Tarot Skills for the 21st Century by Josephine McCarthy

Josephine McCarthy is one of the preeminent magicians of our time. She is the founder of Quareia and author of several incredible tomes, among which I’ve read The Work of the Hierophant and The Exorcist’s Handbook. I’m also a big fan of her deck, LXXXI, which I’ve reviewed here. I am now so excited to be sharing with you my thoughts on her latest endeavor, a comprehensive book on tarot that covers both the mundane and the magical meanings of each card.

The edition I received for review is hardcover, with a beautiful velvety matte book jacket. I love that the title anchors the book in the 21st century, while the book’s aesthetics feel Old World to me. I haven’t seen this quality and caliber of production value in a tarot book for quite some time now, so there is something quite exquisite about learning tarot from McCarthy’s text.

The book begins with a strong introduction, giving you a sense of who your teacher, the author, will be, and the context from which classical tarot interpretation sprang. Having read dozens of tarot books published in the last few years, this one is refreshing in its traditionalism, formality, and also its design as a handbook to teach tarot as a venerated practice.

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LXXXI Quareia The Magician’s Deck

LXXXI Quareia Deck 01 Book and Cards

The LXXXI is an 81-card esoteric deck by Josephine McCarthy, Stuart Littlejohn, and Cassandra Beanland. It’s not a tarot deck, though you’ll see cards captioned “Chariot,” “Wheel of Fate,” Hierophant,” “Luna” (Moon), “Sol” (Sun), and “Death.” You’ll see “Fellowship” with imagery that may remind you of the RWS Three of Cups.

On a technicality, some might categorize LXXXI as an oracle deck, but I’ll just stick to what it’s been named: The Magician’s Deck. The LXXXI Quareia: The Magician’s Deck “draws upon the mythic, mystical and magical powers that underpin the magical systems that tarot eventually developed out of.” See here. “It is based upon real inner realms, real inner contacts, beings and forces that the practitioner of magic is very likely to involve themselves with. Because of this approach, the deck works as a contacted deck, i.e. used magically the images can act as gateways to inner realms, inner beings and magical patterns.”

The premise behind the LXXXI reminds me of the inner and outer gods concept in Taoism where, in short, certain “gods” reside within us (and they have names, along with descriptions of what they do) and certain “gods” are romping out and about, around us (both on earth among us and in other various supernatural realms). Granted that was the Cliff-Notes-Taoist-Deities-for-Dummies version but you get what I mean.

According to esoteric Taoist principles, a magician or metaphysical practitioner can invoke or summon these “gods” (I put the term in quotes because if you’re looking to translate/interpret the term, 帝, it can be “gods,” “emperors,” “divine beings,” “Divinities,” take your pick) and work with those energies to influence both the natural and supernatural worlds.

LXXXI Quareia Deck 03 Divine Realm

The deck is subdivided into four realms. Red bordered cards indicate contacts (the term that the companion guidebook for the deck describes these metaphysical energies as) from the Divine Realm. There are four contacts of the Divine Realm in this deck, pictured above. Star Father I correlates with Divine Intention. Creator of Time II is the energetic movement flowing from the Star Father toward manifestation. Holder of Light III expresses the eventual return of all souls to Divine Source. Archon and Aion are archangelic and symbolize a divine binary. In readings, the card serves as a warning that the practitioner has come to a threshold that cannot and should not be crossed. The message is to turn back.

In both the above photograph and the one below, note how some of the card titles end with roman numerals. I’ll address that later in this review.

LXXXI Quareia Deck 04 Inner Realm

Contacts from the Inner Realm are noted by blue borders, case in point Madimi, described here as the “Inner Librarian.” Madimi was one of the spirits that was purportedly in contact with 16th century occultists John Dee and Edward Kelley.

In the printing of the deck copy I received, the borders look more like a deep purple than a blue, but blue or purple, I’m not terribly concerned.

According to the deck description, the art here is done in oils, acrylics, and watercolors. They appear to have been polished and fine-tuned digitally afterward. The art and imagery is very much imbued with Western esotericism and is definitely going to resonate with any practitioner of such traditions.

So far I’ve been trying to remain fair, objective, and factual, but I’m going to break for a moment here and just gush. Omigod I love this deck! The deck fills a void in the tarot/oracle/cartomancy world that I haven’t seen any other deck on the market during the time I’ve been alive and interested in cartomancy even come close to filling. I am not a Quareia practitioner or even a practitioner of Western magic. I don’t even identify as a magician. And yet there is something for me here in this deck.

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