I’ve been so enamored of the art and the premise of tarot reader Carrie Mallon and illustrator Annie Ruygt‘s The Spacious Tarot. In The Spacious Tarot, we explore the spirit of a place, and divine by invoking the genius loci.
In The Spacious Tarot, there are a few exquisite instances of cameos from the animal kingdom and depictions of wildlife, such as fish in the four court cards from the suit of Cups, bears in the Pentacles court, blackbirds in the Swords court, and red salamanders in the Wands court.
We received a status update from our manufacturer in Shenzhen, and China is in effect back under quarantine due to the new variants of Covid-19 cropping up. Travel– and business operations– within the city have slowed due to 48-hour testing requirements anywhere you go, so even something simple like going from Point A to Point B within the city to get raw materials, to ship, anything at all, what used to take 1 day now takes 3 days. If you want to travel within the country, or travel between Shenzhen and Hong Kong, there’s a 14-day quarantine, making business travel next to impossible.
An example of how this applies to the production process resulting in delays: the gilding applied to the cards is done outside their office location, in a different neighborhood. Now, due to the travel restrictions and 48-hour testing requirements, anything at all that took one afternoon to complete now takes 3 days minimum.
We had hoped that the actual production of the decks would be completed by early July, and then the 40 to 45 day shipping time would mean receipt of the containers at our front door by mid-August. However, with the new quarantine regulations in effect in Shenzhen, the projected date we got from the manufacturer for production completion is now the last week of July, which pushes everything back by two to three weeks.
In the meantime, I wanted to share with you some insights I learned about the deck printing and manufacturing process.
The Muse Tarot by Chris-Anne Donnelly is a contemporary tarot deck reimagined into the four suits of Inspiration (Wands), Emotions (Cups), Voices (Swords), and Materials (Pentacles or Coins) rendered in vibrant digital art collage.
Dynamic and full of energy, The Muse Tarot comes to us when such a vivid deck is most needed, helping us to navigate the challenging times our world currently finds itself in. Uplifting and bright, this is the deck that will help you to overcome creative blocks and jump-start your inner drive.
Let’s start with a simple reading. Choose a card: left, center, or right. Remember your selection. We’ll be revisiting these three cards at the end of this review and through the card you’ve drawn, get a little message from Spirit at your place and time, and also see how you connect with the Muse Tarot.
I was gifted this deck ages ago, but it sat dormant for years, and I only recently thought to take the cards out of their box and give them a whirl. The Ibiza Tarot: Oracle of Tanit is a 39-card oracle deck inspired by 22 keys from the Major Arcana, the tarot court cards, and the Phoenician folk magic found on Ibiza, plus cards corresponding with the ancient gods.
Tanit is the Phoenician patron goddess of Ibiza, Spain, and is associated with love, fertility, and rebirth (I’m getting this straight from the guidebook itself; see above). She’s often depicted with a bust reminiscent of Medusa. The pagan goddess Tanit is invoked as the power behind divinatory readings with this deck. The faded imprint of a woman’s face on the deck box and guidebook cover art seems to be that of the goddess.
This Mediterranean-inspired deck, with the island of Ibiza (which is described as “the playground of the Gods, Phoenicians, the Greeks, and the Romans”) as its namesake, blends numerology, astrology, and the Phoenician alphabet with the Major Arcana. The deck is intended to be a celebration of Ibicenca heritage and tradition.
Sure, the artwork is beautiful, but I wasn’t prepared for how fond I’d be of this deck. While it was designed for those who are more rational-based, psychology-oriented readers, this deck also appeals to those open to beginner steps of exploration into their own spirituality.
The Bright Future Tarot is a deck hand-drawn and painted by clairvoyant artist Saskia Lee. “I was inspired to create this deck through a Spirit message from my father,” writes Lee. “And in a world where so much is digital, I wanted to create something unique and easy to connect with. Using acrylics and my dad’s old paint brushes, each card is hand drawn and painted by me, at my studio near London.”
Lee notes that her decks are printed and made in the UK by a London-based company that has won awards for their carbon neutral production methods. What’s more, the quality is luxe, at 400 gsm, with a satin-like matte finish.
The Cards: The Evolution and Power of Tarot by Prof. Patrick Maille was published earlier this year by the University Press of Mississippi. If your tarot bookshelf is populated by books such as Decker and Dummett’s A History of the Occult Tarot, or Robert M. Place’s The Tarot, Magic, Alchemy, Hermeticism, and Neoplatonism and Jung and Tarot by Sallie Nichols, then The Cards was written for you.
The book is subdivided into two main parts: Part I is a timeline of tarot origins and history, along with an overview of historically or culturally significant individuals that influenced the world of tarot, and Part II is about the tarot’s influence in arts and culture.
While the actual practice of reading tarot cards might not be as ubiquitous as other aspects of mainstream popular culture, Maille presents the argument that tarot cards have served as a powerful vehicle driving the progress of nearly all significant aspects of culture– art, music, television, and movies.
Specifically, Maille narrows his book’s focus down to four key areas where tarot has been influential: art, television, movies, and comics.
Black and white tarot decks, mainly for the monochrome pen and ink artwork, hold a special preferential place in my heart. For a phase of my tarot journey, my sole workhorse deck was The Hermetic Tarot. The earlier nox et lux edition of Tabula Mundi Tarot (see the Majors here and the Minors here) is just magical to work with. And of course the first iteration of the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot was straightforward black and white line drawings.
Tarot of the Abyss by Ana Tourian is a black and white deck published earlier this year by U.S. Games. It’s an 80-card deck, with two version of the Three of Swords and two versions of the Ten of Swords. More on that later.
I wanted to talk a bit about the box itself first. The Emperor card is on the box front, The Tower card on the cover art for the guidebook, a Romantic Era gothic-inspired style of depicting Strength, plus the Ace of Wands (symbolic of breaking Light) as the choice images for the packaging says so much, doesn’t it?
I’ve been excited about Ana Tourian’s Tarot of the Abyss for quite a while now, and followed its development from pretty early on. The illustration work here has this dark and complex fairytale aesthetic, which tells the origins story of Light.
“In the instant that Spirit willed it, out of darkness came light, the source of all that is. That light gave rise to the entire universe, first as energy and then as matter,” writes Tourian in the companion guidebook (a meaty tome, by the way). “Out of the abyss came forth the light.”
So… funny– I’ve had The Chinese Tarot by Jui Guoliang, first published back in 1989 then reprinted in 2012, brand new, still shrinkwrapped, for years. Years. I probably set it aside with the intention of sitting down to open it at some point, but forgot about it. The deck then got swept into a pile with others and only last month when I decided to do a total spring cleaning did I stumble upon this brand new deck of cards. And I thought, you know, this is worth sharing as a deck review on my blog.
The card back design is… not my favorite, but the two mirror images of dancing apsaras is kind of a cute idea. [Apsaras are sensual, beautiful female spirits that can inspire artistic and musical creativity. Celestial apsaras dwell in heaven and worldly apsaras dwell in the waters on earth.]
The Fool card seems to be a reference to the beggar who became the Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, but I could be wrong. The reason I think that is because the beggar king trope would be a nice play on the Fool’s Journey. Or it could be Sū Càn (蘇燦), a martial arts folk hero who lived the life of a beggar.
Sometimes the Little White Book included with this deck (written by the late Stuart Kaplan) offers specific insight. For example, The Hierophant features Zhang Daoling. I make several references to him in The Tao of Craft(which can be easily referenced via the index) because he’s, well, inarguably an important figure in the history of Taoist magic.
The Lovers card features what the LWB calls the “Cupids of China,” or more specifically, Hé Hé Er Xiān (和合二仙), the Immortals of Harmony and Union. Fun fact: the Immortals of Harmony and Union were historically depicted as two effeminate monks (as in both male) who lived together in seclusion up in the mountains, and they found such joy and happiness with each other that it became their divine powers that they could bless people with. Over the centuries, the depiction evolved with societal norms, and they were changed to a male and female pairing. Sigh.
Ooh…this is my first circle animal oracle deck! Jamie Sawyer’s Nature Portals is a 52-card circle deck that features open portals for looking into the life of animals, amphibians, insects, birds, and marine life. The premise of the art is to capture a moment in that creature’s life, and allow us, an observer, to watch, listen, and to learn.
The cards are 100 mm in diameter, at 400 gsm cardstock, so there’s a noticeable sturdiness to them. You can really feel the intention of the portals transporting you to the animal world in that card back design. I also love that Sawyer went with a more artistic box design, rather than it being too commercial-focused.
The free companion journal is a 119-page full-color beautifully illustrated guidebook that labels what animals are depicted on each card, facts about each animal, keywords associated with that animal spirit, and then first-person insights into spiritual experiences with those particular animal spirits, written by both Jamie Sawyer and her mother, Gail Sawyer.