I’m completely flummoxed at myself for not having posted a deck review or walk-through of Holly DeFount’s Incidental Tarot before. I’m still fairly sure I have, somewhere, and it’s simply a matter of me unable to find where I’ve posted it. =P
This is going to be a walk-through of the card images and sadly, at the time of this posting, I believe the deck is out of print. My main purpose for posting this is for you to discover how amazing this deck is and reach out to the deck creator with pleas requests for a reprint!
There are two extra cards for a total of 80– The Labyrinth and Ariadne, who is your guide through and around the labyrinth. In Greek mythology, Princess Ariadne helps the hero Theseus slay the Minotaur by giving him a thread so that he could find his way back out of the maze. By the way, the way Ariadne is drawn in that card you see above gives off Robert M. Place vibes, doesn’t it?
Loving that message on The Fool card– A posse ad esse. From possibility to actuality.
The artist took part in a creative challenge that she had set for herself: to create one piece of original art every day. And that’s how The Incidental Tarot came to be.
I love how DeFount says about her deck, “There is no arcane, complicated subtext to the imagery in this deck.” And yet incidentally, this deck turned out to be flush with alchemical (like the alchemical Red King with a vessel containing the rose for Key I: The Magician, symbolic of activated mercury, where The Magician card in tarot corresponds with Mercury, and Key II: The High Priestess being the White Queen Luna), Neo-Platonic, and Hermetic references.
I love every artist reinterpretation in the Majors, like the Gryphon in place of the Strength card, Blue Buddha in place of The Hermit, the Triskelion as the Wheel of Fortune, Eclipse for The Hanged Man, and so on. Key 17, the traditional Star card, is The Grail. For those who feel a little too much anxiety when reading tarot with the Devil and Tower cards, here you have the Chimera and the Phoenix, which are beautiful energetic transmutations of Devil and Tower essences.
The Latin phrase on the Death card is a Hermetic reference to rebirth and the cycle of rebirth—all that rises from the earth shall return to the earth, or who has given birth to the misty darkness, the earth who is the mother of all beings.
Ultimately, DeFount sought to create an all-purpose tarot deck weaving a “tapestry of archetypal images. . . . They are simple in composition, but rich in feeling.” And is it ever! All the ways DeFount has reworked the traditional tarot archetypes is magnificent.
The suit of Oaks corresponds with elemental Earth, or in tarot, the Suit of Pentacles. In each suit you’ll see how the four court cards are renamed, and it’s different in each suit. So for instance, here in the suit of Oaks, it’s The Oak King, The Oak Queen, The Builder, and The Steward.
The suit of Quills corresponds with the element Air, so the Swords equivalent. The naming of the King and Queen mirror what we saw in the Oaks, so here we have The Quill King and The Quill Queen, but then the knight and page cards are differently named archetypes. The Knight of Swords is The Alchemist and the Page of Swords is The Oracle.
You’ll see how the pip cards are more ornamentally illustrated, showcasing decorative design elements, rather than being narrative illustrations (as you would find in the RWS or in typical RWS clones). So the deck calls to mind the B.O.T.A. Tarot in the way that the Majors follow Waite but the Minors here are more still-life illustrations than story-telling.
If your reading style relies heavily on pictorial story-telling in the card imagery, one way to make this deck more readable for you is to write in keywords along the vertical margins of the frame. There just so happens to be space on the left and right sides, as you see in these photos, for you to write in your own keywords for the pips. Isn’t that cool?
The suit of Roses corresponds with the element Water, or the Cups equivalent. For the court cards, you’ve got The Rose King and The Rose queen, and then for the Knight of Cups, The Bard and for the Page of Cups, The Muse.
I love the use of rose color symbolism here, where the red rose symbolizes knowledge of the sacred mysteries or presence of the sacred, the white rose symbolizes grace and faith, the yellow rose for joy, orange rose for invigoration, and the pink rose for tenderness. You’ll see how the combinations of colored roses express common card interpretations in the suit of Cups.
And finally, the suit of Arrows corresponds with Fire, or the suit of Wands equivalent. The Knight of Wands is The Archer and the Page of Wands is The Messenger.
There’s something else really cool about the layout design that you don’t notice until you notice it– there’s actually a lot of frame proportion-wise on each card. And yet it works so well with the composition that the framing of each illustration becomes an integral part of the composition. Overall, the artwork and design is really well done.
The Incidental Tarot was first published back around 2011. To the tarot deck consumer in 2022, it may be important to point out that the theme of this deck is Western philosophy from the pre-Socratic Ancient Greeks through Platonism, the European Renaissance to about the time of Cartesian metaphysics, with Celtic and pagan influences throughout. It’s an Occidental deck. Even the few passing references to Hindu and Buddhist concepts is within the scope of what would have been availed to European thinkers.
I would call The Incidental Tarot a must-have deck for the artwork, the creative reinterpretations of tarot card titles that really work (!), and how much aesthetic value it would bring to the reading table if you’re a professional reader looking for an all-purpose workhorse deck.