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T-L Info CardIn 1935 the British magazine and book publisher Tomson-Leng produced a set of “Tarot Fortune Cards” that were given away to the readers of “My Weekly”—a women’s magazine. This unusual set of 79 cards (including this verse) is partly based on the Rider-Waite-Smith deck but with some significant differences, especially in the suit of Rods [Wands], which owe some of their symbolism to designs published by Eudes Picard in Manuel Synthétique & Pratique du Tarot (1909). The suits are Rods, Cups, Swords and Pence, which, according to Picard, correspond to Fire, Air, Water and Earth‚ respectively, which is why so many Swords cards have water and Cups cards have a butterfly as an air symbol. The Fool is numbered 21 and comes before The World.

This deck is also notable for being chaste and family-friendly with no nudity. The The LWB [little white booklet] is one of the most interesting and original works from this period, having spreads that I’ve never seen elsewhere. None of the spreads list individual position meanings. There are card interpretations for both upright and reversed orientations and often special meanings when the card appears near one or two other cards.

Here is a “reclaimed spread” from the 1935 booklet: Read the rest of this entry »

I highly recommend this interview by Arlene deWinter with Paul Huson.

Long ago (1971) Paul wrote a book on tarot called The Devil’s Picturebook: The Compleat Guide to Tarot Cards: Their Origins and their Usage. It was one of my earliest tarot books and gave me a better sense of the true tarot history then most other books of the time. Along with his Mastering Witchcraft, I got a rich sense of classical and pagan witchy lore out of a more sophisticated European sensibility than was usually found in the U.S. Read the rest of this entry »

pcs-set001I’m so excited. My Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative Tarot Set has arrived from U.S. Games. The book of Pixie’s art is delightful—full of colorful images and showing a full range of her work, including a couple of pieces from late in her life. Waite’s Pictorial Key to the Tarot (included) is the same-old book in a new cover but with no pictures (huh?). The postcards are great to have—a very nice bonus. Read the rest of this entry »

More and more tarot deck creators are creating “trailers” promoting their tarot decks and posting them to YouTube. Here’s a couple. Let me know about ones you like and I’ll post more. Read the rest of this entry »

Exciting News! U.S. Games has announced a new tarot deck set celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Rider-Waite Deck, and honoring the artistry of Pamela Colman Smith. Read my review here.

The deluxe set will include the Smith-Waite Centennial Tarot Deck (reproduced from the original 1909 deck – hey, it’s about time, thank you very much!) and two books:

  • The Artwork and Times of Pamela Colman Smith, by Stuart R. Kaplan, with over one hundred examples of her non-tarot art.
  • The Pictorial Key to the Tarot by Arthur Edward Waite, in a new format.

arttimes_smith

The set also includes two prints of Pamela Colman Smith, one photo and one self-portrait, both 5” X 7” suitable for framing; six color postcards of artwork by Pamela Colman Smith; and Spread Sheet Guide. Everything is attractively packaged in a deluxe keepsake case. Price: $35.00

I believe it is expected for May 2009 unless there are delays. See the U.S. Games promotional information here.

What deck, created two years ago by the versatile Filipino artist, Lynyrd Narciso, predicted the ascendancy of a certain unknown to national prominence? Name not only the deck and the person, but tell us what symbols in the card gave it away. Anyone use this deck? If so, what do you think of it? [Thanks to Lynn Araujo.]

Enough of you have figured it out, so I’ll let everyone know. This is the Vanessa Tarot by Lynyrd Narciso (2006, U.S. Games Systems, Inc.). The people (mostly female) have big heads and doe’s eyes like the BRATZ dolls that swept the international market a couple of years ago. Illustrations feature plenty of visual references to pop culture and fairy tales and have the same mix of adult themes and pre-teen dreams that you’ll find on TV and in the movies, including a multi-cultural cast of women scientists, warriors, judges, princesses and bartenders, and a few guys. This “cute” deck offers far more than you might think on first look. Here’s a review by Dan Pelletier.

Just found this video in which Bea Nettles explains how she came to create, between 1970 to 1975, the first photographic and photo-collaged Tarot deck. A friend knew Bea Nettles and told me about the deck, so I was able to get a copy when it originally came out. It’s great to finally see the creator of this landmark deck. Follow the link to buy the updated version of the Mountain Dream Tarot.

Some of you may know of the twenty-year long study of the Temple of Luxor by the Egyptologist René Schwaller de Lubicz (see bio). Before that Schwaller was a Theosophist, esotericist and alchemist who worked for many years with Fulcanelli. In the 1920s, René and his wife Isha moved to Switzerland and established Suhalia, a center for research into scientific and alchemical studies. While there he developed a motor that ran on vegetable oil.

According to the above internet biography by Gary Lachman:

“In 1936, on a visit to the tomb of Rameses IX in Alexandria, Schwaller had a kind of revelation. A picture represented the pharaoh as a right-angle triangle with the proportions 3:4:5, his upraised arm adding another unit. Schwaller thought it demonstrated the Pythagorean theorem, centuries before Pythagoras was born. From the picture it was clear to him that the knowledge of the medieval masons had its roots in ancient Egypt. For the next fifteen years, until 1951, Schwaller de Lubicz remained in Egypt, investigating the evidence for what he believed was an ancient system of psychological, cosmological, and spiritual knowledge.”

Although I’ve read several books by Schwaller I never knew that he had created his own tarot deck until sent these cards by Christian Dumolard (who documented the Château des Avenières Tarot mosaics of Assan Dina). Information on Schwaller’s tarot interests can be found in Schwaller de Lubicz by H. Dossier and Emmanuel Dufour-Kowalski. You may want to compare the Schwaller de Lubicz Tarot with that of Falconnier and Wegener (see History of Egyptian Tarot Decks). He was obviously considering some notable differences. Enjoy.

Thought you all would want a look at one of the newest self-published decks, The Whispering Tarot by Elizabeth [Liz] Hazel, author of the excellent Tarot Decoded: Undertanding and Using Dignities and Correspondences. I love the deck name as I was strongly impressed by a fantasy novel (The Destiny Dice by David Bischoff) in which rune stones decided among themselves who would answer the reader’s question. When the reader reached into the runebag, the chosen rune would leap into the reader’s hand. The rune then would whisper it’s message to the reader, even arguing with him. The particular rune’s personality and style of communication was a significant part of the message. This deck reminds me very much of that story.

This is a bright, sunny, playful and very usable deck with a pagan/nature spirit slant. Printed by Playing Cards R Us, it is poker-size with black borders, shuffling nicely and perfect for small hands. Though some of the pictures are quite detailed, the use of a fine point pen for drawing makes the images distinct. The pen and ink drawings were then colored with prismacolor markers. It comes in a two-part custom box (nice touch!).

While the Golden Dawn and Rider-Waite-Smith deck were among Liz’s major influences (especially the astrological attributions), this is no clone, but a fresh, original deck. Magical creatures abound: Zephers (wind-spirits), dragons, mermaids, water faeries, harpies and more. Additionally, there are regular animals like snakes, dolphins, birds, horses, cats and even an elephant. Birch trees characterize the Wands suit. Pentacles utilize geometry and people in their environment to get the message across. The card backs have an unusual art nouveau/celtic knot design (based on a color palette from 1895).

I emailed Liz with a few questions and comments that I’d like to share with you.

ME: I’ve had the most amazing experience—in reading after reading I received all four suits and a Major Arcana card among the seven cards in the spread! This is incredibly rare but seems to say that the deck is looking at things from every angle. There’s also a sense of blessing and unity about it.

LIZ: As far as I know, this is the only tarot deck that’s ever come with a blessing charm on it (it’s on the sign & number card). The charm refers to the North Node (Dragon’s Head). The whole project was a Goddess offering, so I’m glad to hear that it conveys a blessing/unity. Am glad I changed the name to Whispering Tarot – it was an inspired choice, and I was amazed/thrilled no one else had ever used that name for a deck.

ME: What was the initial inspiration for this deck?

LIZ: My stubborn, determined & picky Taurus rising! I wanted a deck with everything I find pleasing in tarot, and with nothing I find displeasing. I wanted Kings and Queens to look in love with each other, not angry or constipated looking, or on the verge of divorce. I wanted pip designs that clearly conveyed the divinatory meanings. I also wanted specific production features like the custom two-part box. Looks nicer, lasts longer. I wanted no numbers or specific attributions on the Major Arcana, so the reader could choose. Basically, the deck was a big Venus-driven “gimme.”

ME: I can see Rider-Waite-Smith/Golden Dawn elements but so much more—what are your other major influences? Can you give me an example of one or two cards that diverge greatly from the RWS/GD and why?

LIZ: Here’s some brief summaries for changes: Magician: No table, no clothes. He has the raw elements in play around him. The dragon rises along his arm in 3.5 curls – the unfolding of kundalini. Yummy no-frills symbolism. The Magician reappears in the Judgment card. Hierophant: The guru levitates half-way between heaven and earth, and is surrounded by animal totems, a more Buddhist and shamanic image. Less paternalistic, intolerant & dogma-bound; more spiritual intermediary, gentle advisor or spiritual counselor. More astrology related, too. Eclipse: Switched the title/image to distinguish between The Moon card and the moon-attributed High Priestess. An early DM [divinatory meaning] for The Moon is eclipses. Frankly, eclipses are WAY weirder & scarier than a plain old moon. An eclipse is much more distinctive symbolism, and a lot more in tune with the DM’s. 4 Swords: The guy is in the meditation asana, and levitating over a maze. His calm demeanor suggests he’s in a good frame of mind to see the big picture and figure out puzzles. Of course, it could also indicate a dead person’s soul rising from a house. I like the gentle ambivalence, and the card is peaceful in spite of the clashing green-orange colors. I’m tweaking Waite’s nose here.

ME: Anything else you’d like my readers to know?

LIZ: I considered depth and distance perspective a lot when designing these cards. Distant vistas, like in the 2 of Wands, suggest that more is out there, or that the meaning involves the greater world. Cards with close or compact perspective take the reader into what might be a more intense, narrow, or claustrophobic situation. In a few cases, I deliberately changed the historic (RWS) perspective. For example, in the 7 of Pentacles, the guy sitting at the chair looks pretty miserable or tired of waiting; but the door is open, and the pentacles lead out into the world. The old man & bush image is a dead bore.

I didn’t hesitate to chuck RWS symbolism, Masonic, and Christian symbolism and other authority figures out of my third floor window, and that was rather the point as well as my greatest delight. My greatest influence as an artist comes from the Golden Age of Illustration artists: Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Kay Nielsen, the Robinson brothers, Beardsley, Harry Crane, William Morris, and Charles Rennie Macintosh, to name a few.

The deck is pan-spiritual, and is divested of cryptic symbolism tied to Waite’s blinds. In the act of pleasing myself (and believe me, it’s a monster ego stroke to do readings with my own deck) I hope I’ve created a deck that will please other readers.

This is a deck created by a long-time student and experienced practitioner of both tarot and astrology. It shows in the book where traditional meanings are modified by an awareness of the modern concerns that come up in psychic fairs and other public venues. Liz’s original spreads will help you address the practical needs of most querents.

Copies of The Whispering Tarot and Liz’s book about the deck will be available from Jeanette Roth (TarotGarden) at LATS and BATs and Archon. Liz Hazel says she hopes to have enough sales to merit a second printing but, “not signed & numbered, never again!!!” Collectors will want to jump on this first edition, which can be ordered directly from Liz here.

Here’s a little walk down memory lane. These cards are from London – late 1970 or early ’71, printed in a magazine called Gear of London and designed by Barry Josey. Obviously they are based on the works of Aubrey Beardsley. If anyone has any more information on this deck or the magazine, please let me know.

Update: I received an email from the artist Barry Josey (love the internet!). Finding that his art could not support him, he went back to his profession as an architect and also left the tarot behind, but hopes to return to art when he retires. Here he explains how the deck came about:

“Initially, the cards were set out as a poster style calendar, and then they were intended to be printed as packs.  At the time, I knew nothing of Tarot, but had to immerse myself albeit briefly to get a starting point for the drawings.  Beardsley was ‘in’ at the time and because I could approximate the style, Gear asked me to prepare the cards.  The drawings were black and white only, and it had been my intention that they be printed on a single buff or similar pastel colour.  Gear disagreed and printed them in the rather garish primary colours you see before you.”

Here’s another example of the art of Barry Josey—an illustration for a play by Jean Genet.

bj-1971-genet

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Mary K. Greer has made tarot her life work. Check here for reports of goings-on in the world of tarot and cartomancy, articles on the history and practice of tarot, and materials on other cartomancy decks. Sorry, I no longer write reviews. Contact me HERE.

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