The Mystical Dream Tarot by Janet Piedilato

The Mystical Dream Tarot published by Eddison Books is an unconventional tarot deck that blends shamanic journeying with transpersonal psychology. The deck creator, Janet Piedilato, is a transpersonal psychologist, healthcare consultant, and ordained minister, with doctorate degrees in Biology and Psychology.

Right up front in the Introduction of the guidebook, Piedilato lets us know that this deck will not be following “traditional tarot, where the meanings are merely set for us to memorize and then to place in patchwork interacting spreads.”

Rather, the Mystical Dream Tarot features “dream images” used to “dig more deeply into the personal consciousness, helping each of us find answers which are within our own unique psyche. . . . [Mystical Dream Tarot] does not demand we memorize and follow dogmatically a formalized path chosen for us.”

So here I might respectfully raise the counter that all decks can do just that. I don’t think certain tarot decks demand that you memorize card meanings while others “dig more deeply into the personal consciousness.”

You the tarot reader make the decision on how you want to read the deck. Because I could very well take this Mystical Dream Tarot, pull cards, and then look up each card meaning in the guidebook, one by one, and interpret a spread of cards strictly and narrowly through the printed text. And I could very well take the RWS deck, throw out every RWS card meanings book ever published, and just read it in an improvisational style, digging into my personal consciousness.

The images in this deck are all sourced from Piedilato’s dreams, which she then transcribed through the structure of the tarot deck. However, I’m not entirely sure whether Piedilato herself then created the art based on her dreams or whether Tom Duxbury was the artist commissioned to bring her dream visions to life. Either way, the artwork is beautiful. I love the style of art. It is in perfect harmony with the deck’s premise and point of view.

First Septenary of the Majors, Keys I through VII + Key 0

The card titles have, for the most part, been renamed, though in the First Septenary, The Hierophant, The Lovers, and I’ll even say The Moon Chariot remains the same. The motif here feels Neo-Pythagorean mixed with Celtic and Egyptian lore, blending styles from classical antiquity and modern art media. I love the thoughtful, intentional color palette.

Second Septenary of the Majors, Keys VIII – XIV

Here we see that Piedilato is following TdM/Thoth Key numbering with Key VIII as Justice, renamed to Maat, and Key XI as… I’m going to assume that’s the Strength card, renamed to Sophia, though my brain and conditioning tends to connect Sophia with the High Priestess but maybe that’s just me.

Key XIII, the tarot Death card, is renamed to the Wise Fox, and while we still get a bit of a tribute to the classic tarot Death card with that skeleton and maybe arguably even the dark night sky, I’m interested in the fox! Here’s what the guidebook has to say: “Wise Fox dances with death.” Okay, I’m feeling re-centered back into the Death card. The angelic figure you see symbolizes the intuitive senses of Fox. “Clever Fox knows the truth about death, bringing the message that life does not end, that death is a mere portal into the realm of eternal life.” I’m nodding here, because it works for me.

The rest of the passages about the Death card (Wise Fox) describes this figure and archetype as a creature of transformation, magic, and trickery, seeing through falsehoods and “beyond the portal of death.” What is being pictured here in this card is the “dance between life and death.” This card is a sign to move beyond grief and loss. When the Wise Fox card appears in your reading, it portends that a transformation is near.

Third Septenary, Keys XV – XXI

There are many cards that take you (okay, fine, took me) by surprise. For instance, as I’m perusing through the Major Arcana and not reading each of the card titles or looking at key numbers too carefully, I can confuse myself. I’ll see the image on Key 16: The Tower card and intuitively assume I’m looking at the tarot Death card. Earlier, Key 8: Maat (for Justice) could pass for Temperance, because I think I’ve been brainwashed to look for the balancing scales when you say either “Maat” or “Justice.” Key 19: The Sun card in this deck could (at least for me) pass as The World card, so at this point of my study of the deck, I’m realizing I will need to chuck out a lot of my preconceived notions about the tarot out the window. And that’s fine by me. I’m ready for it.

Suit of Wands, Ace to Ten

Something about lotus blossoms floating atop water always gets me thinking of the Suit of Cups, but no, here we are in the Suit of Wands, Fire. When you look at all ten pip cards from the Suit of Wands, a clear theme emerges: dominion, housing, domain, and marking physical space. Start with the bed in the Two of Wands, for instance, which by the way is the most interesting Two of Wands I’ve seen in a while. Four of Wands, Seven of Wands– you see building structures. The Eight of Wands is reminiscent to me of casting a magical circle– the magician’s space. And so on.

Whether Piedilato intended the Wands suit to designate spheres of territory and the theme of personal jurisdiction, I don’t know, but the illustrations here seem clear to me that such a theme emerges nevertheless.

Six of Wands from the Mystical Dream Tarot

Here’s the Six of Wands, which for me has some strong Magician-as-alchemist vibes, and right I was, as those vibes are confirmed by the guidebook. Removing the card title, the card entry for the Six of Wands reads a little like an esoteric rendition of Key I: The Magician. “The joy of creation reaches the ultimate alchemical level,” the entry begins. We’re talking about the “serpent of wisdom” here, “self-realization is evident…” and “wisdom rising from the creative egg.”

The entry continues: “One reaches the state of happiness when one accepts who they are. . . self-knowing . . . The alchemical vessel carries life.” When I’m really working my brain on overdrive to push connections, I can see how this card is the Six of Wands in tarot, especially if I go back to a more Marseilles style of interpretation, focusing mainly on the numerology and the elemental Fire.

Ooh, okay so this is a fun one. Take a look at the above two cards from the Suit of Cups. Assuming you know a little bit of tarot, take a guess as to what those two cards are. No cheating. No scrolling down until you’ve confirmed your guesses.

(Chances are you’re going to be quick about it, thinking you know everything, and remarking, “Gee, Bell must think I’m stupid for not spotting right away what these two cards are. You do know I’ve been reading tarot for the last umpteen number of years, right?” I see you over there rolling your eyes at me.)

Five of Cups

Ace of Cups, you said? Wrong, buddy! But don’t worry. I’m guilty of getting it wrong, too.

Just for reference, for those who need it, in the Rider-Waite-Smith, the Five of Cups is that card with that mysterious figure in a dark cloak, looking sullen, hunched shoulders, mourning over three spilled cups, with two filled cups in the back. Remember? The keyword on the Thoth Five of Cups is “Disappointment.”

SO… what we’re really looking at here is more of a traditional, historic meaning of the tarot Five of Cups in the Tarot de Marseille. Mathers describes the Five of Cups as meaning “Union, junction, marriage, inheritance.”

Working with Mathers’ TdM card attributions, Piedilato’s card image here makes a lot of sense. Even there, however, I still make the initial error of seeing the Ace of Cups.

Ace of Cups

If, like me, your immediate gut reaction was to assume that would be the Two of Cups, well. Surprise! It’s the Ace of Cups.

But here’s the thing. Maybe you’ll be surprised by my feedback. I’m not mad at it. I like it. I have to shift some of my preconceived studied notions around, but once I do, I can really, really work with this deck, and I dig it.

Suit of Cups, Ace to Ten

I confess to reading some of the customer reviews that have come out on this deck, and the divisiveness of the reviews show you just how special this deck is. Those who give it glowing reviews love that this deck is so unconventional and visceral. Those who leaving scathing, negative reviews want the deck to be a Rider-Waite-Smith clone.

Suit of Swords, Ace to Ten

Mystical Dream is a powerful, sentient deck, but you have to let go of your position of “I know the tarot like the back of my hand” and instead, let the deck teach you how to read the cards. I mean it. The deck will guide you on how it wants to be read. The companion guidebook might give you a general sense for the deck creator’s intentions, but even with this comprehensive guidebook, I would say you are on your own. And I appreciate that.

The Five of Swords, for instance. Let’s take a peek inside the guidebook. Here, the essence of the Five of Swords is expressed through youths fishing by a shore, standing between land and water, symbolic of that liminal space between arrival and departure. This card, inferred from the guidebook, is about a sudden change coming soon that will require assertive, balanced decision-making, and the event will result in personal growth and wisdom.

Here’s why I’m showing you this card. It’s a perfect example of how to approach reading with this deck. If I do that thing that seasoned tarot readers do, where I transplant my memorized, studied, or heck, even if we say knowledge of the Five of Swords via experience from reading with the TdM, RWS, and/or Thoth, then I’m going to hit a wall, and hit it hard, when I look at this Five of Swords.

But… if I put on my beginner’s mind and let the image printed on that card speak to me, open myself to questions that the symbols on that card and the event depicted there, the story being told here will answer for me, then the deck reads rather easily, if you ask me.

So then the question arises: Is this tarot? I still say yes, by the way. I think it’s unconventional tarot if you are establishing TdM, RWS, and/or the Thoth systems as conventional and saying a creator must work within the established scope of those systems. If you’re lenient with your definition of “tarot” and just need the 78 cards, the Major and Minor subdivision, 22 and 56 respectively, with the Minors into the four suits, Ace to Ten pips and four courts, then yes, you most certainly have a tarot deck here.

The greater philosophical question this deck raises is: how do we ascribe meanings to the keys of the tarot? Because Mystical Dreams Tarot challenges preconceived notions, and yet in all fairness, this is a tarot deck.

Suit of Pentacles, Ace to Ten

The extent of studied knowledge I’ll apply when reading this deck are my correspondences for the numerology of the key number and the elemental basis of the card. That’s it. And that’s only a beginning reference point.

From there, I shed what I think I know about the tarot and instead, let the imagery and the symbols on the card speak to me. What are the figures in the illustration trying to show me, trying to express to me? How do I interpret the symbols as signs and omens? What does the frog in the Eight of Pentacles signify to me? If the Four of Pentacles appears in a reading, take time to meditate and perhaps even journal about the onion.

Court Cards in Piedilato’s Mystical Dream

The court card titles have been renamed. The tarot Page is the Dreamer, the Knight is the Spirit of that element, the Queen is the Lady, and the King is the Lord.

The Dreamer of Swords (Page of Swords), for instance, is, according to guidebook, “a goddess of wisdom and of great strength in all things.” The olive tree depicted on the card symbolizes Her offering of peace; the trident here signifies the drawing of power and wisdom from the great pool of all being. “She embodies sacred holiness.” [All meanings here sourced from the guidebook.]

Admittedly, there is not a whole lot you can do with that card meaning in an everyday reading and that card description is very far removed from a common understanding of the Page of Swords in fortune-telling traditions. And yet I really love what Piedilato is doing here. I’m also intrigued that in the “In a Reading” section of the card entry, the author notes that the Dreamer of Swords could signify “possibly a psychologist – a master in getting at the truth and fighting falsehoods,” which works within the scope of how we view the Page of Swords in tarot.

The Lady of Swords (Queen of Swords), reading from the guidebook, “manifests high spiritual attainment, shining the light of transcendence, putting within grasp connections with the Great Consciousness. Self-realization is here . . . Empty of illusion . . . birthing a new life for herself.” The Lord of Swords (King of Swords): “Attunement with what is. He banishes chaos. . . His justice is that of the principle of Maat . . . a truly enlightened ruler.” And so on. From these passages, you’ve got a sampling of how the rest of the guidebook reads, the tone and style.

Spirit of Swords (Knight of Swords)

How I like to read with this deck is to see each card as a vision in a dream. I’m walking through the dark woods and suddenly an enormous oak tree in front of me opens itself and out emerges that flaming stone head, peacock feathers, and the scorpion climbing up its side.

And then I jolt awake. What did that vision mean?

Work through it. Describe the vision, writing it down in your tarot journal, and as you do so, work through what each symbol means to you, what cultural meanings it holds and then what very specific, deeply and uniquely personal meanings it has for you. Ask Spirit why this vision has been shown to you, then close your eyes and listen to receive messages via clairaudience, clairsentience, or claircognizance.

Guidebook and Card Back Design

Just a quick note about the production values. The cardstock is really thick and sturdy, barely bendable, and laminated with a high-gloss finish. That glossy finish is buttery smooth, so it fans out across your reading table beautifully. The guidebook offers interpretations for the cards both upright and reversed, though I don’t personally read reversals with this deck.

Court Cards in Piedilato’s Mystical Dream

While the marketing for the deck has peddles it as transpersonal psychology inspired for self-discovery, this deck feels very, very occult to me. It pulls so much from 18th and 19th century Western esotericism and mystery traditions, narrating Hermetic philosophy and Neoplatonism more than it does anything else.

So I would perhaps say that the marketing angle has done Mystical Dream Tarot a bit of a disservice, because if you buy the deck for the pretty pictures on the assumption you’re going to start reading it with your canned RWS card meanings, you’re going to be in for a fun surprise. This is a deck that will make you do the difficult work yourself, but if you are willing, rewards you aplenty.

It’s magical. The cards tingle beneath my fingertips. The renamed titles in the Majors and courts resonate with me on a soul level. This is the deck I would reach for to interpret dreams and for a method that Piedilato teaches called dream incubation. Let’s talk about that.

This end section of the guidebook was one of the most insightful. You can use the Major Arcana of the tarot, specifically the cards from Mystical Dream, as dream incubators, to incubate a dream or vision. Try this out for yourself.

Formulate an important question, one you seek to probe deeper into yourself and the universe for the answer, then draw one of the Majors at random (this would be your psyche drawing the card). For this test exercise, focus on your inquiry and choose one of the cards presented below. Right to left, the glyphs signify Fire, Water, Air, and Earth. The elemental designations do not need to hold any significance or they can hold all the significance in the world and inform how you choose. Completely up to you.

Right to left: Fire, Water, Air, Earth

Next, you would look up that specific Major Arcanum card in the end section of the Mystical Dream guidebook and read the paragraph that Piedilato provides for that card, all while you repeat your inquiry. Piedilato even recommends reading the passage a few times. For our exercise, I’ll give you the paragraph to read for the card you’ve chosen.

You can do the dream incubation before you go to bed, so you’ll dream about it. In that case, make sure you keep a dream journal close by on the night stand so you can write down your dream when you wake. Alternatively, meditate upon the card imagery of the Major you had drawn and repeat in your psyche the key passages Piedilato gave you about that card.

Essentially, the Major you had pulled in such a reading method is the dream incubator.

Now let’s see which Major Arcanum is your dream incubator.

Fire Pile: Right-most card

MASTER OF SECRETS

And here’s the incubation passage to read, inscribe into your inner sanctum, and either sleep or meditate on:

Click for enlarged view

Water Pile: Second from the right

JUDGEMENT

And here’s the incubation passage to read, inscribe into your inner sanctum, and either sleep or meditate on:

Click for enlarged view

Air Pile: Second from the left

THE SORCERER

And here’s the incubation passage to read, inscribe into your inner sanctum, and either sleep or meditate on:

Click for enlarged view

Earth Pile: Left-most card

MAAT

And here’s the incubation passage to read, inscribe into your inner sanctum, and either sleep or meditate on:

Click for enlarged view

The Mystical Dream Tarot by Janet Piedilato is one of my go-to working decks out on my reading table at the moment, and it’s because I love how well it reads. I love its shamanistic complexion, and the nucleus of this deck is positively occult. This will not be a deck for the fairweather reader. The way this deck first asks of you to shed old canon and trust where it will lead you conveys a sense of initiation.

If you’re looking for a beginner’s tarot study deck, then the Mystical Dream Tarot might not be it. But any seasoned reader looking for that next thing to deepen their esoteric study of the tarot will delight in this magnificent, otherworldly, and mythical deck that Piedilato has brought to life.

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

6 thoughts on “The Mystical Dream Tarot by Janet Piedilato

  1. Sally

    Benebell I loved your review of this deck–and I’m grateful that you did a review. I bought this deck based on Steven Bright’s review (informal). Honestly I found the images depressive (the grays and pinks?) and unusual enough that I went: ‘huh’, and put it away. Here’s what I know about myself: first impressions with Tarot decks/Oracle Decks are not always accurate. I must have a strong visual bias…..
    Anyway, I’m willing to give it a try but I’ve still got other decks to get to know first.

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  2. Pingback: The Mystical Dream Tarot by Janet Piedilato — benebell wen | ravenhawks' magazine

  3. Interesting idea & art!:) must say my 1st impression was someone mixed card tittles?xD lol
    but as you say it’s for those *Open Minded & ready to give it fresh start?;)
    agree it’s tarot deck as it’s 78 cards majors & minors even unconventional we like to argue imo similar to Osho Zen & Transurfing Tarot by Vadim Zeland more out of tradition?;)
    thank you for recommendation!^^ lol

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  4. O.L.P.

    This deck is gorgeous, but… I find myself frustrated that all the people in the cards seem to be white, able-bodied, and straight. This frustration pulled me away from your review, which was thoughtful as always. The art is so pretty but–ack!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Wow, thank you for that very informative, thoughtful, and comprehensive review. I had told myself I was done with buying new decks, but your review has put this on a ‘must buy’ list (of 1). I love the way it challenges the preconceptions.

    Coincidentally (but of course, there are no coincidences) my current Labrys Ascension Card is Maat, so I really appreciated that added insight.

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  6. Frank Hall (Parzival)

    This deck is an intriguing, profound interplay of dream imagery and traditional meanings– more of a dynamic blend than I first realized. It has no pretension to be a new system. It combines golden dawn symbolism and the author’s personal dream visions, emphasis on the latter. I am impressed with the originality. With this one the lady’s extensive knowledge and wisdom leads the skillful male artist. The results are a tribute to these two collaborators.

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