Tarot of the Abyss by Ana Tourian

Black and white tarot decks, mainly for the monochrome pen and ink artwork, hold a special preferential place in my heart. For a phase of my tarot journey, my sole workhorse deck was The Hermetic Tarot. The earlier nox et lux edition of Tabula Mundi Tarot (see the Majors here and the Minors here) is just magical to work with. And of course the first iteration of the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot was straightforward black and white line drawings.

Tarot of the Abyss by Ana Tourian is a black and white deck published earlier this year by U.S. Games. It’s an 80-card deck, with two version of the Three of Swords and two versions of the Ten of Swords. More on that later.

I wanted to talk a bit about the box itself first. The Emperor card is on the box front, The Tower card on the cover art for the guidebook, a Romantic Era gothic-inspired style of depicting Strength, plus the Ace of Wands (symbolic of breaking Light) as the choice images for the packaging says so much, doesn’t it?

I’ve been excited about Ana Tourian’s Tarot of the Abyss for quite a while now, and followed its development from pretty early on. The illustration work here has this dark and complex fairytale aesthetic, which tells the origins story of Light.

“In the instant that Spirit willed it, out of darkness came light, the source of all that is. That light gave rise to the entire universe, first as energy and then as matter,” writes Tourian in the companion guidebook (a meaty tome, by the way). “Out of the abyss came forth the light.”

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Divinity Blessing Cards & About Packing Favors (Deck Creator’s Notes & Commentary)

Buddhist Divinity Blessing Card

You can download these printable 2.5″ x 3.0″ divinity blessing cards. High-res 500 dpi JPGs to follow.

The first set is Buddhist: Maitreya, bodhisattva of loving-kindness and Kuan Yin, bodhisattva of mercy and compassion.

Kemetic Divinity Blessing Card

The second set is Kemetic: Thoth (Dhwty or Tehuti), the Egyptian god of knowledge and writing, and Isis (Ese or Ast), goddess of magic.

Then I’ll chat a bit about deck packing favors, for the prospective indie deck creators who might be interested in my notes and commentary on the matter.

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The Chinese Tarot by Jui Guoliang

click images for zoomed-in view

So… funny– I’ve had The Chinese Tarot by Jui Guoliang, first published back in 1989 then reprinted in 2012, brand new, still shrinkwrapped, for years. Years. I probably set it aside with the intention of sitting down to open it at some point, but forgot about it. The deck then got swept into a pile with others and only last month when I decided to do a total spring cleaning did I stumble upon this brand new deck of cards. And I thought, you know, this is worth sharing as a deck review on my blog.

The card back design is… not my favorite, but the two mirror images of dancing apsaras is kind of a cute idea. [Apsaras are sensual, beautiful female spirits that can inspire artistic and musical creativity. Celestial apsaras dwell in heaven and worldly apsaras dwell in the waters on earth.]

The Fool card seems to be a reference to the beggar who became the Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, but I could be wrong. The reason I think that is because the beggar king trope would be a nice play on the Fool’s Journey. Or it could be Sū Càn (蘇燦), a martial arts folk hero who lived the life of a beggar.

Sometimes the Little White Book included with this deck (written by the late Stuart Kaplan) offers specific insight. For example, The Hierophant features Zhang Daoling. I make several references to him in The Tao of Craft (which can be easily referenced via the index) because he’s, well, inarguably an important figure in the history of Taoist magic.

The Lovers card features what the LWB calls the “Cupids of China,” or more specifically, Hé Hé Er Xiān (和合二仙), the Immortals of Harmony and Union. Fun fact: the Immortals of Harmony and Union were historically depicted as two effeminate monks (as in both male) who lived together in seclusion up in the mountains, and they found such joy and happiness with each other that it became their divine powers that they could bless people with. Over the centuries, the depiction evolved with societal norms, and they were changed to a male and female pairing. Sigh.

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Sawyer’s Nature Portals: Animal Oracle Deck

Ooh…this is my first circle animal oracle deck! Jamie Sawyer’s Nature Portals is a 52-card circle deck that features open portals for looking into the life of animals, amphibians, insects, birds, and marine life. The premise of the art is to capture a moment in that creature’s life, and allow us, an observer, to watch, listen, and to learn.

The cards are 100 mm in diameter, at 400 gsm cardstock, so there’s a noticeable sturdiness to them. You can really feel the intention of the portals transporting you to the animal world in that card back design. I also love that Sawyer went with a more artistic box design, rather than it being too commercial-focused.

click on image to visit Jamie Sawyer’s page

The deck also comes with a Nature Portals Companion Journal. You can buy a print copy of the journal here via Lulu.com and get the digital version of it here. The digital PDF of the journal is free with all purchases of the deck. You’ll get the the PDF upon check-out when you order Nature Portals.

The free companion journal is a 119-page full-color beautifully illustrated guidebook that labels what animals are depicted on each card, facts about each animal, keywords associated with that animal spirit, and then first-person insights into spiritual experiences with those particular animal spirits, written by both Jamie Sawyer and her mother, Gail Sawyer.

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Lifeline Tarot by Thomas of Hermit’s Mirror

Thomas of Hermit’s Mirror is the author of Tarot Tableau: The Fool’s Journey and Card Journaling Therapy, which I’ve covered in a Sightsee the Tarot video before here. This is a pocket size tarot deck, at 2.2″ x 3.5″, or just 0.2″ wider than a standard business card that you tuck into your wallet. Thus making Lifeline Tarot a a thoughtful, portable RWS deck with a contemporary minimalist art style. It’s perfect deck for large-spread readings, such as Thomas’s signature reading method, the Tarot Tableau.

The original 1909 illustrations by Pamela Colman Smith on A. E. Waite’s Rider Tarot deck is redrawn as a single, continuous line. Was it Picasso who made one-line drawings famous or is he just one of the famous examples of it? Either way, I’m loving a single line ink sketch tarot deck!

While certainly versatile for any type of tarot reading purpose, I find Lifeline Tarot to be best suited for psychology or therapy-based forms of readings, perhaps because its aesthetics reminds me so much of projective psychoanalytic tools like inkblot or Rorschach tests.

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The Witchling Academy Tarot by Pamela Chen

Llewellyn released The Witchling Academy Tarot earlier in the year, a deck by Pamela Chen and illustrated by Mindy Zhang, an anime illustrator whose primary medium is ultra-femme and kawaii digital art. Pamela Chen is also the creator of the Crystal Unicorn Tarot (which I’ll be reviewing in the near future), a spiritual life coach, and energy healer. You can watch a great video interview of Chen on Wai Asks, by another fellow tarot content creator, Wai Yim.

This deck takes me back to my girlhood days, and it’s wonderful. The Rider-Waite-Smith gets a magical girl manga makeover and the result is a graphic novel inspired by East Asian comic styles with all the witch school YA tropes we love.

In a whimsical homage to the Fool’s Journey, the running theme through this deck is a legendary apprentice from the Academy named Charlie and her Harry Potter-esque adventures through witch school, discovering her family history, dueling with a witch school nemesis, learning basic spellwork, mastering the elements, meeting magical mentors, and forging memorable friendships.

The guidebook accompanying the deck reads like a student orientation manual for a new enrollee at the Witchling Academy of Magic, even beginning with a Witchling Academy Charter that gives you an overview of the mission statement, vision, and structure of the Academy, all of which is a metaphor for your personal spiritual journey as a witchling in the real world.

The school (and the deck) provides a fully comprehensive magical education via four Houses, each House focused on a specific curriculum. You’ve got the House of Wands where you’ll channel fire magic, the House of Cups for potion crafting, the House of Pentacles for healing and growing plants, and the House of Swords for enhancing your combat abilities.

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Sapere Aude Magnets with the SKT Revelation Decks

click image file to download

Click on the above image if you want to download the high-res JPG file. This is going to be a 2″ x 3.5″ magnet that will accompany each SKT III deck purchase. They’re produced by the same company I ordered the 2″ x 2″ magnets from, for those who remember the First and Vitruvian Edition packaging.

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Book of Maps: Revelation Edition – Cover Design Art (Updates, Notes, Downloads)

I test-printed several copies of the Book of Maps galleys from Lulu to review formatting, images, etc., and in all those copies, the cover art came out fine. However, due to how dangerously close to the edges of the book I go with the ornate floral border design, in some copies that people are ordering, the gold margin part gets cut off. Sigh.

Here’s a BEFORE cover design preview. The pink part (the bleed) is where the cuts are made. The shaded in pale green part on the front and back covers are the margins, but in theory all of it should still show. It’s just a cautionary note that you’re getting pretty darn close to the bleed.

And here is the high-res 300 dpi 5 MB printable and free downloadable JPG image file for the BEFORE cover art:

click on image to download

You can click on that image file to download and save it. If you’ve ordered the Premium Package, then as you know, your order of the digital e-book (in PDF form) means you also have a limited personal license to print physical copies of the book for your own private uses.

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The Sailor Moon Tarot (Majors only)

Throughout my girlhood I was a huge, huge fan of Sailor Moon. In a past posting, I shared how I named my violin Darien/Tuxedo Mask. Darien during practice, Tuxedo Mask during performances. And one day a friend mentioned that there exists a thing called the Sailor Moon Tarot. Predictably, I bought it within minutes of learning of its existence.

Although I’ve had this deck for years, I never got around to doing a write-up about it. Finally here it is: the Sailor Moon Crystal Tarot, Major Arcana.

The card backs are… well… because it’s a Sailor Moon tarot deck, it’s forgiven.

Is that Toei Animation sticker geniune or fake? Argh. The only way for me to verify for sure (maybe? allegedly.) is to peel that sticker off and examine its adhesive backing to see if it bears the official watermark. But I don’t want to do that because this is a collector’s deck for me. I really don’t want to tamper with it more than I have to.

EDIT: Apparently, it’s not a fake. Toei Animation did officially license a Sailor Moon Crystal 25th Anniversary Celebration limited edition run of tarot cards, Majors only, published out of Taiwan. That’s why all the text on here is in Traditional Chinese, rather than Simplified Chinese. Ahhh.

This deck is Golden Dawn astrology-based, sorta… -ish… The manga and its cartoon adaptation, if I may say so, has always been weirdly occult. Like if you see it, you see it, and you won’t ever be able to unsee it.

So here, for instance, in modern astrology The Fool card is often associated with Uranus. So Sailor Uranus is featured on Key 0: The Fool card. By the way, about Sailor Uranus, if you aren’t a Sailor Moon fan. In her civilian disguise, she wears masculine presenting clothes. And in her initial storylines, there are dialogue exchanges to the tune of, “What a handsome boy,” etc. Later on in the narrative, it’s revealed that Sailor Uranus is transgender. By the way, the lore around Sailor Uranus was set way back in the 1990s. So none of this is a recent thing.

Continuing on, Key 1: The Magician corresponds with Mercury. Here, The Magician is represented by Sailor Mercury. Sailor Moon is, well, the Moon, and so she’s The High Priestess. Key 3: The Empress corresponds with Venus, and there you see Sailor Venus. And on it goes.

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Flip-through of the Elemental Power Tarot

I want to start off by saying that I love this deck. The Elemental Power Tarot comes with an impressive guidebook, and Melinda Lee Holm’s artwork is phenomenal. [Oops–inaccurate statement; she’s not the artist, but I’m going to leave that sentence as-is for now, to make a point. Will give correct attribution later in this review.] Production quality is impeccable– the beautiful matte finish, great quality cardstock, the packaging, the full-color guidebook, all of it.

I mean just look at that card back design. I love it. Some reviewers grumbled about the cardstock quality, but I didn’t have any issue with that at all. I’m also digging the unconventional size dimensions of the cards (at least as it goes for tarot decks).

For me, the issue is miscommunications in how the publisher may have set consumer expectations. It isn’t fair to pin the issue on the artist/deck creator, so really accountability rests on whoever was tasked to do the marketing and promotional materials for this deck. Yes I’m being intentionally cryptic for now. You’ll see what I mean soon enough.

Let’s start with how I came to acquire this deck. A fellow tarot friend wanted to put me through a bit of an experiment. He pitched to me: I want to send you a deck, but you have to first promise me you won’t look up any info about it, or read any reviews, or try to find reviewer card images of the deck, okay? The only thing you are allowed to look at before receiving the deck is the publisher’s marketing copy and the sample card images presented on the deck box itself. Okay?

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