The Fountain Tarot was created by Jonathan Saiz, a visual artist with a penchant for metaphysics, written by Jason Gruhl, a writer, and designed by Andi Todaro, a graphic designer. What a powerful Trinitarian force they turned out to be. This deck is magnificent to behold. It came out earlier this year and seriously the whole mess of tarot folk I’m buddies with were ooh-ing and ah-ing the deck and secretly I rolled my eyes and went, “Another modern-looking probably New Agey tarot deck. Oh wee.” Then photos of it started rolling out on social media and I adjusted my tune only slightly. “Okay fine. It’s a very beautifully rendered modern-looking tarot deck.”
The artwork drew me in. So I watched this video (scroll down) about the creating of the deck and kind of nodded and was silent. Okay. Fine. It’s really, really beautiful. It’s still just another modern-looking tarot deck. And then I saw The Fountain card.
That’s when something in me clicked with this deck. Is it because that card announced the arrival of something new? Is it because it was saying to me, at that moment, that this wouldn’t be just another tarot deck? Not knowing one darn thing about this card, it caused me to relinquish what control I felt I needed to keep and just be quiet. (Interestingly enough, that is one of the given meanings of the card per its guidebook.)
In the Chinese ba gua, or eight trigrams, and the geomancy of the five directions, the fifth direction is the center, the fountain or fountainhead, the source of Qi energy that is then moved through the other four directions, becoming the eight trigrams, forming the five elements, and this is one of the cosmological foundations of feng shui. The center is the fountainhead, the fountain that springs forth the Qi. When I look at The Fountain card, that’s what I see.
But you know, this isn’t about me. This is about you, and what’s connecting between you and the Fountain Tarot. See the three cards below, left, right, and center.
Focus on these three cards and choose one. You can concentrate on an inquiry if you wish, try to connect specifically with the deck if you wish, or just leave it open to the universe.
Don’t forget which card you chose. Meanwhile let’s talk about the card backs. I love the center unit circle that then moves out into the octagon (the ba gua or eight trigrams of I Ching, anyone?). The mathematically precise lattice of geometric shapes that go beyond science to become art, art that is intended to resonate with our intuition and trigger our awareness of the metaphysical dimension around us is such a perfect expression of where we are today in terms of our spiritual understanding. Oh, that and also I dig how I can read with reversals with this deck thanks to the card backs.
The guidebook is beautifully written. Whether the Fountain Tarot can serve as a beginner’s deck does seem to spark a little controversy. If you’re of the school that learning tarot ultimately requires traditionalist proficiency in either the Tarot de Marseille, Rider-Waite-Smith, or Thoth, then I can see why you might opine that the Fountain Tarot would not be suitable for beginners. If, however, tarot is just a tool that helps a beginner student in metaphysics connect to the metaphysical dimension, and the art on this deck speaks to such a student, then I don’t see why such a beginner couldn’t start on the Fountain Tarot and have it become his or her primary divination tool.
In terms of logistics, when a deck deviates from one of the three main traditions that pretty much every tarot how-to book out there is based on, then for it to be a good beginner’s deck would require a good companion guidebook. The Fountain Tarot provides just that–a fantastic companion guidebook. I do find it to be sufficient for someone who knows nothing about tarot to still be able to pick up this deck, armed with the guidebook, and begin reading effectively.
Here is a glimpse of the pages. You’ll see above in the Major Arcana entries that there’s a meaty paragraph for each card, though preceding it, the card is summarized in key words. Then you have yet another section giving the bare essentials meaning, plus keywords for reading with reversals.
In many guidebooks I’ve seen, greater attention is given to the Majors and the Minors become an afterthought. Not here. Here you’ll see equal devotion given to the Minors. Above is a snapshot of two entries from the suit of Wands. You’ll see that the card meaning assignments very much reflect the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition, though the key numbering for the Majors is not RWS, as you’ll later see.
Okay back to those three cards. Hope you remember which one you selected.
If you selected the left card, it’s The Fountain. These cards were shuffled and pulled out at random, I swear. How funny The Fountain card shows up. It also showed up frequently in my first handful of readings using this deck. Interesting synchronicity.
If you selected the center card, we see the Six of Swords. The card at right is the Eight of Wands.
Per the accompanying guidebook, The Fountain card is about being. You’ll see up top the keyword “Be.” I hear “Om.” Then as you read that passage about the card, reminding you that you are the “breath of the universe,” I can’t help but wonder how much Eastern philosophy influenced the creators of this deck, because that’s Qi! So if this is the card you selected in our mini reading exercise, it’s high time you activate your inner Qi, that inner power, and use it in a more productive, tangible way in your spiritual practice. If you’ve been experiencing self-doubt about just how much power you have, this card is here to affirm that your self-imposed veil is coming off and now you’re beginning to see the crack of light coming through. Off with the veil and the self-doubt.
If you selected the center card, then you’re entering a new sub-phase of your life. Nothing Major like the transitions expressed in the Major Arcana. It’s just about leaving behind some of the old to pursue something new. I like the contrast between the Six of Swords in this deck where the swords are left behind in the waters, the skid marks of the boat, whereas in the RWS, the six swords remain in the boat with the figures.
I also see a lighter meaning to the card– travel. Travel by air? (Even though we see a boat.) Going somewhere? Far away? The trip will be good for you. The physical journey will mark the shedding of the old and position yourself for new opportunities to come.
When I first picked up this card and before I saw the title at the bottom, I immediately thought it was The Sun card for some reason. And yet how apropos. If you chose the card on the right, we have the Eight of Wands, “a rapid force.” Here is energy in action. Here you are, in acceleration. You’re so close to your goal! You see it right there, in the horizon, don’t you? Keep at the rate you’re going. You’re going to achieve that goal and now it’s just a matter of time. Well, time and keeping up with the pace you’re currently going at. Success will be yours. This is the last leg of the race.
Now let’s talk about the cards. The above is the first septenary of the Majors, plus The Fool card. In terms of symbolism and imagery, the Fountain Tarot definitely deviates from the known and established tarot traditions. However, it does not deviate at all from the essence of each card meaning. When A. E. Waite conceived of his deck with Pamela Colman Smith in the early 1900s, what he did is what the creators of the Fountain Tarot are doing today, over 100 years later. The Fountain Tarot imagery both simultaneously exhibits a timeless quality and also expresses where we are today in our spiritual journey as a global society.
The design of the deck has a clear 21st century aesthetic sensibility about it. It’s minimalist, with clean lines, subdued coloring, and relies heavily on geometric patterns, a design style of our modern era that, whether on a conscious level or subconscious, represents the narrowing gap between metaphysics and physics, religion and science, spirituality and psychology.
Here you’ll also see the Fountain Tarot following the older structure of tarot Majors, with Key 8 as Justice and Key 11 as Strength. This deck is taking elements of all three of the prevailing traditions– Tarot de Marseille, Rider-Waite-Smith, and Thoth. You see the modernism in the art that, to me, is reminiscent of the modernism found in the Thoth, even if the artistic style is entirely different from the Thoth.
Cards like The Moon feel like the vision is from a futuristic time. In both the above photograph and the below, you’ll see great use of three point perspective. The composition of space is dream-like, reminiscent of visions rather than narratives.
The muted color palette and decided use of color theory, to me, conveys a philosophy of color realism, as applied to tarot. The use of color here possess metaphysical properties and convey a sense of elemental correspondences to each card.
As I sifted through the deck for the first time, I found each suit more breathtaking than the last. This is no clone deck. It is a perfected system of divinatory tarot born out of the 21st century. It is simultaneously a contemporary and yet timeless representation of the 78 cards.
The art is hard to define here, and I love that. You see influences of abstract expressionism, but it’s not. It’s photorealistic and yet surreal, a very lyrical strand of surrealism. You even get a sense of futurism in here, with cards that could very well be literal representations of a future time.
I will probably sound materialistic now for going on and on about the packaging, but seriously, I love the packaging. The attention of detail that the creators of the Fountain Tarot have put in to its production is astounding. Here are three people who cared about quality, who were not going to sacrifice that quality for commercialization in any way. For that, as a tarotist, I commend them. Thank you.
In addition to the beautiful magnetic flap box that the cards came in, that box was then placed into a thick padded envelope along with lovely stickers that match the deck’s branding and trade dress. That thick padded envelope was then placed in yet another mailing box, and that’s how the package came to me. This is such a stark contrast to the many self-published tarot decks I’ve bought that were haphazardly thrown into a 30 cent envelope and arrived at my door step frayed. Packaging isn’t a superficial consideration. Packaging speaks to the creators’ care, attentiveness to details, and thoughtfulness of others. That’s why I analyze packaging.
The Fountain Tarot is a fascinating deck to work with as an intermediate or advanced practitioner because it adds another layer of interpretation to the essential 78. I also love how it feels like tradition, and yet is updated to express where we are now. In terms of being a beginner deck, as a teacher I teach the RWS tradition, so my pedagogical approach is to start with an exact replica of the original RWS deck or what I refer to as an RWS dupe, a deck that mimics the imagery of the RWS deck exactly, with only minor variations. The Fountain Tarot doesn’t meet those points. However, as a divination tool for someone who is a beginner with tarot and who is pretty sure he or she will only be working with one deck only, then I don’t see why you can’t start on the Fountain Tarot. As a whole set, it has everything you need. The companion book is very, very good. It also builds within you the essential understanding of each card that will allow you to still communicate with other tarot practitioners about tarot.
I connected very easily with the Fountain Tarot and my divination work with the deck has been spot on. I like using it for daily readings or readings about everyday concerns. It taps into modern day energy impeccably well.