A while back Lisa, Dani, and Dustin of Three Fat Readers talked about the DruidCraft Tarot, and that inspired me to chat about the deck here in a blog post. This isn’t a deck review. It’s me sharing my personal experiences with the DruidCraft. Another reason I wanted to go out of my way to post this is as a bit of a passive-aggressive defiant response to a recent “most influential” or “best of” publication on contemporary tarot decks where the DruidCraft Tarot by Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington was noticeably missing from that “best of” list. Like… whut?!
This was one of my go-to public reading decks from back in the day. When I was in my 20s, I did countless parties and social events with the DruidCraft. Some of the cards in these photos are going to be upside down because I wanted to show you my copy of the deck straight out of its tattered old box and I read reversals with the DruidCraft. What you’re seeing here is the exact order, upright and reversed, that the cards were in the very last time I used them… which was about a decade ago.
The premise of the deck is to be a synthesis of Wicca and Druidry, to express a path that the guidebook calls “The Old Ways.” The deck is also inspired by the Golden Dawn, which united “many of the disparate strands of the Western Magical Tradition . . . A quantum leap in the understanding and application of the Tarot occurred thanks to the stimulus of the Golden Dawn, and so we have drawn on this in The DruidCraft Tarot Deck for its intrinsic worth, and for its historical connection with the evolution of Druidry and Wicca” (cited from the guidebook).
The Minor Arcana are instructive on the Outer Mysteries, or the Lesser Mysteries. Developing your knowledge of the Minor Arcana, particularly through elemental correspondences and Pythagorean numerology, you’ll come to know the Outer Mysteries.
The court cards are four tribes, or four families converging from the four different directions that meet at Stonehenge. Each family consists of a mother, a father, son, and daughter, and this gathering of sixteen people also represents sixteen personality types that are the core or common denominator blueprint for all of human society. In the DruidCraft, the court titles are the Princess, Prince, Queen, and King.
Something the guidebook does that I found intriguing was to draw connections between Taoism and Druidry and Wicca, in particular concepts of the Great Rite, the alchemical wedding, and this dichotomy of inner vs. outer, esoteric vs. exoteric, lesser vs. greater that is at the heart of these mystery traditions.
The Major Arcana are instructive on the Inner Mysteries, or the Greater Mysteries. If the pip cards in a tarot deck represent events, circumstances, and the day to day human experience, and court cards represent people, personalities, relationships, and characters, then the Major Arcana will take the practitioner “beyond time and space to the realm of the soul” (guidebook). The Inner Mysteries depict the Quest for the Grail, or using Jungian terms, the process of individuation.
The Three Septenaries in the Major Arcana are also expressive of the Three Degrees of Initiation in both Druidry and Wicca. Studying the Major Arcana subdivided into the Three Septenaries then becomes a transcendental self-initiatory experience.
Key 1: The Magician through Key 7: The Chariot expresses the First Degree where you work with the powers of the self, and into a relationship with the masculine and the feminine, of God and Goddess to achieve integration.
The second septenary of Key 8 through Key 14 expresses the Second Degree where you explore Time and Space, in union with Nature so you can begin to integrate your personal conscious with a collective or social consciousness.
Then the Third Degree expressed by Key 15 through Key 21 is about drawing down and absorbing the powers of the sun, moon, and stars “in a process of renewal that results in an even deeper experience of inner union, symbolized by the figure of the hermaphrodite shown in The World.”
There are a few Majors that are renamed, such as The Empress to The Lady, The Emperor to The Lord, and The Hierophant to The High Priest. Key 14 is The Fferyllt, which is the Druid Alchemist, and Key 15 is Cernunnos. When Key 15 in this deck shows up in your reading, it is a call to awaken your sense of personal or even social responsibility. And the final notable card renaming: Key 20 is Rebirth.
The artwork on this deck is exemplary. These were done in tempera paint in a vivid, earthy palette. The characters are deeply expressive with a bit of that Lord of the Rings aesthetic. Or hey at least that’s what comes to my mind. =P The resolution and size of these photos are huge, so you should be able to click and zoom in to get a detailed view of the cards. And if you don’t own this deck already, then please do so, because you need to see the exquisite detailing!
If there is one contemporary tarot deck that you’ll hear a lot of consensus fanfare on, it’s the DruidCraft Tarot and basically, anything and everything the Carr-Gomms do and whatever Will Worthington illustrates. If a “best of” or “most influential” listing of tarot decks is published and it doesn’t include the DruidCraft, then I know it wasn’t authored by a veteran member of the tarot community.
I didn’t do a regular deck review here because this deck is already so popular, so well-known among tarot readers that dozens after dozens of top notch reviews are already out there. Pictured here is my second copy of the deck. My first one, one of the earliest editions (in fact it might be a first edition; I can’t recall), is back in my childhood home in New York, with my parents.
Even going through the cards again for these photos and blog post brings back so many fond memories. I love the oversize dimensions of the cards, though that’s also why I always had trouble shuffling this deck. For public readings I had to fan the cards out across the table and have the querent pick cards from the fan. Having them sit there and watch me struggle with shuffling just wasn’t very elegant. =)
The DruidCraft Tarot would be a great beginner’s deck, though if you are a total beginner, then just make sure you get the edition that comes with the full guidebook (rather than the tiny 80-page thing). If your path is in Druidry or Wicca, or you love all things Celtic, then I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir right now– I bet this is already in your collection.