The Lions Gateway Tarot by Jessica Leigh Henry caught my attention pretty much right away. I felt so inexplicably drawn to the art. The line drawings are wood-burned via pyrography and then colored in with oil paints.
There’s an Old World European feel to these cards. Richly colored and elegant, this is a beautiful and also easy-to-read with tarot deck for professional reading settings. If you’re the hired tarot reader at a book fair, writers conference, or an art gallery opening exhibition, this is the deck I’d bring to read with.
The First Edition is gilded (with the gold edges) while the Second Edition is not (the white edge version in the foreground above).
The First is larger in dimension (above left), but I prefer how the Second Edition handles (above right). It’s a more standardized tarot deck size, whereas the First is slightly larger.
The deck comes with a guidebook that gives you concise card meanings upright and reversed. You’ll also get instructions for the classic Celtic Cross spread. Half in jest, I use the Celtic Cross as my threshold marker between old guard tarot readers and modern readers. Stereotyping here, most old guard tarot readers still swear by the Celtic Cross, while modern readers like to pretend it doesn’t exist. =) You rarely see the Celtic Cross featured in LWBs these days.
I will note that the aesthetics and point of view presented in the Lions Gateway Tarot feels as if it comes from a different century. It’s as if someone opened a time capsule from seventy years prior, found this deck, and produced it now, in a century that feels to be moving and pulsing at an entirely different pace.
There’s a velvety matte feel to the finish on these cards and they’re a beautiful professional reading deck, so if you’ve been on the hunt for a go-to workhorse deck that your clients will love, look no further.
The card backs on the latest edition feature a reversible lion and heart heraldry design with medieval-inspired ornamentation. I personally don’t love the burnt umber brown and bright yellow color pairing, but I can work with it.
Above you can scan the Suit of Cups, which altogether feature soft blues and a pale rose tone, evocative of the emotions expressed in the Cups. It’s distinctly Rider-Waite-Smith inspired, so if you’re looking for a beginner’s tarot deck but don’t want to use the original RWS art deck, this is a great alternative that will still be compatible with most RWS-based tarot books.
Above you’ll find the Suit of Pentacles, transitioning to more earthy colors. The style of the deck is reminiscent of illuminated manuscripts, which is why I think I love Jessica Leigh Henry’s art so much.
Here you can see a close-up of the artist’s craftsmanship. It’s beautifully detailed. Those who read the cards by a storyteller method will acclimate quickly with the deck and find your readings crystal clear.
The cardstock quality is very thick and sturdy, and even among indie decks, is at the higher end of production value, so for the price, you are really getting a good return on your investment. I first met the artist at Mary Greer’s place. When Jessica showed me images of her deck, I fell in love with it immediately.
The Lions Gateway Tarot is such an underrated deck. I’m surprised I haven’t heard more public buzz around it. To me, that speaks as commentary on culture, time, and place. Had this deck been released 20-30 years ago, I would place bets that it’d be a huge hit, garner a lot of praise, and would be popularly enjoyed. It would get picked up by one of the major deck publishing houses and today we’d talk about how it’s a classic.
Pyrography as an art form was popular in Art Nouveau, and you can see subtle inspiration from that movement here in Leigh Henry’s work. Her art style is distinctly European with notable influences from late 19th century illustration work.
The color tones are warm, comforting, with that Old World elegance that is at once both delicate and confident. It’s a deck that leans toward hope, optimism, and yet very much grounded in truth and wisdom.
Look for the blue box version of the deck on Jessica Leigh Henry’s shop page. If you’re looking to support indie artists during this very tough economic time we’re facing and also benefit yourself with a tarot deck that’s full of heart, that tells meaningful, prophetic stories that will enrich you and your clients’ lives, look no further.
Order the SECOND EDITION here. (My preference.)