Kathryn Briggs is a graphic novelist, illustrator, and arts educator. Following the end of her marriage, she left the UK, where she had gone to art school and launched her career in the arts, and returned home, back to Philadelphia. The New Chapter Tarot is her story of starting a new chapter, told through paint.
With a matte finish and the absolute perfect hand-held size (about one-fifths shorter than standard tarot), this deck is a delight to read with. It reads like a Book of Changes, because these cards were born from its creator’s journey of personal evolution. New Chapter Tarot is described as featuring beautifully diverse representation, mythology, sacred geometry, blended with iconic traditional tarot symbolism. Briggs herself is a practicing witch.
The card back with the heron and owl touching wings is a stunner of a drawing. I interpret the heron as symbolizing exoteric knowledge and the owl as esoteric knowledge. I also love that the High Priestess card is featured on the box, which is a representation of the Mystery of the Triple Goddess or, as the guidebook notes, “Mami Wata bringing devotees into the spirit world to gain Knowledge.” Oh, and as you can see from the photo, like the standard Thoth card backs, they’re non-reversible.
I think I read somewhere that the deck is Thoth-inspired (though don’t quote me on that). If so, it’s most notably sensed through the strong reliance on sacred geometry. I loved reading the guidebook entries alongside studying each card illustration. The Magician card, for instance, is “Mercury the Magus, Thoth as God of Magick, The Alchemist who has wrought gold from the Philosopher’s Stone, Loki as Shapeshifter, Raven as the Maker of Things.” According to the guidebook, The Empress card features Aphrodite.
With her Key XI: Strength card, pictorially she went for the lion and the maiden motif rather than the Thoth Lust card Beast and Scarlet Woman imagery, though essential elements of it are still present. It’s more that she’s made that imagery her own and given her artistic interpretation of it.
By the way, sidenote: what an interesting trend of reviving two-headed Temperance representations. Several decks now, including the latest edition of my own, made in the last few years feature a two-headed Temperance.
You have that dualism and merging of anima and animus in The Fool card as well. There are really strong Hermetic influences throughout the deck’s symbolism. I also appreciate that the illustrations feel timeless. There is a seamless blending of many different time periods and cultures.
That Tower card could very well be a standalone art print. Seriously. If it hung on a wall, I could stare at it for hours. Briggs’s approach to The Star card here feels high-concept, doesn’t it?
By the way I’m going to mention it again because I can’t get over how much I love the size of this deck. It’s smaller than standard tarot, but still larger than Lenormand or playing cards.
In terms of artistry, you can’t help noticing the masterful use of negative space– always meaningful, weighty. There’s an overall watery, flowing energy to the cards. The deck features two extra cards– Gratitude and Invocation. Gratitude, I think, is self-explanatory. The Invocation card is about cultivating a deeper connection to your spirit guides.
There’s a dream-like quality to the application of color. It does feel very Thoth, and yet distinctly unique to Briggs’s style. I’m not certain on what medium she used, but it looks like watercolor and ink. The wisps of color in the backgrounds give the impression of prophetic visions.
I’m really loving this interpretation for the Seven of Cups, having the cups in the formation of a septagram, and how there’s both a bit of a Wheel of Fortune and World card vibe to it. The guidebook says about the Seven of Cups: “This card offers a glimpse of possibilities . . . Drunk on imagination, dancing unfettered and a bit too wildly, this is a time of big dreams and ideas – but without grounding them in reality.”
Though you might not be able to notice the facial expressions on the figures, when you’re handling these cards in person, you’ll see how much emotion is captured in these drawings. It’s quite incredible.
The reason I wasn’t sure whether this was Thoth-inspired is because the courts do deviate from the Thoth court hierarchy. In New Chapter, it’s Princess for the Pages, Knights, Queens, and Kings, whereas Thoth decks tend to go with Princess, Prince (for what’s popularly ascribed as Knights), Queens, and Knights (for what’s popularly ascribed as Kings).
But I mean. Look at these illustrations! It’s definitely got a Thoth vibe to it, doesn’t it?
The one thing about the solid black card back design (and I learned this the hard way myself with the production of my First Edition SKT deck) is if you tend to have long nails or wear jewelry that may have some edges to it, you’ll need to be super careful when shuffling. The solid blacks will scratch easily. But as long as you’re mindful that your jewelry or nails never scratch up against it, you’ll be fine.
What makes this deck so deeply sentimental is how Briggs has a personal connection to each card. For instance, the Queen of Swords features a friend of hers who offered their shoulder to cry on before giving her keen advice. That absolutely adorable Six of Disks is cat she adopted. Earlier, the Strength card from the Majors features an estranged friend.
There is a demi matte finish to the cards and it’s printed on really thick, luxe cardstock. So in the beginning, there will be some stick to the shuffle. Also, I didn’t personally have the hand strength to riffle shuffle with this deck– I couldn’t get them to arch. And because of the initial stick, you also can’t fan the cards out across the table. So you’re left with overhand and any other creative methods for randomizing the cards that you can come up with.
However, take heart, because having worked with these types of decks before, I know from experience that frequent use of the deck will soften the cardstock in, and then there will be better slip while shuffling. So this deck will wear in quite nicely. They’re like ballet point shoes– you’ve really got to do a number to them for them to become pliable. But in doing so, you’re also imprinting the deck with your own energies and bonding with it.
The imagery and symbolism on this deck draw a lot from nature, sacred geometry, and Near Eastern, Greco-Roman, and pagan mythology. Plus, Rachel Pollack, yes, the Rachel Pollack wrote the Foreword to the guidebook. These watercolor paintings are exquisite, and collected in your hands as a deck of tarot cards brings you an altogether magical feeling.
You can pre-order your copy of the deck from the publishing house, Liminal 11 HERE. The deck will be released in May, 2021.
New Chapter Tarot would make for a great workhorse deck. It’s versatile, feels both traditional and modern at the same time, with imagery that clients and querents can easily connect to. The deck is saturated with emotion, and yet the soft coloring gives it this tender touch that yields uplifting reading experiences.
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 this deck from its creator for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion of the deck.