The Tarot of Loka is designed for game playing, not divination, and that intent is made clear in the companion LWB (little white booklet). However, I hope no one will mind too much if I focus my deck review on using the Tarot of Loka for divinatory purposes, since that is my area of interest.
Inspiration for the deck comes from the fantasy world of Loka, which you can see in another game, Loka: The World of Fantasy Chess. Warriors in four armies, the armies that correspond with the four suits, Fire, Earth, Water, and Air, are at battle, though two suit armies are in alliance versus the other two suit armies. In some ways, the tarot game for Loka as instructed in the LWB reflects that premise.
The original intent for the Tarot of Loka is a family-oriented card game, for four players. The LWB provides the rules for the game. I’ve found a number of reviews online for Tarot of Loka as a card game, so if that’s what you’re looking for, I’m afraid you have come to the wrong place and I apologize for the inconvenience. Some great reviews of the deck as a game can be found here and here, among others. My review, however, is going to look at the viability of the deck as a divination tool.
I won’t be using this deck for game playing for a silly superstition-sourced reason: I never use a deck, any card deck, for both game playing and divination. It’s one or the other. I can’t remember who “taught” me that, but that was one of the first and earliest “rules” I learned about cartomancy. Is it a silly “rule”? Yes, of course it is. However, call me a closed-minded fool, but I can’t pull myself out of that habit. So, because I do want to be able to use this deck for divinatory purposes, I won’t be playing games with it. So again, my review is focusing on the Tarot of Loka as a divinatory tool, which is not the deck’s intended purpose.
The Tarot of Loka is designed by Alessio Cavatore, an Italian game designer, and illustrated by Ralph Horsley, who does some really incredible medieval style art. The Tarot of Loka began as a Kickstarter campaign and was first published by River Horse Press, though later came to be distributed through Llewellyn.
The card dimensions are a typical Lo Scarabeo size, about 2.5″ x 4.6″, and as you can see in the above photo, symmetrical along the vertical side, which eliminates reading reversals or having to look at a card “upside down” when it comes up in a reading. They’re bordered dark brown, which looks great on these cards.
The card backs are not reversible, but it’s a very subtle difference, so not really significant. There are beautiful, ornate medieval-inspired designs with a center medallion that shows the symbols for the four suits of the Minor Arcana connected with the central symbol for the Major Arcana, or trumps. I love the card backs. These backs are exquisitely designed.
I love these card illustrations and the remarkable detailing. In the above photo, you see the Cavalier of Air and the Queen of Air, aka Knight of Swords and Queen of Swords (my signifier) respectively.
You’ll see near the end of the LWB there is a note about using the Tarot of Loka for tarot reading (or divination). It mentions a “little icon at one end of the cards” to define the bottom of the cards in the event you want to do a tarot reading observing reversals, but I could not for the life of me figure out what that “little icon” was! See below.
If you catch something I couldn’t, please by all means let me know! I have bad eyesight anyway. But I couldn’t figure out which way was upright and which was reversed from looking at the card images. You can tell by the symbols on the card backs, as shown earlier, but other than that, I’m stumped.
The trumps follow the Tarot de Marseille, though The Fool is numbered Key 0 (rather than remaining unnumbered). Key 8 is Justice like it is in both the Marseille and Thoth traditions (but unlike the RWS) while Key 11 is Strength.
The artwork is absolutely thrilling to look at and I love the double-sided illustrations. For me, it eliminates reading with reversals. I’ll read the cards by their fundamental essences and not see an ill-dignified energy modification in the event of a reversal.
The Moon card is one of my favorites. Overall, the imagery on the trumps are going to be familiar territory for any tarot reader.
I admit I tend to read more analytically or “textbook” with this deck. Ordinarily I do go off script, as they say, and may let specific symbols or a specific image in a card pull my imagination in a new direction and from those visions, read the cards intuitively. Here, however, with the Tarot of Loka, I find myself not quite as focused on specific symbolism, but more on the overall essence of each card as I’ve learned it.
Now, one lovely feature of the Tarot of Loka is that it’s not a 78-card deck, but an 80-card deck, and the 2 additional cards are Good and Evil. Both cards show the four symbols representing the four elements. In the Good card, Earth and Air, which normally weaken each other, are linked together with a leminiscate, or infinity symbol. For Evil, Fire and Water are linked with the lemniscate. Fire and Water, too, are attenuating energies that weaken one another. Interesting.
When using the deck for divination, I interpret the Good card as creative energy and the Evil card as destructive energy. Thus, if Good appears in a reading, we’re talking about initiation, innovation, creation, progress, movement forward. If Evil appears, we’re talking about breaking down, deconstructing, severing, reducing, or retreat. Evil will remind us to take pause and reflect on what’s going on, rather than full charge forward, which would be the message from Good.
The suits are: Fire, Earth, Water, and Air, and the deck comes packaged with the four suits in that order. Above is a photo of the pips from the Fire suit. The design of the Aces in this deck are stunning. The symbolism for the four suits is also easy to understand and quick to learn. Those little red medallions do look like the icon for Fire. And it’s red, which I associate with Fire.
You will see in the courts that the card titles are Jack, Cavalier, Queen, and King (corresponding with Page, Knight, Queen, and King respectively). As I mention in Holistic Tarot, I read these court cards either figuratively or literally, and will make the judgment call on how exactly to read it on a case by case basis, taking into consideration the context of the reading, e.g., the surrounding cards in the spread.
The suit of Earth is designated with the color green and has medallions that look like flora. By the way that is the coolest “Queen of Pentacles” (okay, Queen of Earth) I’ve seen in a while.
In tarot decks designed with divinatory intentions, the courts will typically be identifiable by what the figures are holding, i.e., in the suit of Wands (or Fire), the court figures are wielding batons, and in the suit of Cups (or Water), the figures are holding chalices, etc. Here, court figures are not readily identifiable by the illustrations. You’ll see in the above photograph, the Jack of Earth is wielding a sword, as is the Cavalier of Earth. The King of Earth is holding a baton, reminding the typical tarot reader of Wands.
So the primary way of telling the courts apart is by color. Red for Fire; Green for Earth; Blue for Water; and Gold for Air.
The suit of Water confused me initially. When I first saw this suit, I thought it was Air for some reason. Maybe the blue reminds me of the throat chakra, which is communication, which always reminds me of Air/Swords. Oops. My mistake. Blue is for Water, and in thinking about it, it makes sense. The medallion icon sort of resembles water waves.
Here in the pips, I like the positioning in the 5s, as the formation does remind me of the shifting energy and uncertainties that 5 evokes. The 6s show harmony and balance, the yin and yang balance for the trinity of mind, body, and spirit. The 7s are top-heavy, which calls to my mind being head-heavy, or focusing on intellect and knowledge. There is an assuring balance to the 8s, as with the 9s, showing the equilibrium struck for art, healing, and beauty.
The suit of Air is represented by golden medallions with swirls that evoke wind. Again, I was confused at first and immediately thought coins or pentacles when I saw this suit, but now I get it. This color and these icons totally vibe with me as Air.
Plus, the Cavalier of Air is an eagle. And you get the sword imagery in the Queen of Swords.
So how does the deck read for divination purposes?
Here is a projection for the week. The Eight of Fire expresses unfinished business that is going to spill over into this week. The Eight of Water shows new projects, new work incoming. Interesting how there’s that symmetry of 8s across the horizontal axis of this spread, and what’s more, is the face-off between Fire and Water. Fire vs. Water creates tensions whether you’re talking about Western metaphysical attributions or Eastern. Great. Eight of Fire brings communications, perhaps in the work context, and the Eight of Water shows the need for respite.
The double 8s convey a very business-oriented week, one focused on the material plane. In classical Western esoteric texts, the number 8 corresponds with Water, though for me, I’ve always associated 8 with Earth, the material plane.
Then at the foundation of it all is Key 17: The Star, which numerologically sums up to 8. She’s a reminder of spiritual guidance and with its association to Aquarius, reminds me of the balance between humanitarian endeavors and intellectual. The Star card is a great omen for writers and academics. Here, she appears to keep my next writing project on track, in spite of the corporate chaos flying back and forth across the week.
The King of Air is no surprise. In my personal readings, it’s often an omen of court appearances, opposing counsel, having to contend with other lawyers in adversarial situations. Needless to say, all too applicable given my schedule this week.
The Tarot of Loka is a great collector’s deck and there really wasn’t any doubt in me that I wanted this deck for my personal collection, especially to round out my ever growing Marseille-based decks. (I would consider this deck to be one in the Marseille reading tradition.) Also, this would be a great deck to use for the Opening of the Key divinatory technique. If I do decide to assign this deck as a strictly OOTK deck, I may hand-write the astrological glyphs onto the cards.
I also love the Good and Evil card additions. My knowledge of history here is inadequate: does anyone know whether there is a historical incorporation of these cards in the game or is this a new addition conceived by Cavatore, the deck creator? Either way, I’m loving it.
I know the designers of the deck intended it for game playing, not divination, but I wanted to write my review on how the deck would work for divination. And it works splendidly. It reads very well under the Marseille interpretive tradition and as Marseille decks go, this one is absolutely beautiful. The Tarot of Loka, for divination and craft purposes, is at once both a great study deck and also a great collector’s addition. I am super loving the Tarot of Loka and you’re going to be seeing a lot more of it in my personal Instagram and Twitter posts to come!
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 Tarot of Loka from Llewellyn for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion of the deck.