A sultry, dark-haired, pale, wide-eyed immortal sits demurely in her Victorian parlor, as she and her cat both turn their heads back over their shoulders, casting two pairs of green eyes up toward the moon just peeking out from behind the clouds. Other cats and a wolf surround the two. The image suggests the question, will you stick to the tried and true or succumb to the lure of something new and exciting?
I had just texted a friend with a suggestion of trying a new place up the street instead of our usual haunt for some after work drinks. While waiting for her to return my text, I shuffled and drew the card featuring the image described above. It was titled “The Call of the Night” and offered the keywords, “Daring, Adventure, Excitement.” I was curious to see how my friend would respond. Interestingly, even though she’s usually the one with new ideas, when I heard back from her she seemed hesitant and thought it wouldn’t be her kind of place. I thought of how the call to adventure can be refused. The truth of the card hung in the balance–would we dare to try this new adventure? After a few more texts she agreed to give it a go and we ended up at a lovely wine bar sitting outside on their patio, the almost full moon shining high above us. Certainly this deck is accurate!
Les Vampires is a 44-card oracle deck by Lucy Cavendish, illustrated in the distinctive art of Jasmine Becket-Griffith. This duo previously teamed up on Oracle of Shadows and Light and Oracle of the Shapeshifters.
The guidebook of Les Vampires explains that these cards are for those who are being tested by difficult situations or energy-draining people, while on the back of the box is the promise, “You will not go through these dark times alone.” The eponymous creatures are described as “powerful, elegant and outcast.” As vampires, they are immortal, must control their overwhelming hunger, and cannot venture into the light of the sun. They are alluring, feared and misunderstood.
In support of the theme, the deck shows many sad, lonely, hurt faces. The Becket-Griffith draws anime-inspired females, not yet grown into women, but more than girls. Enormous, dark-lined eyes over tiny button noses and pursed Cupid ’s bow mouths distort the shape of the face, producing a large head that comes to a point at a softly rounded, gentle chin. A friend of mine who has a teenage daughter (and so knows things like this) said they reminded her of Bratz Dolls or Begoth Dolls. She also mentioned that she and her daughter love this deck.
Despite the deck’s claim to be alluring and seductive, the pubescent vampires are mostly too young to be voluptuous–they are the seduced, not the seducers. The only suggested nudity is an interesting card titled “Jealousy” (card number 26) with the keywords “Envy, Punishment, Changing course,” in which an almost nude girl at first appears to be sitting awkwardly near a pile of skulls, but then we see that her legs are fused and the coils of a snake are beneath her. The victim of this destructive emotion has been transformed into a snake from the waist down—although as a side effect of the curse, her budding breasts are covered in green and gold scales. The guidebook explains the card as representing the tale of Lamia, who Zeus lusted after resulting in the envious Hera changing her into half woman, half serpent.
Many of the cards include mythological symbolism. One of my favorites is the image of a beautiful, flaxen-haired girl with blushing cheeks and red rimmed eyes. Fantasy bluebirds with red faces and blue breasts sit on her shoulder and arms. Her golden silk gown shimmers in the rosy yellow light while behind her crumble the ruins of gothic arched walls. She wears a crown of small white flowers and pomegranate seeds. The pomegranate seeds bring to mind the story of Persephone, who was abducted by Hades and carried to his dark dominion. Before she could be rescued, she ate three pomegranate seeds, which resulted in her having to spend part of every year as the Queen of the Underworld, while her mother Demeter, the goddess of the grain, mourned for her, causing winter to fall on the land. The title of this card, “Her Last Day in the Light,” (card 10) indicates that this is one who will soon be seduced by Les Vampires. Of course, even Persephone was granted the right to spend a portion of her time in the light; Les Vampires are forever relegated to the dark.
Another card that shows a pomegranate is “That Death Will Come” (30). This brown-skinned girl has glistening eyes and dark, straight hair cut into jagged bangs (the only woman of color in the deck) and holds out to the viewer a white pomegranate, its skin etched with secret glyphs. A chunk (its shape brings to mind the cardiac muscle) is excised from the rind, revealing the inner red seeds, almost corpuscle-like in this unexpected juxtaposition of giving and taking, revealing and concealing, power and vulnerability, love and sex, innocence and experience.
Noting that “The Last Day in the Light” was numbered 10 in this deck, I checked the sequence to see if there was a throughline to the story of the these cards. There does seem to be a modest order, with the beginning cards suggesting more generalized themes of the Vampire world, such as “Eternal Youth,” “Enlightenment,” and “Knowledge,” intermediate cards outline the steps of the descent, including “Seduction,” “Death Rites,” and “Call for Help,” while the last cards bring the story to a close with “Nobility,” “Hope,” and “Resurrection.”
In addition to the mythological themes are certain religious themes. In “Compassion” (14) the Vampire woman in a scarlet and blue seventeenth-century gown holds up a blue draped stone statue of a dead or dying male, clearing invoking the imagery of The Pietà. “Redemption” (20) shows our Vampire girl with both hands clasping her heart, while her sad eyes roll upwards to the left, a typical pose of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Cards 36 and 37, “Faith” and “Religion,” directly address Christianity. “Faith” holds the sacred heart, the red heart surmounted by a cross and surrounded by flame, usually shown on the chest of the BVM or of Jesus Christ. In this instance, rather than the usual thorns or roses that encircle it, an ornate filigree keyhole is centered on the heart. The keywords for “Faith” are Trust, Unwavering, Confidence. In “Religion” the girl holds an orb topped by a cross, the keyhole pattern seen again on the orb. This symbol is known as the Sovereign’s Orb or the globus cruciger. The orb represents the world, and the surmounting cross represents the dominion of Christ in the world. The keywords for “Religion” are Canon, Rules, Commandments.
The forlorn girls (no men or boys inhabit this world, although the card titled “Prey” (31) comes the closest to being androgynous) are depicted in a variety of environments, sometimes surrounded by pets, familiars, or wild beasts, often by skulls or skeletons. Animal companions are frequently cats and wolves, but also include butterflies, fish, birds, a demonic horse, dragons, and a white rat. The environments include interiors and exteriors, as well as stylized symbolic backgrounds. In several instances the card is a tight close-up on just the face of the lost soul, with no other background indicated, or just a frame of flowers or foliage. Many scenes are timeless, some seem to indicate specific time periods most notably to me being Louis XIV and Victorian, and one modern card, “Anti-Hero” (18), shows a bat-winged, empty-eyed, tattooed vixen in a black leather bustier in front of a concrete wall emblazoned with colorful graffiti.
Some cards depict an ethereal fantasy background, one of the most intriguing being “Free Will” (23) with a Tim Burton-esque black and white game board pattern wrung across jutting hills while twisted, stunted trees stretch grasping towards a misty sky.
In the card titled “Supernatural” (39) large bulging eye koi with Monarch butterfly inspired fins fly or swim around a pouting porcelain-skinned princess with Marie Antoinette hair cascading out of its updo. Thickly leafed branches loom or are reflected above. The scene is surreal and magical and the guidebook advises that beyond the usual senses, we all have intuitive powers that arise from the Divine.
Although the fantasy elements appeal to me, these are nevertheless cards of the mythical undead and many of the images show the requisite fangs protruding from petulant, blood-smeared mouths. The bloodiest card is “Seduction” (8), which also is the artwork used for the box cover. The image shows an ornate Louis XIV bed with blood on the sheets and two bloody handprints on the wall in the background, while in the foreground, the fanged vamp holds or possibly passes to another a chalice of blood. But the creepiest thing to me about this deck is the couple instances where animal skulls reveal within the eyehole normal sized and shaped human eyes in flesh-colored faces, imprisoned in bone.
The guidebook offers 2-3 page write-ups on each card, starting with a section “Les Vampires Speak” which is written in the voice of the Vampires generally (not necessarily the particular one on the card), talking directly to the reader with stories, advice or explanations. After this section, two short paragraphs explain the blessing of the card and the curse of the card, either of which could apply in any situation, or the curse section could be reserved for reversals if you prefer. A final paragraph entitled “Working with this Card” gives guidance on how to implement the advice of the card. An introductory section at the beginning of the guidebook explains about Les Vampires–both the deck and the characters. This section also provides information on how to work with the lost souls in the cards to do a reading and offers three spreads of varying complexity.
The cards are large (5.5″ x 3.75″) and thick with a glossy finish. The card backs are non-reversible (typical for oracle decks) and show a sepia-toned cameo of card 17, “The Past a Prison,” in which a grayish girl looks tearfully heavenward. Behind her we see a cobweb-covered wedding cake in an ornately framed nook while insects crawl freely around the scene.
This deck is as thoroughly angst-ridden as you would expect a teenage gothic vampire deck to be. The good news is that it provides a context and sacred place to secretly consult with guides that truly understand the pain and anguish of life. We each have our dark secrets, the horrible things we’ve done, the pain we’ve inflicted and endured. By spending some moonlit time consulting and conspiring with Les Vampires, perhaps we can confront our own shadows and expunge our pain so that we can remain in the light.
Joy Vernon has been teaching energetic and esoteric modalities for over twenty years. She is one of the Psychics of Isis in Denver, Colorado. She teaches Tarot, Astrology, Qabalah and Traditional Japanese Reiki. She is a Certified Professional Tarot Reader and a member of the American Tarot Association. Her specialty is Empyrean Key Transformational Guidance, which helps her clients break through blocks and align with their higher purpose. For information on upcoming classes or to schedule an appointment, please visit JoyVernon.com.
© 2014 by Joy Vernon. All rights reserved.
Joy Vernon is widely recognized by tarot professionals as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup has grown into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher at Isis Books. To learn more, please visit JoyVernon.com.