This is not going to be an in-depth review, but just a quick flip-through the Tarot of Mystical Moments by Catrin Welz-Stein and published by U.S. Games Systems. It came out in January of this year (2021) as a companion to the Oracle of Mystical Moments published back in 2018. I’m not familiar with the Oracle, so I’ll be giving my impressions of the Tarot on its own merits.
With a graphic design background, the artist digitally collages with mixed media, working from vintage photos, public domain art, and master paintings. Prior works from the times of yore are then transformed into surrealist compositions. That’s where this deck shines– the transformative aspect of taking masterpiece art or art styles that feel familiar to you and transforming them into fresh, surrealist, high-concept compositions.
This is vintage aesthetic rendered in a modernist style. I hear the opening theme song from that TV show Pretty Little Liars as I flip through these card images– not sure why. What you’re seeing here is iconic of an illustration style that’s been popularized in the mainstream in recent years.
The human depictions are female-dominant and the color palette is evocative of femininity. There is a child-like quality that’s part medieval fantasy, but then also post-Industrial Revolution Era, like with the skyscrapers in the Justice and Judgment cards pictured above.
The collage of different cultural iconography in one landscape is fantasy-inspired, and has that translucent abstract multi-layered dimension of lucid dreams. I don’t always immediately understand the relevance of the imagery to the tarot card represented, but I’m also totally cool with that.
I read in a biography of Catrin Welz-Stein that one of her inspirations is Nicoletta Ceccoli. She named many others (Kelly Rae Roberts, Sabrina Ward Harrison, Olaf Hajek, Maggie Taylor, Natalie Shau, Colette Calascione and Nazario Graziano), though I confess the only name I recognize is Ceccoli, because of the Ceccoli Tarot.
Describing her artistic process, Welz-Stein notes: “My images are all digital made. I collect old images and illustrations and put them together in Photoshop. . . . Using digital medium I have far more creative possibilities and I can work much faster then on the Canvas.”
The multi-layering technique she utilizes in her works gives these cards an ethereal quality, light in tone, high-concept like the works of surrealist René Magritte, deeply symbolic, sensual, and textured in the style of Gustav Klimt, and both abstract and vibrant a la Frida Kahlo.
That Nine of Pentacles! Gasp. Love it. Although Maree Bento’s Divine Muses Oracle is in a distinctly different artistic style, with a more vintage aesthetic, the Tarot of Mystical Moments does feel like it comes from a related source of inspiration. Shaheen Miro and Theresa Reed’s Lunar Nomad Oracle, like Bento’s, works with a much more subdued color palette, working from antique photography, while Welz-Stein works from painted illustrative art, but if you like one, you’re probably going to like them all. They appeal to the same sensibility.
To me, this is a collector’s deck, meaning I’d get this deck so that I could flip through the cards and admire the art. Like that Four of Cups, right? I mean, wow. The clever use of light and shadow to express that card’s meaning.
Those who enjoy a definitively more feminized otherworldly-spectral aesthetic will adore Tarot of Mystical Moments.
I read in a review of this deck (I would totes give credit if only I could remember where I read it! Argh!) that the art reminded them of Alice in Wonderland or The Secret Garden. Yes! I see that.
By the way you may have noticed that the bottom card captions are color-to-element coordinated. They were a subtle red for Wands (Fire), blue for Cups (Water), and this pale grey-green tone for Swords (Air).
There’s this fun, whimsical illusion to the cards, too. Upon first impression, I thought the artwork was soft and gentle, and I mean, the mollifying of The Devil card in this deck certainly gave me that impression. And yet some of these illustrations are oddly uneasy to look at, and emotionally challenging.
Like both the Eight of Swords and Nine of Swords! Just put yourself in that winged figure’s position (Eight of Swords) and think about how exactly you’re going to free your wings from that cage. It’s gonna hurt. And all those eyes on the nude body in the Nine of Swords is weirdly distressing. So there’s a lot more depth to these cards than I judged on first impression.
Oh, and one more thing I forgot to mention– it’s an 83-card deck, with bonus female versions of the four Kings plus a feminine version of The Emperor. The original intention of the artist was that all the Kings and The Emperor cards were changed to female figures, but with publication of the deck, added the male versions. I’m ambivalent about the additional cards, yet appreciate the availability of that option.
The Tarot of Mystical Moments evokes a fantasy dollhouse, or maybe reveries from one inside a Victorian Era lunatic asylum (though in stark contrast to the point of view forwarded in Vinitski’s Madhouse Tarot).
As for the deck packaging (apologies–not pictured), there’s elegant silver embossing on the box, and the cards themselves are edged in silver. The finish on the cards are high-gloss, but for this particular vibrant style, I don’t mind it. It works.
I also don’t mind the thinner cardstock that the publisher went with in production. Due to the high-gloss finish, the cards still feel quite sturdy, and will hold up to ordinary wear and tear. I will say that the complaints about production quality that I read in some reviews surprised me. To me, the quality was just fine. In fact, I found the production value to be lovely.
There’s been quite a bit of social media buzz around this deck, so I’m betting you’ve seen these cards before or at least have heard of the Tarot of Mystical Moments. What are your thoughts?
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 the publisher. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion of the deck.