Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Favorite Decks of 2014

Happy New Year!

You may have noticed that this has been a sparse year for posts at 78 Whispers.  Or maybe you didn't notice because you have your own things to think about, but it was.  My health issues, with my murderous back, and my deep sadness at the loss of a friend, coupled with feeling forced into ridiculous superficial battles in my personal life, left me with little energy or will to give my new decks the attention I usually would, but I am feeling much better now.  And attention given or not, the decks keep on coming, and my will to buy rarely wanes with my will to use.

The following are a list of my favorite decks published in 2014.  I do not own every deck ever published, and this is all completely based on my personal preferences in reading and collecting, so let's see if we share a deck or two in common!  I've placed them in alphabetical order, rather than an order of preference, because I could spend all day arranging and rearranging that list, and never quite be satisfied!

(You can click on any card to bring a larger image to examine up.  If you use these images, please please please give proper credit to the artists and publishers who  enrich our lives with their work.)

Alice Tarot
 Alice Tarot by Baba Studio.  Everything Baba Studio produces, from textiles to various bags to tarot decks and accoutrements is stunningly beautiful and a collectors' dream.  The long anticipated photo manipulation deck The Alice Tarot was no exception.  Bright colors, elegant styling, and a classic tale make this a deck that I will surely reach for again and again.  It doesn't hurt that Karen Mahony offers up a delicious dose of tarot styling in her well written companion book, not at all.  There is no scanner or camera around that are capable of capturing the overlaid, almost holographic effect the cards possess, and they really are a work of art in their own right.

Cheimonette Tarot
 Cheimonette Tarot by Eden Gallanter.  Funded on Kickstarter, the graceful lines and watercolor dream world of the Cheimonette Tarot came to life this year.  In the creators' words, "I created the Cheimonette Tarot because I wanted to use a deck that welcomed personal interpretation.  I use a technique when reading the cards I like to call 'educated free-association'- it's not some fancy thing I made up, it's just a name for using intuition, really.  How it works is, you learn about a subject, while at the same time acting as a practitioner.  Soon enough, you find yourself making excellent judgments without thinking much about them."  This is one of the most beautiful exercises in judgment I have made all year, so I would say the technique works just fine!

Chrysalis Tarot
 Chrysalis Tarot by Holly Sierra and Toney Brooks, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.  Another brightly colored beauty with a whimsical sensibility to grace my tarot reading table this year was The Chrysalis Tarot.  There is a feeling when looking through the Chrysalis Tarot that the creators live in an enchanted world, and they have managed to pull back the curtains for us to take a peek as well.  This is my childhood home, where fairies and sprites and elementals danced just out of my sight, where a patch of mushrooms sprouted overnight was evidence of their visit and not a mere damp evening passing, and where all possibilities exist.

Japardize Tarot
 Japardize Tarot by Nino Japardize, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. The beautiful and distinctive art of Nino Japardize came to life in this sumptuously produced deck this year.  The production value of this set has been kicked up by about a thousand percent, which is saying a lot when the publisher already does a top notch job.  This is a fully functioning tarot deck that is also an art deck which would be right at home gracing museum halls and huge, glossy coffee table books.  The surrealistic styling is perfect for the dreamy nature of reading tarot, and the beauty of the deck never gets old for me.  The Star card has graced my iPhone wallpaper since I received my copy, which I consider high praise for an image I want to look at several times a day.

Kabbalstic Visions
 Kabbalstic Visions: The Marini-Scapini Tarot by Marco Marini and Luigi Scapini, published by Schiffer Books, Ltd. I did not hear much about this deck in production, and I neglected to look closely at the creators, so imagine my delighted surprise when I was expecting a dry but scholarly deck and text and was instead rewarded with bursts of color and an intelligent and fun companion book.  Oh, and did I mention the deck is gilded with silver?  I have been drooling all over this baby and its' riot of color.  I was wrong, so wrong, to assume I knew what I was getting with this deck, and I am always happy to see the great tarot and art mind of Scapini put through his paces.

Legend of Tarot
 Legend of Tarot by Deosil Designs.  Another Kickstarter baby, this one holds a fond place in my heart for capturing the video game of my youth (and not so youth) and filling me with nostalgia.  A good reading deck with an impeccable theme will get me every time, so consider me gotten.  For many people, video games will become the storytelling method of our time, where our myths and secret dreams and fondest fantasies reside, so to have a tarot deck which honors that is fulfilling a need I did not even know I had.  When we enter Hyrule, we are heroes and masters of our own destiny, and we can try over and over until we finally get it all right.  This is important play at any age, and dreamers will always be needed.

Nicoletta Ceccoli Tarot
 Nicoletta Ceccoli Tarot by Nicoletta Ceccoli, published by Lo Scarabeo. This dark and quirky and haunting style of art is easily one of my favorites.  This non-traditional deck was one of my most anticipated of the year, it has not disappointed me at all.  Big eyed sad girls, misty atmosphere, surrealistic dreams, a quirky, whimsical, slightly dark, humor- I'm in.  This was also my childhood world, the dolls that I just knew had a whole life they lived while I was asleep, and the secrets that I could almost, but not quite divine.  Here in my tarot deck, they hold still for me, and if I am patient they can share everything they know, because time is the same for them.

Tarot of Delphi
 Tarot of Delphi by J.D. Hildegard Hinkel.  On a completely personal note, this Kickstarter funded deck will always hold a special place in my heart.  The creator needed to speak with me in order to fulfill my reward, and I was 100% out of pocket, as if I had stepped into a giant black hole.  That sweet woman deserves a medal for the way she managed to track me down, and I am deeply sorry for the extra work I put her through.  Apart from that, the deck is gorgeous.  There is no shortage of decks which take art from great works of art and manipulate them into tarot imagery, but it takes a skillful touch and a deep regard for both tarot and the source art to make one forget the original paintings and be able to enjoy the deck solely on its' own merits.  That happens here.

Tarot of the Zirkus Magi
 Mme. Loviise's Tarot of the Zirkus Magi by Douglas Thornsjo.  Previously released in a Major Arcana edition, this fun house circus themed tarot made its' full debut this year.  It has been my American Horror Story: Freakshow companion, but my deck has not murdered anyone, nor do I expect it will.  The retro camp of this deck is good clean fun, but it has a dark side, as well.  Step right up, under the big top, and enjoy an afternoon, or an evening, or a blissful morning, or even a bumpy bus ride with this one of a kind deck.  This deck was also funded on Kickstarter.

Sacred Isle Tarot
 Sacred Isle Tarot by David Higgins.  Years in the realization, this deck has also debuted its' full version this year, and was well worth the wait!  The gorgeous, saturated tones and the crisp lines make it a true pleasure to look at and hold.  It's just so pretty, with jewel tone colors and skillfully rendered art.  This medieval world holds the promise of magic, fantasy, and a sumptuously done tarot experience.

Honorable mention goes to two decks, because a Top Ten is traditional, but I do what I want.

Gorgons Tarot
Gorgons Tarot by Dolores Fitchie, published by Schiffer Books, Ltd. Black and white, stylized, boundary pushing meanings- this innovative deck pushed all my tarot lust buttons, and while it does not shuffle like a dream, it sure reads like one.  And this baby is a biiiiggg girl, five and a half inches in diameter, which in this case definitely means more to love.  This is a larger than life deck that deserved larger than life treatment.  There is one reason she has been relegated to an Honorable Mention, and in this case, it really is me, not the deck.  The back is a twin serpent motif, and I have a paralyzing fear of snakes.  I know it is objectively silly, but I actually feel nauseous and get the shakes when I am forced to deal with the imagery of snakes.  In most decks, I can get the ones I find out of sight quickly enough, but in this deck I just can't get away from them.  I'm a work in progress, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't check out the deck.  It deserves more love than I can currently give.

Shadow of Oz Tarot
 Shadow of Oz - A Tarot Deck by Illogical Associates.  This deck evoked many happy memories of childhood reading adventures for me, and the skillful comic book style art is a joy to look at.  I really enjoyed working with this deck, and it sparked a desire in me to revisit my old friends in L. Frank Baum's imaginative world.  It is on the Honorable Mention list only because it seems to have not quite made it into the world in time to be a 2014 baby, but if you funded the Kickstarter you will see your deck soon, and if you didn't, it's okay- you can still get one by following the link above.  The comic book style art is killer, and the stories are timeless.  This deck outshines any other I have which tackles Oz, and it is a darling piece of Americana.

It was so much fun to share my favorite decks of the year with you, so I hope you will share yours with me, even if they did not come out in 2014.  Many blessings for the happiest and most prosperous of New Years to all of you!

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