
I also wouldn’t recommend spreads larger than 9 cards. Heck, maybe make that 3. Set the cards out in a string and find recurring imagery or symbolism across the string of cards, then connect the dots. The recurring imagery that forms a pathway across the string of cards is the yellow brick road you walk on, from the first card you drew, to the second, onward to the last, and look above and below that path for insights.
Reading with the Dracxiodos can feel like a 100 MB download of a zip file. It’s going to take time to unpack. I worked with three-card readings only, and then propped the three cards up on an altar or on a bookshelf like a triptych. Let it sit there for a week or two, visiting the three-panel reading daily. Slowly, the many messages will sink in, start to feel more cohesive, and with patience, you’ll arrive at a rather profound understanding of your reading. In that way, these are meditation cards.
Don’t be afraid to repudiate all your learned knowledge of the tarot. Talk out loud to yourself in jabberwocky, inspired by the kaleidoscopic landscape of symbolism, and in the way you’d interpret postmodern art, seek out its concept. That concept that you find in the card or string of cards for a reading will reveal the answer.
The deck feels and reads with turbulence, which further reinforces in my mind that Greg Traw tapped into something Real and Raw about the times we live in right now. Even the two I Ching hexagrams pictured on the card back design: 4 and 13, The Fool and The Fellowship, both numerologically reducing to 4, the way 2020 does (2 + 0 + 2 + 0 = 4), feel eerily on point.
There’s a potency to the Dracxiodos Tarot that empowers it as a go-to deck for magickal workings. When you place one at the center of your altar, the dramatic change in the air is palpable.
Key I: The Magician card, with its all-seeing eye up top, placed on your altar will help to elevate your psychic development. Set up Key III: The Empress to induce fertility or prosperity, or Key VII: The Chariot to give acceleration to something you’ve already set into motion.
These works of tarot art reveal a mystic’s soul metastasized by a manic mind. It is the mind of a savant, and Traw has delivered a post-structuralist masterpiece. In his words, he started creating this deck with “little next to no knowledge or understanding of the tarot.” The stainless genius of what resulted gives those of us who are seasoned, decades-long readers pause. There’s something next-gen, futuristic, and rebellious about the way tarot is presented here… and I’m here for it!
With spectacular production value, the Dracxiodos Tarot gives you an eye-catching fixture to place on a coffee table for guests to peruse. The matte finish box, matte finish cards, the iridescent edging, and the electric works of art each card presents will make this deck a stimulating conversation piece.
FTC Disclosure: In accordance with Title 16 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Part 255, “Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” I received the Dracxiodos Tarot from the deck creator for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion of the deck.