The Pocket of Peers Tarot by Jamie Sawyer

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.

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End of Empires Tarot (Majors) by Sarah Julig

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!

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Southeast Asian Myths and Stories (SEAMS) Tarot, a Collaborative Deck

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.

Please go support their Kickstarter campaign, here.

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.

Holographic version

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.

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Download My Art Study Journal

A while back on my Instagram feed, I shared photos of my 2020 art study journal. Now here’s the whole thing, though it’s still just a slim and sparse booklet.

I kinda didn’t wanna share this because it’s so, ew, a hot mess, disorganized, and you can even witness my mood changes as my handwriting teeters from neat and meticulous to hasty and illegible.

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Tarot Cards: High Art or Low Art

Top, Left to Right: Oswald Wirth Tarot, Soprafino, RWS. Bottom: Convers TdM, Thoth, Spirit Keeper’s Tarot

Lately I’ve been pondering whether tarot card art is high art (i.e., fine art) or low art (because it’s considered illustration).

It’s hard to argue that tarot card illustrations are anything other than low art.

It was made intended to be functional, it’s commercialized, it’s a craft rather than a form of fine art, and it’s formulaic. So of course it’s low art.

And if it’s digitally done, then of course it’s low art. (Words in italics emphasized in an affected manner wrought with contempt. Of course.)

From The Cards (2021) by Patrick Maille

Plus, today tarot is by and large mass-produced, and as a mass-produced commodity, created with the intention of it appealing to as wide a market audience as possible. Many of the modern decks at the moment can even feel like kitsch art. Except… is kitsch art a form of high art? Even that is a question to ponder.

Image source: Il Meneghello, studio of hand-painted Italian tarots

Yet I’m equally unconvinced that the works of Il Meneghello isn’t a form of high art, even while it conforms to definitions of “low art,” such as it being a craft, functional, and formulaic in the sense that it’s reproducing a structured tarot deck.

The Rosetta Tarot

The Mary El Tarot. The Thoth Journey Tarot. The linework on the Tarot of the Abyss. The Dracxiodos Tarot, to me, is modern art that is fine art. Navigators of the Mystic Sea. Both the Rosetta Tarot and the Tabula Mundi. Or how about the Palekh miniature paintings commissioned specifically for the Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg deck?

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DruidCraft Tarot: Meeting of Wicca and Druidry

A while back Lisa, Dani, and Dustin of Three Fat Readers talked about the DruidCraft Tarot, and that inspired me to chat about the deck here in a blog post. This isn’t a deck review. It’s me sharing my personal experiences with the DruidCraft. Another reason I wanted to go out of my way to post this is as a bit of a passive-aggressive defiant response to a recent “most influential” or “best of” publication on contemporary tarot decks where the DruidCraft Tarot by Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington was noticeably missing from that “best of” list. Like… whut?!

This was one of my go-to public reading decks from back in the day. When I was in my 20s, I did countless parties and social events with the DruidCraft. Some of the cards in these photos are going to be upside down because I wanted to show you my copy of the deck straight out of its tattered old box and I read reversals with the DruidCraft. What you’re seeing here is the exact order, upright and reversed, that the cards were in the very last time I used them… which was about a decade ago.

Click on photos for high-res, close-up viewing.

The premise of the deck is to be a synthesis of Wicca and Druidry, to express a path that the guidebook calls “The Old Ways.” The deck is also inspired by the Golden Dawn, which united “many of the disparate strands of the Western Magical Tradition . . . A quantum leap in the understanding and application of the Tarot occurred thanks to the stimulus of the Golden Dawn, and so we have drawn on this in The DruidCraft Tarot Deck for its intrinsic worth, and for its historical connection with the evolution of Druidry and Wicca” (cited from the guidebook).

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A Study of Golden Dawn Decks and the Western Tradition of Occult Tarot

B.O.T.A. Tarot 1931 Paul Foster Case & Jessie Burns Park
The Golden Dawn Tarot 1978 Robert Wang (w/ Israel Regardie)
The Hermetic Tarot 1980 Godfrey Dowson
Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot 1991 Chic Cicero & Sandra Tabatha Cicero
Tarot of Ceremonial Magick 1997 Lon Milo DuQuette & Constance DuQuette

This past week I posted deck reviews, which turned out to be more like discussions, on the above five occult decks and their companion guidebooks, with references back to Regardie’s texts, Waite’s Pictorial Key, and Crowley’s Book of Thoth. It was time-consuming and quite the Effort, but I thought, one-and-done, meaning let me just knock each of these out of the way and then have it memorialized on my blog for future referencing.

If you’re a tarot enthusiast, then I hope there were inclusions of insights from those discussions that you’ll want to add to your personal tarot journal. For me, even while I’ve worked with the tarot for two decades plus, the process of consolidating study of these Golden Dawn based decks in quick succession synthesized so much.

Even most of the light, fun, fast-and-easy pretty decks published as of late are at their essence rooted in the Golden Dawn system, whether or not it was consciously done.

No matter how you feel about the Golden Dawn system of correspondences or the melding of a Christianized perspective of Kabbalah (or calling it Hermetic Qabalah to make the distinction), it’s impossible for the tarot enthusiast to deny the objective influence of the Golden Dawn on the popularized versions of tarot today.

And so I thought, hey, somebody out there is going to maybe probably benefit from this focused study of select GD-based decks. I hope even scrolling and skimming the five deck discussions will impart a rudimentary foundational understanding of this Western occult heritage.

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Tarot Deck Care and the Impact of Humidity

Maybe this topic is talked about more often than I realize and I simply haven’t been made aware, I dunno. In any event, I wanted to condense (ha..ha..I’ve got jokes….) some insights on the impact of humidity on your tarot cards.

Ever notice how a wooden door seems to expand ever so slightly in the hot summer months? Musicians are all too aware of how temperamental wooden instruments can get depending on the weather and the humidity. Paper products like your tarot cards are made of cellulose fiber (derived from plant-based materials, like bark, wood, and leaves). They’re porous, causing them to be highly sensitive to humidity levels.

Cardstock absorbs moisture in the air.

Cardstock is hygroscopic, which means the cards, by their chemical (alchemical?) nature, will try to maintain an equilibrium with its environment, which means it’ll absorb water molecules in the air and also release its water molecules out into the air, to try and maintain that equilibrium. The temperature, humidity, and the climate of the region you live in have more of an impact on the durability of your tarot deck than you may realize.

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A Lenormand Deck Showcase

I’ll be showcasing six Lenormand deck recommendations, each one different from the others in art style. Four of them are indie and two are traditionally published. These are decks that have been sent to me and for these types of collection showcases, I typically choose only from the decks sent to me for my collection.

Let’s take a look at how the Lenormand is illustrated in six different art styles. The first is what I’ll call contemporary kawaii cutecore; the second is Western European medieval art; the third is inspired by the Italian Renaissance; then the Lenormand in a black and white Victorian illustration style via digital collage; children’s picture book fairytale art; and fin-de-siècle, rendered through digital collage of illustration works by Pamela Colman Smith.

If you haven’t jumped onto the Lenormand bandwagon quite yet and you’re interested in learning a bit more about the system, I have a nutshell summary write-up from seven years ago, here (“The Lenormand: Nutshell Summary of the Petite Lenormand, from History to Practice“).

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Asian voices in the tarot community

Morning Calm Oracle by Seo Kelleher

When I was growing up in the tarot world, the only Asian I knew of in this field was Robert Wang. Times have changed some, and I’m pleased to share with you many who are contributing incredible work to the tarot community.

In no particular order, here’s who I’ve been fangirling hard over as of late:

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