I want to start off by saying that I love this deck. The Elemental Power Tarot comes with an impressive guidebook, and Melinda Lee Holm’s artwork is phenomenal. [Oops–inaccurate statement; she’s not the artist, but I’m going to leave that sentence as-is for now, to make a point. Will give correct attribution later in this review.] Production quality is impeccable– the beautiful matte finish, great quality cardstock, the packaging, the full-color guidebook, all of it.
I mean just look at that card back design. I love it. Some reviewers grumbled about the cardstock quality, but I didn’t have any issue with that at all. I’m also digging the unconventional size dimensions of the cards (at least as it goes for tarot decks).
For me, the issue is miscommunications in how the publisher may have set consumer expectations. It isn’t fair to pin the issue on the artist/deck creator, so really accountability rests on whoever was tasked to do the marketing and promotional materials for this deck. Yes I’m being intentionally cryptic for now. You’ll see what I mean soon enough.
Let’s start with how I came to acquire this deck. A fellow tarot friend wanted to put me through a bit of an experiment. He pitched to me: I want to send you a deck, but you have to first promise me you won’t look up any info about it, or read any reviews, or try to find reviewer card images of the deck, okay? The only thing you are allowed to look at before receiving the deck is the publisher’s marketing copy and the sample card images presented on the deck box itself. Okay?
Shrug. Sure. He sent me publisher supplied promotional images of the cards and the deck box, where selected cards were featured.
By the way, side tangent: truly, this guidebook is well-written, chock full of info.
Basically, in all marketing and promotional materials on the deck released by the publisher, you only see Major Arcana cards, the Aces, and court cards. For some reason I overlooked that detail and just assumed I was getting a fair representation of the entire deck.
And I cannot fully express to you my excitement. Wow, just wow. This deck is going to be epic. Nay, this deck is epic. The artwork, the concept, even the graphic design detail of the borders and layout, and the inclusion of the Qabalistic and astrological correspondences– yes to it all!
Psst… also notice how Key 8 is Strength and Key 11 is Justice. Ah, so we have an RWS-based deck on our hands, yes?
How do you not fall immediately in love with the deck art? The premise here is to eliminate human figures from the tarot, and to reduce each tarot key to its elemental powers. What you’ll be seeing are scenes based on the five elements of fire, water, air, earth, and spirit.
Holm did an exemplary job writing the guidebook. If you do end up getting this deck, the text is worth your read. The content reflects a strong understanding of Western esotericism. Melinda Lee Holm herself identifies as a tarot priestess. She is a professional tarot reader and crafts talismanic jewelry and magickal art.
I am in love with that Hierophant card. There’s that little nod to the traditional Pope card on top of the shrine. The cat is just cute overload. That Lovers card, too, which oops, I cut off in my snapshot– expressing it through the polarizing interior decor styles. (You can scroll back up to an earlier photo to see the full Key 6.)
The second person narration of the text draws you right in. I love the Guidance sections for each card entry.
Oh, oops, a point of clarification. The deck creator is Melinda Lee Holm, and you’ll find that byline everywhere.
Less prominent is the illustrator’s name, so in fact at first I assumed the art was done by Holm herself. Only after careful reading of the deck description did I realize, from just one short line, that the illustrations were by Rohan Daniel Eason.
Eason’s artistic inspiration is primarily traditional woodcut prints and engravings, and lends itself perfectly to modern alchemical art. These are hand-drawn and his primary medium of choice is pen and ink.
I can predict your sentiments right now. =) You’re loving this deck, aren’t you. I mean how can you not. The artwork is everything. You can’t contain your excitement.
Here’s my only bone to pick with the deck– its marketing and promotional materials. They should have featured at least one or two of the pip cards, like just show us that Five of Cups card among the Majors and Aces, amiright?
Why couldn’t the promotional materials feature that Eight of Swords in the mix of sample card images?
I have mixed feelings, because on one hand, I don’t think I mind the pip design. They’re kinda illustrated. They’re certainly evocative of their respective elements, given that every pip card in the suit features the same exact background, with just the number of cups, or swords, or whatever in a different ornamental arrangement.
Considering just how much I love the Majors, I probably would have sought out acquisition of this deck anyway, notwithstanding the design choices in the pips.
The court cards are intuitive, thankfully, and easy to follow. Before I double-checked with the guidebook, I managed to guess which was which in terms of the Page, Knight, Queen, and King.
Nowhere on the marketing copy or product description to you get any line about how this is TdM-based. And even as a TdM inspired deck, the copy-paste repetition of the background imagery is just… it feels negligent. Like whoever did it just doesn’t care enough and couldn’t be bothered with any more effort than what you see here. Even historical Marseille decks have more variation in the ornamentation.
Or maybe if the guidebook detailed the symbolic significance of these arrangements, in the manner of the Etteilla decks, or the 19th century occult decks…
…hmm, nope. Nothing. Though that’s not to say I don’t love the content. I love the succinct summary statement for each key, the Guidance passage, and the Challenges notes. It’s just that, given what’s lacking, I have to assume there was no deliberate intention or rationale to the arrangements of the wands, cups, etc. And if there was, I would consider that material information that should be noted in the guidebook.
The court cards here in the suit of Coins looks a bit messy and chaotic, if I’m going to get picky and critical. I do love that there are a couple of different gold coin designs arranged throughout the pips here, but the same exact background copied and pasted over and over across the suit just feels lazy. It doesn’t feel like a creative labor of love.
And that was my buddy’s experiment on me– to document a consumer’s point of view and emotional response to seeing the marketing copy for the deck vs. then actually seeing the full deck of cards themselves.
The thing is– it’s a disappointment that could have totally been avoided.
Just accurately represent the Minor Arcana cards! Set the right expectations. Don’t hide from people what they will find out anyway. Like, why. Why?
If among the promotional photos I had seen that Three of Coins, and that Seven of Wands, and I purchased the deck for Eason’s beautiful art and Holm’s writing, I’d be perfectly thrilled.
But because the method of marketing leaves the consumer feeling deceived, ill will is unnecessarily generated.
Just say that this is a TdM deck. Everyone who decides to buy the cards will be perfectly happy with all of this as-is.
The thing is, no one likes to feel deceived. And when you look over the sample cards featured on the box and the promotional adverts of the deck once through, you can’t help but feel like the publisher intentionally left out the pip cards. It wasn’t like, oops, it just randomly happened that all the cards arbitrarily selected to be featured on the box were Majors and Aces.
Melinda Lee Holm’s impressive grasp of the tarot (easily inferred from reading the guidebook), with Rohan Daniel Eason’s alchemical woodcut and engravings inspired illustration work could have made the Elemental Power Tarot the next big thing in the tarot world this decade. It could have been The Wild Unknown of the 2020s. You’d have everyone raving about this deck. Sigh. A missed opportunity.