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.
The New Era Elements Tarot by Eleonore F. Pieper is a modern deck that places the tarot archetypes in modern-day history and events.
Sepia-toned, featuring brilliantly-detailed sketch art, New Era features some of the most beautiful artwork I’ve seen on a deck. Many of the images are difficult to look at, as you’ll see in this review.
Those of you who attended Readers Studio 2018 in New York will recognize this deck as having come in the event gift bags, courtesy of U.S. Games. The artwork is done in watercolors by German artist Christine Zillich. The deck art blends mythological, astrological, and Kabbalistic symbolism, featuring Crowley’s keywords on the pips.
The cards are petite at 2.25″ x 3.75″ (compared to standard tarot size: 2.75″ x 4.75″) and remind me more of a typical Lenormand size deck. You get the deck in a keepsake metal tin. I love the blue-purple tones of the reversible card backs. I know I’m getting nitpicky here, but there’s just the slightest imbalance in terms of vertical spacing in the white caption boxes at the bottoms of the cards–there’s not enough space between the bottom edge of the artwork and the first line of text, compared to the amount of spacing between the bottom edge of the card and the last line of text.
There’s a typo with the roman numeral for Key 21: The Universe, but it doesn’t really bother me. While Key 20 (XX) in the Thoth deck is titled Aeon and in the RWS is Judgement, here in Zillich, it’s Justice, which confused me, so I turned to the LWB. Indeed the card is supposed to be titled “Justice,” so this isn’t a typo on the card (unless it’s a typo that appears on both the card and in the LWB…)
The description of the artwork for Key XX reads in relevant part: “Golden light from heavenly trumpets awakens the dead. . . . An old age ends and a new era begins. The eternal consciousness is reborn in the spirit of the primordial fire.” So that sounds very Judgement-y and Aeon-y to me. Assuming the keyword “Justice” for Key XX is correct, I’m not entirely sure how justice fits in to the card, even with the deck creators’ own meaning attributions for Key XX.
The abstract cubist style pays a clear homage to Lady Frieda Harris’s style. That Death card is just absolutely beautiful and to me, almost has a dark goddess vibe to it. Some of the symbolic renderings in the Majors feel more RWS to me than Thoth, like how Key 8, while titled Lust, is positioned as it would be in the RWS (whereas Crowley goes through quite the trouble explaining white Lust/Strength “should” be Key 11) and Key 11 is Justice/Adjustment. Also, the depictions, most notably in The Hermit card, or even the Wheel of Fortune feel more RWS than Thothian.
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.
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).
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.