The English Magic Tarot was first published in 2015 by Weiser Books. According to its tagline, this deck is “rumoured to be the very key to the English Hermetic tradition . . . here restored in full.” Okay, you have my attention. Keep going.
This deck places you in that heyday of English magic, between the end of the Renaissance and the beginning of the Early Modern period. These cards are set in the turbulent times of King Henry VIII and onward for about a century. The courtier on The Sun card is wearing clothing in the style of the mid-1500s, which the guidebook likens to Sir Francis Drake. Judgement features a giant Wicker Man going up in flames.
How would I describe the art style? Dramatic, hardboiled pulp fiction featuring swashbuckler protagonists set in 17th century England. Think John Constantine meets Three Musketeers with lots of mystery and mysticism. Also, with the mannerisms of 1950s comic book illustration.
Now let’s get into the depths of the tarot deck’s premise.
Here’s a dedicated video in the 10-part orientation series just on the Empyrean Court. That video shares my intentions behind the renderings of the court cards in the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot and how I approach them, or at least quick, snapshot points on each card so that the video doesn’t get interminably long. =P
I am hopeful that you can simply transplant the way you currently read tarot court cards into the Revelation Edition, but for a few minor mental adjustments. Like just remember:
magic squares = Kings
shields = Queens
septagon elementals + horses = Knights
scrolls = Pages
Kings: The Archangels (Thoth: Knights)
With the Four Archangels standing in the place of tarot Kings, I hope what I’ve done here avails these cards to be interpreted in either a literal-religious-spiritual-mystical way or more psychoanalytic-personality-profile-rational-based.
If more literal-religious-spiritual-mystical, these are four calling cards that invoke four directional and elemental based archangels– the highest ranking of beneficent, celestial guardian spirits. These guardian spirits have descended down from Empyrea to appear to us here on earth, in human form so that we can identify with them, and they can identify with us.
The Archangel of Glory (King of Wands) represents the folk religious practices of pre-modern Japan shogunate, embodying a blend of military might and spirituality, which you’ll also see in the Archangel Commander (King of Swords) with the depiction of a Templar. The two Archangels from the active elements depict warrior cultures that are deeply rooted in religiosity and chivalry while the Archangels from the passive elements depict a healer and a diviner/manifester, respectively.
If you read tarot King cards as always indicating men, then the Archangel of Healing (Chalices) and Archangel of Mysteries (Orbs) signify the anima within a man—the feminine psychological qualities that men possess.
In other words, read the SKT Kings and Queens as anthropomorphized archetypes from your unconscious mind.
Queens: The Shields
I hope I’ve done enough here for The Shields to take on your preexisting approach to interpreting tarot Queens. You just have to remember that the Queen cards feature shields that glow front and center. And then it’s more about someone’s essential nature as being
Like the Kings, the Queens here are anthropomorphized archetypes from your unconscious mind.
Thus, for those who read the tarot courts in the more standardized approach, The Golden Shield (Queen of Scepters/Wands) and The Scarlet Shield (Queen of Swords) still indicate women when you read with the SKT, but indicates the animus within a woman—the masculine psychological qualities that women possess.
So, for instance, if the Archangel of Glory (King of Scepters) shows up, I think “mastery and prowess in a subject area I associate with the element Fire.” And if The Golden Shield (Queen of Scepters) shows up, I think “developmental phase in a subject area I associate with the element Fire.” Plus the bonus of, “I’m probably still a little vulnerable right now, and so Spirit has descended down to safeguard– and shield– me while I figure things out.”
I will just say, though, that I also religiously interpret court cards as divine beings present in a reading. But of course if that’s not in your wheelhouse, no worries. =) It doesn’t have to be that way at all. =)
Knights: The Shining Ones (Thoth: Princes)
The easiest way to read the Shining Ones, or Knight cards, is to focus on the elemental symbol in the septagons front and center above, and read these cards as hyper-activated energies of their respective four elements, and assign your attributions to each of those elements, Fire, Water, Air, and Earth.
Those elemental energies are so hyper-activated to the point where it almost seems like they take on their own independent sentience. Enter the four mythical creatures– the salamander for Fire, the undine for Water, the sylph for Air, and the gnome for Earth.
I hope the iconic cultural and historic settings can also lend a helping hand in interpretation. So, for instance, the background for the Knight of Cups card (The Shining Waters) is identifiably Renaissance Italy, and maybe you’re able to get even more specific– it’s Florence. We all associate Renaissance Italy with thriving arts and culture, and creative thought, right? So I hope that’s an easy way to immediately interpret the meaning of The Shining Waters in a reading.
The figure in the Knight of Wands (The Shining Flame) appears young, comparatively younger in appearance than the other three knights. (Neither here nor there, but I’d also like to point out that this figure is dressing the part of a young man, and even more specifically, a soldier in training.)
And the figure in the Knight of Swords still totally has the traditional RWS “warpath” vibe to it.
I’ve assigned the Knight of Orbs card a very special power– this is the “retrieves what was lost” talismanic card, thanks to the gnome. When the Knight of Orbs comes up, I think, “something that was lost, will soon be found” or “I need to find something that is currently lost,” and which it is depends on the context of the reading, other cards, etc.– you know the drill.
Pages: The Heralds (Thoth: Princesses)
Since the Revelation is still an edition of the SKT, I didn’t want to go too crazy with the changes. And yet I went pretty crazy with the changes here in the tarot Pages, didn’t I.
You can tell I did the Herald of the Flame first, of the four Heralds. So I kept the same face as the Stronghold of the Flame from the previous editions. And then I got to the Chalice card and was like, nah. We’re going off script from here on out. =D
First of all, I totally changed the primary titles from Strongholds to Heralds. They were Heralds in the secondary titles in the previous editions, as you’ll see. But I changed it to the primary title for the Revelation.
Let me explain why I went with Strongholds for the previous editions: it’s the angelic hierarchical title that I thought would align well with the tarot Page. And Stronghold sounds “earthy.” Pages are associated with the element Earth within their respective elements, e.g., Page of Wands is Earth in Fire.
But for the Revelation Edition, I decided to fine-tune their roles in the tarot universe. They’re more classically Page-y now.
There are other slightly more literal-to-the-imagery interpretations that come with the Heralds. The Herald of the Waters indicates an animal communicator while the Herald of the Winds features a Roma sojourner on the Silk Road with a deck of divination cards in hand. Because the four Heralds are the most trusted emissaries (messengers) from the highest rank of Divinities, of course they’re embodiments of magical powers/abilities.
No jokes, though– if at any point while reading this blog post one of your eyebrows went up, it’s fine. You totally do not have to read the SKT court cards this way!
There were some key features I knew my Empyrean Court had to have, which diverged from what traditional tarot readers would be used to, and I kept with my way. But here in the Revelation Edition, I did think about yielding in insubstantial ways that would allow the court cards in this deck to be more universally reader-friendly. And I hope I achieved that.
So yeah. Please by all means import the way you read tarot courts into the SKT Revelation.
Wow. You want to talk about a handsome deck with high impact, let’s take a little walk-through of Ciro Marchetti’s Tarot Decoratif. The deck was first an exclusive special edition deck, but it’s now available via U.S. Games, and it’s worth your while to snag your own copy. This is just a quick walk-through of the cards.
In my photos you’ll see that the King of Cups snuck in front of The Fool. Marchetti’s deck piqued the Hubby’s interest and he took a look through the cards before I had a chance to see them, and so the cards got a little bit out of order.
You often hear from members of the tarot community how Ciro Marchetti decks seem to appeal more to men. So it’s funny to see it play out and fact-checked by the Hubby.
Premised on a theory that the early tarot features the Mysteries of the Cathars hidden in plain sight (intentionally ambiguous so as to avoid persecution by Roman Catholic authorities), this Marseille-inspired deck modernizes the pictorial stories of Christian Gnosticism in a magical realist style that combines color blocking iconic of TdM and the glamorous, ornamental, refined craftsmanship of Marchetti’s work.
It has come to our attention that a minority number of decks may come with a printing error. See photo above. If you receive a deck where the top lid’s inner panel is printed “upside down” in reference to the outside, please take a photo similar to the one above, where we see the mirror reflection plus the lid itself, and e-mail the photos to firstname.lastname@example.org to report the problem. If you could do so ASAP and without delay, that’d be very helpful to us. We need your input to collect accurate data.
At this time, we do not know the scope of the problem. When I did my randomized test quality assurance, where you dip into different containers to open 20 different decks and check quality [these are then set aside for replacement cards, if any are needed, and of course, as personal reading decks later on], none of them had this issue.
Although that isn’t enough information to conclude any which way, at least my thinking right now is that only a very small number of decks will have this issue. But please report so we can start collecting data and figuring out a plan for how to remedy it to those who do receive this type of lid.
A 10-video orientation series started today over on my YouTube channel. Every Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday for the next few weeks, a video will be released in the morning. Haha, that’s right. Weekends and hump days.
Seed & Sickle Oracle by Fez Inkwright is a botanical lover’s dream deck. There are 49 cards, where each card reads a little differently depending on whether you’re reading it as a Dawn card or Dusk card.
And thus you’ll get two guidebooks, the Dawn Guidebook and the Dusk Guidebook. Dawn is for reading about growth, investment, and nurturing something to manifestation, while Dusk is about self-reflection, self-care, or even connecting to the unseen spirit realms.
I worked with the planetary hours when reading with these cards. So for readings at the hour of sunrise, about taking action or initiative, I’ll work with the Dawn aspect, and thus look up my card readings in the Dawn Guidebook. At the hour of sunset, for meditative divination, I’ll work with the Dusk Guidebook.
The Lost Tarot of Nostradamus brings together tarot divination and the 16th century prophetic writings of Michel de Nostradamus (1503 – 1566). The better known work by Nostradamus is Centuries, which began appearing around 1555 and has remained steadfastly popular, inspiring thousands of published commentaries and hundreds of translations.
In 1558, Nostradamus published a third edition of Centuries and posthumously, a last volume of the work was published as The Prophecies in 1568. Purportedly, 58 additional quatrains exist, but couldn’t be found after his death.
In 1994, a volume was discovered in the Central National Library of Rome and found an illustrated codex titled The Prophecies of Nostradamus, consisting of 80 watercolor images. A postscript in the back of the book noted that the images were designed by Nostradamus, but painted by his son, Cesar de Nostredame, who later sent the book to Rome as a gift. Below is a closer view of above page.
The above illustration from the original Lost Book of Nostradamus became Key V: The Hierophant card in the Matthews-Kinghan Lost Tarot of Nostradamus. The historical name for this card is The Pope, and thus he balances out Key II: The Popess. Antoine Court de Gebelin changed the name to The High Priest, or The Hierophant in the 18th century.
A letter written by the son dated that same year seems to corroborate the postscript, where Cesar described how he had completed a collection of miniature paintings along with a booklet, destined to be gifted to King Louis XIII.
The guidebook connects each Key to a couplet from one of Nostradamus’s quatrains. The Empress reads: “From under the holy earth, the soul’s voice faintly sounds. The human flame shines as if it were divine.” That prophecy has been interpreted to have predicted the French Revolution, when secular principles were valued over the sacred.
For The Emperor: “He will raise up the humble and harry the rebels. No one on earth will be his equal.” Is that Napoleon? Or perhaps Abraham Lincoln? Both have been associated with that particular prophecy.
That illustrated codex is now known as The Lost Book of Nostradamus [VE 307 Vaticinia Michaelis Nostradami, or Vaticinia Nostradami], and what John and Caitlin Matthews found most notable was how remarkably similar the illustrations were to the tarot Major Arcana keys, like the Wheel of Fortune, the Burning Tower, and so on.
Let’s read the prophetic couplet linked to Fortune’s Wheel: “When two unicorns are seen, One will be raised up, the other will bow low.” What do you believe that predicts? One theory: the two unicorns represent the U.S. and Great Britain. Hmm… I have a different guess, and I believe this one hasn’t happened yet, but will. Soon. =X
This is one of the brilliant features of this deck. When the team revisited the quatrains from the earlier work The Prophecies, they realized many of the prophecies mirrored the imagery of the tarot. They put two and two together, Matthews got to work doing the translations, and now you have a cartomancy + bibliomancy divination set.
The Burning Tower: “In the Garden of the World near the New City On the road of the hollow mountains…” And what’s your guess? Folks say that’s a reference to 9/11.
Additionally, the illustrations included mysterious imagery of popes wielding different symbols and a bestiary of creatures, from doves, eagles, snakes, lions, and sheep to the mythical, unicorns and dragons.
In the IV of Stars (the second card from the left, above), we see a pope about to be pierced by a unicorn. The unicorn is a symbol for the Grail. The prophetic couplet for this card, corresponding with the tarot Four of Swords: “Evil to he who opens the newly found tomb, And does not immediately close it.”
There are images of a popes being attacked by a unicorn, or a gryphon wielding a priest’s staff. And finally, the illustrations were rich with astronomical and astrological imagery. Take a look at the bottom right corner in the above photo– the VIII of Moons.
And there’s where the Eight of Moons imagery came from. The two floating heads you see in the page spread above are featured in the Two of Suns.
However, Matthews and Kinghan had to recreate most of the Minor Arcana, and while the 80 illuminated watercolor paintings are rich with tarot symbolism, as a functioning tarot deck, the manuscript remained incomplete.
“It’s clear that if Nostradamus intended to create a tarot of his own,” writes Matthews, “these were his ideas and his reinterpretations of already recognized tarot forms, which he didn’t extend to every card.”
Whenever The World card (Key XXI: The Completed World) comes up in readings with this deck, I keep thinking “Ace of Cups.” Nonetheless, it works in the context of this deck’s premise. Pictured here is a chalice standing upon the earth, representative of the Grail, signifying the ending of a long quest for perfection.
The couplet associated with The Completed World: “When the sun reaches its zenith– Then will my deep prophecies be accomplished.” That couplet kind of reminds me of The Sun card, and feels like it matches the painting featured on The Sun card in this deck. Let’s take a look at the actual prophetic couplet for Key 19: “Mercury will be put out to graze by Vulcan: The sun will be clear, sparking and fair.”
Something about these cards, though, with these particular illustrations, lend themselves quite well to those training in their art and craft of seership. Let’s take to heart some words of advice Nostradamus gave to his son, the painter of these illustrations:
“You can easily, despite your young brain, understand that events can be foretold naturally by the heavenly bodies and by the spirit of prophecy. I do not wish to ascribe to myself the title and role of prophet, but emphasize inspiration revealed to a mortal man whose perception is no further from heaven than the feet are from earth.”
Here are a few more snapshots of the actual illustrations from the Lost Book of Nostradamus. Do I believe these were painted with the intention of being tarot cards? Hmm. I dunno. I’m more inclined to see these as illustrations that were generically popular allegories of the time, which is why it’s in the tarot of that time.
Compare Kinghan’s reconstructed Magician card with the above actual illustration. I like the concept here– The Magician possesses the power to change his own form; hence, he appears here as a long-necked creature with a man’s head.
I much enjoyed retracing the artist’s design inspiration and finding the paintings in the pages of The Lost Book of Nostradamusto then connect to which cards in The Lost Tarot of Nostradamus they became. See the imagery above for The Devil card? It’s the second one from the left.
Here’s that same image from the manuscript pages of The Lost Book (Vaticinia Nostradami). Did they have hallucinogenic drugs back in the 16th century? Probably, right? Because explain to me the pontiff in full papal regalia with the torso of a… two-footed… what is that… wild boar?– wielding a sword pointed at the throat of a wild boar.
Anyway, now we move on to the Minor Arcana. The Minor Arcana here are intended to reflect Nostradamus’s visionary gifts through references to astronomy, astrology, and alchemy. The details here are taken from The Lost Book, augmented by principles credited to the Renaissance philosopher Johannes Kepler. You’ll see throughout the cards, especially in the suit of Spheres, imagery evocative of the Platonic Solids.
The above layout of cards from the Suit of Suns corresponds with the Suit of Wands. Also, another unique feature of this deck: The people depicted in the court cards are historical figures who were Nostradamus’s contemporaries. And each suit’s set of court cards bear different labels, reflective of different classes of occupations. In the Suns, the court cards are monarchs, so these titles remain fairly recognizable from a tarot court perspective– Page, Knight, Lady, and Prince.
Using blue as the color of designation for the eight-pointed Suns tripped me up a bit, since upon first glance, I kept thinking Stars when I saw those blue eight-pointed, well, starry looking symbols. Especially since there is a suit of Stars in this deck.
The four suit names– Suns, Moons, Stars, and Spheres– are a nod to astrology and astronomy, as Nostradamus himself was a court astrologer. The background images layered behind the foreground paintings are well-known woodcut engravings and other public domain imagery. I think I recognize the one in the Suit of Stars– is that from the Cosmographia (1524) by Peter Apian?
An additional layer of symbolism is the five alchemical metals for color-coding the suits. Gold stands for the Major Arcana, Mercury for the Stars, Copper for the Suns, Silver for the Moons, and Lead for the Spheres. Each of these are represented by the color of the arches that frame the images.
The Suit of Stars corresponds with the suit of Swords. The Eight of Stars (Eight of Swords) illustration from The Lost Book shows a fortress defended by a throng of guards with their weapons pointed skyward. It’s intended to be reminiscent of an 18th century prison, inspired by the etchings of Giovanni Piranesi (1720 – 1778).
The Seven of Stars represents hope– a hand holding a flower beneath the welcoming shade of a papal crown. The couplet: “Seven conspirators at the feast will shine– Against the three of iron from the ship.”
The court cards in the suit of Stars are religious figures– Postulant, Cardinal, Abbess, and Pope. There were a few times while reading with this deck I pulled the Pope card, which is the King of Stars, and my brain just on default went to Key 5: The Hierophant. Argh.
So if you’re already pre-set into an experienced system of reading the tarot, there may be some re-programming that you need to do on yourself before the Lost Tarot is fluently operable.
The suit of Moons corresponds with the suit of Cups. The court cards here are occultists and philosophers who were contemporaries during Nostradamus’s time. Here, their court titles are the Neophyte, Initiate, Prophetess, and Master. The alchemical metal associated with this suit is Silver, for emotional energy. This suit corresponds with the alchemical phase albedo, the point at which the base substance is purified.
Compare the above original painting in the book to the Five of Moons in the deck. Scroll back up to the preceding photograph of cards from the suit of Moons– it’s the third one from the right in the bottom row.
And for the suit of Spheres (suit of Pentacles), the court cards are alchemists and scientists, with the corresponding titles of Apprentice, Astrologer, Astronomer, and Alchemist. Here is where you see the Platonic Solids unfolding across three-dimensional space, where sacred geometry is the cornerstone of both mathematics and art.
In terms of the production, the publishers went with that divided deck plastic tray situation for the packaging design, which I don’t love. The cards are matte with a papery finish that leaves you with a wonderful tactile experience.
I was gifted this deck back in 2013, or around that time, but only now have gotten around to reviewing the cards again and writing up this walk-through. I confess that I never quite learned this system to a level of fluency where I no longer relied on the guidebook, and I’m kind of okay with that. I love that I can use this set as a tarot plus bibliomancy two-step divination experience.
If you can remember which renamed suits in this deck correspond to what in the more familiar tarot, then you’ll probably be fine. My personal obstacle was that I just kept tripping up. Suns– Wands, sure. Easy. Except that the focal points on all the Sun cards are blue stars, so I kept thinking Stars, and for Stars I kept thinking Air – Swords.
And then, like certain cards from the Minors have iconography that remind me of the Majors (confusing a Minor Arcana card for Key 17: The Star, or Key 19: The Sun, or Key 5: The Hierophant, several cards could easily be The Tower card, and several could easily be The Magician, The High Priestess, etc.)
So instead, what I found to be a far more meaningful experience with this deck is to light a candle, burn frankincense and myrrh, envision myself invoking the spirit of Nostradamus like an ascended master, and draw just a single card to answer a single question. I may even draw two cards to answer one question– whatever I’m in the mood for at that moment.
I’ll connect with the imagery and lean in to my first impressions from what I’m seeing. I’ll hear the messages in my mind, clairaudiently. And then I’ll reach for the guidebook to look up the cards.
Now here’s the best part– the couplet associated with a single card or the quatrain (sum of two couplets) for the two-card reading from The Prophecies will be part of the divination. And that my friends, is what makes this deck ah-mazing. Therein lies the true value of this deck.
The Heart & Hands Tarot is a black and white deck by artist Liz Blackbird, and while it was first released as an indie deck crowd-funded via Kickstarter, it gained such buzz that now it’s been picked up by U.S. Games for the mass market.
This deck reminds me a bit of the Wandering Moon Tarot, which I reviewed recently, but the two feature very distinct and different art styles. Where Wandering Moon utilized pointillism evocative of stardust and galaxy matter with maybe the slightest trace of a Shel Silverstein vibe, Blackbird’s Heart & Hands is in a bold, dramatic Art Nouveau style of illustration.
This morning a white truck pulled up next to our house. Our decks have arrived!
The order was for “curb side delivery,” meaning the truckers were only obligated to drop those boxes on those wooden pallets (which apparently we had to pay for) off literally “curb side.” But they were so sweet and moved each pallet into our garage for us!
And now we begin the laborious process of unpacking from those pallets and moving those boxes inside. We don’t want to leave them in the garage, so today and tomorrow, we are literally doing heavy lifting to get what you see there into the house, one box at a time. Eeps. I better have toned arms after this!
The Cathar Tarot: The Secret Wisdom of the Perfecti by John Matthews and illustrated by Wil Kinghan was published back in 2016, designed to be a living “Book of Images” premised on Cathar and Gnostic principles. From there, the Keys of this remarkable tarot deck follow the Journey of the Grail.
The golden-toned card back design features the Cathar seal, also called the Cathar Cross, and an iconic symbol throughout the Languedoc region of France.
The Cathars were first recognized around the 11th century in northern Italy and western Germany, then later concentrated around southern France. After remaining active through the 12th century, they were pretty much wiped out of existence during the Albigensian Crusades of 1209 to 1229, as they were considered heretical.