I don’t have a Tarot card “collection.” I have a Tarot card “hoard.” When I first began reading the Tarot around 1983 or so, I never imagined that the crosshatched backed Rider Waite deck I used was a gateway drug. Since then, literally hundreds of decks have passed through my hands either to stay with me or rehome to someone else. At our metaphysical shop, Crossroads Metaphysical Store, the Tarot collection is my pride and joy. We stock close to a hundred different Tarot and Oracle card decks.
Despite having so many decks of my own, I am picky about the ones I choose. I have some that do not speak to me, but are especially lovely, so I keep them. If I am totally honest, I use maybe ten to fifteen of the many decks I own. That is why I specify that it is a hoard. I have them because I love them, not because they are all utilitarian to me in some way. In that way, I guess they could compare to pets or children.
What Tarot Decks Are We Reviewing?
This week, we will explore three different decks sent to me for review by Llewellyn. They are each impressive in their own way. We are looking at the Dark Wood Tarot by Sasha Graham with art by Abigail Larson. We also have the Scorpio Sea Tarot by Melissa Cynova with art by Maggie Stiefvater. Lastly is the Edgar Allan Poe Tarot by Rose White with art by Eugene Smith. All three of these decks are available through Llewellyn Worldwide.
The Dark Wood Tarot
Neither the art nor the text of this Tarot kit falters in any way. The book is substantial at 304 pages, much larger than the usual book that accompanies a deluxe Tarot kit. The artwork loosely follow the classic Pamela Coleman Smith themes and there are seventy-eight cards in the deck.
The book has large, full-page and full-color images of the cards and a detailed exploration of the meanings of each one. Most impressive is the concept of reversals as “shadow” sides of the upright cards. Rather than take the classic approach of the reversed card as the opposite of the upright meaning, Graham instead considers the darker, more challenging meanings of the energy of the card.
The artwork itself uses neutral colors with jewel-tone accents and has a manga-esque feel to it. It reminds the reader of the artwork in the animated feature film, “The Last Unicorn” or perhaps the Ralph Bakshi films such as “Wizards” and “Lord of the Rings.”
This is a fully functional deck that would delight anyone who in into this style of artwork and would compliment a course of learning that depends on the Pamela Coleman Smith artwork for Tarot instruction.
The Scorpio Sea Tarot
A handful of my apprentices and associates looked through this deck and were not into it. For me, however, I found it was evocative and a new approach to an old set of concepts. Unlike with Dark Wood deck, artist Maggie Stiefvater does not take the traditional walk through the Pamela Coleman Smith imagery, but does preserve the seventy-eight classic card titles and numbering sequence. Using a beautiful array of animals and people, including (gasp!) people of color, this deck draws your eye and provides a different reflection of the traditional card meanings.
One would still likely want to read the book and familiarize with the energetic goals that author Melissa Cynova assigned to each card. The 192 page book is gentle in this respect, easy to read and follow with full page, full color images for each card. Like the images, the interpretations for each card is unique and non-traditional. Although it lends to the overall flavor of the classic interpretations, the overall pitch is unique and largely unrelated to traditional meanings.
The text surrounding the interpretations has a storytelling feel to it that is engaging and helps to create a strong mental image to tie the meaning to each card. Embarking on a study of this deck is not your typical, “Pick up a deck and read because you know classic meanings.” It draws from intuitive flashes as well as new and interesting takes on each card.
The Edgar Allan Poe Tarot
Straight out the gate, I am not a Poe person. I am also not an opera person, but when I listen to opera, even though it is not my jam, I can appreciate the supreme talent that goes into a production. It is the same with these cards. I don’t dislike “Annabel Lee” but neither do I seek it out. “The Raven” is timeless and spooky, but not my thing. That being said, this deck honors the work and atmosphere of Poe perfectly with skulls, decapitations, plenty of ravens, and lots of dark, gothic, Poe-perfect imagery.
Like the previous two decks, the book is hefty at 288 pages with full page, full color imagery and detailed interpretation explanation. The interpretations do follow classic meanings of the cards and preserve the seventy-eight traditional card and suit titles. Author Rose White and artist by Eugene Smith do a fine job of capturing the essence of Poe and marrying his work, including some of his lesser known pieces, into the traditional Tarot arrangement.
This deck is a must have for Edgar Allan Poe enthusiasts.