Tarot by the Neon Light
Designed, Illustrated, and Written by Nick Ribera
The idea for this deck began with a photo I took of a neon sign in Dallas, Texas. It wasn’t a complex sign, but its artificial steady glow summoned feelings of nostalgia, mystery, and freedom. Neon is a staple of the American landscape.
Each of my projects begins with an overall emotional theme or energy. The feelings I got from that photo, from that sign, were what drove me to create this deck.
For the design, I wanted to ensure the focus of each card remained unobstructed. This is why the cards have no border and fade into darkness. I also decided to forgo a typical labeling system and used an icon for the suit and a number for the card. I find that this simplicity makes the impact of each illustration glow like the signs they represent.
"Tarot by the Neon Light is a brilliant take on the RWS. It is engaging and fun to read with. The colors and artwork implore you to dig deep with your readings, and you will easily connect with the cards."
It is no accident that the Fool is the first card in the set. It describes a child-like wonder and a blank slate from which the world can be experienced. Often associated with ignorance or inexperience, above all else, it is joy without the fear of failure or Judgement.
The Magician is a masculine force of mastery through study, not through experience. The Magician believes they control all of the elements around them and goes into each challenge without the fear of failure. The Magician rarely proceeds with caution and may be caught off guard as a result.
This powerful woman resides between Jachin and Boaz, symbols of the Temple of Solomon. Like the Magician, she does not gain power from experience but instead, it comes from intuition and an understanding of oneself. She is not burdened by what society demands of her, she has an internal compass to which she holds herself accountable.
The Empress doesn’t require approval from anyone. She is a powerful feminine force that demands love, sexual gratification, and respect. In return, she offers care, pleasure, and soothing maternal energy. Gaining her attention is difficult, but once you have her captivated she will never let you leave.
The Emperor is the epitome of the male ego and decisiveness. His masculine energy loves to dictate the rules and expects society to bend to his will. He is fraternity and he is tradition. He provides stability and structure through slow, methodical logic.
The Hierophant is the manifestation of religious structures. It is a commanding presence that dictates piety and rules to those below it. It takes away freedom and replaces it with calm. It is often described as a male counterpart to the High Priestess.
This is the alignment of goals and a positive feedback loop that results from a powerful driving force between two beings. By combining their will, they become more robust than the sum of their parts. They are a sensual distraction from the divine and its decrees.
The Chariot represents an unbalanced alternative to the Lovers. The Chariot always has one driver whose desires are commanding the will of others. This is also a symbol of power, determination, and an ability to change your surroundings, even if the beast you control is as powerful as the sphinx.
While the Chariot shows momentum, Strength focuses on an immovable force. Your power, like the lion, is rooted in your ability to protect your home and those you hold dear. Strength is internal and unyielding, and may not be noticed until someone tries to push you too far.
The lamp of the Hermit represents study and retreat into oneself. The Hermit is often in a temporary state that leads to a discovery of Strength. The Hermit is not stationary- they are on a path to find something and will move at a slow and steady pace until they arrive.
This is the manifestation of the chaos of the universe in which we operate. Our power can only extend so far beyond our reach. Upright, it’s a symbol of good luck, and inverted it portends the coming of bad. The Hebrew characters in the wheel describe god and law. It constantly moving between both natural and divine power power but will always be outside of our control.
While Justice may be at balance, gravity may take it at any moment. It’s a delicate ballet that can be a precursor to impending Judgement. It’s a dance between internal wisdom and external evidence. It is karma, it is consequence.
The Hanged Man represents a pause in momentum. It is an elevated view of your surroundings from a new perspective. It is the slow drip of learning, patience, and thought. The hanged man is sacrifice and indecision as time proceeds without him.
Death is a transition from one state to another. It is the end of the familiar and the emergence of the unfamiliar. The pale horse, ridden by Death, has no stake in the game. He travels at the command of his master and is unaware of the damage he brings with him.
Above all things, Temperance is a balance between the dual forces within you. The six-pointed star represents the meeting point of the feminine and the masculine while the wings describe an angel soaring above mankind. Finally, the waves are water and life, unobstructed and flowing freely.
The Devil describes an imbalance between the physical and the spiritual. It is a focus on pleasure above all else (represented by the snakes and a star with 5 points rather than six). It is bondage and a slave to the pleasures of the flesh. It may not necessarily be a bad place, but it is a representation of this imbalance.
The Tower is a sudden, dramatic, and explosive change. The scales of balance have tipped and your normalcy is or will soon be changed. The source of its destruction is a shaky foundation moreso than the external forces that impart their will upon it. It portends upheaval and a stark transformation in the reader.
The Star is a moment of reflection after the violence of the Tower. It is a time for retrospection and preparation for the warmth of the sun. The Star on the top of the card is a guiding light that illuminates the darkness while the two vessels represent memories of comfort, nurturing breasts, and cleansing oneself.
The Moon describes a dive into the subconscious- a journey brought on by the wrath of the Tower. Like a beast transitioning into a higher form of life, the lowly crawfish crawls out of the water to seek a better understanding of its place in the world.
The Sun is pure joy, a shameless celebration filled with play and innocence. It’s a revelry of survival and victory, denoted by the red flag, based on past experiences (unlike the Fool).
This is a call to pursue more than life has to offer- to leave things better than we found them and await a promise in the afterlife, guided by the spiritual. It is a constant reminder of Death and a call to focus on what’s yet to come.
The World represents the whole of existence. It begins with the optimism of the Fool and ends with the totality and knowledge gained throughout life’s stages and the lessons they bring. It is a return to the womb of the earth and an appreciation for the next cycle to come.
Suit of Cups
The Ace of Cups could obliquely refer to divine inspiration, but it is also a reflection of one who is brimming with ideas- seemingly out of nowhere. You are a container storing and translating these unsolicited wonders. Make sure you get all of your ideas down before they are lost to you.
The Two of Cups describes a healthy working relationship. You and another often share ideas and feed off of each other’s creative energy. Like the Lovers card, you become a more valuable entity when entwined. Outside of a professional context, it represents the sexual excitement of courtship that may progress to a deeper more profound love.
This card celebrates community building and the idea that high tides raise all boats. It reveals your collaborative spirit and asks you to celebrate all that you have completed as part of a larger team. Embrace the ensemble and find your place as a supporter of the whole.
The outstretched arms are offering opportunities that you don’t want to miss. Traditionally, this serves as a warning that you are blind to the possibilities before you. There may be apathy or refusal to advance. It may also be interpreted as a helping hand or a symbol of mentorship, guiding you toward your goals.
In a more pessimistic response to the Four of Cups, the figure in this card outright ignores the opportunities afforded to them. They are lost in their past and only dwell on their failures. They refuse to be helped and are happy enough being sad.
A desire to return to the structure and dependency of childhood can be read in this card. Whether you are the one receiving a gift or giving one, it comes from a fraternal relationship of guidance, trust, and understanding.
The Seven of Cups often describes a failure to act because of paralysis of analysis. The options around you are varied and no clear path can be found. Recognize your inability to act, catch your breath, choose a path, and simply walk forward. No one else will know the paths you didn’t choose, they will only see the path that you’re on.
The Eight of Cups often describes feelings of escapism, withdrawal, and an abandonment of your responsibilities. Think of who counts on you, what you’re neglecting, and what you can do to carry someone with you. It can be a suggestion to take a break, but more often than not it serves as a warning that you’ve lost sight of your goal.
The end is near, so take time to celebrate what you have accomplished. The font of creativity is almost dried, and you’ve managed to capture the waters and drink of their purity. Recognize that you have not squandered your opportunity.
A celebration of the most complete of loves- you are spiritually, sexually, and emotionally aligned with your community. You have equally satisfied the desires of both yourself and others. Your work will be recognized by your colleagues so make sure to recognize it yourself. Take time to enjoy the view from the other side.
The fish of creativity is flowing through your mind, tickling the reeds in your brain like firing neurons. Let the fish swim in your imagination before catching it and reeling it in. The ideas will come to you in an ocean of curiosity and research. Take the time to daydream.
The Knight of Cups is patient and awaits orders. They survey their environment before making any decisions. The Knight may be unable to act because they have retreated too much into their imagination, symbolized by the wings on their helmet. Outside of battle, this Knight is a celebration of chivalry, heraldry, and romance.
The Queen has mastered her emotions. She does not hide them or ignore what she feels. Instead, she takes time to understand all that comes to her and gives each thought its proper time to mature. Her cup of intuition is unlike anyone else’s. It is filled with all of her thoughts and desires, and above all else, she is cemented with an emotional maturity that is the envy of those around her.
The King leads through the example of his own austere, calming, and flowing presence. His decisiveness is not aggressive but is sourced from a holistic understanding of all of the elements around him. His commands are always respected and rarely questioned.
Suit of Pentacles
A marvelous opportunity is out there, waiting for someone to grab it. It has been revealed to you in a raw state and will require shaping before it is ready to bear fruit. Recognize your chance and take it before someone else does.
The Two of Pentacles displays a ship moving forward while an infinite amount of tasks befall its crew. The work is never-ending, a continuing cycle of chores and sweat. There is no time to relax, analyze, and prioritize while it’s all up in the air. Yet the ship keeps moving forward. It can be a warning of mismanagement or a reminder to trust the process.
The Three of Pentacles explores charity and sharing your wealth with others. It’s a communal goal of assistance and education, not just gift-giving. It depicts a structure under which multiple people can work to their fullest and attain their dreams in tandem.
In opposition to the Three of Pentacles, the Four deals with savings, securities, control, and possibly greed and avarice. It’s a warning against a sole fixation on wealth when there are so many other suits and cards out there from which to take advice.
The Five of Pentacles describes a setback; physical or financial. It suggests a means to proceed, albeit differently from the method of advancement to which you had become accustomed. Don’t dwell on your past failures, find this new route forward and begin with one step.
On the face of it, the Six of Pentacles describe charity. But how the coins are dropped to those in need shows that there is often a more nefarious undertone. It portends a deeply antagonistic relationship full of mistrust and disdain. It asks you to be charitable through a push rather than a pull.
Finally, the time has come. It is now time to harvest the rewards of your labor. Although the results may be small, they are but a glimpse of the full harvest coming your way. Enjoy the fruit, the shade, and the beauty of what you have wrought. This is the first of many cycles of work, patience, and growth.
The craftsman is represented by the Eight of Pentacles. It depicts skilled labor that is the result of study and practice. It asks you to focus on the work at hand and not think about where you’ve been or where you’re heading. It is similar to the Two of Pentacles but is more of a solo representation rather than a team effort.
The full harvest is complete. All of your seedlings have borne fruit and your labor’s value is now made manifest. Celebrate what you have accomplished and enjoy it while it’s fresh. More work will soon be coming your way.
Two dogs rest in total contentment and retirement. They have security knowing that they will not want for their next meal. They can enjoy a life of leisure. Take a note from these happy pups and think of how you will use the rewards of your labor to build a sustainable future.
The Page is an intern in life, learning and practicing the skills they will need when they go out on their own. As the Page of Pentacles, you are perpetually a student and everything you learn will be useful at some point in your future. The more you study now, the less time you’ll need to spend digging through the dirt.
The Knight enjoys physical labor and may be unskilled. He knows the value of a hard job and enjoys the routine of continued effort. He is conservative with money and does not quit his routine. He believes that hard work will always lead to a reward. He is a stalwart that doesn’t seek advancement and is happy with where he is in life.
The Queen is a teacher and a mentor. She leads by coaching. She has a deep understanding, through years of experience, of how to best work as a team and achieve communal goals. She doesn’t want anyone to fall behind and will often stop what she’s doing to help others understand the task at hand.
The King is a commander, a CEO, and leads through example. His history is what demands respect and he doesn’t have time to spend on personal growth. He is driven by the growth of the overall organization, even if it means a loss to the individual.
Suit of Swords
The Ace represents the upward thrust of new ideas, inspiration, and success. It is shocking, it is unexpected. It’s exciting to you but may be violent and garish to others who aren’t as lucky.
She is blindfolded, like Justice, and she is patient. She is waiting to strike but first takes time to decide what her action will be once she is ready. She is retreating internally to make her decisions, and will not be influenced by external factors.
The heart is broken, and love is lost. The damage of the Swords is felt deeply and healing will take time. The end of a relationship in which you were wholly invested. Mind, body, and spirit have been violently shaken.
This resting place, although a sepulcher of death, is a moment to relax away from the pain of being alive. They have withdrawn from conflict and are at peace. It may be final or it may just be a period of reflection, but either way, it is time to relax.
The battle is over and it is lost. The boxer has hung up his gloves and has sought a more peaceful existence, keeping the lessons from his past life with him and drawing on those experiences for any new endeavors. The Five of Swords is rarely a celebration of success.
In the Six of swords, the journey should be your focus, not the destination. You will learn a lot about yourself as you visit the spiritual plane, and your guide will teach you as well. Heed their advice, as you’ve only been here once but this is a route they’ve come to know well.
The Seven of Swords decrees escape. The figure is seeking freedom, but their worry about what they’ve left behind will never let them truly enjoy liberty. They will always be glancing over their shoulder, worried about someone following in pursuit.
The Eight of Swords is a binding of the mind. The receiver feels trapped, unable to escape, but while the keys may be missing, the lock is not yet set. There is a way out if you consider the whole and not just focus on the details.
This figure is nude and vulnerable. They are ashamed of their past and experience deep waves of regret. Sleep is unfulfilling and their mind races toward past deeds. You are a prisoner in your mind. You have judged yourself guilty. Is there something for which you must atone?
Like a death of a thousand cuts, the punishment is more than is needed to get the point across. You have suffered immense damage, but there is still a path toward healing. Accept that you didn’t deserve what has happened to you. Remember that you are still not dead, so there’s more of your story yet to be written.
The Page holds their sword at the ready and surveys the battlefield, waiting for the opportune time to strike. The page does not run into battle recklessly, instead, they let their presence and their shiny glorious weapon show power through intimidation rather than action. If this card is depicting you, make sure you have a backup plan should someone decide to call your bluff.
This Knight is a stronger depiction of action than any card. It is an unstoppable force, swinging wildly at those around him. He is lost in his power, a passenger on the ride that his subconscious has commanded. The Knight may cause irreparable damage or leave behind immense beauty. No one can take account of what has truly occurred until the Knight finally comes to rest.
The Queen sits atop a throne of butterflies- a depiction of transformation. She has seen war and been damaged by its horrors. She wields her sword as a deterrence. She delivers Judgement and advice from a place of experience and a fear of reopening old wounds.
Depicted by a stone tablet and a sword, the King is the arbiter of truth and law above all else. He wields his sword as a threat to agents of chaos. His kingdom may lean towards fascism, but it’s because he truly believes his way is best, and he will defend the rule of law with extreme prejudice.
Suit of Wands
The Ace of Wands decries a feeling of powerfulness from a font of creativity. It’s the manic energy that whispers “failure is impossible.” It is also curiosity followed by repeated experimentation.
Practice, success, and finality have now given you a palpable variety of opportunities. You have the world in your hands and can go anywhere. Don’t let the energy be wasted; ride it in any new direction, and don’t look back. There will be plenty of time to reflect when you retire.
The spyglass in the Three of Wands describes research, planning, and a deep understanding of the struggles ahead. You will not go into this mission blindly, for you have plotted out every outcome and success is all but assured.
The Four of Wands depicts homecoming, comfort, and a time to relax and revel in your success. Take some time to refill your cups with community, joy, love, and revelry. There will be more work soon, so get your fun in now while there’s time to enjoy it.
The two figures are facing off and arguing. Their stature is defensive and offensive simultaneously. This may be a crossroads in your project, and no solution has revealed itself to be better than the other. At this point, both options are great ways to proceed, so re-evaluate the shared goals of your team, and don’t get stymied by the individual conflicts that arise along the way.
Your peers celebrate your accomp-lishments on your behalf in the Six of Wands. You don’t need to reflect on your own work, because they are already celebrating what you’ve done. They see the work that you have accomplished and are inspired by your example. Although you may not see it, you are on your path to royalty. You can’t yet see your success through the fog of war.
This figure is standing up in the face of opposition. He is not huddled, cowering, or shying away from the arrows that seek him out. He bats them away with aplomb and conviction. He trusts in his shield and his power to keep him progressing toward his goal. He refuses to be stopped.
The Eight of Wands is a dramatic burst of speed and movement, hurling towards its final goal. The wings denote speed and swiftness. Your progress cannot be stopped and your destination is within reach. You have broken past the defenses of the Seven of Wands and are now unopposed.
Your progress is slowed but not stopped. Take caution because success is nearly here and you must step carefully as you achieve your final victory. Proceed with purpose towards the finish line. Catch your breath and make calculated choices.
Every time you say “Yes” to something, you must say “No” to multiple others. So learn the value of saying “No” the first time. This figure has taken on too many responsibilities. This is rooted in a desire to please everyone. They are struggling. Try saying “No.”
The Page is bright and fiery, like the salamander. Her energy comes from youthful curiosity and a desire to learn all about the world around her. She is not afraid to try new things, because they are all new to her. She learns through trial and error and enjoys the process of failure.
The Knight is fueled by desire and the excitement of the pursuit. Whether it’s knowledge, hunting, or sexual pursuit, it is ultimately the chase that drives the Knight. They are impulsive and fueled by their mission.
The Queen has the courage of a lioness and is often described as a social butterfly. She loves to host and is a den mother to her community. She inspires others and provides for a free exchange of ideas while ushering in new talent wherever she goes. She is seen as an independent woman but really feeds off the energy of all of those around her. She prefers not to be alone.
The King is an entrepreneur and a problem solver. He forges his own path and does not fear taking risks. He typically only relies on himself and is not the best team player. This often leads to impatience when forced to work with others.