I’ve had the Terra Volatile Tarot in hand for quite some time now, and I wanted to take my sweet time before writing this review. This is an alchemical esoteric deck created by Ana and Tiago, aka Credo quia Absurdum. I started off with a photo from the additional fifth Vessels suit in this deck, just because that is one of my favorites features of the Terra Volatile.
There are a total of 92 cards in this deck, and you can work with all 92, or customize your own 78-card tarot deck out of the many alternates and options included in the box.
Above, The Fool and The Fooless are two options for the classic tarot Fool card. (The Fooless makes a reappearance later in the Queen of Cups.) You’ll also see The Magician and The Alchemist, two options for Key 1.
I’m the Justice card in Jamie Sawyer’s Pocket of Peers Tarot! What an honor! The two little tiles tilted on top of the guidebook cover are not part of the cover design– I placed those two extra tiles Jamie gifted me with there for the photo.
The Pocket of Peers Tarot was crowdfunded on Kickstarter. It was fully-funded in 95 minutes, which is crazy! Crazy-good that is. I love how supportive the tarot community is toward its members. There’s so much love and mutual respect.
The interior of the box design is magnificent. I mean, just look at that reading table and the library bookshelves behind it, with an Akashic Records vibe. I’m also loving the eight-spoke wheel with the leaf design for the reversible card backs.
To me, it’s also symbolic of what this deck expresses: living knowledge. While there is traditional symbolism on each card to anchor it for RWS readers, the Pocket of Peers Tarot celebrates the living collective of knowledge that the tarot community represents.
Tarot deck art featuring people the artist knows is nothing new; in fact, it’s kind of its heritage. The earliest Renaissance tarots featured portraits of family members from the house that commissioned the painting of that deck. I love that Pocket of Peers is like a time capsule of the tarot community in 2021.
I love the concept behind The Phoenician Oracle for so many reasons. First, it’s a great study deck for anyone who wants to become more familiar with the Phoenician letters of the alphabet (these are the same letters featured in the top right corners of the Majors in the SKT). And yet secondly, because of the keywords, the cards function as an easy-to-use oracle deck.
While the creator has categorized this as an oracle deck, and it is, I’m going to be adding a link to it under the label “tarot” for my deck reviews, but will include the notation “Majors only.” That’s because I’ve been working with this deck as a “Majors only” tarot deck.
You can buy the deck straight from the creator off Etsy, here. The deck comes with a tri-fold pamphlet with the 22 card meanings and a description of what’s pictured on each card. And this tri-fold pamphlet is pretty much all you need to get started working with this treasure of an oracle deck.
Aleph (Ox), for instance, features a 3rd century BC mosaic excavated from the ancient city of Volubilis; Beth (House), which in the Torah is a symbol of the lower wisdom, or the “lower Hokhmah” associated with the Shekhinah, features a house from Tunisia; Gimel (Camel) features a floor mosaic from a church in Syria.
Dolath (Door) and He (Window) either correspond with Key 3: The Empress and Key 4: The Emperor respectively or with Key 4: The Emperor and Key 5: The Hierophant, depending on which alphabet letter to key configuration you follow. In ancient Mediterranean myths and lore, both doors and windows operated as links between worlds, and more specifically, between the human world and the divine world. Thus, either system of correspondences works out really well in terms of associations to that portal-between-worlds.
The Phoenicians were a loose confederation who controlled most of the trade that went on in the Mediterranean some 2,000 years. Their alphabet, or Abjad, was adopted by many different cultures, societies, and civilizations because of how easy it was to learn, and its practical uses in commerce.
An alphabet-based system of writing, rather than one based on hieroglyphs or ideograms, made literacy accessible, rather than something reserved for the elite. The Phoenician Abjad is the basis for the Arabic and Hebrew Abjads, and by extension, predecessor of the Greek and Latin alphabets.
Resh features an ivory statue of the chthonic goddess/demoness associated with owls and the netherworld Kilili, the “Woman at the Window” (ša apāta ušarru) found in Nimrud, Assyria (near modern-day Iraq) dated back to the 8th century BC. We describe Kilili with that confused designation of goddess/demoness because she is described as a female demon, but then is also associated with Ishtar, and as an emissary of Ishtar, Kilili personifies wisdom and also possesses the power to heal.
Given what you read there “Woman at the Window,” I might have used this image in place of He – Window, but I totally get why it’s here for Resh – Head, corresponding either with Key 19: The Sun or Key 20: Judgement, again depending on which correspondence system you work with.
My only critique of the deck is the resolution quality on some of the public domain images used on these cards, such as the image on Aleph (Ox), Gimel (Camel), Kaf (Palm of Hand), or Ayin (Eye), where the photographic image looks grainy and a bit blurred. Whereas on most of the other cards, the image resolution is perfect. That inconsistency didn’t bother me too much, mainly because the utility and concept of the deck outweighed any of its cosmetic issues.
Melia Cogan created The Phoenician Oracle to work with the Abjad as a form of divination, accompanied by visual artifacts of Phoenician history and culture. This is a 22-card deck that comes in a blue velveteen drawstring bag. If you enjoy decks like the Ibiza Tarot: The Oracle of Tanit premised on Phoenician folk magic, or have been wondering where all the cool Mediterranean, Levantine, or West Asian cultures inspired decks are, then you’ll want to get your hands on Cogan’s The Phoenician Oracle.
Me, personally, I love this deck as a companion oracle deck alongside my SKT. I also work with it in the same way I might work with a Majors only tarot deck. On my personal copy of The Phoenician Oracle, I went in with a gold metallic Sharpie marker and wrote in the Major Arcana key numbers I associate with each Abjad letter, along with the Golden Dawn based astrological/elemental correspondence.
FTC Disclosure: In accordance with Title 16 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Part 255, “Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” I received the Phoenician Oraclefrom the deck creator for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion of the deck.
The Relative Tarot, created by the inimitable Carrie Paris and published by Weiser Books, is not just a masterfully done photo-collage mixed media deck that stitches vintage photography with details from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, but it’s also a powerful analytical and psychoanalytical tool. I feel like both Jung and Freud would give their stamp of approval!
What is most special about this deck is its design, created specifically to help you cast your Tarot Blueprint, based on concept of birth cards, inner and outer soul expression cards, and your significator. The companion guidebook– A Guidebook for the Diligent Diviner (love that title, Carrie!)– walks you through how to calculate each card in the tarot that represents a facet of you.
Altogether, they will produce your Tarot Blueprint. Instead of going the route of a run-of-the-mill deck review, I’m going to put my copy of Relative Tarot to use and create my own Tarot Blueprint for self-assessment.
So first off, the promise of the deck is ambitious. In the Introduction, Paris tells you this: With the Relative Tarot, you will be able to answer these three questions about yourself:
I gave you wrong information in my previous status update here. That’s because the third-party importer/broker that my manufacturer hired to oversee delivery gave me wrong information. (And that’s also what I really want to go nuts telling all of you all about! What an… ARGH! You’ve got to hear this whole story. Like. Ugh.)
Only after I turned into an all-out full-on Karen did I finally get the name of the warehouse. And still, no contact info was provided to me for that warehouse, so I had to go search for it myself.
I called the warehouse directly this morning (the info wasn’t given to me until last Friday; my status update to you was on Saturday; today is Monday) and spoke with a very kind, pleasant fellow at the warehouse.
It turns out my packages are not at the warehouse yet, as I was told by the broker/importer guy. Thank goodness I took the initiative to look up the warehouse contact and called on my own.
So here’s the real deal. There are 15 containers ahead of mine in line for unloading at the warehouse. Until those 15 containers of goods are unloaded into the warehouse and one by one shipped out by truck to where they need to go, no one is even going to get to me.
While he doesn’t know exactly how long it’s going to take, by his best estimate, it is going to be another 2 weeks before they unload the container that my packages are in and my boxes are delivered to me.
One more ARGH! moment: The guy at the warehouse and I took a long time figuring out what reference number info I had to give him for him to track my package BECAUSE… get this… because the importer/broker guy filled out my forms wrong. ARGHHHH!!
Oh– and (!!!)– I was given the wrong # of boxes in my total shipment. I was told 36 boxes, and kinda thinking in my head, oh wow, each box is gonna be huge (because, math, which means there would be about 100 decks in each box, which means each box is going to require at least 2 people to lift). When I finally talked to that warehouse guy this morning, he said, “Uh, no, ma’am… it’s 63 boxes. You’ve got 63 boxes incoming.” The exact # of boxes matters because that’s how you do your initial headcount, to make sure you’ve got everything before you start opening the boxes up.
Breathe…breathe… okay. I’m calm. Promise. I’m very calm. Everything is fine. Nothing to see here. Happy Monday.
::adds whiskey to my next cup of coffee…it’s not even 9 am…::
As I’ve been told, the decks are now in a warehouse near the Port of Oakland (here in California) and we’re waiting for our turn for delivery to our front doorstep.
Between my last SKT communiqué and this one, there’s a lot simmering in me that I want to vent and chit-chat about, but I’m going to hold off on that for now, focus on what’s the priority (getting the decks to you), and at some future time, we’ll talk. =) Oh boy, will we!
I still don’t have the decks (inferred by the first sentence of this update, I hope, but I suppose it bears spelling out) but a projection has been given for last week of September. That’s when the decks will physically, literally be in my home.
In the meantime, we’ve done our best to transform parts of our home into a warehouse and assembly line, so the plan is once the decks arrive, we’ll do a final quality check, tally of what’s arrived, make sure everything is in order and we have enough decks that pass superficial quality check to send out to all pre-orders. What I mean by “superficial quality check” is we give the outside box a quick look. For making sure the cards, cardstock, illustrations, gilding, booklet, all the interior stuff, we will open at random a deck here and a deck there a box there and a box here for arbitrary quality checks, and assume if all these random decks we open are fine, then the rest should be fine, too.
It was through quite a bit of serendipity and social connections that I got my hands on the End of Empires Tarot, the Major Arcana series, by artist Sarah Julig. There are only 12 totally handmade copies of the first edition, each card hand-cut, glued together onto the card backs, and even the bag it came in was hand-made.
She auctioned off the 12 handmade tarot Majors decks and all proceeds went to BLM bail funds and the ACLU. That’s so cool!
The berry hues (red ink, blue watercolor, and vintage white tempera), ink blot reminiscent style, and eerie dream like quality altogether win me over. The art transports me to an alternate dimension, à la The Upside Down. Above is The Fool, Magician, Priestess, Empress, Emperor, and the Hierophant card in the bottom right corner features a human’s internal organs. An anatomical diagram for the Hierophant… now that intrigues!
Dame Fortune’s Wheel Tarot published by Lo Scarabeo was created under the instruction of Paul Huson, author of one of my favorite books, Mystical Origins of the Tarot: From Ancient Roots to Modern Usage. The artwork is curated and edited by Pietro Alligo.
It comes in a simple tuck box and the card back is reversible. The back’s geometric design here also reminds me of Islamic Golden Age architecture, which fits the deck’s aesthetic.
There is an extra 79th card for the Significator, with what looks to me like a very familiar illustration, one I’ve seen from one of those old medieval medical astrology texts. I don’t know what the art medium is here, but it looks like ink and art markers. I don’t know if it’s the printing, but sometimes the colors can get a bit muddy, like in the robes and seat on The Emperor card pictured above.
Pamela Steele is one of my close tarot friends, and really, though she might not know it, also an art mentor. There’s a fiery and fierce “I’ll do it myself!” independence to her. If you tell her “no” and gatekeep her, she’ll dismantle the gate altogether. She’s also contributed so much to the tarot community at large, having always been a passionate advocate and supporter for deck creators.
I was honored to write the Foreword to the Eternal Seeker guidebook, and to do so, I had an early prototype of the deck on my desk for weeks, working with it everyday, doing daily card draws, and I found myself really connecting to this deck.
If you read just the card titles above alongside the imagery, you’ll see The Fool in The Seeker card, The Magician in The Magus, The High Priestess in The Oracle, and The Empress in Divine Feminine. However, the numbering diverges from the tarot Key numbers. Where we might commonly associate 1 with Magician, here it’s The Seeker (calling to mind The Fool).
So first, you need to dismantle any preconceived notions of the Major Arcana. Eternal Seeker is its own divination system, and simply hearkens to some of the Major Arcana tarot archetypes. The specific number associations in Eternal Seeker are rooted in numerology, and deeply intentional.
I was gifted an early prototype of the Southeast Asian Myths and Stories (SEAMS) Tarot, which was hand-cut by the Chairman of Singapore’s Tarot & Cartomancy Association himself, and now one of my most prized possessions in my tarot deck collection.
What you’ll see in these photos are the reviewer’s copy (tarot equivalent of an ARC), so I won’t be commenting on production value, since that’s likely to change from the time of this ARC to what the SEAMS team can produce after successful funding.
In this review, we’re going to look at the art and talk about the deck as a whole. The deck is going to come with a companion e-book that delves into the stories, mythologies, and lore depicted on each card. I’ll try to give a sampling of just how rich a tapestry this deck is.
The above photograph is a card from the holographic version of the deck.
Each copy of the SEAMS Tarot will be empowered with crystal skull energies and the mantras of Guru Rinpoche and the Medicine Buddha. In many esoteric modalities of Taoist qi gong or each Southeast Asian region’s version of qi gong (I’m using the Mandarin Chinese term for it only because that’s the term I know), the Medicine Buddha is either the personification of or the creator of the pillar of source “reiki” spirit energy that empowers healers. In that sense, each deck is imbued with reiki.
Because the premise of this deck is to celebrate Southeast Asian artists and their cultures, I love that you can see the artist of each illustration and country of origin. The deck’s namesake, SEAMS, is also a reference to the cultural quilt that has been stitched together from many different tribes, peoples, and traditions.