Golden Venetian Lenormand

The Golden Venetian Lenormand is a sister deck to Eugene Vinitski’s Venetian Tarot, which I’ve reviewed before here. Vinitski has teamed up with author, philologist, and art historian Elsa Khapatnukovski to produce a masterpiece of a Grand Jeu Lenormand, which consists of 54 cards (rather than the popularized Petit Lenormand or Petit Jeu Lenormand, which consists of only 36).

However, you can also select out the 35 Petit Lenormand cards and work with this deck as a Petit Lenormand. So in essence, you’re getting two decks in one. You’ll definitely want to purchase your copy of the Golden Venetian Lenormand via Vinitski’s Etsy shop here.

Like Vinitski’s Venetian Tarot, the Golden Venetian Lenormand is crafted in a High Renaissance style with a design focus on classical humanism.

The Lenormand oracle is a predictive fortune-telling system from the late 18th century based on the Game of Hope by Johann Kasper Hechtel, an illustrated edifying card game steeped in Christian allegories. In the 19th century, 16 more cards were taken from other well-known European cartomancy systems of the time and the 36-card Petit Lenormand was expanded into a 52-card fortune-telling deck, plus the additional 2 jokers.

By the way I love the little details of insight from Khapatnukovski. For example, the Fox card, No. 14, Khapatnukovski acknowledges that you’re not likely to come by a fox in Venice, but because it’s common symbolism in the Lenormand system, here it is. This particular fox is running over a canal holding a seagull in its mouth. The seagull, symbolic of freedom and a desire to dream, locked in the jaws of a fox, show the anguish of mind of a trapped individual.

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Ancestral Path Tarot by Julie Cuccia-Watts

The Ancestral Path Tarot by Julie Cuccia-Watts first came out in 1996, published by U.S. Games. At the time it was a bordered deck and had a different card back design. This year the deck has been re-released, now borderless and with a beautiful new card back.

There is both a 90s throwback vibe to this deck and a timeless quality. Ancestral Path reminds me of the way multiculturalism was celebrated in the 90s. You’ve got original works of art done by hand, with minimal digital retouching, not like the majority of decks we get today, which involve heavy-handed amounts of digital work. One isn’t better or worse than the other; it’s just iconic of different times.

Note here that Key 8 is Justice (and Key 11 is Strength). Ancestral Path is a fusion of different deck systems, which will become a bit more apparent when we get to the Minors. Here, though, I love the emphasis on priestess energy in the Hierophant card. Yes, it’s still a true Hierophant card, but I love how Cuccia-Watts has reinterpreted it with more feminine energy.

I love the simple elegance of the card backs, with that beautiful pastel blue and what’s reminiscent of a pearl. Technically these are not reversible card backs, but I mean, unless you’re looking, they’re more or less reversible. I love the meta quality to The Fool, which is a self-portrait of the artist holding up The Fool card in this deck, which is a self-portrait of the artist. Clever.

What’s interesting to me is how modern The Fool card feels in this deck, compared to the rest of the deck art. Thus, it almost conveys the narrative that this deck is about traveling back in time. At the point of The Fool, we are in the present day, and the nod to the deck itself in Key 0 is about the type of journey we’ll take with Ancestral Path. This is about ancestors and it is about past lives. At least that’s what I got out of this juxtaposition.

Some of these artistic interpretations of the Majors really made me think. Take, for instance, The Hanged One (Key 12), which is a baby turned upside down, meaning ready to be birthed. I really love the transition from the Star to the Moon to the Sun here. I’ve been using Ancestral Path for past life readings and find it to be quite clear for such purposes.

The Wheel of Fortune card in this deck is incredible. There’s some homage to medieval Cellarius star atlases. Here we see traditional astrology juxtaposed with modern astronomy. A master astrologer herself, Cuccia-Watts integrates much of her spiritual beliefs into this deck.

The Tower is a powerful card. Near the bottom you’ve got what looks like Stonehenge, then the Sphinx, then the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, and then a cathedral or basilica, and above that, what looks like a modern skyscraper.

The four suits depict four different cultures of antiquity. You’ve got feudal Japan in the Swords, and as we go through these photographs of the cards, you’ll see that the suit of Staves depicts the Nineteenth Dynasty of Ramses II in Egypt, the suit of Cups depicts Arthurian Britain, and the suit of Sacred Circles is indigenous First Nations Americas. Here in the suit of Swords, the progression of paintings tell an epic story about the Ainu, or indigenous people of Hokkaido.

The court cards are titled King, Queen, Prince (for the Knight), and Princess (for the Page). In Ancestral Path, court cards are deified ancestral figures. In the suit of Swords, for instance, you’ll find Izanagi and Izanami, Shinto kami, along with Tsukiyomi and Amaterasu, moon god and sun goddess respectively. In the suit of Staves (Wands), you’ll find Osiris and Isis for King and Queen, then Nephthys and Horus for the Prince and Princess (Knight and Page) cards.

The narrative illustrated across the Staves suit is that of the Osirian myth, the cycle of death and resurrection, with the deck creator taking cues here from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Here, as noted in the little white book, the 7 of Staves is about solving the riddle of the sphinx. The 6 of Staves expresses the pitfalls of patriotism and hero worship

The 5 of Staves, which in the RWS shows the five individuals with staves fighting each other, and in the Thoth is titled Strife, here in Ancestral Path shows a much more serene and peaceful scene. Here, the 5 of Staves is about negotiation, cooperative efforts within a diverse group of people, and pooling talents to create something great. Many of the cards in this deck have been reworked, and so when reading with Ancestral Path, trust what you see depicted on the card more than you do memorized textbook card meanings.

The larger size of the deck is something you will either love or find cumbersome, and will be a matter of personal preference. I found it a bit cumbersome, but that’s just because I find any deck larger than 2.75″ x 4.75″ cumbersome. The muscle memory in my hands are so used to that standard tarot size that anything not conforming to that can feel awkward.

The coloring is magnificent. It goes without saying that Cuccia-Watts is an extraordinarily talented artist. You can see a clear foreground, middle ground, and background, and every image feels spacious. There’s actually an excruciating amount of detail in every card, but it never overpowers you because Cuccia-Watts understands balance. She knows how to paint a landscape that lets your eyes temper the detailing with the bigger picture, and it’s truly remarkable.

Here in the Cups courts, the King is Arthur and the Queen is Gwenhwyfar; Lancelot and Morgana are the Prince and Princess. The Cups tell the story of Morgana’s Reverie, as King Arthur’s sister prepares herself for the role of the psychopomp on the path of the King’s initiation into the knowledge of his genetic inheritance and his spiritual responsibilities.

I like the recasting of the tarot 7 of Cups here. In Ancestral Path, this card is about visions and intuition. It’s about reality being the illusion and having to trust that which lies behind the obvious. When the 7 of Cups shows up, it’s a moment to reflect on the meaning and purpose of your existence.

Cuccia-Watts and the author of the guidebook, Tracey Hoover, have brought out original expressions of the classic tarot architecture. In the 6 of Cups, while they stay true to textbook essential meanings, we also learn that this card can denote avoidance of negative childhood issues.

The suit of Pentacles (Coins/Disks) has been renamed to Sacred Circles. In the Sacred Circles, the King and Queen are Grandfather Thunder and Grandmother Moon, and for the Prince and Princess, Father Sun and Mother Earth. This suit tells a Menominee legend of bear and thunder spirit ancestors, narrating a vision quest.

The Aces in this deck symbolize raw mythical power. The Ace of Sacred Circles depicts a drum, which per Native American lore, measures the heartbeat of the earth and carries in its rhythms divine messages between the worlds of the living and the dead.

The little white book by Tracey Hoover is quite meaty. The tone and point of view for the card meanings is more spiritual in nature, however, and not quite as practical. When using Ancestral Path for readings of a spiritual nature, the little white book’s guidance will come in handy, though if you’re looking for more practical meanings, the tarot beginner will want an additional companion text.

Still, at 30 pages in length, it’s a great primer, and great at offering an orientation and introduction to the Ancestral Path tarot deck. I love how some of the keys have been interpreted here. For instance, the Nine of Swords can indicate a prophetic dream. The Queen of Swords expresses joy in the creative process. It’s about making something from nothing, and can also denote children, grandchildren, and family pride. The old school depiction of the Queen of Swords is usually a severe woman who is widowed and childless, so I really like this re-branding for her.

The Princess of Cups, depicting Morgana, can reveal a magical being, a healer, and someone knowledgeable in herbs and the mysteries of the earth. The guidebook ends with a classic nod to the Celtic Cross spread, which again, to me feels very 90s. I think every LWB from the 90s featured either the Celtic Cross or the Horseshoe.

The Ancestral Path Tarot by Julie Cuccia-Watts is a must-have in any deck collection, especially if you’re looking for iconic representations of where we were at as a tarot collective in the 90s. That it can be reprinted today in 2019 and feel wholly relevant is a testament to how remarkable this deck is.

I would recommend this as a beginner’s tarot deck. It reads with ease and the little white book is enough to get anyone started. The artwork captivates, opening up the beginner reader’s intuition in ways that will further deepen one’s curiosity for the tarot. And yet there is so much to unpack here, and from what I know of Cuccia-Watts’s astrological work, the symbolism on each card plunges far below the surface of what you see pictured. Thus, the advanced reader has much to work with here.

Wisdom of the House of Night Oracle Cards

This is not a full deck review, just a look-see. Wisdom of the House of Night oracle cards were published back in 2012 and this deck has been in my collection for years and years, but I never picked it up to give it a go until now.

The deck is a collaboration between Colette Baron-Reid and the author of the House of Night series, P.C. Cast. I’ve never read the books and all I know about the series is what I can look up on Wikipedia. Basically, it’s YA fantasy involving vampires, but in the book’s universe, they’re called vampyres, with the y.

The artwork here is by the amazing New York based artist Jena DellaGrottaglia, who also did illustration work for the Mystical Shaman deck, Wisdom of the Hidden RealmsThe Enchanted MapThe Good TarotGoddess Oracle, and Spirit Animal, among others. She takes Photoshop digital art to the next level.

What inspired me to share this look-see of the deck is its premise: to commune with Nyx. Use the 50-card deck to receive oracles from the goddess Nyx.

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Divine Muses Oracle by Maree Bento

Readings with the Divine Muses Oracle cards by Maree Bento feel like a lucid dream. Through my inner ear, I can hear music playing softly in the background as I work with the deck. Bento has worked an exquisite, mysterious magic with a touch of alchemical intrigue into Divine Muses.

Each card represents an archetypal force of alchemy, magic, and mythology that has real world manifestations. They’ve made recurring appearances throughout Bento’s life, which is what inspired her to create this oracle deck.

The cards, along with its companion book, are a “guide that yokes the celestial into the terrestrial, the sacred into the mundane,” writes Bento about Divine Muses.

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The Amenti Oracle: Living with a Feather Heart

Inspired by the Emerald Tablets and the wisdom of Ma’at, Jennifer Sodini’s Amenti Oracle: Living with a Feather Heart deck and book set is a wondrous modern vision of ancient lore. The illustrations are beautifully done by Natalee Miller.

The product design is both whimsical and mystical– a matte magnetic flap clamshell box with a velveteen setting inside where a tuck box of the cards fits perfectly. Then you’ve got this book that’s somewhere in between hardcover and paper. It’s superb.

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The Herbcrafter’s Tarot by Joanna Powell Colbert and Latisha Guthrie

The Herbcrafter’s Tarot is a masterpiece, but it’s more than that. It’s a beautifully compiled trove of knowledge. Its companion book, written by Latisha Guthrie, is going to be one of your favorite go-to grimoires. The artwork by Joanna Powell Colbert is just perfection. She’s like a modern-day Pliny the Elder.

Production value for this deck is top shelf. It comes in a sturdy top and bottom lid box with a matte finish and everything, the deck and book, tucks in perfectly, with a matching green ribbon for ease of taking the cards out from its box.

The artwork is absolutely stunning. Look at Key 8: Strength, featuring garlic. I love the inclusion of garlic snapes and the detailing of honey-preserved garlic (one of my favorite recipes, by the way).

To see how you connect with the deck, choose one of the three cards above and remember which one you chose– left, center, or right. At the end of this review, we’ll revisit your selection.

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White Sage Tarot by Theresa Hutch

The White Sage Tarot by Theresa Hutch and published in late 2018 by U.S. Games is a charming and whimsical little pocket-size deck in a tin in soft pastel hues. It doesn’t feature any humans and instead, focuses on the animal kingdom, though there are references to man-made objects as you’ll see.

The deck description provided by the publisher notes that the intention for White Sage Tarot is to be a balance of masculine and feminine energies. However, it still felt more feminine to me.

You get these quick-reference chakra correspondence cards because understanding the chakra correspondences will factor in to how you read with these cards. There’s also a little white booklet with card meanings that help you to read with this deck that otherwise diverges from traditional tarot imagery.

The cards follow the RWS order of keys in the Majors and rely on animals as omens. While upon first impression the deck may not seem beginner-friendly, there’s a way to get really beautiful and powerful readings with the White Sage Tarot, though I’m probably a bit of a maverick here…

…I totally sidestep traditional tarot reading techniques. I don’t even treat this deck as a tarot deck (even though it is, and totally follows the classical tarot structure).

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The Gill Tarot

The Gill Tarot by Elizabeth Josephine Gill, reprinted 2019. Top right: Card back design.

The Gill Tarot, created by Elizabeth Josephine Gill and first published back in 1991, has been reprinted by U.S. Games earlier this 2019. The tarot community declared, “We want a reprint of The Gill Tarot!” and U.S. Games obliged. Yay!

I received this deck as a Conference gift, which the publisher gave to all attendees at Readers Studio 2019 in New York, New York.

Majors Key 0 – Key 14

Before actually seeing the cards in the deck, I assumed I wasn’t going to love it, that this wasn’t going to be for me. (You know what they say about what happens when you ass-u-me…yep, so true.) But I am loving it. I mean omigosh, that Empress card! That Justice! That Death card! Temperance! How do I even count the ways I love the artwork here!

Majors Key 15 – Key 21; Minors: Swords Courts; 10 – 7 of the Swords

There’s a retro flashback-to-the-90s tarot art style going on here, which I just adore. I really miss the days of tarot art before the whole “let’s-photoshop-the-shit-out-of-everything” high-def digital fantasy art movement that’s now taken over the tarot world.

Minors: 6 – A of the Swords; Wands Courts; 10 – 6 of the Wands

The prominence of the Arabic numerals on the pip cards makes more sense when you’re working with a Qabalistic approach to the cards, which is in line with Gill’s original intentions for the deck. To start, Gill designed the four Minor Arcana suits based on the four kabbalistic worlds: Atziluth with its essence of Fire for the suit of Wands; Briah with its essence of Water for the suit of Cups; Yetzirah with its essence of Air for the suit of Swords; and Assiah with its essence of earth for the suit of Disks.

To initiate your understanding of the design, Gill recommends that you lay out the court cards, all the Kings in a row, left to right as Wands, Cups, Swords, and Disks respectively. Then below it, all the Queens in a row, left to right as Wands, Cups, Swords, and Disks, then below that the Princes and then below the Princes, the Princesses. Then when you study the grid layout, you’ll better understand the cosmological movement of power.

Minors: 5 – A of the Wands; Cups Courts; 10 – 5 of the Cups

Each numbered pip, corresponding with a sephirah from the Tree of Life, marks a particular stage of the querent within the four kabbalistic worlds, and when you study and understand that courts grid, you’ll understand the exact positioning of the querent at any given moment in time and space.

When 10 shows up, for example, you are in a position of discernment but are more susceptible to the vices of greed or avarice, and the suit of that 10 will tell you which of the kabbalistic worlds and what corresponding life lessons you’re going through.

The 9 cards indicate something important pushing out from your subconscious, yearning to be known and acknowledged, where the virtue to be gained is independence, but the vice you’re currently more susceptible to is idleness.

The 8s mark a juncture point of mental functions, with the virtue being honesty and the vice being dishonesty. The 8s indicate the forces of communication at play. And so on the numbers go until we get to the Aces, where the A cards indicate the alpha and the omega. You’ve struck the root cause of what’s going on with you.

Minors: 4 – A of the Cups; Disks Courts; 10 – 4 of the Disks

How you prefer to read tarot decks will determine how you feel about the keywords in The Gill Tarot. If you’re unwilling to syncretize the system of interpretation you’ve built up to this point with this specific deck of cards, then the prescribed keywords here can be distracting.

However, if you’re willing to meet the deck creator at a merged, integrative place, then these keywords are effing amazing. Seriously. This deck reads beautifully if you will allow it to do what it needs to do. I don’t know how else to explain it without sounding crazy, but if you try to exert complete dominance and control over these cards, it can be cumbersome. But if you yield to them and let the keywords and color symbolism do the heavy-lifting for you, it’s such a powerful deck.

The simplicity and child-like innocence of the art style fools you into believing it’s a simple deck, but it’s not, oh not by a longshot. You don’t realize how deep, well thought-out, and full this charming deck of cards is until you surrender your preconceived notions and let these cards do their work.

Minors: 3 – A of the Disks

In an earlier photograph for the deck look-see, you’ll note that the card back design is non-reversible. That’s because Gill does not intend these cards to be read with reversals. While the key numbering in the Majors is RWS, the vibes you get from the deck art are definitely more Thoth. There is a winsome magic to these cards that I can’t fully explain to you in words, that you simply have to experience for yourself.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the deck creator, which you’ll find in the opening passages of the Introduction:

“To be useful for spiritual searching, a system must offer a mirror in which one can see oneself . . . and it must be a guide to lead the seeker. There must also be a living, growing dynamic bond between the seeker and the object of study. Without that, nothing arises except  the accumulation of information and an increase in vanity, based on a view of oneself as a being imbued with great amounts of mystical knowledge.”

Elizabeth Josephine Gill, The Gill Tarot

The Chakra Wisdom Tarot by Tori Hartman

I’ve worked with Tori Hartman’s Chakra Wisdom Oracle cards since 2014 when it was first published, and the oracle deck is lovely. So I’ve been greatly anticipating the release of Chakra Wisdom Tarot. The Chakra Wisdom Tarot presents a fresh, contemporary, and innovative Western interpretation of the Eastern chakra correspondence traditions.

An understanding of Hartman’s interpretive approach might help lend context to both the Chakra Wisdom Tarot and her previous Chakra Wisdom Oracle cards. Hartman is a psychic and she approaches cartomancy as a magnifying tool for clairvoyance and claircognizance. A near-death experience over 20 years ago awakened clairvoyant and claircognizant abilities within her, transforming her life purpose. Since then, she has been a teacher of the spiritual and metaphysical arts. Once you understand the defined scope of Hartman’s approach, her cards and even her chakra interpretations make a lot more sense.

In the first grouping of cards, color-coded red for the First Chakra, as it’s referred to in this deck and book set, or Muladhara, relates to “The Route Taken.” These 11 cards center around the theme of family beliefs and shifting old ideas (per the guidebook). The element is Earth and in terms of planetary correspondences, Hartman attributes the First Chakra to the Sun, which is a provocative interpretation.

There are many surprising assignments in the deck, which I appreciate because they push the limitations of my preconceived notions. For example, the Ace of Cups is assigned correspondence to the root chakra. While that may be a significant divergence from my classical understanding of the tarot and my native Eastern metaphysical practices with the chakra systems, it’s certainly groundbreaking and revolutionary. I like when deck creators walk toward the cutting edge, and Chakra Wisdom Tarot certainly does that.

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Divine Feather Messenger Oracle Cards

From early childhood I’ve placed great importance on seeing birds and coming across feathers as divine omens. The Divine Feather Messenger oracle deck and book set honors that. The deck is created by Alison DeNicola, who was also the creatrix behind the Mudras: For Awakening the Energy Body deck and book set, which I’ve reviewed before here and Yoga Cats, which I haven’t written a review of yet, but I have this deck, have shown it off on my Instagram before, and is just criminally adorable!

Divine Feather comes in a sturdy two-piece top and bottom lid box with a beautiful, pristine matte finish. The aesthetics here is perfection.

DeNicola teams up with watercolor illustrator David Scheirer, who is a master of crisp line work balanced with deeply expressive color. DeNicola could not have found a better artist to work with on Divine Feather. Scheirer’s talent and eye for detailing perfectly memorializes each bird’s essence and persona.

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