The Wooden Tarot by A. L. Swartz of Skullgarden on Etsy is an animal lover’s dream tarot deck. I love the paintings on wood and found it pleasantly synchronistic that Swartz draws heavily from the concept of memento mori, as do I in certain aspects of my own practice. Swartz’s artwork seeks to express the esoteric dimension of flora and fauna, merging realism and surrealism, and you see that in the illustrations on The Wooden Tarot.
The deck is based on the RWS tradition and while the deck does not come with a companion guide or LWB of any sort, Swartz does note to interpret The Wooden Tarot with any RWS-based tarot book. However, I found that I craved a book keyed specifically to the imagery of this deck, because it really is quite special and distinct from the traditional RWS symbols.
Fabio Listrani’s Night Sun Tarot is one of those decks I couldn’t wait to get my little hands on. I would consider this an esoteric tarot deck. On the Majors, you have the astrological, elemental, and Hebrew letter correspondences in the card corners. In the Minors, you have the elementals and decanates. I usually have to hand-write these onto my working decks, but here on the Night Sun, the work is done for you, and done beautifully.
There is a strong Modern Age comic book art style to the Night Sun Tarot, with digitally rendered illustrations. Fabio Listrani, the brainchild behind this exquisite deck, is an Italian artist and graphic designer whose work tends toward the science fiction/fantasy genres of art. He seamlessly blends Eastern and Western esoteric symbolism and cultural references, and updates esoteric tarot for the 21st century with this very original, insightful, and groundbreaking new deck.
When I first saw the Prisma Visions tarot by James R. Eads, I knew I wanted it. Then after I learned more about it, the continuing narrative of the Minor Arcana cards forming four long, exquisite landscapes, and the bold symbolist-surrealist imagery in the Major Arcana, I knew I had to have it.
I love the bordered Majors juxtaposed with the borderless Minors (shown later). Eads’ art here is a contemporary tribute to French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, calling to mind Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, and even some Degas. You can view all the images on the Prisma Visions website, here, though I’ll provide some samples in this review.
I love the flip top box and pretty much the design for every part of this deck and its packaging.
You have a modernized all-seeing eye on the card backs, and while the card backs are not reversible, I still read with reversals when using this deck.
The gilded silver edges are an exquisite detail. You’ve got a thick, heavy, and durable cardstock here, so the cards are thicker than traditionally published tarot decks. I do love the thicker cardstock. There is a semi-gloss finish to the cards. It’s not the full on glossy of, say, typical Hay House oracle decks, and it isn’t the papery matte finish that I tend to prefer.
The XIII Tarot by Nekro, published in 2014 by Fournier/Lo Scarabeo (and distributed in North America by Llewellyn) is a Gothic-inspired art deck with ornamental detailing, intense, evocative emotion, and a macabre motif. The art is in grayscale, with select sections of each card digitally enhanced a brilliant red.
The audience for the XIII Tarot deck is going to be aficionados of dark/gothic tarot decks, though without illustrated pips, it’s going to be better suited for Marseille readers.
Many of the reviews for the deck that I read on Amazon complain about the non-illustrated pips, but that didn’t bother me. You just have to know what you’re getting, as a deck buyer. In the context of Nekro’s highly detailed artwork, I like the non-illustrated pips. Illustrated pips, given Nekro’s highly detailed art work, along with the already highly detailed Majors might have been overkill.
When the cards are set out in spreads, the images on the Majors step forward beautifully, the Courts speak to us in their respective voices, and the pips provide supplemental information. For me, the deck reads quite well, but I see how visual-spatial-right-brained readers are going to prefer the illustrated pips that you might find in other Gothic decks like the Dark Grimoire Tarot by Michele Penco also by Lo Scarabeo, or the Bohemian Gothic Tarot by Alex Ukolov and Karen Mahony, which sadly, is now out of print (I believe).
Back in 2011, Christine Payne-Towler came out with Tarot of the Holy Light, illustrated by comic book artist Michael Dowers. It was self-published by her via Noreah Press.
However, for reasons unbeknownst to me, I didn’t become aware of the deck’s existence until last year. You can order the deck over at Tarot University. This deck, along with Christine Payne-Towler, is going down in tarot history, mark my words, and while far be it for me to tell you what to do, I’d get a copy of this deck while it’s still available.
Anyone who has explored esoteric tarot has heard of Christine Payne-Towler. She’s written some of the most compelling, provocative articles on tarot scholarship available, many of which you can find at Tarot.com or at ArkLetters. Payne-Towler is one of my tarot heroines.
I totally swiped this deck interview idea from Kate at Daily Tarot Girl. Read her blog post about it here. I was gifted the Witches Tarot, a deck created by Ellen Dugan and illustrated by Mark Evans. It’s a Rider-Waite-Smith based deck with photographic digital art that is a near seamless blending of realism and fantasy.
The cards are 2.75″ x 4.60″, a typical size for tarot, though perhaps a smidge smaller, which means they shuffle great in my hands, fan out just beautifully across a tabletop, and are very easy to work with. It’s published by Llewellyn and has a pretty standard Llewellyn/Lo Scarabeo cardstock quality. For an RWS tarot practitioner who likes modern digital art, the Witches Tarot would make an incredible workhorse reading deck.
The cardbacks are so pretty. There’s a galactic vibe to it and at the center, the triple goddess symbol, with the waxing crescent, full moon, and waning crescent moon. The backs are not reversible, however, as one edge is reddish and the other bluish. I’ve opted not to read with reversals when using this deck.
Now, without further ado, let’s interview the Witches Tarot with Kate’s suggested questions.
BENEBELL: What is your main mission or message in this world?
WITCHES TAROT [WT]: Page of Swords
The page is represented by a tall, thin teenage boy on a green plain. He wears a talisman with a hawk around his neck. This card, per the Companion guidebook is about thinking quickly and active decisively. However, use wit, not brute force. Per the traditional attribution of the card, that of messages, the hawk symbolizes messages. What an appropriate card to respond to the question with! In the Witches Tarot deck is embedded Ellen Dugan’s message, a message about her belief systems, her traditions and how she has integrated those traditions with the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot, and a quick and natural wit about the deck’s style that will attract its followers.
I’m not liking the Psychic Tarot oracle deck at all. I mean, let’s just start with the above photo of the cards. Look at the quality. This is a brand new deck mind you. I bought it still encased in shrinkwrap. All that white stuff you see along the edges of the card backs is how these cards came, brand new.
It’s a fortuitous thing that I got my hands on the Psychic Tarot for the Heart before this one, otherwise I’m not sure I would have had the mind to give the Heart one a try. Earlier I reviewed Psychic Tarot for the Heart here.
Here is a close-up of the cards. I’m digging the reference to sacred geometry on the card backs and throughout the packaging (such as the interior of the box that the cards come in), but if returning these cards and getting a refund wasn’t such a hassle, I have to tell you, that is exactly what I would have done.
And…here’s the front of the cards. It wasn’t that the plastic wrap peeled the coloring of the cards off. That was my first hypothesis, but the plastic wrap was clear. It came like this! Many of the cards from the center of the deck, which wouldn’t have come in touch with plastic wrap or anything sticky, had that white scrape-y stuff.
I believe both the Psychic Tarot and the Psychic Tarot for the Heart oracle decks have the same number of cards, but look at the thickness of the Psychic Tarot deck compared to the Heart one. Yes, I am dazzled by the gold gilded edges of the Psychic Tarot, but that wasn’t enough to appease me. I much, much, much prefer the Heart one over this deck. I’m so bummed. And the backs of the Psychic Tarot are so nice, too!
The Psychic Tarot for the Heart oracle deck by renowned American psychic medium and author John Holland is keenly accurate. I recommend having it on hand, whether you know nothing about tarot and oracle cards or you’re a pro. It’s great for pulling cards when a sub-issue raised during a tarot reading might need supplemental information, which is how I use it. If you’re not that into tarot, then this is a really great deck to have, because you simply ask a question, pull a card, and the keyword you get pretty much answers that question and in this deck, a picture truly does tell a thousand words. The end. You don’t have to learn any traditions or take this deck to bed and study each card symbol by symbol. I can’t put my finger on why exactly this deck works so well, but it does.
However, I’m not so sure it’s suitable for professional readers as the exclusive tool. If you’re programmed to read tarot and love tarot and eat, sleep, and breathe tarot, then I would surmise that the Psychic Tarot for the Heart oracle deck won’t be right for you. That said, I highly recommend this deck for gift-giving, especially to those who are not full-force into tarot but are looking for a go-to oracle deck that will answer questions succinctly and be really spot on in its assessment of a given situation. On a mass consumption level, it’s actually a fantastic oracle deck for asking quick questions and getting quick answers. The messages and affirmations in the accompanying Guidebook are empowering and I really mean it– it’s an extraordinary oracle deck [for someone not that into tarot] to consult everyday.
Tarot folk can get very set in our ways, which isn’t a good thing, but because of how set we can be, sometimes getting such a person to try out an oracle deck like this one may be a hard sell. If, however, you’re someone who loves oracle decks already, then without reservation I’m telling you you’re going to like this deck.
The Deck of the Bastard Tarot is a self-published tarot deck by Seven Stars and you’re going to love it. You can purchase it through Etsy or at the proprietor’s website, Tarot by Seven. It’s a “bastardization” (her words, not mine) of several traditional decks– you’ve got Etteilla, Grande Jeu, Soprafino, Rider-Waite-Smith, and I swear I see Sola Busca influences in there, too. The design of the deck conveys a vintage feel, and I love that. Artwork wise, it’s a blending of many traditions, but you would read it the way you read RWS. This deck is fantastic to whip out during public readings, and is quite easy to read with for any RWS reader.
I’ve already decided that this deck has become one of my go-to “workhorse” tarot decks (terminology I’ve stolen from Jenna Matlin over at Queen of Wands Tarot). Really. It’s up there with the Golden Universal for professional reading decks. I don’t think this is an ideal deck for beginners on the RWS system, however, as it may get confusing at that stage of learning (even though the version with the keywords would make an excellent gift to a beginner), but intermediate and onward, you’re going to love reading with the Deck of the Bastard. I think it’s a great deck for pro readings.
If you’re plugged in to the online tarot community in any way, even minimally, then you’ve been hearing buzz about this deck. It’s self-published and I’ve got to say, recently the self-published decks have been beating the traditional publishers. Hey traditional publishers: what are you people doing? Get with the program.
Even non-tarot people (many from the fashion world) have been getting into the Wild Unknown tarot deck. Imagery from the cards are just freakin’ everywhere. I remember first seeing an Instagram photo of someone’s tattoo and thinking, “That kind of looks like a tarot card” only to realize it was. What is going on?!
But the few glimpses of cards I saw here and there made me think that this deck would be one of those “its own unique system” decks where I’d have to do a lot of learning before I did any reading. And I’m getting to that age (sadly) where I don’t know if I want to learn any more “new tarot traditions.” So at first I thought I was going to pass.
And then the imagery. The card’s artwork kept drawing me in, beckoning. “You want me.” No I don’t! Go away. “You want me.”
Then a few weeks ago I set a goal for myself (unrelated to this deck, and totally unrelated to tarot) and said if I met that goal, I’d reward myself with the Wild Unknown tarot deck. I met the goal and the first chance I could, bolted for the computer and placed my order.
And wow. WOW. Best decision ever. The Wild Unknown is easily one of my favorite tarot decks now.
This is one of the highest quality decks I have come across in a long time in terms of the cardstock, the matte finish, and the box packaging. Kim Krans renders the images in hand-drawn black ink illustrations, with just a touch of color here and there so beautifully and intuitively done that they are sure to activate chakras while you read with this deck.
I’d categorize the Wild Unknown as a Marseille-based tarot deck. After all, Key 8 in the Wild Unknown is Justice and Key 11 is Strength (as opposed to the standard RWS, which is 8/Strength, 11/Justice). However, going through The Wild Unknown Tarot Guidebook that Krans graciously included when I purchased this deck, I see a lot of card interpretation crossover from both the Rider-Waite-Smith and Thoth. In that sense, the Wild Unknown would work very well as a beginner’s deck, though such a beginner would have some work to do if she were to later try to learn the traditional Tarot de Marseille, Rider-Waite-Smith, or Thoth. So in that sense, the tarot practitioners who are calling this deck its own interpretive system have a point.