The Navigators Tarot of the Mystic SEA is a deck for occultists who sojourn that Mystic Sea, “charting a course between sharp, fateful rocks and perilous cliffs, to harbours’ grateful rest. And when the journey’s done, sought other quests. . . . A Library of books set in the heavens, stretching beyond all logic, Infinite. . . . The Navigator scryed to learn this source. Hermes revealed the Holy Cabalah. The archetypes from that eternal base, create clear symbols which, in turn, embrace this Tarot of the Mystic SEA.” (poem accompanying the deck, by Julia Turk)
In most places, SEA is all-caps, which suggests to me it’s an acronym, while in other places, there’s a straightforward reference to the Thoth-Hermetic Mystic Sea. I believe I’ve combed through the LWB thoroughly in search of what SEA stands for, but couldn’t find it. The old Aeclectic Tarot forum came to the rescue. According to this thread, the Mystic SEA is the Mystic Society of Enochian Anchorites (SEA), anchorites being essentially a hermit or solitary ascetic of a religious devotion.
In this deck, Key 8 (though the Majors are unnumbered) is Strength and Key 11 is Destiny (Justice) with the keyword “equilibration,” not to be confused with the deck’s Key 10, Fortune, with the keyword “rotation.”
The first photo of the deck (scroll back up) shows the card back design, a painting by Turk that I saw in person. I love the painting, I love the art style, I love it as a card back design, and I don’t mind that it’s not reversible. However, the layout design of the actual card back design is…. The harsh and imbalanced white borders pull you out of the experience.
Omg, that Lovers card showing menstruation… The meaning of the card, per Turk’s intentions, are not gendered, and aren’t even related to romantic love. “Through the mirror of perception,” writes the LWB on Key 6, “you can see that your missing part bears an exact resemblance to your known part, but is also complementary. . . . From this union within, you will notice a tremendous exhilaration, for this is your full potential.”
Turk writes that the 22 Majors are “the highest and most profound” (LWB), symbolizing powerful archetypes at work in the psyche and thus the underlying psychic influences propelling your choices, attitudes, and behavior. The Death card here, ascribed “transformation,” depicts the changing states of matter that is man. The shark is a symbolic reference to the sickle of the Celtic Druids while the eel symbolizes rebirth.
The Navigators Tarot of the Mystic Sea is a Golden Dawn based deck, as Julia Turk describes it, rooted in the traditions of the Hermetic Cabala (or the more popular spelling today, Qabalah). The deck was created with the intention of being a teaching and a meditation tool “in the search for self-knowledge” (per the LWB), rather than for divination, though the LWB consists primarily of card meanings written as if for divinatory purposes.
The LWB features the Majors in reverse, where the inversion sequence is called the “Way of Return,” and the Navigator’s Way of the Future. So we begin with the Universe card, then Aeon, then Sun, Moon, and Star, Tower, Devil, and so on to Empress, Arch Priestess, Magian, and lastly, The Fool.
However, the order of the Majors in these photos is from Key 0 and numerically upward until the Universe card, and I can’t recall whether the deck came like this, in this order, or whether I was the one who put it in this order. So, there’s that.
There are palpable Hindu and Southeast Asian influences in Turk’s art style, set in an intergalactic atmosphere with an ancient aliens kind of vibe. The artwork is trippy, and I mean that in the best way.
It’s like the Sun and Moon Tarot on hallucinogens. I also mention the Sun and Moon as a comparable to Navigators Tarot, despite the distinctly different and divergent styles, because I feel like if you’re intrigued by one, then you’ll naturally be intrigued by the other.
Although I don’t recall any mention of the Thoth in the LWB, there’s no denying the strong Crowley-Harris Thoth influences here. In fact, something about Julia Turk herself reminds me of a reincarnated Lady Frieda Harris. I was lucky enough to have sat in on a tarot workshop led by Turk where she talked about her creative process as a tarot deck artist. She’s got this eccentric, equal-parts–occult-scholar-and-psychic-medium intuitive energy that delights.
Turk’s intention for the ordering of the cards was to separate out the courts from the pips, and then among the pips, the order should be descending, first Ten, then Nine, Eight, onward down to Ace, though in the ordering of the cards as published, it’s Ace up to Ten, then Page, Knight, Queen, and King.
The LWB that comes with this deck is surprisingly useful. I add “surprisingly” because most 30-40 page grayscale printed and stapled LWBs included with tuckbox tarot decks tend to be unhelpful. This one is written in second person and offers tangible, accessible interpretations of Golden Dawn based decks. I just wish it had a little bit more description of what the artist intended to depict on the cards.
Navigators Tarot was first published in 1997, and reprinted again in 2007. The cardstock quality on my copy of the deck is thin but workable, with a glossy finish. The overwhelming white borders framing the art was somewhat standard for the 90s. Case in point, the Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot by the Ciceros, Tarot of Ceremonial Magick by Lon Milo Duquette, etc. If Navigators were to be reprinted with borders more like the Zillich Tarot, it’d be perfection.
Recently in my review of the Bright Future Tarot, Keywords Edition, I talked about tarot decks with keywords. For more recent examples, look into the Simplicity Tarot by Emilie Muniz, Angie Green’s Simple Tarot, or the previously mentioned Zillich Tarot. Slightly older decks, but still in recent memory, are the The Gill Tarot, the Guardians of Wisdom, and the Vision Quest Tarot, where some version of keywords are included in the card captions. Personally, I like tarot decks that feature keywords, like how it’s done here in Navigators Tarot.
The surrealist approach to coloring the human figures is another noteworthy feature of this deck. If you look closely at the way the figures are accessorized, you get a strong sense of diverse cultures, but the purple, blue, green, and orange skintones along with the androgynous aesthetic maintains a resonant universality to the art.
In the Minors, the suit of Pentacles represents our five senses and their material environment. The Swords depict the intellect and the ability of the rational mind to analyze situations. The Cups were about emotions that flow beneath the rationality of the Swords– it’s our dream states that are the undercurrent of our conscious states. The Wands signify intuition, that faculty which is too often hidden in us but contains a secret visionary power.
The court cards in Navigators represent gradually rising levels of initiation. The Page is a neophyte, the Knight an adept, and the Queen and King are the priestess and priest sovereign over the suit.
Something that cracked a smile of amusement on my face– check out the above imagery for the Three of Pentacles. Keep in mind what decade the Navigators Tarot was created– 1997.
In my mind I immediately thought of the Eight of Pentacles from the Modern Witch Tarot, published in 2019. This is just such an amusing example of how different generations memorialize themselves in tarot archetypes.
Navigators Tarot of the Mystic Sea by Julia Turk features hard-edged, high-concept visionary compositions intended to teach Hermetic Cabala. These were paintings that Turk started around 1989 and took her close to a decade to complete before it was published by U.S. Games. Turk’s mission as an artist is “unifying different religions and encouraging individuals to make the most of their lives as a vision of a better world society.”
After Navigators Tarot, Turk wrote and self-published a fantasy trilogy, The Navigator’s Dream, based on the Navigators Tarot premise. As for the abundance of sea and boating references in her works, by trade she works in the yachting industry, in addition to being a scholar of the Cabala and Hermeticism.
I’d really love to see a reprint of this deck, but fully redesigned. Who else wants to see this deck brought back for 2022? =)
If you love esoteric tarot decks, then you’re going to love Julia Turk’s Navigators Tarot of the Mystic SEA. It’s one of those versatile decks that a beginner can read with relative ease, but a master tarot reader with an occult background will also extract so much from these cards.