The Angel Tarot and Occult Tarot by Travis McHenry first came out via Kickstarter, and then got picked up for traditional publication by Rockpool, which launched earlier this year. I’ll be covering both in this review.
I’m a fan of the packaging and production value here, for both decks. You’re getting a meaty full-color guidebook, a sturdy keepsake box that is both beautiful and practical, and good bang for your buck. The raised printing of the line illustration on the front of the box and the gilded detailing is luxurious.
Let’s start with the Angel Tarot. First, the daunting, laborious task that it was to polish these illustrations, organize the information, and produce such an esoteric compendium in deck and book form means it’s worth your while to get this deck just to be a beneficiary of McHenry’s work.
Citing the works of Agrippa, you’re born with three guardian angels. The 72 angels of the Shem HaMephorash are assigned across the days, hours, and seasons. You’ll know the names of your guardian angels per the date and time of your birth. For the full deck of 78, 6 Archangel cards were added to the 72 Shem– Archangel Michael, Metatron, Gabriel, Haniel, Samael, and Uriel.
The guidebook provides the angel assignments, your Soul Guardian (hour of birth), Moral Guardian (month and day of birth), and Physical Guardian (calendar period/season of birth). You can then use those particular calling cards from the deck plus the evocation instructions in the guidebook to work with your three guardian angels.
Another methodology is to use the Angel Tarot with the astrological correspondences from Muriel Hasbrouck. So, for example, my sun sign is Libra, which correspondences with Justice in the Majors. Justice, in the Angel Tarot, corresponds with Caliel, The Invocable God. Per the guidebook, “Those born under Caliel will possess integrity and love, truth, and will distinguish themselves in government.” (You can use this reference guide to find yours.)
I believe these illustrations are from older texts on angelology, though any names escape me at the moment. On his website, the author notes this:
“In November 2018, I traveled to Paris, France, where I successfully passed a three-part screening interview (in French) and was granted access to never-before-published occult books of angel magic from the 1600s and 1700s. These books are so old and rare, they don’t even have listed authors and were written entirely in Latin and French.”
Other than that, I couldn’t find any specific citations, attributions of sources, works cited, or a bibliography. That would be my only critique– citing the sources these images and information came from would have been, I feel, an important feature.
EDIT: A fellow reader commented to my Instagram post of this deck with the source citations that were in the Kickstarter version of the guidebook, but just not in the Rockpool published version. Here they are:
– Angel Tarot: De Arte Cabbalistica (1517)
– Three Books of Occult Philosophy (1531)
– The Magical Calendar (1582)
– The Grimoire of Armadel (1600s)
– Oedipus Aegyptiacus (1652)
– La Science Cabalistique (1823)
– Clefs Majeurs et Clavicules de Salomon (1860)
Aside from that, the touch-up work to produce this deck is magnificent. I love the minimal use of color saturation to give each card composition more depth and visual interest. McHenry’s design work here is superb.
A bit about the arrangement on each card: Top centered on the card is the tarot correspondence from McHenry. Below it in large, pronounced font is the angel name per the 72 Shem, the angel number, and the meaning of the name. Cahethel, for instance, means “Adored by God.”
The bottom left reddish sigil is the angel’s summoning sigil, and to the right is the Pentacle of Tozgraec, which as best as I could manage to source it for this review, is a self-published 2012 text in French, Le Secret des Secrets par Tozgraec ou le Véritable Grimoire by a Frater Tozgraec. The center gives the angel’s office and abilities correspondence.
One of the primary purposes for this deck is technological efficiency when it comes to angel evocation. Evocation rituals, meditation, and doing divinatory readings with the deck are all instructed in the companion guidebook.
While the guidebook offers instructions on using the deck for a single-card divinatory draw, three-card reading, or the Celtic Cross, I personally would have some difficulty reading with this deck using traditional tarot methods. However, that’s not to say it can’t be done. I’ll be linking to a video tutorial from the deck creator, which walks you through how to do an everyday practical reading with the Occult Tarot, but the techniques he shares can also be applied to reading a Celtic Cross with the Angel Tarot, so be sure to check that out.
So for me, a deck like McHenry’s Angel Tarot wouldn’t so much be a reading deck on mundane matters as it would a tarot deck for ritual and ceremonial uses. If you’re studying the 72 angels of the Shem HaMephorash, the Angel Tarot and its guidebook are going to be invaluable resources to have on hand.
The deck as a whole is an exquisite work of art. Just being able to have access to it, to peruse through each card, to be inspired by McHenry’s work, is enough reason to get the deck.
While the box of the Angel Tarot, in terms of tactile texture, was standard packaging, not so for the Occult Tarot! Oh my! The finish on this black box is this soft, velvety rose petal laminate that’s ultra-matte, paired in contrast with that metallic red. If you want to talk about temptress level aesthetics, this is it!
I found a video tutorial by the deck author on how to read with the deck, which in its Kickstarter phase was called the Demon-Possessed Tarot, and the version of it published by Rockpool is the Occult Tarot. It’s definitely worth a watch if you’re interested in learning more about this deck and how you can work with it.
The Occult Tarot assigns the 72 demons from the Ars Goetia to the tarot deck structure, plus an additional 6 princes of hell (cf. 6 archangels added in the Angel Tarot)– Azazel, Baphomet, Beelzebub, Lucifer, Lucifuge Rofocale, and Moloch.
Like we did with the Angel Tarot and astrology-to-tarot correspondences, you can look up the demonic assignments to your sun sign decan ruler, moon sign, ascendant, etc. The decan ruler of my natal sun, for instance, is Moon in Libra, which corresponds with the Two of Swords in tarot. Here in McHenry’s deck, the Two of Swords to Halphas, who “builds towers and provides weapons and ammunition. Sends soldiers to appointed places.”
“Demons are spirits that straddle the border between the physical earth and the lower spiritual realms,” writes McHenry. “The Occult Tarot harnesses the power of these entities to help you uncover the hidden mysteries of your own life.”
Here, source references are a lot clearer. That or I’m just more familiar with McHenry’s sources for this deck, I don’t know. Most of the demonic illustrations are from the 1818 Dictionnaire Infernal by French occultist Jacques Collin de Plancy. The illustrations were done by Louis Le Breton. Other illustrations used are from Mather’s Lesser Key of Solomon and the general Key of Solomon grimoire from the Italian Renaissance.
The Occult Tarot is based heavily on Solomonic magic. The companion guidebook offers a greater starter pack of information and insights for demon summonings, ritual magic, and working with the deck.
I was really intrigued by some of the points covered in the guidebook that overlap with Taoist approaches to demonology. And this is beyond the painting-sigils-in-red part, too! For example, something I had (for some reason) thought was unique to Taoist magic was the ritual turning of calling seals. Basically, you craft the seal of a demon, recite incantations, and as you do so, turn the seal manually as you would a dial. I didn’t know that was a Western occult thing, too. Cool.
For the anatomy of the card, you’ll find the tarot key correspondence centered at the top, then in all-caps the name of the demon. Below in Hebrew is the name of the ruling angel. The numerical correspondence is the Goetic number. After the illustration from the Infernal Dictionary, which is beautifully cleaned up and refined in this deck, is the demon’s corresponding powers. Then you’ve got three versions of summoning seals for that demon.
The most interesting approach instructed in the guidebook on using this deck is questioning the demon. After casting a ritual circle, which is explained in the guidebook, you summon the demon and for each question you ask, draw a card. The tarot key correspondence of that card will be the answer to your inquiry.
Another approach this deck takes to well is to use the Celtic Cross layout, but with each card drawn into position, the demon associated with that card will reveal the effects that the appearing demon’s influences on your life path will have.
McHenry’s correspondences work really well and his dedication has contributed an incredible asset to the occult world. The collection of the Angel Tarot and the Occult Tarot has advanced our collective knowledge and insights into these spirit realms. He’s taken what we knew before and illuminated farther ground for us all.
Considering the totality of content provided in both decks, the Angel Tarot and the Occult Tarot, I have some thoughts, or questions maybe. The most nagging question is: why isn’t there any expository information on commonly-held beliefs when it comes to destructive influences of working with either angel or demon entities, potential psychological effects, addictive reliance on magic it can potentially cause the practitioner, risk of exposure to malefic attachments, or even just greater precautionary measures you might want to consider before advancing into this line ritual work?
All that may sound like a lot of woo to the rational skeptic, but given the premise of these decks, an additional chapter on precautions is not beyond its own realm of reasoning.
I did appreciate mention in the guidebook on how demons are jealous of humans because of our physical forms, which permits us to experience pleasures that they can’t, and that jealousy can be the underlying motivation of their actions. That’s helpful insight. Now if those paragraphs could have been extended further to cover more ground, I believe that would have helped to secure the confidence of your average user of this deck, especially since confidence and conviction are such important attributes for success in this line of work.
I was so excited for the opportunity to work with and review the Angel Tarot and Occult Tarot for you. I have been salivating over these decks for a while and now that I’ve been working with both, I can tell you they deliver in every way I expected them to deliver.
Travis McHenry has done the work and it is such a joy to be a beneficiary of that work. Rockpool Publishing did right by him as well, and produced two really beautiful decks that any occult practitioner will want at arm’s length for reference and any deck collector will want for rounding out the occult category of their collection. Good quality occult tarot decks are very hard to come by, and you won’t want to miss out on these.
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 these two decks for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion.