The Modern Witch Tarot by Lisa Sterle is a faithful RWS updated for this decade. Everything about it encapsulates what 2010 to 2019 has celebrated. Sterle has revitalized a deck from 1910 with youth, mondern-day intersectional femininity, and given the tarot new currency.
I love the fresh cartoon-style illustration and can see the value in modifying some of the esoteric symbolism in the original Rider pack to reflect 21st century alternative spirituality, such as changing the Tetramorph in Key 10 to featuring the four astrological symbols of the fixed signs, or featuring what looks like a white anemone on Death’s flag.
I received the Limited Edition, of which there are only 1,111 copies (I love that!). Although the Limited Edition is now sold out, you can still buy the Standard Edition via Amazon (U.S.), linked here. The deck publisher, Liminal 11 (their motto: Light at the Crossroads) is such an amazing indie company that I hope you’re inspired to click in to their website shop page, browse around, and support them. They’ve been putting out some of the most amazing decks, like the Luna Sol Tarot, which I reviewed here.
The packaging is top notch. If I had to guess, the stock for the top and bottom lid box, which opens in a rather unique way, must be around 1200+ gsm. It slides open with ease and will sit handsomely on your writing desk, reading table, or the coffee table in your living room where you and your friends can fawn over the chic artwork and sling cards for each other after dinner.
The deck comes with a card-size hardcover guidebook. I love the little Foreword by DC Comics writer Vita Ayala: “Witches can be found across all cultures. They are holders of wisdom and paranormal power, and Tarot is often associated with them. . . . Modern witchcraft has in many ways become a refuge for the disenfranchised. For many people of color, LBTQ+ people, and femme folks, it can be a way of retaking power.”
In addition to having all the card meanings at your fingertips, the little guidebook also features a generous portfolio of different card spreads to try, themed around modern witchcraft. A beginner armed with just this deck pack can try out any one of these spreads, then look up the card meanings and get a pretty meaningful reading, so I’m loving how this little book has been put together.
I’m intrigued by the deck creator’s design choice to modify the Devil’s hand gesture. In this deck, it appears to be the Vulcan salute from Star Trek for “live long and prosper.”
The imagery in the deck unapologetically dates it to our decade, where you’re seeing a smartphone in the version iconic of this decade, the style of dress on the figures, such as the shredded spandex leggings in the Six of Wands, and the motorcycle zooming across the Eight of Wands.
Oh, and the nod to naginata (though here, they’re wielding wands) in the Five of Wands in reference to the female samurai adds an international layer to the theme of female empowerment.
Naming this deck “Modern Witch” with a clear awareness of social and racial justice as the prime mode of expression across the cards’ imagery, presentation of Fourth-Wave Feminism, and an explicit Progressivist world view, we’re seeing a very specific and evolved definition of witchcraft. If you align entirely in that space, then this really is the deck you’ve been waiting for.
By the way, I read reviews noting that this deck is hard to shuffle, but I’m not quite sure where that critique is coming from. Maybe I have a different deck? This shuffled like butter for me. Because it’s got a high-gloss finish, the surface is smooth and slippery. In fact, I felt like the deck shuffled itself! (Oh.. wait…. I do the overhand shuffle… So yeah, okay, if you riffle shuffle, then this deck is hard to shuffle. You probably can’t riffle shuffle with it.)
My other favorite and go-to approach is to fan the cards out across the reading table and if I’m doing the reading, hover my hand over the cards and pick at random, or if the querent is there in-person sitting with me, then I have the querent pick the cards from the fan at random. If that’s how you shuffle, then there’s no issue here.
The pierced heart in the Three of Swords is bleeding blackened blood, or maybe you might read this as commentary on petroleum gas oil spills wounding the heart of Mother Earth. By the way, for those who follow fashion trends, ruffles have been big for much of 2015 to 2019, and it tickles me that it’s reflected in the clothing choices here, like the outfit in the Seven of Swords. By the way, that Ten of Swords is just so much awesome.
I’ve found that the deck reads beautifully. This IG post will give you a sense of how well it reads. Modern Witch works well as a beginner’s tarot deck because you can pick up any RWS-based book on the tarot and follow along without skipping one beat. This is absolutely a deck made for the age and era we are in today. I love that it gives visibility to those who have historically been marginalized and here are depicted as powerful, confident, and in command. I love that the deck itself, just by its very existence, is magic woven in support of social justice.
Even how the Eight of Pentacles theme has been modernized gives this deck such a new-generation pitch to it. Drawing with a stylus pen on a touch-screen monitor with another laptop open in the background and the city landscape outside the window is a narrowly specific expression of this decade.
Loving the extra two cards: “Everything is Fine” with a reprise of the imagery on the Ten of Swords and that fun affirmation card.
May I add some social commentary here? I’m puzzled by the emphasis on the imagery for the Ten of Swords. It’s that extra card; it’s the cover art on the book; it’s one of the cards featured on the deck box; and the Limited Edition kit came with a lapel pin featuring that imagery.
Both on its own and as a statement, I love that particular Ten of Swords imagery. What I don’t understand is how it expresses or embodies the themes of the deck overall; if anything, it almost undermines it. Woke culture gained traction exactly because of social media. The specific definition of modern witchcraft presented by this deck is the definition of modern witchcraft that arose as a direct result of social media. So I don’t entirely understand the intentional, voluntary connection to imagery that expresses the toxicity of social media.
Also, anyone else humored by the eerie synchronicity of this Ten of Swords depiction in 2019 and the Light Seer’s Tarot Ten of Swords controversy occurring in the same year, all of which happened over social media?
Overall, the Modern Witch Tarot published by Liminal 11 is iconic. This gold-edged high-gloss deck printed on some of the most luxe cardstock you can get with the clever powder-blue reversible card back design is a gem of a deck.
This is the kind of deck that’s going to be in high demand, touted as vintage, and worth money in the distant future, exactly because of how period-specific it is. When you want to see the decade, 2010 to 2019 in review, look no further than a browse through the cards of the Modern Witch Tarot.
It is going to make a great gift this holiday season to that budding witchy-leaning friend of yours, which you can order here, direct from the incredible (I truly do love them and always do everything I can to support them because they’re just the best!) boutique publishing house Liminal 11. As of this posting, though, there are only 101 copies of this edition left, so if you really want it, get on it!
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 Modern Witch Tarot from the publisher for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion of the deck.