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.
Carrie Mallon has been on my radar for a while now. She’s been producing a lot of high-quality, accessible tarot content. Mallon has a YouTube channel where you will find lots of free 30 min. to an hour tarot workshops, such as “How to Work with Tarot Spreads” and “How to Read Tarot Tenderly,” or “The Four Styles of Reading Tarot” and “The Fool’s Journey,” just to name a few. She’s got a calming, down-to-earth, and resonant style of teaching that I think you’ll love.
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.
The deck pictured in this review is the 2020 Second Edition. In terms of production, really high quality. You’ve got this luxe, matte clamshell box with a satin ribbon insert. The cards are also matte, really sturdy, and a joy to shuffle with.
A design element I love and that I found kind of genius is the divider tabs on the companion guidebook. These tabs tell you where the Major Arcana card meanings are, and then it goes in the order of Pentacles, Swords, Wands, and Cups. If you’re a total beginner to the tarot, this little guidebook is pretty great at giving you an introduction and primer to the cards, with more than sufficient card meanings to get a beginner started.
There is so much personality in the artwork. Take a look at Key 0: The Fool card. The artwork has a spirit. That spirit is telling me to take a leap of faith. to explore the unknown and be dauntless in the face of uncertainty. You’ll find in the guidebook: “The Fool beckons you to leap into an expansive landscape. Your potential is as limitless as the glorious sky before you! Be open to experiences. . . . Choose to view your current circumstances as an adventure.”
In The Magician, tokens of creation and manifestation are being presented to you, and this card is an affirmation of control over your own reality. The High Priestess shows a reflection of a full moon inside the seashell, which also gives the impression of a pearl. There is the sense of a more internalized experience here than what The Magician offers. In The Empress, you’ve got fertility, abundance, and the golden eagle as a symbol of freedom.
The Emperor is a symbol of power and rising above; The Hierophant gives a nod to ceremony and traditions. Here in Key 5, you are shown one with the ability to interpret the mysteries of divine nature.
For experienced RWS readers, Mallon and Ruygt have included strong nods to the RWS with their symbolism that you’ll have no trouble reading with The Spacious Tarot. See, for instance, the Death card, the sunflower in The Sun card, etc. I love the four constellations depicted in the four corners of The World card.
The Judgement card here draws you toward your highest calling. The imagery here conveys the forces of nature guiding you toward that calling. “While the Fool is a broad opening to possibilities,” writes Mallon, “Judgement is an invitation onto a specific path.” I love that interpretation. “It is time to do what you know you’re meant to do.”
The Judgement card in The Spacious Tarot expresses the existence of a mystical realm alongside the ordinary, and there are these few thresholds, like portals, where one can traverse between the two realms. The Judgement card here, when it presents itself to you in a reading, is just such a threshold revealing its presence.
Something you may have already noticed in this deck if you’ve been clicking into the photographs to study the captions is the gender neutral language in the court cards. While traditional titles in the Majors such as The Empress and The Emperor remain, it’s clear in the way this deck’s premise is presented that both of these aspects are in all of us, and is not so much an indication of gender as it is an indication of our inner polarity.
Here, the courts are Child, Explorer, Guardian, and Elder, and I really love these court card titles. Sometimes deck creators come up with these court card titles that can be confusing (hi, hello, I know I probably fall into this camp), causing you, the reader, to take a pause just to process what is what. Not so for The Spacious Tarot. C’mon– Child, Explorer, Guardian, and Elder….. Page, Knight, Queen, and King… easy peasy.
There’s a remarkable zen quality to the atmosphere of this deck. I feel instantly calmed when I work with these cards. Some of those illustrations in the suit of Swords, by the way, are brilliant. The Eight of Swords shows seven of the swords tied to the tree, but the one illuminated white is linked to the single freestanding sword beyond–representing how thoughts and one single, seemingly minor shift in perspective can free you. The fog in the background symbolizes the sense of fog you may be feeling in your mind, blinding you from seeing the full scope of your landscape when you’re in an Eight of Swords situation.
That Nine of Swords conveys the essence of that tarot card so emotionally. I also really like Mallon’s fresh, modern, and more psychological interpretation for the Ten of Swords– it asks you to check in with yourself truthfully about whether your mind is taking an actual situation out of proportion. The tree has already been cut down, and yet after-the-fact, swords are still being intentionally stabbed into it. “Tens show the energy of their suit taken to a natural conclusion, and here we see what happens when the mind is left to run unchecked and create all kinds of wild stories. Thinking critically about your situation is useful, but make sure you are not overreacting. . . . The Ten of Swords implores you to differentiate between melodrama and real concerns.”
If you love the premise The Wild Unknown meets The Gaian Tarot, with a warmer color palette than the Wild Unknown, a people-less version of the Gaian, and illustrated with a naturalist aesthetic, then you’re going to love Mallon and Ruygt’s The Spacious Tarot.
I did not find the cards difficult to read with at all, but the flow of inspiration and messages will come easier if you first ground and center yourself. If you’re not one who is all that deeply connected with nature, or tend to be a more extroverted, social personality, then The Spacious Tarot may give you a little trouble at first, but with that said, may be exactly the type of deck you need to bring you balance. Those who tend to be a little more introverted, who spend a lot of time alone with nature, are going to gravitate easily toward these cards.
When in doubt, take a moment to breathe in deep, exhale, find your center, and look at the card again. The meaning will come to you. In the Ace of Cups, that cup may be man-made, but it is in perfected harmony with the environment around it. The suit of Cups is the emotional realm, and that overflowing cup suggests that one must let our emotions flow freely. The Eight of Cups is about following your emotions and intuition– let what you’re feeling guide you, because it is steering you to exactly where you need to go.
Some of the imagery here is also reminiscent of the Thoth, like here in the Nine of Wands, Lord of Strength. “The Nine of Wands assures you that you can thrive despite any setbacks. This card offers you the stamina to keep going even after you’ve been knocked down. . . . At the same time, there is a fine line between admirable perseverance and harmful stubbornness.”
The card meanings in the guidebook are more psychology-oriented, relating directly to everyday life events. Whatever your belief system, you’ll be able to work with these cards.
The guidebook also offers some insights on reading with reversals. They can indicate resistance, or reveal the shadow aspect of that card’s energy, or even indicate that the energy is coming from within, whereas when upright, the energy is something going on outside of or around you, in your environment. Finally, a reversed card can indicate, as Mallon puts it, “an exclamation point” asking you “to pay extra attention to it.” If you’re really interested in a deep-dive video lecture on reversals, Mallon’s got one on her channel: “How to Read Reversed Tarot Cards.”
I received The Spacious Tarot as a gift, and not for review, but I wanted to share how much I’ve been enjoying working with it, especially during the pandemic while so many of us weren’t getting out and thus feeling isolated. The energy of this deck is expansive, breaking you free from that sense of isolation.
These cards are great pictorial anchors in focused meditation, or as starting points in astral journeying and visionary work. Those who love the outdoors or who want to attune with Earth as a Divinity are going to love The Spacious Tarot.