Zillich Tarot by Christine Zillich: A Thoth-Inspired Watercolor Deck

Those of you who attended Readers Studio 2018 in New York will recognize this deck as having come in the event gift bags, courtesy of U.S. Games. The artwork is done in watercolors by German artist Christine Zillich. The deck art blends mythological, astrological, and Kabbalistic symbolism, featuring Crowley’s keywords on the pips.

Click on photo for enlarged view.

The cards are petite at 2.25″ x 3.75″ (compared to standard tarot size: 2.75″ x 4.75″) and remind me more of a typical Lenormand size deck. You get the deck in a keepsake metal tin. I love the blue-purple tones of the reversible card backs. I know I’m getting nitpicky here, but there’s just the slightest imbalance in terms of vertical spacing in the white caption boxes at the bottoms of the cards–there’s not enough space between the bottom edge of the artwork and the first line of text, compared to the amount of spacing between the bottom edge of the card and the last line of text.

There’s a typo with the roman numeral for Key 21: The Universe, but it doesn’t really bother me. While Key 20 (XX) in the Thoth deck is titled Aeon and in the RWS is Judgement, here in Zillich, it’s Justice, which confused me, so I turned to the LWB. Indeed the card is supposed to be titled “Justice,” so this isn’t a typo on the card (unless it’s a typo that appears on both the card and in the LWB…)

The description of the artwork for Key XX reads in relevant part: “Golden light from heavenly trumpets awakens the dead. . . . An old age ends and a new era begins. The eternal consciousness is reborn in the spirit of the primordial fire.” So that sounds very Judgement-y and Aeon-y to me. Assuming the keyword “Justice” for Key XX is correct, I’m not entirely sure how justice fits in to the card, even with the deck creators’ own meaning attributions for Key XX.

Click on photo for enlarged view.

The abstract cubist style pays a clear homage to Lady Frieda Harris’s style. That Death card is just absolutely beautiful and to me, almost has a dark goddess vibe to it. Some of the symbolic renderings in the Majors feel more RWS to me than Thoth, like how Key 8, while titled Lust, is positioned as it would be in the RWS (whereas Crowley goes through quite the trouble explaining white Lust/Strength “should” be Key 11) and Key 11 is Justice/Adjustment. Also, the depictions, most notably in The Hermit card, or even the Wheel of Fortune feel more RWS than Thothian.

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Top 5 Oracle Decks of 2018

Continuing with the 31 Days of Tarot community challenge by Ethony, let’s talk about my top five oracle decks for 2018.

These are my top five oracle decks from the previous year, meaning (1) acquired the deck in the year 2018, and (2) actually worked with the deck in 2018, but most of these were published well before 2018.

The Celtic Shaman’s Pack by John Matthews and Chesea Potter is a deck I plan on reviewing in-depth at some future point. It’s an older deck that was then re-released  (and given a redesign) in 2017, but one I didn’t acquire myself until 2018. And I love it. Wow, I can’t even.

The guidebook that comes with the cards is everything you want to get you oriented in working with Celtic shamanism for yourself. I cannot shower this oracle deck with enough high praise, except to say you’ve got to try it to believe it. You can look forward to me posting a deck review of it this year, in 2019.

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Top 5 Tarot Decks of 2018

In 2018 we saw so many incredibly innovative and ground-breaking decks to name that I could not reduce it down to just five. This was a difficult list to make and I wish I could name more. I even thought about doing a special mentions section, but then even that would get unduly long!

These are my top five tarot decks from 2018, though two of these decks were published in 2017. Also, my own deck, Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, was disqualified, since come on. I can’t pick my own deck.

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Healers of the Earth Oracle by Mandy Peterson: A Review

The winter holidays are upon us and if you’re still shopping for your favorite spiritual friend, I’m really digging the Healers of the Earth Oracle by Mandy Peterson. It’s a complete divination kit all on its own, so no prior knowledge of cartomancy is needed. And if you do happen to be a seasoned cartomancy pro, this is a really fun deck to add to your collection. It’s extraordinarily functional in both the capacity as stand alone oracle card readings and as supplemental readings (where you pull a card or two from an oracle deck after a tarot reading).

The deck comes beautifully presented in a brown paper package tied up with string that is going to wow whoever you gift this to. It was designed specifically for empaths and earth sensitives intended to help you better clarify your own intuition.

Earth sensitives (also known as earth empaths), according to Peterson, are individuals who are hypersensitive to environmental changes, and therefore find that their own emotions are tied to natural disasters, war, social conflicts, and cyclic changes around them. Healers of the Earth Oracle is intended to help earth sensitives gain greater control over their empathic abilities.

Peterson had set out to create a healing divination tool and that she did. There are also strong tones of social justice, community service, and contributing to the world around you that run throughout the messages in this deck. The artist herself is a professional psychic, New Age spirituality author, and artist.

The deck set is packaged in a sturdy matte finish white sleeve box with a clean, immaculate aesthetic. The artwork for the deck is rendered through digital collage, using stock images that are then enhanced by Peterson.

The color palette is soft, muted, and beautiful. There are 73 cards in total, numbered up to 72, with a Card 0: The Intangible. The Intangible will indicate that at this time, future cannot yet be knowable and more flow is required before a matter can be ascertained. Card 71 is an omen for healing, in particular faith healing or the laying on of hands. The highest numbered card in the deck is 72: Divine Feminine, and that truly encapsulates the point of view for Healers of the Earth. There’s a strong lean toward expressions of the Divine Feminine.

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Review of the Kabbalistic Tarot by Eugene Vinitski and Frater North

Eugene Vinitski is one of the most innovative and intelligent deck creators I’ve come across. When I hear that he’s come out with a new deck, even before I’ve seen it, I get excited, because I know it’s going to be high concept and exquisitely executed.

The Kabbalistic Tarot is no exception to that rule. Vinitski collaborates with Frater North on an esoteric study deck rooted in the Golden Dawn traditions and the results are stunning. The contrast on the box design between the ornate patterned lining and the solid black matte finish is perfection.

Celebrating the heritage of linking the Kabbalah to the tarot first prompted by Antoine Court de Gebelin in the 17th century and then later elaborated upon by Eliphas Levi, the Kabbalistic Tarot accentuates the correlations between the tarot and the Sephiroth Tree, where the Majors represent the dynamic part of the Tree, underscoring the paths of movement from one sephira to another, while the Minors are the rigidly bound static sephiroth.

There are 79 cards in total, with the extra card in the tarot deck being a colored diagram of the Kabbalistic Tree as you see at left in the above photograph. The color coding here is going to be significant when we go to  study the anatomy of each card design later in the deck.

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Review of the Luna Sol Tarot by Mike Medaglia

If you believe that the particular tarot deck a reader chooses to work the closest with reflects the character, aura, and essence of the reader, then the Luna Sol Tarot says to me that those who gravitate toward this deck are compassionate, loving, soulful, and forward-thinking, with values rooted in pluralism, inclusiveness, and diversity of both culture and beliefs.

Mike Medaglia is a comics illustrator with a Zen Buddhist background, along with being one of the co-founders of Liminal 11, the publisher of the Luna Sol Tarot. You may recognize his work from his previous contributions the Huffington Post and Elephant Journal. Thankfully for us tarot readers, Medaglia has now directed his attentions to creating a tarot deck and Luna Sol Tarot is a modern spiritual wonder.

Click image for enlarged close-up view of Majors.

With a muted color palette and timeless, ethereal quality to the art, this is a deck for meditation, self-reflection, inner child work, and daily wisdom. With his background in comic book illustration, Medaglia expertly tells a story of a thousand words in each picture, every card in this deck magically unraveling a full narrative arc with a beginning, middle, and end of a story that you’ll pick up on effortlessly. There’s such a beautiful Libran harmony and aesthetic balance to Luna Sol.

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Reviewing the Lunar Nomad Oracle by Shaheen Miro

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.

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Review of the Wild Harmonic Oracle Cards

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.

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Review of the Luminous Void Tarot

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.

Healer and mystic Laura Zuspan’s Reading Room. Source: laurazuspanhealing.com

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.

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Review of The Simple Tarot by Angie Green

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.

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