When I first saw the Thoth Journey Tarot, it was love at first sight. If you like the art style of Mary-El Tarot, Navigators of the Mystic Sea, or the Mystical Dream Tarot, then Joanna-Kate Grant’s Thoth Journey Tarot is right up your alley. The artwork is done by Aia Leu. If your aesthetic is vibrant colors, surreal dreamscapes, and pagan-leaning, you’re going to love this deck.
Also, apologies for inadvertently giving anyone FOMO (fear of missing out), but according to the Seedpress website, there are only 45 copies of this deck left, so if you know for sure you want this deck, get on it. Order page here.
The book, to me, is really the main focus here. It reads like meditations, poetic and zen-like. We follow the journeys of a character, a she. One card entry progresses into the next like pages of a journal, accounts of her life and world. Reading each chapter is a magical act– I’d always feel uplifted and rejuvenated after.
In terms of production value, you’ve got this antique matte gold edging, which is lovely. Personally, I removed the interior white cardboard cut-out thingie where the cards were supposed to go. They didn’t really keep the cards in place anyway. And replaced it with a matching pale blue tarot bag I had. Other than that, I love the exterior box design.
I love how the book came first. Joanna-Kate Grant, an expert astrologer and seasoned tarot reader, she began writing the leaves of what would become the Thoth Journey: Oracle of Change. They were self-exploratory free-written meditations journeying into the nether-regions of herself, a “voyage into my own personal darkness to discover the creatrix who was hiding there”– the she and her referenced throughout the text.
A passage from the entry for The Chariot: “The thousand hard hoofed ponies of a clan of Mongolian tribesmen gallop past her, reducing her to floundering helplessly in the dust as wave upon wave of the sturdy legged creatures pass within inches of her.” As for meeting the figure pictured on the card, “The matriarch wears an elaborate headdress, heavily decorated with engraved silver and coral beads, whilst her braided black hair is streaked gently with age and heavy amber plaques hang in her ears.”
After the text was already under way, Grant collaborated with her longtime friend, artist Aia Leu to create these illustrations that would become the tarot-based oracle deck. I am calling it a tarot-based oracle deck because that’s how Grant refers to it in the guidebook. To me, as one who is working with the cards and reading with this deck, it’s very much tarot.
This has become one of my favorite decks acquired this year. While totally different from, say, The Mystical Dream Tarot, still, the two share a particular essence that I love, which is probably why I’m so enamored by both these decks. Sure, it’s probably the common color theme of the bluish tones. But of course it’s more than that.
While the deck’s namesake is a reference to Thoth the Egyptian god of writing, magic, wisdom, and the moon, this deck also happens to be Crowley-Harris Thoth-inspired in terms of its structure and aesthetic. If you’ve been looking to get a Thoth deck without actually having to get the Crowley-Harris Thoth deck, then this one might just be it for you.
Following Thoth here, Key 8 is Adjustment (Justice equivalent) and Key 11 is Lust (Strength equivalent). Describing the meaning of the Adjustment card: “This card comes at a time when your outer world needs to change to reflect the change that has occurred within.” And for the Lust card: “Be fearless in the face of adversity, proud of who you are and what you stand for, and do not forget the path of your heart.” Love these card attributions for Justice and Strength, and they’re beautiful messages to add to your tarot journal, if you keep one that logs card meanings.
Lately I’ve been going through this phase were I’m keenly fascinated by how different tarot deck artists illustrate The Devil card. Is it going to be a mythic monster or beast form? Modern decks often go the route of depicting temptation or transgressions. And then of course, there are the decks that nice-wash The Devil card.
Leu’s abstract depiction of The Devil card here intrigues me. It’s not necessarily abstract because the defined pictorial themes of the deck are abstract, because you do see human figures throughout the cards. Reading the guidebook, there’s a blending between this card and Key 16: The Tower card. Note what’s depicted here: “A flinty grey tower rises from the landscape like some ancient edifice from the land of fairy-tales . . . ” Here, she meets Malachi (note the extra card pictured above, after Key XXI: The Universe). “To utilise the power of The Devil, she must embrace the wildness and the more unacceptable parts of her nature.”
The card meaning here for The Devil: “The vortex of power can either drag you in and control you, or make you stronger as you master it. Owning both sides of your nature . . . will help you to use this earth energy to add to your strength and creative power.”
Revisit the earlier photograph posted here of The Tower and note a common compositional theme here, expressed again in The Hierophant. (By the way, loving the clouds that form the bull and the elephant in the skies.)
Many of Leu’s compositions here express distance through a two-point or three-point perspective technique, and by expressing distance, is conveying thresholds that represent the underlying theme of journeys. The four corners of the physical card itself feels like the framework around a portal. And then peering inside that portal, you see space and another portal in the distance, just like in The Hierophant. It’s just very beautifully rendered.
There is an extra Malachi card here and this is where the deck’s premise gets super interesting to me. Early in Grant’s journey writing these meditations and exploring her inner landscapes, working with Leu on illustrating those landscapes, she kept encountering a figure that introduced himself to her as Malachi.
It was only later on that she learned that Malachi is the Hebrew name for “my messenger” or “my angel,” and was a prophet. When reading with this deck, you might use the extra Malachi card as a significator, with the intention that it’s your spirit guide or guardian angel leading you through the divination.
Let’s take some time to talk about the Minor Arcana, where the suits are named after the four elements. Instead of Wands, it’s Fire; instead of Cups, it’s Water; Air for Swords; and Earth for Disks.
Astral travel is something I’ve been exploring with a lot more dedication as of late. I used to be very eye-roll people who do that are batshit crazy New Agers about astral travel (or whatever term you give it). But it’s such an undeniably large part of Taoist magic, esoteric Buddhism, and historically documented forms of Asian mysticism that finally I was like, okay fine. I need to see what all the hullabaloo is about for myself.
If by some synchronicity you’ve also been interested in personal explorations of astral travel as of late (astral vision journeys, creative visualization meditation, etc.), Thoth Journey: The Oracle of Change is kind of a perfect deck for that kind of work. Maybe that’s why I’m so enthusiastic and passionately in love with it.
Aia Leu’s art is surrealist, speculative, and epic. There’s a pronounced rhythm to her lines, and her use of shapes, forms, and geometry is in a way that lends itself perfectly to the Thoth system. Like the Two of Cups card (Water 2), expressing divinely inspired love through sacred geometry.
Like the Crowley-Harris Thoth deck, there is a palpable turbulence here, in the best way possible. The lines excite you, a form of physically active meditation. They’re like vortices that will sweep you up and carry you away into a different realm, a heightened, ecstatic state of consciousness.
There is something reminiscent of exploring the Akasha here, or Akashic Records, where the main hall or platform you always begin from is the Hallway of Beginnings. From the Hallway of Beginnings, the she and her of the narratives walks through different doorways along that hall, each leading to one of these 78 worlds.
By the way I want a wall mural painted ceiling to floor with what you see in Earth 2! This card would be the Two of Pentacles/Disks/Coins equivalent, and I can understand why Grant chooses to call this an oracle deck, rather than name it as a tarot deck.
To me, though, you don’t need to depict every tarot card in a way that conforms to standardized textbook meanings of that particular Key. I don’t need the Two of Pentacles equivalent in a tarot deck to have two big round golden circles, or the lemniscate. Here, this card is about flux and change, and having to respond to that flux by trying to regain personal balance.
As Grant writes, “Earth 2 teaches that change is not as simple as we might want it to be, and that although our outer world may change dramatically, it can take a long time for us to catch up mentally and emotionally. . . . Keeping your balance through the process is important whilst waiting for all to come right.”
This deck is designed specifically to help facilitate transformation and change. The undertaking began as a deeply personal project of self-transformation, meeting Malachi, and revealing that inner creatrix. But that undertaking shed light on universal themes of journey and change that now all of us can benefit from.
Grant and Leu’s collaboration turned out to be perfected alchemy. The artwork is undeniably exquisite and evocative. It’s impossible not to feel stirred when looking at these images. The guidebook is a powerful, inspirational read.
ORDER YOUR COPY OF THOTH JOURNEY
Also be sure to check out the creative duo’s other works:
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.
15 thoughts on “Thoth Journey Tarot: The Oracle of Change by Joanna-Kate Grant and Aia Leu”
This looks very cool. Just the combination of Thoth and Mary-el in the first sentence was enough to pique my interest. Thanks for highlighting it!
Reblogged this on Joanna-Kate Grant and commented:
Heartfelt thanks to Benebell Wen for the in depth review ❤
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I have been pedaling this deck to everyone and anyone who will listen to me about how magical it is. This is also my favorite deck acquisition of this year, of course the new SKT isn’t in my hands yet 😉
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Thanks Mendy… I am so pleased that you discoverd it’s magic ❤
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I love, love, love this deck so hard that I had to buy a second copy! I’ve had some incredibly special and deep experiences with it, and I keep it within easy reach. something about working with it is so soothing and cathartic.
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It really warms me heart to hear this! The reason that kept me pushing forward to bring this baby into the world ❤
Does anyone know how to physically enter the portal and exit unscathed? Seems there is always some ulterior motive in place. I will let fate take shape and place less effort from here on out.
Beautiful! – I’d love some art prints of some of the cards (same goes to the mary-el btw).
It’s somewhat funny, though I really prefer the internal structure of the rws-tarot, I feel myself frequently drawn towards thot-decks. Maybe it’s because those tend to be more intense/dark/mysterious (that Chinese word like in the name of the Lady of the 9th Heaven would be fitting here 😉 in their aesthetics…
Concerning astral journeys I share your ambivalent feeling about it, though it has a different reason. I grew up with it being a real (even physically real) thing for my parents. And as a child (and youth) I used to be their not-mainstream-opinion-defender-puppet, although I never succeeded in astral journey myself at that time. It made me the weirdo at school and people not taking me serious when I was interested in science (although I always kept those things separate). Later on I started to distance from esoterics for a while. And though I try to bring both parts in balance internally, there is still a lot of inner conflicts and outer emotional/mental homelessness.
Anyways, by now I think of astral journey as a mixture of trance that enables to focus more on unconscious input and dream reading, as well as, visualization.
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This deck looks lovely, thanks for the in-depth review. I’m a newbie when it comes to tarot, but know a bit about the RWS. Does the guidebook offer enough info for someone to jump right in without any knowledge about the Thoth and related stuff? Do you recommend any books for delving into the system/cards without going crazy deep into Golden Dawn stuff? I am in love with the art. Thanks!
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Rebecca, no knowledge of tarot at all is necessary to start using this deck… I purposefully steered away from “systems” to allow the reader, whatever their level of tarot experience, to allow their intuition to blossom from the cards, creating a unique personal experience.
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I took Joann’a astrology class a few years ago. She is by far, the current expert on the Thoth tarot, IMO! I truly look forward to obtaining this deck!
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