The Lunar Nomad Oracle is a Lenormand-based oracle deck with a dream-like, visionary aesthetic that’s surreal and almost, I want to say, Dadaist style to the art. It feels subversive, almost anarchical, and yet undeniably beautiful.
The deck art here has a Victorian-inspired digital photo-collage style, giving off a vintage feel, and yet through a point of view and aesthetic that’s wholly modern. For instance, there’s something fresh about the negative photography for the Mice card. Reading spreads with the Lunar Nomad Oracle is like visualizing a dream sequence. It’s beautiful.
Wild Harmonic oracle cards from the genius of Gabriel Marihugh wow-ed me the first millisecond I saw it when Carrie Paris shared images of the deck. To my great fortune, Marihugh then reached out to me and asked if I’d like to review the deck. Heck yeah!
My only gripe with the deck– which isn’t even Marihugh’s fault– is it being published through GameCrafter. It’s probably not a big secret that I’m no fan of GameCrafter produced decks. I appreciate that it’s the most budget-friendly way to publish a tarot deck for creators, but… sigh. The dreamer in me keeps wishing for a better alternative to come along for creators who want to go the route of print-on-demand. Anyway, now that I’ve got that out of the way, we can focus on the deck.
This deck seems to be like a deck that U.S. Games or Llewellyn would certainly pick up and mass-publish. It’s got wide appeal, is really well done, and Marihugh has produced a wealth of written content to go along with the cards. It’s an oracle deck system that has been brilliantly thought through and captures the adoration of beginner oracle card readers and seasoned practitioners alike.
The Luminous Void Tarot by Laura Zuspan is a healing deck, one illustrated with watercolor paintings reminiscent of Rorschach inkblot tests, a form of conceptual art interpretation that dates back to Leonardo da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli. Luminous Void is an emotional deck, one that reaches you through the realm of emotion.
Laura Zuspan, the creator of the deck, is a professional tarot reader, mystic, seer, and healer who has taken her practice throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and as far as New York City. She also teaches many tarot courses in person in the Oakland area, so be sure to check out her page for all services and course offerings.
The first thing you might notice about Zuspan’s deck is the unique shape: it’s elliptical. Historic playing cards from the late Middle Ages could be found in this unique shape, though over the centuries, the standardized 2.75″ x 4.75″ rectangle for tarot decks has become the norm. Zuspan was inspired to create a deck in the elliptical shape when she saw 15th century playing cards at the Cloisters in New York City.
We’ve seen several tarot study decks or keywords decks rolling out as of late, but I think the one that takes the cake is The Simple Tarot, Beginner Keywords version, by Angie Green. I’m impressed by how she has put together an aesthetically stunning, contemporary tarot deck that stays true to classical RWS meanings and can, as a total package, truly teach you the tarot.
Also, I’m not the only one to have remarked on this: The Simple Tarot Keywords deck is spot-on accurate. There’s a consistent synchronicity that Angie Green’s work succeeded at tapping in to. Thus, this is not just an ordinary beginner’s study deck! The seasoned tarot reader is going to want to work with this deck, too, especially if you’re divining for yourself. Daily card draws with The Simple Tarot and jotting in the keywords or quick sketches of the key symbols in your daily planner would add a whole new level of personal spirituality to your everyday.
It’s fascinating how the tarot world experiences these synchronistic psychic waves, where a particular theme takes hold and several decks on the same theme by different artists come out around the same time. Right now, it’s tattoo-themed tarot decks and one of the best and most marvelous specimens of the trending theme to behold is the Tattoo Tarot by Megamunden.
The Majors in the deck didn’t come ordered by key number, though you’ll see later that the Minors were. So in the two photographs of the Majors, I’m presenting the cards in the exact order they came in. By the way, random comment: I appreciate the modesty in The Star card, without compromising or modifying the symbolic significance of her nudity.
While the stated theme is tattoo-inspired, the aesthetics here remind me of medieval woodblock printing–and done exceptionally well. The artistry here is impeccable and any illustrator is going to acknowledge and appreciate the design talent here. As Marseille-based tarot decks come, Tattoo Tarot is one of my favorites, and the more you peruse these images, the more it’ll become one of your favorite TdM decks, too.
The Carnival at the End of the World Tarot is “an oracle for uncertain times.” It’s an art deck exhibiting the beautiful macabre, with a haunting melody and flow to the cards, that have just a tinge of an old horror film set with circus clowns and supernatural happenings.
The deck is a tarot byproduct of an art collection by Nicolas Kahn and Richard Selesnick, who are based out of upstate New York, a region very close to my heart. The country of origin noted on the tuck box for the deck notes Taiwan, which again is close to my heart so already I’m adoring Carnival.
The above photo shows the extra card in the tarot deck. They’re based on the main characters in the Carnival at the End of the World: Doctor Falke, Count Orlofsky, and Madame Lulu. The premise of the deck is based on the cast of characters from Truppe Fledermaus, a photographic fable and art collection by the deck creators, which preceded the tarot deck. Heck, you can read a review of the art exhibition in the New York Times, here.
The Majors aren’t numbered, but you do get recognizable titles, i.e., The Fool, The Magician, High Priestess, The Empress, etc. The correspondences that the artists chose to work with for assigning characters from their work to the tarot keys is what I’d consider unconventional. For example, the elephant for The Emperor, actually based on some of Crowley’s writings I might have corresponded with The Hierophant, though I certainly see why they went with the hand forming the sign of the cross for their Key 5. The High Priestess with the antlers and veil of stars can trip up a more conventional tradition-based tarot reader if it weren’t for the card title.
The Tarot of Enchanted Dreams by Yasmeen Westwood is a digital photography-collage tarot deck that transports the would-be enchantress into a fairytale fantasy. The color palette of blues, purples, pinks, and silver sets a mystical tone. If you were that little girl or boy who used to dream of being a princess in a faraway magical land of angels, fairies, and unicorns, then this is absolutely the deck for you.
At the craft of digital photo collage art, Westwood is talented. The layering is seamless, color tones adjusted to be perfectly complimentary, and the black borders very much work to balance out the artwork. The cardstock feels like industry standard, maybe somewhere between 300 and 310 gsm, not entirely sure. It’s also shiny, with a very glossy sheen.
Over the last few months as I shared progress photos of my card illustrations, especially when we got to the Minors, RWS folks started to get confused by my pictorial interpretations, though I think that’s because Thoth influences started to show up more prominently.
On my shortlist of objectives for creating Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, one of those objectives was to harmonize the RWS and the Thoth together, which I’m going to say right up front turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be. It was so hard for me that in fact at many points during the process, I was beating myself up and lamenting, damn, I’m failing so bad at this.
I figure a side by side review of the decks will help clarify some of the confusion about where I’m getting what for the symbolism I’ve opted to go with in Spirit Keeper.
To do that, I’m using The Original Design Tarot Deck published by Siren Imports for the RWS and the Thoth Tarot Deck published by U.S. Games for the Thoth. I printed a sample copy of my deck, which you see above on the very right, but this is not what’s going to be produced for sale. I printed this physical copy to scrutinize the lines, production quality, alignment, that kind of thing, and because of that, I’ve already spotted things that need to be fixed, which will get fixed before final production. So just bear in mind that what you see here for the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot is pretty damn close to what will be offered for sale later down the line, but with editorial improvements.
Speaking on the design of the Majors from my frame of mind, the voice of what I might describe as my inner genius came through more distinctly. And by genius I don’t mean hey look at me I’m objectively a genius, no. I mean that inner genius we all have that we need to go through the structured, methodical process to unlock. That inner genius is what I’m saying really came out.
I say that because I think something shifts by the time I reach the Minors. More on that later.
I’m picturing the cards in the exact order I drew them. You’ll see back in the First Septenary Keys I to VII, there were no human figures depicted. I had started the project with the intent on having no depictions of humans. Where human-like figures would be used, they’d be, like, you know, with an animal head or something, the way you see in The Emperor, or most of the face concealed from view, like The Empress.
Then I got to Key 8 Strength and broke that rule. Doh.
By the way, I devote a whole section in The Book of Maps, the companion guidebook that will go along with Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, to the Key 8 and Key 11 situation and my struggle with deciding how to approach the 8 and 11 switch, which funny enough, involves the Justice card and those goddamn balancing scales.
I felt like there had to be more to the reasoning for Waite’s switch than the order of the zodiac wheel. My speculation at the end of that struggle is it had to do with differing theology, so then I had to decide where my own theologies aligned.
Since I went with Key 8 for Strength and Key 11 for Justice, following Waite’s switch, for an easier comparison, in the above photo I switched 11 for 8 and vice versa in the row of Thoth cards.
Although there are inevitable nods to the Marseille, the reason I didn’t focus my intentions on actively integrating the Marseille is because for Spirit Keeper, my focus is on the esoteric and occult expression of the tarot. The Marseille is by original intention a deck of playing cards that later got appropriated into a form of divination or fortune-telling, whereas both RWS and the Thoth were from beginning to end intended as esoteric and occult expressions of the tarot. You could even argue that both the RWS and the Thoth tarot decks are the product of spell-crafting, born from fertile pools of knowledge and magical experience. That is why these two in particular are the chosen parents.
The Spirit Within Tarot by Steven Bright and published by Schiffer Publishing blends tarot with shadow gazing to produce a powerful cartomantic tool that reads into your inner sanctum. I love the modernity of this deck, the color symbolism that comes out strong, and the aesthetic value of the contrast.
The card trim size is not a typical or standard tarot size and feels more oracle to me. Every aspect of this deck’s presentation feels fresh, modern, and outfitted to attract popular appeal.
Steven Bright of Tiferet Tarot has been a fixture in the tarot community who I’ve always looked to for his deck reviews and his social media posts, Tarot Thoughts. I love that this deck, which has been many years in the making, has come to fruition and not only that, has exceeded all expectations. It’s unique, it’s innovative, and you can tell it was designed by an experienced master tarot reader.
I learned a very important lesson from this deck: don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. The Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot was part of the free swag I got from Readers Studio 2018. When I first saw a few samples of the card images and read the back of the box, I shrugged and said to myself, “meh, not for me, pass.”
Wrong. I realized how wrong I was as soon as I unwrapped the deck and sifted through the cards.
Modern Spellcasters is that acquaintance you didn’t get a good first impression from because you’re an asshole set in your ways but then you actually take the time to have a couple of heart to heart chats and suddenly you realize holy crap, this is a kindred spirit and an amazing one at that.