I’ve spent this past Scorpio month tinkering with the Starlight Dragon Tarot by Nora Huszka and Steph Engert, which was perfect, since I get a Scorpio vibe from this deck. Here we have a 79-card tarot deck, though you can certainly use just the traditional 78, that summons into your life the bold spirit of dragons. It is a majestic yet cerebral deck to get your favorite tarot reader this holiday season and while I would consider it a more advanced deck to work with, any artist or writer friend of yours will pull boundless inspiration from the energy of the Starlight Dragon so for sure get it on your gift list!
I’m reminded a bit of T.A. Touchkoff’s Russian Gypsy Fortunetelling Cards (Harper San Francisco, 1992) in terms of the square format and aligning the cards along four edges to form divinatory mosaics. However, the Starlight Dragon is unique in its own right and springs to life from its magnificent coloring. You’ll detect the bold signature of Huszka’s handiwork, and yet what we get from the Starlight Dragon, especially after having worked with Huszka’s Gypsy Palace Tarot, is a declaration of this artist’s incredible versatility.
Often when you examine multiple decks from the same artist, it can get difficult to tell one deck apart from the other because the artistic point of view is the same. Here we get a touch of Huszka’s penchant for bold coloring but she has challenged herself as an artist and creator to pull out from within an entirely different visual perspective and I commend her for that. Again, it speaks volumes of the artist’s versatility.
The card back imagery is incredible. We see what appears to be a single double-headed dragon knotted in the formation of a lemniscate, depicting the colors representative of the spirit energy from the Majors and the four elemental energies of the Minors and peeking through the lemniscate are two dragon eyes. Along the four corners you’ve got glyphs representing the four phases of the moon. Every detail of Starlight Dragon Tarot is thoughtfully executed and done so with perspicacious precision.
While the deck creators note that the Starlight Dragon can be used by tarot beginners, I find the lack of card titles and full reliance on esoteric glyphs (I don’t know how else to describe it, I’ll explain more in a second) to render the deck better suited for advanced practitioners. For instance, if you pulled the second card from the left in the bottom row and you don’t know already that the roman numeral V is for Key 5: The Hierophant, and given the abstract nature of the art, then there isn’t a rational basis to start from to reach into the archives of intuition and pull out a divinatory message. The alchemical glyphs for the four elements and astrological glyphs for planets and signs may be familiar to those who study esoteric arts (hence the made-up reference to esoteric glyphs earlier), but would your average joe really be able to derive meaning or revelation from seeing the Taurus glyph on The Hierophant?
Speaking of card titles, each Major Arcanum corresponds with a different facet of the dragon spirit. Keeping with Key 5 as an example, The Hierophant card is “The Dragon of Teaching,” who guards the temple of sacred wisdom. This card is about the transmission of sacred teachings, facilitating divine messages from the higher power to the mundane world.
Key VI: The Lovers is called “Dragons of Polarity,” and you’ll note that the detailing and style here is inspired by Persian tile art. This card is about discernment and decision-making. In line with the Golden Dawn correspondence system, you’ll see that Key VI is Gemini. Jumping back to Key II: The High Priestess, that card and dragon imagery represents the “Dragon Guardian of Esoteric Knowledge.” You can read more about the deck creators’ insights and inspiration behind that card here.
Key III: The Empress is the “Goddess of the Beginnings (or the Great Mother)” and here we have art reminiscent of Neolithic cultures and the long-held association of the feminine with the serpent-dragon. In Key IV: The Emperor, you have “Dragon of the Celestial,” with Chinese-inspired dragon art. Key VII: The Chariot is the “Dragon of Decisive Momentum,” inspired by the snake-witch rune stone from Viking era Gotland.
The Starlight Dragon Tarot weaves together many cultures, many civilizations, and histories, rendered through the ingenuity only Huszka and tarot luminary Steph Engert could have produced collectively, and depicted as luminescent abstract art that glow off the cards like constellations in a night sky. As you look upon these cards, you are the star gazer, connecting points in the spread of cards as the ancients would have done when they looked up at the heavens, to tell stories formed by your imagination and intuition that become the mythologies human civilizations build their religions upon.
There is magic in these cards, and for that reason, I can acknowledge with the deck creators that this would work as a beginner’s deck, because it is a tarot deck that compels you to intuit from luminescence the shared stories of gods and humans, exactly as your ancestors would have done.
Above you’ll see a glimpse inside the pages of the companion guidebook, which is as wonderful as companion guidebooks tend to come. The design layout, by the way, is worth many compliments. You definitely see the hand of an artist in every detail and aspect of this deck.
Speaking of stars, The Star card features the constellation Draco. 5,000 years ago, you learn from the companion book, Alpha Draconis was Earth’s pole star. Draco was the axis of our cosmos and some astronomers speculate that the oldest known starlight comes from Draco. That is the inspiration behind Key 17.
Key 21, the “Universal Dragon,” is a shape-shifter. Here we see the dragon spirit of the eternal loop. If you scroll back to examine Key 0: The Fool card, it is the first card in the Majors where the art bleeds into the edge and that doesn’t happen again until now, the final card, with the art in Key 21 bleeding into the opposite edge. “Everything coming together” are the keywords provided for Key 21.
Above you’ll see the Suit of Wands, with color symbolism that calls to mind Fire. The four suits of the Minor Arcana are rendered stylistically to evoke the four elementals. Tarot de Marseille readers will feel right at home with Starlight Dragon. It reads easily and fluently with the TdM system, though admittedly RWS readers might struggle if you’re trying too hard to superimpose an RWS style of reading onto the Starlight Dragon.
Above you’ll see the Suit of Cups, evoking Water. By the way whoever wrote the companion book (whether it was Huszka or Engert or maybe the both of them) did a magnificent job. It reads like poetry and then in turn inspires you to experience the artwork on the deck as if it were poetry.
In the Ace of Cups pictured in the top left corner above, we see a dragon, referred by the pronoun “she” in the companion book, balancing a drop of water that contains the all-potential for life and emotional renewal. The pink and blue color symbolism in these cards evoke the masculine and feminine or yin and yang coming together to bring forth new seed. The imagery on the Two of Cups evokes the feeling of “pull,” of a dynamic force, and the Three of Cups evokes creative potential. The Three of Cups depicts a mythic cauldron of abundance guarded by two dragon spirits.
The Eight of Cups here I found incredibly poignant, and from it I will take new added meaning about the Eight of Cups to integrate into my own interpretation of it in the future. Here we see a flower in full bloom, in all its glory, all while knowing its petals will soon fall, that after achieving the height of glory, what is next is the decline. Yet we acknowledge that cycle of life, that inevitability, and we move forward into our own uncertain future, guided by faith and spirituality.
What Starlight Dragon Tarot does well is add new dimensions of thought and point of view for a tarot reader to work with. It’s an incredible teaching tool for any avid tarot enthusiast. Above you’ll see the suit of Swords, corresponding with the elemental Air.
In the Eight of Swords, we see a flower-like arrangement but unlike the Eight of Cups depiction, we feel ice here, and the arrangement frozen into place. Likewise, the card evokes frozen, unyielding ideologies that bind us and hold us back. When you are frozen into place, you cannot grow and expand. Here, the card depicts the expression of unyielding thought forms that need to be released and dismantled to move on and transcend into the ninth world.
Finally, above you see the suit of Pentacles, or Coins, with color symbolism reminiscent of the elemental Earth. Here in the series of cards we see the cycle and story of manifestation in the material world, dynamic change, and the inveiglement of inertia.
A note on the court cards. I took the above diagram from the Starlight Dragon official website. It explains the elemental dignities and affinities in the courts per Papus. The added elemental affinities designate the archetype represented by each of the court dragons. Each court dragon is given a distinct voice, which is explained in the companion book. The Page of Coins, for instance, Earth of Earth, speaks in poetic verse as follows: “I am in the new root / I push out the young shoot / start out into the world / but stay firm on your earth.”
Above you’ll see the page spread for the Queen of Coins next to the Queen of Coins card. My significator, the Queen of Swords, Water of Air, speaks: “With me you find / utmost pure clarity / don’t fool your mind / don’t fear your cruelty.” Love that.
The 79th card of the deck, added by the creators, is the Dragon Eye. The word “dragon” from its Greek roots means “to see clearly and sharply.” (Got that from the companion book.) So here the Dragon Eye card helps to see clearer and to amplify far-sightedness. The card itself can be used as a talisman. Its integration into the deck infuses it with power, specifically that of the dragon.
The Starlight Dragon Tarot may seem daunting to read with (except for Marseille readers–TdM readers will feel right at home with this deck) but I promise you that your work with this deck will be effortless because the magic infused into it by the incredible practitioners behind Starlight Dragon ensures that the spirit of the deck will guide you. The deck itself becomes your spiritual teacher.
Each card also depicts a sigil or seal, inspired by the dragon spirit, to express the universal energies represented by each tarot card. Thus, the deck of cards becomes an indispensable toolbox of 78 sigil seals that can be used to harness energy. As such a toolbox, the Starlight Dragon would become a much-loved gift for any of your witchy or magician friends this holiday season.
I’m currently kicking myself for forgetting to take a photograph to show you a side view of the deck. It’s gilded with this beautiful gold-matte finish. I’m hoping you’ll be able to find photos of it online elsewhere. The cards themselves are a high-gloss black finish, calling to mind a dark night sky. You’ll love working with this deck. Spreads are taught in the companion guidebook.
As you link the cards like a puzzle, you are in effect also linking puzzle pieces of your own narrative (or a seeker’s narrative) to better understand the cohesive story that is unfolding and, as you see that story, also see its ending. The magic of these cards produces powerful divinatory results in anyone’s hands.
Tarot readers, being human, can get into a very Eight of Swords predicament, as noted about the card’s implications earlier, where we get so used to reading our deck a certain way that we almost go out of our way to just look for decks that fit within that set reading style. We freeze in place as readers when we do that. What Nora Huszka does, not just with the Starlight Dragon but you saw it with her first deck, Gypsy Palace as well, is challenge existing paradigms and introduce innovation to the world of tarot. Teamed up with the incredible magician’s mind of Steph Engert and what you are getting when you get the Starlight Dragon Tarot is a hand-held black box of magical tools. The bold visual poetry is breathtaking to behold and inspires within you the same awe the ancients would have felt stargazing at the illuminated heavens.
This holiday season, treat yourself or a beloved creative mind to this wonderful, inventive, and just a touch avant-garde magical dragon deck.