Envision yourself walking with lantern in hand, braving forward through a dense fog and following a forest trail. You stop at a pile of dried brushwood and see that buried underneath it is a small treasure box. It’s a treasure box that had been buried long ago, and somehow now unearthed just as you make your way along this pensive path. You open the box and contained within it is this set of tarot cards.
That is Reese Marren’s starting premise for the Pensive Path Tarot. The packaging itself facilitates this imaginative premise. It’s a tuck box, but unique, opening just as a wooden treasure box might. I’m also loving the smooth buttery finish on these cards (printed on black core 320 gsm embossed linen cardstock). The cards shuffle and fan beautifully.
The Pensive Path Tarot is a fine art deck somewhat reminiscent of the Tarot of Delphi or Victorian Romantic Tarot, showcasing late 19th and early 20th century classical paintings. Fine art decks are one of my favorites, and I think that holds true for a lot of us readers. In Pensive Path, Marren takes it to the next level by not re-hashing the same set of well-known paintings you often see on repeat among fine art tarot decks.
Instead, Marren features lesser known yet equally exquisite works that will expand your art history horizons, showcasing some incredible finds. Impressionist painters such as the Danish painter Anna Ancher or German painter Gotthardt Kuehl; the art nouveau symbolist works of Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, or French Romanticist Leon Cogniet.
The late 19th century art movements that these painters have been gathered from were about rejecting tradition, declaring artistic freedom, and daring to be more provocative with expressive explorations of lines, forms, and light.
You’ll also enjoy Realists such as Illya Repin or Wilhelm Trübner, and the illustrator N. C. Wyeth, or works from the portrait and esoteric painter Beatrice Offor. The cards become a hand-held fine arts gallery, each work of art carefully curated and attributed to each of the 78 archetypal keys. In our everyday setting, I see poets and academics seated in a coffeehouse reading with the Pensive Path Tarot.
I’ve done dozens of readings with this deck in the last year and did want to note that I definitely diverge from “textbook meanings” when reading with the Pensive Path. For example, I read the Ace of Swords in this deck as noting surgery or more serious physical health concerns, due to the imagery on that particular card. The Queen of Cups has come up in mediumship readings to indicate someone coming through who recently passed on and was cremated.
When I read with this deck, I anchor into one specific symbol on the card and support my interpretation with the feelings and thoughts the imagery evokes. However, Marren has done a phenomenal job connecting the compositions to core energetic themes in each card per RWS, so if you’re an RWS reader, you’ll still find this deck fairly easy to read with.
I had the great pleasure of meeting Reese in person at the 2022 Northwest Tarot Symposium in Portland, Oregon. We had great conversations about the tarot and she gifted me with a copy of the Pensive Path and the cards have been on my reading table for the past several months. Reading with this deck is a lyrical, creative experience. These cards activate your imagination and inspire you to encode your own meanings into the art.
Marren has created a beautiful curio for the tarot world. If you enjoy fine art decks like the Art of Life Tarot and artist showcases like the Art Oracles, then you’re going to love the Pensive Path Tarot.