The LXXXI is an 81-card esoteric deck by Josephine McCarthy, Stuart Littlejohn, and Cassandra Beanland. It’s not a tarot deck, though you’ll see cards captioned “Chariot,” “Wheel of Fate,” Hierophant,” “Luna” (Moon), “Sol” (Sun), and “Death.” You’ll see “Fellowship” with imagery that may remind you of the RWS Three of Cups.
On a technicality, some might categorize LXXXI as an oracle deck, but I’ll just stick to what it’s been named: The Magician’s Deck. The LXXXI Quareia: The Magician’s Deck “draws upon the mythic, mystical and magical powers that underpin the magical systems that tarot eventually developed out of.” See here. “It is based upon real inner realms, real inner contacts, beings and forces that the practitioner of magic is very likely to involve themselves with. Because of this approach, the deck works as a contacted deck, i.e. used magically the images can act as gateways to inner realms, inner beings and magical patterns.”
The premise behind the LXXXI reminds me of the inner and outer gods concept in Taoism where, in short, certain “gods” reside within us (and they have names, along with descriptions of what they do) and certain “gods” are romping out and about, around us (both on earth among us and in other various supernatural realms). Granted that was the Cliff-Notes-Taoist-Deities-for-Dummies version but you get what I mean.
According to esoteric Taoist principles, a magician or metaphysical practitioner can invoke or summon these “gods” (I put the term in quotes because if you’re looking to translate/interpret the term, 帝, it can be “gods,” “emperors,” “divine beings,” “Divinities,” take your pick) and work with those energies to influence both the natural and supernatural worlds.
The deck is subdivided into four realms. Red bordered cards indicate contacts (the term that the companion guidebook for the deck describes these metaphysical energies as) from the Divine Realm. There are four contacts of the Divine Realm in this deck, pictured above. Star Father I correlates with Divine Intention. Creator of Time II is the energetic movement flowing from the Star Father toward manifestation. Holder of Light III expresses the eventual return of all souls to Divine Source. Archon and Aion are archangelic and symbolize a divine binary. In readings, the card serves as a warning that the practitioner has come to a threshold that cannot and should not be crossed. The message is to turn back.
In both the above photograph and the one below, note how some of the card titles end with roman numerals. I’ll address that later in this review.
Contacts from the Inner Realm are noted by blue borders, case in point Madimi, described here as the “Inner Librarian.” Madimi was one of the spirits that was purportedly in contact with 16th century occultists John Dee and Edward Kelley.
In the printing of the deck copy I received, the borders look more like a deep purple than a blue, but blue or purple, I’m not terribly concerned.
According to the deck description, the art here is done in oils, acrylics, and watercolors. They appear to have been polished and fine-tuned digitally afterward. The art and imagery is very much imbued with Western esotericism and is definitely going to resonate with any practitioner of such traditions.
So far I’ve been trying to remain fair, objective, and factual, but I’m going to break for a moment here and just gush. Omigod I love this deck! The deck fills a void in the tarot/oracle/cartomancy world that I haven’t seen any other deck on the market during the time I’ve been alive and interested in cartomancy even come close to filling. I am not a Quareia practitioner or even a practitioner of Western magic. I don’t even identify as a magician. And yet there is something for me here in this deck.
Any concerns I have at all with this deck relate only to printing and production issues. The box that the deck comes in, for example, isn’t that great. It’s hard to open and then hard to stuff the cards back in (that or I’m wholly incompetent, which is possible). I’ll probably be tucking the original box away and keeping my copy of the deck in a drawstring velvet bag.
The edges are a bit rough and those two lines of bumpy knotting that stick out will bother anyone with a touch of OCD. I’m thinking of edging the deck myself with either gold or silver for that metallic gilded effect. Stay tuned via Instagram.
The card backs are non-reversible and are the signature imagery from the Quareia website. The deck is about 3.25″ x 5.0″ with a semi-gloss finish while the companion guidebook is 5.0″ x 7.0″ and a high-gloss finish. The quality and weight of the cardstock is decent. I like it.
I hope the above photograph is able to show what I’m talking about– “Abyss” and “Keeper of the Abyss,” according to the companion book, are part of the Inner Realm, and thus it would follow that the cards should feature blue (or dark purple) borders. However, there seems to be a coloring issue, because “Abyss” distinctly features a black border and “Keeper of the Abyss” is half blue (or dark purple) on the left side, as I hope you can see in the above photo, and half black on the right side. I’m also showing the “Protector of Souls” from the Inner Realm with an all-blue border for reference. You can click on the photo and it should enlarge so you get a clearer view of what I’m talking about.
Likewise “Chariot,” pictured above in the second row of cards, is also part of the Inner Realm, but features a green border (which should correspond to the Physical World). Now, interestingly, per my personal use of this deck, “Chariot” as a contact could conceivably be part of either the Inner Realm or the Physical World, so this color coding works for me. Given the green border here, I’ll probably treat it as part of the Physical World and interpret it through that realm.
I was snapping photos of the card images 10 at a time, but what I should have done was kept the three fate goddesses together– the Fate Giver, seen at the end of the previous photo, and the two above, the Fate Holder and the Fate Taker. The Fate Giver is about setting new lines into motion; the Fate Holder is about marking boundaries, restrictions, and ensuring impermanence; the Fate Taker who dissolves ending lines. The companion guidebook offers several paragraphs of description for each card and is a great starting point for understanding these contacts.
Now we are getting to the Physical World, noted with green borders. Not counting “Chariot” (which the companion guidebook says is part of the Inner Realm), there are a total of 51 contacts from the Physical World (52, if you count “Chariot”).
While the companion guidebook is helpful, I’ve found that the way the deck creators have captioned each card, describing what the contact does rather than trying to name the contact, I don’t really need to consult the guidebook. I can work off the caption descriptions and get a comprehensive sense of the energetic contact that the caption description is referring to. Though admittedly, I don’t really work with “Faerie King,” but I totally get why it’s included in a deck keyed to Western magic.
For the other three realms, the Divine Realm (red borders), Inner Realm (dark blue borders) and Realm of Death and the Underworld (black borders), I set out the cards in the order that they appear in the companion guidebook. Here for the Physical World (green borders), I’m setting the cards out in alphabetical order.
There are subdivisions within the Physical Realm, though I haven’t grouped the cards here by their subdivisions. Natural forms and places like Mother Earth, Sol, Luna, or Place of Healing, Home and Hearth, and Gate of the Past, etc. are part of an unnamed subdivision. Then there are the “Beings and Powers of the Physical Realm,” like Spirit Guide, Goblin Queen, Ghost, or Parasite. Next are the Elemental Magical Tools. The Limiter, pictured above, corresponds with Air/East. Staff of the Gods, seen later below, corresponds with Fire/South. Regenerator is Water/West and Foundation is Earth/North. You’ll be able to locate these cards among the green-bordered images, in alphabetical order.
Now, note that ten of the cards in this deck have titles ending with roman numerals. They were as follows:
|I||Star Father||VI||Pure Balance|
|II||Creator of Time||VII||The Grindstone|
|III||Holder of Light||VIII||Unraveller|
|IV||Light Bearer||IX||Threshold Guardian|
I don’t think I’m smart enough to figure out the metaphysical rationale for these ten select contacts, but I have a couple of guesses. For starters, numerology seems significant. The descriptions for these ten contacts coincide with metaphysical correspondences for these ten numerals. The first three (I, II, and III) are contacts from the Divine Realm; all the others except for X are from the Inner Realm. The last one, X, “Mother Earth,” is from the Physical Realm. The ten contacts seem to stand along the pathwork from Divine Intention to Material Manifestation.
The next subdivision in the Physical Realm is “Powers and Dynamics that Flow through Humanity,” like Premonition, pictured above, featuring a Bean-sidhe, or faery woman per Celtic lore. The appearance of this card is a warning of impending doom that the magician can exercise metaphysical skill to avert. Below, “Seclusion,” features White Tara.
There are also ten cards, five assigned male and five assigned female, that describe certain categories of magicians. The Occultist, for instance, pictured in an earlier photograph, is assigned as a male magician working with control and manipulation. The Oracle, pictured earlier, and the Shamaness, pictured above, are assigned as female magicians. The Shamaness is a “witch who tends the land, the woman who listens to the trees and the birds, and who weaves her magic through instinct.”
Of the ones assigned female, I have no idea which I might identify more with, but in many of my workings with this deck, I kept pulling the Priestess Magician card, who is a female occultist expressing her skills through a male-oriented magical system. Interesting.
Here, the imagery for The Wise Teacher is Marie Laveau (per Stuart Littlejohn’s website, The Inner Library). The card is part of the subdivision “Powers and Dynamics that Flow through Humanity.” This contact is the mentor who comes into a magician’s life for further training or tutelage.
Finally, we get to the Realm of Death and the Underworld, marked with black borders. Mirroring the Divine Realm, here again we have four cards, four main contacts from that realm. I love the distinct form of “Destruction,” the last card. The guidebook correlates “Destruction” with the Tower card in tarot, but goes beyond the Tower to unveil the triggers behind destruction, rather than observe the destruction at its surface.
Using the LXXXI Deck
“It is not a deck for casual tarot readers, rather it is a deck specifically designed for magical students, practitioners, workers and adepts working within the broad spectrum of Western magic.” – http://www.quareia.com/lxxxi/
My very first use of the deck was perhaps not in a way I would have ever wished to have to use it. My beloved kitty passed on recently and I can only say this: since Hubby and I don’t have children and don’t have any other animals living with us except for this one kitty, that kitty was family, and was our child. We treated him like our child. In his last days, Hubby and I took off work or worked from home to provide around-the-clock hospice care for the cat, with Hubby’s last shift ending at 4 am and my first shift beginning at about 5 to 6 am. You look around this 4,200 sq. ft. house and you’ll see that this cat dominates our space. Like any human family member, he had his own room, his own bathroom, and yet free reign of the home. I add all that here so you understand he was not just a cat, or a pet, or a furry friend. He was my adopted son, though I don’t even like the word “adopted” because I could feel kitty like my own flesh and blood in exactly the way mothers can feel their children. There was that same exact sympathetic energetic connection. (In the end, it was that sympathetic connection that led us to be able to diagnose his condition, but also what made us realize it was his time.)
Per my personal belief system, the soul takes between 7 and 49 days to journey on to wherever it’s to go. Kitty passed on in the most comfortable, peaceful, and spiritual setting we could provide right here in our home. For quite a while, I thought I felt his presence and I would always “feel” or think he was planted in one of those usual spots he’d be planted in and then I’d look, only to remember he’s gone. Of course initially I didn’t assign a woo-woo explanation for that. It’s obvious I’m just missing him dearly and still trying to get used to our new living situation without him.
Around the 11th day after his passing, I lit incense and white taper candles, shuffled my LXXXI deck focused on the intent of seeking a guardian for kitty’s soul to protect and guide him to his afterlife. I then drew a single card and I smiled as soon as I saw the imagery. Of all the cards I could have drawn at random…
“Home and Hearth” from the Physical Realm was the card. The above photo is a reenactment the morning after since I didn’t want any electronics nearby during the actual, well whatever. Behind the card is kitty’s silver and gold plated brass urn.
This is the only card in the deck that pictures a cat. Also note the white taper candles. That is pretty nuts. For me, given where I am emotionally right now, it helps me to believe this to be a sign that my little kitty is indeed still here with me, around me, and that his spirit is still present, that me feeling the impression he’s right there in that corner and then darting my eyes there to see does hold greater significance. So I interpret the card as a confirmation that I’m kitty’s spirit guardian, at least for now, before he has transitioned on, which to me makes sense given the metaphysical measures I’ve been taking on behalf of his soul. If nothing else, I am for sure the guardian of his memory.
The LXXXI reminds me of my relationship with the Tarot of the Holy Light deck: I only reach for it for matters of importance. While I seek out Tarot of the Holy Light for divination, I’ll seek out the LXXXI for working with contacts. The deck helps a practitioner to diagnose the metaphysical conditions causing the physical symptoms. If that is a bit too incredulous for you to indulge in, then let me just say this: the artwork is magnificent and magical. If for nothing else, get this deck for the art.
I know for sure it will become one of the most spiritually groundbreaking decks you’ll ever come to acquire. Order LXXXI here: http://www.quareia.com/lxxxi/ (scroll down).