Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story

Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story is the most comprehensive, devotional, and poignant tribute to Pamela “Pixie” Colman Smith we’ll see this century. It’s a magnificent treatise and homage no tarot lover will want to miss. Co-authored by Stuart Kaplan, Mary K. Greer, Elizabeth Foley O’Connor, and Melinda Boyd Parsons, The Untold Story is the sum total of knowledge, research, data, and documents we have on the artist behind the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck and her works.

Perhaps its greatest accomplishment is how it has brought Pamela Colman Smith to life. You’ll get to know her life and works, her family, her art, her interests, her personal spirituality, her quirks, and her multifaceted personality. Her words, through letters and the articles and stories she penned, reveal an animated, unconventional, extraordinary woman.

The first quarter of the book, “Pamela’s Life,” is authored by Elizabeth Foley O’Connor, an academic researcher who is writing the literary biography of Pamela Colman Smith.

Corinne Pamela Colman Smith, who went by the nickname “Pixie,” defied so many social norms, it’s hard to keep count. The more you read about her, the more impressed you get.

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Spiritsong Tarot by Paulina Cassidy

The Spiritsong Tarot by Paulina Cassidy is, at its essence, a spirit animal divination deck. The energies of each card in the standard 78 tarot deck is expressed by a selected animal spirit. I love the play on that term, too–spiritus animalis, the concept of weightless entities within us that operate our mind, that explain the currents of thought; the Keynesian economic theory of emotional and instinctual proclivities driving our decision-making behavior; and of course, that of animal spirit guides and the shamanic medicines each have to offer us if we invoke their powers.

In crafting the deck, each card is intended to be a portal to a higher world, one connected to a particular animal spirit or animal mentor that is then called upon through the divination to offer you divine guidance. In other words, each tarot card represents a particular Shamanic medicine.

Spiritsong Tarot is a great novice deck, as it has keywords at the bottom and I found the renaming of the suits easy and intuitive to follow. By the way, bonus points for the panda bear on the Ace of Crystals. How can I say anything negative about this deck after that? Now my only critique is there wasn’t a red panda (one of my favorite animals, evar).

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The Vision Quest Tarot

The Vision Quest Tarot by Gayan Sylvie Winter and Jo Dose is an older deck from 1998/1999 published by AGM Müller. The pair are also the creators of The Oracle of the Goddesses, a now out of print 33-card oracle deck. I am loving the Vision Quest Tarot and find it to tap poignantly into inner realms in a way that few decks manage to do.

With powerfully clear and accessible symbolism, Vision Quest Tarot allows us to recognize archetypal images. The visionary symbols contain both the spirit of traditional tarot as well as that of tribal shamanism and the spirit of the ancient medicine wheel. Through indigenous imagery, we discover new aspects of our subconscious and learn to understand its messages. Vision Quest Tarot reveals ways of dealing with life’s challenges more creatively and with more insight.

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Book Review of the Chrysalis Tarot Companion Guide

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I reviewed the Chrysalis Tarot deck by Toney Brooks and Holly Sierra earlier this year and now I’ve got my hands on the incredible companion guidebook. For so long tarot readers have been pushing for a companion book to the Chrysalis Tarot deck and now we’ve got one. This 216-page book by U.S. Games is a must-have for anyone who works predominantly with the Chrysalis.

The creator of the deck Toney Brooks opens the Introduction with a backstory of how the deck was conceived and the grueling yet spiritual process of creating a tarot deck. In his own words:

This companion book to Chrysalis Tarot details a mental and spiritual journey of resonating frequencies. Tarot refers to this journey as the hero’s journey, a catchall phrase that has been a feature of humanity’s stories since the time of Gilgamesh nearly 5,000 years ago. In our own time, the whole of humanity is embarking on an epic journey of self-discovery and a collective re-examination of values and priorities.

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The guidebook is subdivided into two parts. The first part is general, addressing spiritual theory, creation myth, and the interplay between mythology and psychology, and how both are woven into the Chrysalis Tarot. Part One covers Papa Legba, Gaia, Merlin and the Holy Grail, Tarot and Magic, and so much more. Part One was an incredible read for anyone interested in the woo.

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Part One is mostly authored by Toney Brooks, where we’re covering the theoretical premise of tarot reading. He associates the word “magic” with “synchronicity” and defines both as “meaningful coincidences in life that cannot be explained.”

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In Part Two, the illustrator Holly Sierra’s voice comes through in first person when you see the italicized passages. We get to hear from the artist about her perspective when she created the art for Chrysalis. Part Two is a practical guide to reading tarot and more specifically, interpreting the 78 cards of Chrysalis. Here, we also learn that the deck creators do not recommend reading with reversals when using the Chrysalis. The deck is intended to be read with upright cards only.

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Part Two is well-organized and comprehensive. Each card is covered over the span of several well-detailed pages, in both creator and artist’s point of view. You get both. You get the backstory for how each card came to being. You also get the reasoning behind the imagery and symbolism and, for the Majors, the archetypal attributions that had left many confused in previous years. Now all of it is illuminated and explained.

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Those with a contemporary sensibility of New Age spiritualism are going to fall in love with this companion guidebook and find it indispensable when working with the Chrysalis Tarot. Brooks and Sierra have a New Thought new consciousness point of view when it comes to spirituality that is resonant with modern perspectives blending mythology and psychology, following the paths of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. The penetrating perspective of Brooks is balanced out by the soft, whimsical, and poetic art of Sierra. It’s no surprise that the Chrysalis Tarot has been the recipient of many tarot awards.

The companion book to the Chrysalis that Brooks and Sierra have produced is a well-written documentary of how this deck came to be, of the mythical and psychological basis of tarot, and a final thesis that encourages the belief in magic. Altogether a beautiful book that is sure to please.

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FTC Disclosure: In accordance with Title 16 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Part 255, “Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” I received the Chrysalis Tarot Companion Guidebook from U.S. Games for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion of the deck.