Sunday, October 14, 2012

Deck Review- Witches Tarot by Ellen Dugan and Mark Evans

Right off the top of my head I can think of at least three tarot decks that go by the moniker "Witches Tarot",so let me be clear that the one I am reviewing today is the recent Llewellyn release by Ellen Dugan and Mark Evans.

Featured on the box is The Moon card from this deck, and a lovely Moon I find her.  The set includes a large outer box and a full sized companion book written by Ellen Dugan, as well as an oversized and flimsy white cardboard box which is meant to hold the cards, I suppose.  Here I really must chastise Llewellyn for the spectacularly terrible packaging their decks receive, and as someone who buys nearly every new release, I can vouch for the fact that their packaging is only getting worse.  In the first place, the boxes of the last several decks I have received from them have fallen apart almost immediately, and in the second place, the inner box meant to hold the cards offers absolutely no protection for the cards.  They slip and slide in there, and the box would not hold up to a moth alighting upon it, so it is nearly worthless.  They do tend to print a satin tarot bag for each deck they publish lately, so I wonder if they intentionally make the packaging so terrible you feel you have to spend more money on the matching bag.  As a collector as well as a reader, this really saddens me.  Very few of my decks ever leave my collection, but I would love to have boxes for my precious decks that stand the test of time, not to mention if I do decide to resell a deck at some point it is far less valuable with a box that is destroyed.  As the US distributor for Lo Scarabeo, a company that issues their decks in sturdy boxes and their sets in nearly perfect packaging with heavy cardboard, magnetic closures, and secure places for the card to be kept safe, Llewellyn really should take a clue from their partners and improve this.

The packaging of the publisher, though, has little to do with the deck, which I have found to be a wonderful reading deck.  I must give full disclosure and mention that I am not a witch, nor Wiccan, nor even really that passionate a pagan.  My own spirituality is more of an earthy kind of Christianity, one in which I believe the Trinity holds God and Goddess both, where this is the world they made together and it deserves to be honored, and one where I believe there is no more personal relationship than each person shares with the Divine, and it is not my place to pass judgment on anyone.  That being said, I really enjoyed the The Witches Tarot Companion book, written by Ellen Dugan.  I doubt there is a lot of new information in there for older practitioners of Wicca or similar earth based religions, but it was a great starter course for me, someone with little experience in the subject.  Many of her interpretations give examples for coven dynamics. Each card meaning gives a large grey scale picture of the card, a description, elemental and astrological associations, as well as reversed and upright meanings.  As with all books with meanings, I suggest you take what you can use and discard the rest.  Artwork that speaks to you should always do most of the work of a reading.

Witches Tarot by Ellen Dugan- Back
Physically, the card are near 2.75 inches by 4.5 inches, and fit nicely in the hand.The card stock is thin, though seems durable, and lightly varnished with no shininess or stickiness to them.  The black border do show wear rather more quickly than I would prefer but that seems to be an issue with all dark bordered cards.  The backs feature a triple goddess symbol made from the actual phases of the moon set against a galactic backdrop, which is not fully reversible, with red being the top of the card and blue being the bottom.  You will have to decide for yourself if this bothers you.  There are 22 Major Arcana, with Strength at Trump VIII and Justice at Trump XI.  Some of the Major Arcana have been renamed, such as the Hierophant becoming The High Priest, The Wheel of Fortune becoming The Wheel of the Year, The Devil becoming The Shadow Side, and Judgment becoming Karma.  The pip cards are fully illustrated and the suits are Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles, totaling 56 Minor Arcana.  Some neo-pagan decks assign the element of Fire to Swords and Air to Wands, but this deck follows Waite Smith tradition and uses Wands as Fire and Swords as Air.  The court cards are Pages, Knights, Queens, and Kings.

Computer generated art is a very subjective thing, and some people love it while others loathe it.  As for myself, there are many cards I do not care for aesthetically when they are by themselves, but in a reading they all look beautiful.  There are many symbols in the cards and most of them will be familiar to students of Waite Smith tradition, as well as many pagan symbols to read for people who enjoy that tradition.

This is probably a good deck for a beginner who enjoys CGI and wants to learn more about paganism or becoming a witch, since the book is so full of information and the symbolism so closely follows Waite Smith tradition.  The author is quite knowledgeable about both and writes in a clear, concise manner that is also fun to read.  The only nudity is the backside of The Star (go ahead and click it here), and there is no gore or blood, with minimal violence in the images.  All readers have different experiences, but it read very intuitively and gracefully for me, and never once did I puzzle over what the cards may be trying to express to me.

I have found this deck very good at client readings, as well as my own questions, which range from the mundane to the deeply spiritual and personal.  For me, it really has been well rounded reading deck which rises to any question put to it.

In the following sample I have tried to showcase cards I find both lovely and the ones I do not like quite as well.  I have tried to show different cards than you may have seen if you have been following my posts, available here, and so this should be a good representation of what you will be getting if you buy the deck.

Witches Tarot by Ellen Dugan and Mark Evans
Witches Tarot by Ellen Dugan and Mark Evans

Witches Tarot by Ellen Dugan and Mark Evans

If you enjoyed this review please feel free to pas it along.  Thank you for joining me on my journey with the Witches Tarot!

These images are from the Witches Tarot by Ellen Dugan and Mark Evans, published by Llewellyn.