The Crow Tarot by MJ Cullinane & What I Do With a New Deck

The Crow Tarot took the tarot world by storm in 2018 and became the talk of the town. It began independently-published and crowd-funded, raising $120,000 in what felt like a blink of an eye. It was fully funded on Indiegogo around this time, February of 2018, and here I am one year later, February of 2019, reviewing the mass market version of the deck by U.S. Games.

Given that most mass market decks take one to two years to go from contract to market, it’s evident that as soon as the Crow Tarot was picked up for mass publication, it was expedited to the front of the line. And no wonder! The deck is absolutely stunning.

Margaux Jones (MJ) Cullinane is a Seattle-based artist and graduate from the prestigious Parson’s School of Design. I couldn’t definitively identify the medium of the artwork in this deck, but on Cullinane’s bio page in the companion book, she notes that her unique and signature digital collage technique was self-taught and since that’s the only artist’s medium mentioned, I’m guessing this deck is rendered by that signature digital collage style.

In addition to reviewing the Crow Tarot, I thought I’d take this opportunity to also show you what I do when I first get a brand new deck and how I begin to bond with it.

Normally I do not like to put any sacred tools, which for me includes the tarot, even a brand new tarot deck, on the floor, unless the space has been consecrated, so for instance, I’ll consecrate the area rug you see above and the perimeter around it before setting the cards down on the rug.

That’s one of the first things I do: I set out all the cards in the order that they come in out of the box and then stand back so I can take in the bigger picture of that deck.

The Crow Tarot, Majors Key 0, I – XI

Key V: The Hierophant here is exceptional and one of my top favorites when it comes to renderings of the Hierophant card. I love the white angel/dove wings on the stained glass just behind our hierophant raven. I love how in Key IV, our Emperor raven has taken the feathers of another bird and adorned himself with it. Perching on the blade of a sword is a great touch. Here, specifically in the Emperor card, there is an element of magical surrealism that’s coming through.

The Crow Tarot, Majors Key XII – XXI

There’s a postmodern witchy aesthetic here, too. It’s a deck that I would read with in a professional setting at a Berkeley fair underneath a pitched tent while surrounding myself with crystals and incense. Working with the raven and crow as a messenger while relaying divinatory messages from beyond to our mundane world seems like a no-brainer for the modern-day witch.

The Crow Tarot, Minors, Suit of Wands

Here I’ve set out the cards in the order they came in out of the box, so I’m intrigued any time a deck creator orders the deck in a way that’s a little unconventional. Here, Cullinane has ordered the Minor suits from courts, highest rank to lowest (i.e., King, Queen, Knight, to Page), then from Tens, Nines, counting down to the Aces.

The Crow Tarot, Minors, Suit of Cups

This deck feels magical. It feels woven with so much promise and potential, a deck that feels keenly attuned to the supernatural. Cullinane has deftly sewn in Crow energy into her deck, infusing these cards with intensity and mysticism.

The Crow Tarot, Minors, Suit of Swords

The Crow Tarot is a great deck to reserve for mediumship readings or to connect with those who have crossed over, especially if that crossing was recent. One by one, consecrate each card through the smoke of burning frankincense under a full moon in a zodiac sign that amplifies your own natal moon sign while setting intentions into the cards for retrieving messages from those on the other side and I think you can set your copy of this deck to be one of your more powerful mediumship tools.

The Crow Tarot, Minors, Suit of Pentacles

When I first receive a new deck, I make sure I touch each and every single card, one by one, in the order they come in, and as I do this, I start to get a sense of what specific purpose and strengths the deck possesses. During this study period I also evaluate the imagery and symbolism for how it interprets the classical tarot systems and how the creator has added her own style and perspective to it. Here, Cullinane has produced a faithful RWS deck through the power of crows.

I’ll also read through any companion guidebooks a deck comes with. When I read a guidebook, I’m looking specifically for the creator’s point of view. I hope that the guidebook will give me insight into how the deck was created, what inspired the creator, and a little more about the art style. Here, Cullinane does give us a little about her personal history as an artist, why she’s so connected to crows, and a preferred method of daily reading draws– three cards rather than one.

Each Major Arcanum key is given a full page, featuring keywords, the elemental correspondence, and well-written explanations of the cards that will inform and anchor a beginner and delight the seasoned reader. Cullinane accounts for both upright and reversed meanings in her card entries.

On average the keys in the Minors are also given about a page’s worth of content, though it’s less consistent. Some you get one concise paragraph while others are about as involved and detailed as the Majors.

Once I’ve had a chance to study the cards one by one and review the guidebook, I gather up the deck and distribute the cards into seven piles, seven for my life path number 7. This works for me only because my life path number is 7 and that means distributing the cards into that many piles gets it well randomized. If your life path number is 1 or 2, then maybe this approach won’t work so well. =)

Then I cut the deck into four piles for the four elements and go in search for my go-to significator card, the Queen of Swords. The elemental card pile my Queen of Swords is in starts to give me a sense of the elemental expression for how I will be connecting with the deck.

Oh, by the way, the simplicity of the feather motif seamless tiling in the card back design complements the deck style really well. I love the color tones here along with the off-white parchment-style borders that were on the card faces.

In the Crow Tarot, I found my Queen of Swords in the Air pile. Well. That makes sense. Here I also take a look at the top-most card in each pile. Fire here is Five of Wands and I’ll read this as an omen for how this deck functions in career readings (the Fire pile corresponding to career matters). Key I: The Magician in the Water pile tells me how this deck functions in love and relationship readings. The Knight of Wands in the Air pile tells me how this deck functions in psychic (and for lack of a better word–) or paranormal readings. The Ten of Cups in the Earth pile tells me how the deck functions in money, financial, and business readings.

Overall, this is a deck that lives up to its hype. U.S. Games has also done the deck justice with sturdy cardstock and a well-designed matte finish top and bottom lid box to store your cards in. Also, no copyright notice on each and every single card! Yay! I am so much more likely to actually use a deck in professional reading settings and put it in to regular circulation among my working decks when there isn’t that copyright notice on each and every single card, and so for that, the Crow Tarot is now a strong contender!

Powerful, accurate, easy to read for any Rider-Waite-Smith tarot reader, and as a tarot deck, truly a modern classic. Definitely worth acquiring.

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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 Crow Tarot from the publisher for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion of the deck.

5 thoughts on “The Crow Tarot by MJ Cullinane & What I Do With a New Deck

  1. Wow! I must say I myself try to not get too wrapped up in the acquisitional aspect that tarot can become. Granted, I’m a collector and hoarder of many things, books, plants, seeds; I do not judge those that seek or choose to build a collection of anything. But the way you’ve described this deck and it’s attributes does have me pondering. . . another deck might be in my near future? Thanks!

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  2. Vera

    I had no knowledge of this deck until I browsed the publisher’s site mid-December😀(first time I actually did that). Saw it and had to have it. It took a while to be delivered so I searched for videos to see how the rest of the cards look. Happily, there’s one by the creator herself. Not surprisingly, this is turning out to be one of my most treasured decks.

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