I kept dragging my feet on whether to join the Tarot Mucha bandwagon, but here it is, and sometimes you just have to give in to the tarot reader majority when they’re all gushing over a certain deck, because they tend to be right. There are so many reasons to get this deck that I don’t even know how to process my thoughts and begin this review.
I’m loving it so much and will probably find myself using it in professional reading settings. It’s also a fantastic starter deck for a beginner reader who wants to commence study with the RWS tradition but may be having a hard time connecting artistically to the original Rider-Waite-Smith deck.
The Tarot Mucha is inspired by the artistic style of Alphonse Mucha (1860 – 1939), an Art Nouveau painter and illustrator. While his commercial works were the ones that gained fame, e.g., his postcards, advert posters, and advert illustrations, Mucha insisted that the sole purpose of art was to convey a spiritual message. Now, 80-ish years later, showcasing his art on a tarot deck seems like the perfect tribute to what he stood for.
Art Nouveau is a transitional artistic period between its preceding trend of historic art (where artists sought inspiration from Greek, Roman, and much older styles) and its posterior, modern art (think Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” Matisse, Picasso, and the rise of abstract art). Alphonse Mucha and even Pamela Colman Smith from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck exemplify that Art Nouveau style of their era.
That is why the Tarot Mucha is so significant, paying homage to both the artistic and the spiritual movement going on at the time of the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck, which incidentally, is the tarot tradition that the Tarot Mucha is based on. This deck is through and through based on the RWS system.
The card back features a well-known lithograph print by Mucha, “Fruit” (1897), enhanced by Mucha-inspired designs. That is essentially the artistic approach to the deck. All deck art is based on known works by Alphonse Mucha, but enhanced by the deck’s artist, Giulia F. Massaglia, with colors by Barbara Nosenzo. Additional art contributors include Pietro Alligo and Alessandro Starrantino.
Being Mucha-inspired rather than a straight art deck (I define an art deck as a tarot deck that happens to feature the oeuvre of a particular artist, with minimal alteration to the art) means that the art will closely follow the RWS tarot tradition of imagery and symbolism. Contrast that with the XIII Tarot by the artist Nekro, the I Ching Dead Moon oracle deck by Luis Royo, or even the Golden Tarot of Klimt (or the Golden Botticelli Tarot; a deck review is forthcoming soon). While most art decks tend to be better suited for the collector, the Tarot Mucha is designed such that it’s perfect for tarot reading, especially professional uses, by an RWS reader.
As shown earlier, the deck comes in a beautiful, sturdy box. Right away in the consecutive Majors shown above, you see the heavy RWS influence, though there are artistic divergences from RWS imagery to include some of the artists’ personal interpretive approach to the cards.
The Fool card in Tarot Mucha faces right instead of left (as it does in the RWS), which to me is significant in how I’d interpret it, since I consider directionality as a factor when reading the cards. There’s a crescent moon on the High Priestess’s head rather than the triple goddess symbolism in the RWS; the Keys of St. Peter in the Hierophant card are placed in a banner behind the pope rather than by his foot in the RWS; The Lovers card seems very much to be a fusion of traditional Waite interpretation and modern day interpretations of the card, to name a few detail comparisons.
You’ll see that Key VIII is Strength and Key XI is Justice, per the RWS structure. Key X, Wheel of Fortune is based on “Summer” (1896). I love the ornate borders for the cards and the sense that each card is a window into a distinct narrative for the seeker. For those who might find the traditional Death or Devil cards in tarot too emotionally jarring to look at, the Tarot Mucha‘s Death and Devil cards convey the meanings and yet are a lot more subtle in the rendering of these keys. (You’ll see inspiration from Mucha’s “Salammbô” in Key XV.). Sometimes, for professional tarot readers, whether they agree with it or not personally, the more subtle renderings of these cards are helpful when reading tarot for the masses.
Key 17: The Star, Key 18: The Moon, and Key 20: Judgement deviate (and again, just ever so slightly) from RWS tradition, and if you ask me, the Tarot Mucha Key 20 becomes the creepiest card in the Majors. The hermaphrodite figure for Key 21: The World usually bears two wands, one in each hand, though here in Tarot Mucha, the two wands imagery is missing.
I’ll talk about the Minor suits in the order they appeared when I first opened the deck. Applying to both the Majors and Minors here, I love that there are no card titles. I love the subtlety of the key numbers in the Majors and just the numerical values of each card here in the Minor suits. RWS readers are going to have no problems at all identifying each card, as you see in the photos here. It’s very RWS. You even have the W/reverse M on the Ace of Cups per RWS tradition.
I love how many of the traditional male figures in the RWS are now female in the Tarot Mucha. You can see that in the Five, Eight, and Nine of Cups above. There seems to be a much better gender balance in the Tarot Mucha. That said, there’s no racial balance in the cards and it’s heavily Caucasian, heavily light-skinned. If that happens to bother you, then it’ll be a point of consideration before you purchase the Tarot Mucha.
In the suit of Discs (as it is referred to per the accompanying companion book) or Pentacles (the RWS name for the suit), again we see close adherence to RWS imagery, and when it diverges from RWS imagery, it’s minor. It’s hard to say whether I consider this an RWS clone or an RWS inspired deck. I guess I’m going to go with RWS inspired. There are enough differences to make the Tarot Mucha not a straight-up clone.
The Eight of Wands above, for instance, features a human figure, unlike the RWS. (Note: Per the companion book, this suit is referred to as the Staves). The stance of the figure in the Seven of Wands seems a lot prouder and more confident than the feisty, defensive figure in the RWS Seven of Wands. Again, a traditionally male-depiction of a figure is changed to female as it is here in the Two, Nine, and Ten of Wands (or Staves).
Again, where there is typically no figure in the Three of Swords, here in the Tarot Mucha, we see a female. The illustration for this card is based on Mucha’s work “Fate.” Her facial expression seems to be the dominant detail in the foreground rather than the three swords piercing the heart, as it normally be in RWS. The added antagonistic figure in the Ten of Swords here is also interesting.
In sum, the cards are really easy to read for the RWS practitioner. The Tarot Mucha is also ideal for the beginner tarot reader who wants to learn the RWS and has a bunch of tarot books keyed to the RWS tradition, but who just isn’t connecting with the original RWS deck. If that sounds like you, may I recommend the Tarot Mucha as your first tarot deck.
The court cards, like the rest of the deck, does not include card titles, which again, I love and appreciate. I prefer the focus on the art and illustration. Symbols at the top center of each court card indicates which card it is (along with the artwork, which is very easy to follow for the RWS reader).
The Knave (as it is called here in the Tarot Mucha, also known as the Page) will show the head armor symbol; the Knight, the horse; the Queen is the crown on the left in the above image, and the King is the crown on the right, more elaborate than the Queen’s crown.
The above photo shows the courts from the passive suits, the Cups and Discs (or Pentacles). Interesting that the Discs/Pentacles feature olive-toned (sort of) figures, following a more traditional approach to courts (fair haired: Wands and Cups; darker complexions: Swords and Pentacles).
I don’t find the Tarot Mucha courts to be quite as symbolism-rich as the RWS courts, but there is a fair amount of expressiveness in these courts for them to work well.
Here we see the courts for the active suits, the Wands (or Staves) and Swords. This Page (or Knave) of Swords seems a lot more docile and contemplative than I’m used to for a Page of Swords. I typically associate a Page of Swords with someone gutsy, shoots first and then asks questions later, and has this Joan of Arc vibe where she’s always down for a fight or ideological cause. As for the Queen of Swords, I tend to prefer depicting her with a sword raised, than a sword pointing down.
The companion guidebook is a basically the same size as the cards, is perfect bound, and in full color, with beautiful glossy pages. The information in it for card meanings and spreads is great for a beginner, which is why I think the Tarot Mucha is a fantastic starter tarot deck. Of course any tarot student is going to buy tarot books for learning and not rely entirely on a deck’s guidebook, but for starters, this is a great one.
Lunaea Weatherstone is the author of the guidebook and I find that any time Weatherstone’s name is in the byline for authoring a deck’s companion book, you know you’re going to be getting a very comprehensive, complete book of card meanings, and the Tarot Mucha is a fine example of that. I think there is just the right amount of information balance in the guidebook for someone who doesn’t have a clue about tarot and for a seasoned reader who just wants a quick review.
There are three spreads instructed in the guidebook. The spreads here didn’t particularly pique my interest but do provide a nice offering for tarot beginners.
Now, how does the Tarot Mucha read?
My one qualm with it is the non-reversible card backs. I read with reversals and it’s very important to me in professional reading settings to be able to incorporate reading reversals. With the Tarot Mucha, I would prefer to not read with reversals because of the card backs, and so if I were to use this deck for professional readings, it takes away my ability to read with reversals.
I did read with reversals using this deck to see how it might work out. Reading interpretation wise, no problems at all. But personally, I didn’t like knowing ahead of time whether a card was upright or reverse before I even flipped it over. So I re-sorted my deck and made all the cards upright again.
Anyway, let’s proceed with the reading. This one is without reversals. Here I am going to go through my go-to reading approach for any quick professional reading that needs to be done in under 15 minutes. This is usually the approach I use when doing readings en masse at public events. I start with a variation on the First Operation where I cut the deck into four piles and locate the signifier card. Here, the signifier is the Queen of Swords. I’m doing a reading for myself, and this is pretty right on. The Physical Plane and the quadrant of life relating to cardinal Fire is truly what I need to focus on right now. This is both career-related and health-related, and both apply here.
I also read the top-most card as a summarizing thesis of what’s going on in this quadrant. The Six of Swords has been coming up for me frequently, especially on readings relating to health, so all this makes sense.
Traditional card counting for the Operation would be to go around in a circle and keep on counting until you land on a previously selected card. That’s what I do for full readings, but in readings that have to be fast and under 10 minutes, I’ve found that to be impractical. Sometimes only 1 or 2 cards are selected; other times, almost all the goddamn cards get selected and a “quick reading” turns into a 15-card reading. So. I just count to the end of the pile. That makes things way easier. Here, counting to the end of the pile, I get only 2 cards.
So I then read the two selected cards: Nine of Pentacles and Key 14: Temperance. I frequently get the Nine of Pentacles drawn for my readings, whether I’m reading for myself or I’m getting a reading done. This card and I are companions, I don’t know why. I’m always getting it. Likewise, I have a special affinity with the Temperance card. Temperance is also the “healing card,” and as the earlier exercise indicated, health and wellness are issues to focus on. Without getting into interpretive details that will be personal, suffice it to say that I found reading with this deck delightfully easy and accurate.
I’m very fond of the Tarot Mucha. As a deck set, it’s a great starter deck for beginners who want to learn under the RWS system but don’t yet connect directly with the actual Rider-Waite-Smith deck. The imagery here lends itself very well to RWS imagery, and so a beginner can use this deck with any of the beginner tarot 101 books out there keyed to the RWS. It’s also a great intermediate deck to use. The coloring and imagery render the Tarot Mucha great for professional uses as well. For professional reading decks, I tend to prefer hand-drawn art, not digital, and a deck that isn’t too niche with its theme. The Art Nouveau style here suits professional reading so well, and the illustrations here will trigger the reader’s intuition and appeal greatly to clients.
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 Tarot Mucha from Llewellyn for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion of the deck.