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!

Deck Review - Wickwillow Tarot

The Wickwillow Tarot by Hal Weeks, available at The Gamecrafter, is another self published deck (do you see a theme here, ya'all?) and my last review of 2014.  Happy New Year!

If you have not purchased decks at The Gamecrafter before, I want to explain a little bit about how they work.  They primarily print card and paper based games by independent creators who may not otherwise find a venue for their creation.  Our ever crafty deck creators have discovered it makes a great way to make their work available to the masses without the commitment of finances and energy that a mass printing takes, and it works great!  I tend to buy more than one deck at a time from The Gamecrafter to make the reasonable shipping worthwhile, and since they are a print on demand company my order gets in line and I wait, usually for two weeks or so.  I have ordered many decks from them, and each one is great quality.  I have not created any decks, but this seems like a great option for people who are having trouble getting a mainstream publisher, don't want to invest the time and money into self publishing, or who need to create prototype decks to help bring their vision to life.

The Wickwillow Tarot is a gem of a deck that goes much further down the Thoth based road than most currently published decks do, and it is quite refreshing!  It will arrive from The Gamecrafter in a cardboard tuckbox, and mine came with a typwritten instruction sheet.  I did receive mine directly from the creator, so I am not sure if each deck includes that, but the images fall into one of two categories- easily recognizable and readable on an intuitive level, or distinctly Thoth based, for which a plethora of really good reading exists.

The cards are a very handy size, 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches.  This printer knows what they are doing when talking about cards for shuffling, and these are quite easy to manipulate, with that cushiony and slidey feeling that the best playing cards give, while remaining easy to hold and use.  The backs are a lovely design that is ever so slightly off center, which will only affect the most discerning of readers when reading reversals.  Subsequent versions have had this corrected and should not affect a new deck at all.

There are 22 Major Arcana who are completely devoid of numbers or words.  Most are instantly recognizable, but a few take on the creators' own vision for the meaning of the card, as when The Empress becomes an elegant green lady playing her harp in the woods, and The Hierophant is depicted as a sage crone in her warm digs.  Despite my earlier promise of a Thoth based offering, the remaining Majors seem to nod to Waite Smith tradition when they bother to nod at all, and when they do not, they have a unique take that certainly adds to my understanding of the card.
Wickwillow Tarot
The Minors are also not named, but are easily recognizable in their resemblance to their Thoth counterpart, or in the simple matter of a quick counting of the Wands, Cups, Wands, or Disks presented in the card.  Most of the Minors also include the astrological symbols with which they are paired in the Golden Dawn system, something which many scholars and students will appreciate.  The Court Cards are labeled with a simple letter in their left hand corner, Page, Knight (with an H to depict it), Queen and King.  Most of the cards are borderless, and all are saturated with rich jewel tones.
Wickwillow Tarot
People who enjoy the Thoth system will like this deck.  The artwork is skillfully rendered, but it is a distinct style that will appeal to some more than others.  People who like to study will enjoy this deck, with its' strong Golden Dawn associations.  The twists are more than enough to keep it interesting while adhering to a structure that most readers will find familiar and comforting.  The colors and symbols should offer a lot for intuitive readers to use.  You may not care for this deck if you want a deck to follow only one system, because this deck does some picking and choosing.
Wickwillow Tarot
And so concludes the last deck review of  2014.  This is one of the most fun parts of this blog for me, because I love to collect decks and then get to share them with all of you.  I remember when I had one deck, and wanted more, but was fearful to spend my pinched pennies on a deck I was not sure would work for me.  Some of the hard working deck reviewers out there were incredibly helpful to me, and if I can pay the smallest bit of that help forward I am very happy indeed.  Tomorrow's post will be a few of my favorite decks of the year, and then we are off to new and even greater things!  Thank you for making 2014 such a fulfilling and great year at 78 Whispers!

Deck Review - Tarot of the Absurd

Tarot of the Absurd
Today I have a cunning and adorable deck to review, The Tarot of the Absurd.  I previously posted about the deep and sweet joy I had experienced in receiving this deck, and now I am finally getting around to sharing it with all of you.

This another self published deck, by Jessica Rose Shanahan, printed in the USA in a totally black and white theme, with clean lines and her distinct style.  I hesitate to quirky, because I feel like I use that word a lot, but I have concluded that I am drawn to quirky decks, and that is why I review so many, and so it is just fine.

And this deck is quirky.  Shanahan's sparkling personality comes through in her chosen medium of black and white, art deco flavored cards.  The white figures against the black background creates negative space for the mind to fill with the readers own distinctive interpretation of the symbolism.

If you check out my previous post about the Tarot of the Absurd, you will see how delighted I was with every aspect of the deck the day it arrived, and it is still a joy to unwrap, hold, and use.  My deck came in a protective cardboard slide decorated with the same design as the backs of the deck, wrapped with black and white ribbon.  Every part of this deck has been considered and handled with care by the creator.

Tarot of the Absurd - Back
The cards are a thinnish matte stock with a light lamination, easily shuffled and easy to hol at 3 inches by 5 inches.  They lack a border altogether, and are backed with a beautiful striped design of mostly white.

Tarot of the Absurd - The Moon
The Major Arcana contains 22 numbered and labeled cards, including two versions of The Moon.  You will find Strength at 8, with Justice at 11, and The Magician has transformed into "Alchemist" in this whimsical version.  Most of the images frankly bear little resemblance to any tarot tradition I am aware of, yet you do not even have to squint to see familiar meanings.  These kinds of decks, which seem simple in theory but are apparently difficult to execute, which follow traditional tarot meanings but manage to convey them in a wholly new and unique way, tend to be my favorites.

The four suits are represented by Sticks, Cups, Blades, and Coins.  The Court Cards are Page, Knight, Queen and King.  Like the Majors, there are nods to more "traditional" tarot images, but they are rendered in the artists' own unique style and with her twist on the meanings, and they are easily readable by readers from many schools.  There are a few highly stylized breasts and buttocks, and the faint suggestion of mild violence that is common in some of the Wands and Swords cards, but nothing offensive or scary.  There has been a distillation of each card to the essential essence, but the images are all quite active and the artwork itself looks fluid, flowing, and elegant.
Tarot of the Absurd
This is a good deck for people who like black and white and borderless decks.  It is a good deck for intuitives who click with the art because they will not be fighting with words or forced symbolism.  It is a great deck for collectors, and perfect for people who prefer their decks not be straight clone decks of one of the major traditions.  It is not a great deck for people who prefer more traditional style imagery, or who want an in depth book to study or have clear answers provided for what each card means in context.  Some people may prefer to have more (or any) color or more going on in the pictures.
Tarot of the Absurd
At the Barefoot Fool website, Ms. Shanahan has provided more of her own insights and thoughts about the deck, including some of her process and some tidbits only the creator can provide.  This is also where you will find your own deck to bring home is a very sweet package to brighten your day.

Tarot of the Absurd

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Deck Review - Bonefire Tarot

 One of my most special pleasures is the self published tarot deck.  These come from the brave souls who were either rejected by mainstream publishers (often I don't know what the publishers were thinking, but tarot is an incredibly niche market even when it doesn't feel like it when the rest of you tarot-maniacs are running up my watched auctions and publishers run on a tighter budget than we might imagine), or more often, the artist wanted to see each detail come to life just as they saw in their dreams throughout the creation process.

Today's review is from one such self published deck, The Bonefire Tarot by Gabi West.  This colorful gem is loosely based on the Waite Smith system with its' own unique stylistic twist on traditional tattoo art.  The deck arrived in a handmade navy blue felt envelope style bag, with cord and a sweet heart wood detail accent.  It includes a handwritten LWB (Little White Book) by Gabi West entitled, "Bonefire Tarot - Plundering Space and Time for Truth and Meaning".  The LWB is a succinct set of keywords for each card as the artist envisioned them and a brief introduction to her artistic choices and views on art, symbolism, and tarot.  The decks ship from Australia, and unfortunately my first one went walkabout, but Gabi was quick to send me another, which arrived in good time and perfect condition.  I like to imagine that errant first deck made its' way to someone who needed it more than I did and is enriching their days with its' quirky voice.

The cards measure a chunky and squat 3 inches by 3.75 inches.  They feel good to hold.  The cardstock is some of my favorite ever, being thick and sturdy enough to handle rough treatment, but flexible and slippy enough to shuffle easily, with a matte finish light lamination.  The backs are a fully reversible black and white image featuring some bones on fire, which is of course the grey scale version of the title card, and the name of the deck.

There are 22 Major Arcana, who remain unnumbered, except for 13 in lieu of a title, and traditionally named, so they can be arranged in any fashion makes sense to the reader.  The suits consist of Wands, Cups, Swords, and Coins, with 14 cards in each.  The Court Cards are the familiar caste system of Page, Knight, Queen and King.
Bonefire Tarot
Some of the denizens of the deck are scantily clad, but nothing too scandalous.  There is no overt violence, and there should be very little to trigger sensitive individuals.  That being said, the imagery is somewhat surreal, which can be a disconcerting effect to gaze upon, and the dream landscape of the deck has an ethereal quality that leaves me slightly uncomfortable to look at.  By no means do I consider this to be a disadvantage, because I think it is good for us to be shaken up from time to time.  The images themselves are bright colors against a black background, and the very nature of the coloring can sometimes lend a darkness to the atmosphere of the deck.
Bonefire Tarot
I think intuitive readers will find many, many things to love about this deck, and it is also a good deck for people who like Waite Smith imagery with an edgy twist.  The cards are packed with symbolic images, and each time I pull one I find new things to focus on.  It is a collectors' dream and possesses an exceptional production value along with distinctive, cohesive art.  It is not the best deck for people who prefer a more straight forward approach to their readings, and while there is nothing offensive in the imagery, it is perhaps suited better to some audiences than others.
Bonefire Tarot
The Bonefire Tarot is a beautiful deck with a unique twist that reads like a literal dream.  The strange, and almost familiar but not quite landscape makes me feel like I am almost seeing something out of the corner of my eye, and it evokes a mysterious air that gives me insightful readings.  I am very happy to have this deck in my collection and I hope that you will take a moment to visit the website and consider all of the stunning images.

Deck Review - Snowland Deck

Brrr!  It's cold outside and the snow is falling in Denver today, which makes it a perfect day to look at The Snowland Deck!

Today I am here to offer an update to the previous review I did for The Snowland Deck : Life Themes Edition.  In the ensuing years, husband and wife team Ron and Janet Boyer have finished the full version of the deck and brought so much more to the card reading table with it.  Described as an Unbound Book, with whimsical wintry images suitable for all audiences, the Boyers have produced a masterful deck which closely follows tarot themes and structure, but has completely left out esoteric symbols and jargon, making this an accessible reading deck for most anyone.

The Snowland Deck is self published and hand crafted at every step of production by Ron and Janet Boyer, and is available from their website.  I have now received two decks from them, one the Life Themes Edition, which contained the 23 Life Theme Cards, correlating to the Major Arcana, and the full deck version, containing 82 cards, closely following the structure of a tarot deck, with a few surprises.  Both decks were lovingly prepared and shipped, with an attention to detail that made each package a true delight to receive.  The deck comes in a customizable hand sewn bag to protect it and a digital copy of the guidebook.  A separate  Snowland Intuitive Workbook is also available to augment your work with the deck.

The cards are the same size as the Life Themes Edition, 3.5 inches by 5.5 inches, on a flippy, satin matte cardstock which shuffles easily and are printed in the USA.  The backs are adorned with an "S" formed from snowflakes on a blue background and the cards are fully reversible.  Janet has never been one to shy away from the shadow aspects of cards or life, so even though many of the images are whimsical, even sweet, they are also adaptable to expressing the myriad energies each of us experiences in life.

There are 22 Life Theme Cards, which are easily recognizable to the tarot enthusiast as correlating to traditional Major Arcana, but most are renamed.  The Fool has become Beginnings, The Emperor is now Commander, and The Devil is now Chains, to name a few of the changes.  The Life Themes Cards bear their title in navy blue type on the bottom of the white bordered cards, but do not have any numbers on them, leaving each reader free to arrange them as each sees fit.  There is an extra card called Chillaxin which is a moment caught in time, created by the Boyers' son Noah.

The deck includes four cards which are referred to as the "Soul GPS significator cards", which come in handy so that you do not have to remove a card from the deck to use a significator, if that is the way you like to read.  These cards correspond to each of the suits, which take on updated names of Energy, Emoting, Mental, and Material.  These suit names will be easily recognizable to most readers, and have done away with the somewhat outdated traditional suits by transforming the theme of each suit into a language that the modern reader can easily relate to.

The Court Cards are known as Approach Cards, and again they have done away with the feudal system of Page, Knight, Queen and King and replaced it with a more relatable Youth, Quester, Nurturer, and Director.  This has the added benefit of erasing gender specific stereotypes and better allow the reader to embrace the concept of each card rather than getting hung up on, What does a King  mean?  The Approach Cards include many familiar characters expressing the archetypal energy of each card, and they really are a brilliant approach to the often tricky Court Cards!
Snowland Deck

There are fourteen cards in each suit, simply numbered in a color which corresponds to their suit.  Energy is red, Emoting is blue, Mental is grey, Material is green.  There is nary a Wand or Pentacle or any esoteric symbol at all to be found in the deck, but the images have so succinctly distilled the meaning of each card that seasoned readers will have no trouble recognizing most cards, and new readers will also find the images easy to read and the energy recognizable.
Snowland Deck

The Snowland Deck will appeal to lovers of winter, whimsical images, fairy tales, and the folksy art that pervades the deck.  It is good for creatives, intuitives, children, teachers, parents, and anyone who likes to be delighted by thinking outside the box.  It is not a great deck for people who are married to tradition or who are not interested in a different approach to the cards.  While shadow energy is easily expressed in these cards, there is no darkness in them so people who prefer a gothic or darker edge to their cards may not enjoy the deck as a main reading deck.  I have found my readings to be very true to life and not overly whitewashed, but as a whole there is a sweetness to the art that will not appeal to all readers, but there are plenty of different decks for each preference.
Snowland Deck

The magical world of The Snowland Deck is open to all, and the Boyers have graciously posted all of their images to see and enjoy there.  They also offer many other charming and whimsical divination and creative tools which are well worth a look!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Deck Review - Under the Roses Lenormand

Under the Roses Lenormand
If there is one thing that has taken the card reading community by storm as of late, it is Lenormand cards!  Simple in imagery, complex in the ability to reveal details, these little cards are not something new, yet they are new for this generation.

Lenormand cards are a system attributed to Madame Lenormand, a French cartomancer in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  She was famous for giving advice via her cards to many people, some of them famous, including Empress Josephine and Tsar Alexander I.  That's a pretty illustrious history!  Today, readers the world over have fallen in love with the system, and where there are readers, decks are being produced to keep up with the demand of voracious readers who love to collect decks.  Today I am reviewing Under the Roses Lenormand by Kendra Hurteau and Katrina Hill for U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Under the Roses Lenormand
Lenormand cards are usually found in playing card sizes, and these are no different.  2.25 x 3.5 inches makes these cards a small handful, and easy to shuffle.  The deck includes the traditional 36 cards, with two extra cards depicting an extra Gentleman and Lady, to accommodate same sex and interracial couples.  There are also two choices for The Child card, both little girls.  You can choose to leave each card in your deck, or go old school and remove one of each to have exactly 36 cards.  They come in a flip top tuck box with a 55 page Little White Book to convey the meanings of card and share some very basic techniques to read the cards.  This is probably not going to be the end all, be all of your Lenormand learning, but it is an adequate starting point, from which you can jump off to the vibrant online communities and many books, both new and old, to enhance your Lenormand education.
Under the Roses Lenormand

The artwork is beautifully wrought in twilight colors, sepia toned with a Victorian feel.  The LWB informs us that Under the Roses is a euphemism for buried secrets, and the atmosphere is slightly gothic and romantic.  It is easy to imagine buried secrets in the ethereal Under the Roses World.  Each card is labeled with an unobtrusive title, an Arabic Numeral, and the correlating suit and number for the playing card correspondence to the card.  The artwork is deceptively simple while providing plenty for the reader to attach meaning to.
Under the Roses - Back

Under the Roses Lenormand is available wherever you usually buy your decks, and at less than half the cards and size of most tarot decks, these little gems tend to affordable to collect.  You can also get the deck directly from U.S. Games.
Under the Roses Lenormand

Deck Review - Oracle of Visions

An exciting release in 2014 from U.S. Games Systems, Inc was the much anticipated Oracle of Visions by Ciro Marchetti.  Previously released by the artist in a stunning, but limited and expensive on some budgets, version which subsequently sold out, this accessible version from U.S. Games brings all of the beauty and vision of the deck without sacrificing any of the quality of the limited version.

After creating three wildly successful tarot decks, which were both self published and picked up by mainstream publishers, Ciro Marchetti decided to switch gears and create an oracle wholly of his own system.  His distinctive style of techno-renaissance digital painting lends itself beautifully to fantastic and whimsical images which are designed to evoke the full range of human emotion.

The deck consists of 52 full color cards and a 140 page booklet written by the artist to help each reader on their journey through the Oracle of Visions.  Each entry includes a grey scale picture of the card, a defacto title, a quote the artist considered apt, and some possible directions the card may take you.  The guidebook does not include black and white meanings to each card, which some people will find freeing, while some would prefer a little more guidance.  The guidebook also includes spreads and theory in reading, and all of this comes in a sturdy two part box to keep your deck safe.

Oracle of Visions
The cards are large, measuring 3.75 inches by 5.25 inches.  The card stock is flexible and comfortable to riffle shuffle if that is your wont.  They are labeled with discreet numbers at the top of each card for easy referral in the book, but in most cases the imagery is evocative and requires little explanation.  The backs are atmospheric and fit the theme of the deck perfectly, but they are non-reversible and the guidebook does not provide any reversed meanings, leaving it to the reader to interpret whether each image carries a positive or negative connotation.

Marchetti claims a loose structure to the cards which consists of four categories- Situations, Emotions, Actions, and Behaviors.  In pointing to this structure, though, the artist is quick to reiterate that his purpose in the creation of this deck was to provide images which did not require a specific structure or meaning to work.  The images are meant to be read in perfect freedom and as best suits the reader.  In that, the Oracle of Visions is a unique and singularly successful endeavor.  This deck can truly be read in any form the reader is most comfortable with.

 An excerpt from the book to accompany the card "49" reads:
Oracle of Visions


I felt a tug.
You must be at the end of your rope.

-CARD 49-

We have trained and we have studied.  We have fallen and picked ourselves up to try yet again.Certainly, progress has been made with each effort and each attempt.  But sometimes despite it all we have to acknowledge the reality that we can't do it entirely on our own.

In this imagery, the white doves are visual metaphors for helping hands.  The physical support they provide here might take the form of emotional encouragement, financial assistance, or expert advice based on knowledge or orevious experience.

The challenge now is to achieve a balance,  to offer help but not reliance.

(From Oracle of Visions Guidebook by Ciro Marchetti for U.S. Games Systems, Inc, pages 108-109, copyright 2014.)

This deck does contain what I consider to be tasteful and beautiful nudity, and no violence.  I would consider it appropriate for adult use, and take on a case by case basis with teenagers.  It is a good deck for intuitive readers, with many symbols to pick and focus on in each card, and the cards can vary wildly in what they may mean from reading to reading.  For the reader who wants complete freedom from esoteric symbols and a "right" and a "wrong" interpretation, this deck shines.  It is a beautiful deck to tell stories with, and ultimately that is what each reader is doing.  However, not all decks with distinct themes fit all readers, and if you do not care for the jesters, the masquerade, surreal and fantastic feel of this deck, or the art that is partially digitally created, you may not be able to look past those perceived flaws.  For a reader that loves the structure of tarot or Lenormand, there exist cards that can be clearly correlated to different cards from those decks, but they are also different, and the structure simply is not there, because it is not meant to be.  Whether you consider this a strike against the deck is entirely dependent on your requirements in a deck.  If you think in metaphors and are good at finding the moral of the story, this deck will read well for you.

I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite card, because I see beauty and story in each one.  Equally, I do not find any cards objectionable or less wonderful than any others.  Rare is the deck where I think each card is great, but this is one.
Oracle of Visions
I find the sparkling fairy tale world Ciro Marchetti has created wonderfully evocative, and I love to lose myself in in the images and possibilities contained in each card.  It sparks my imagination and leads me on fanciful flights which are vital to me as a writer.  I adore this deck for that reason alone.  However, as a reading deck, it is not as successful, for me.  I prefer the structure that tarot and Lenormand offer for readings, and I never do as well with decks that are free form.  I love to use this deck for single card pulls, and as creative writing sparks, and it does get used frequently for those things, but I have struggled with giving myself full readings, and so I have not tried to give anyone a reading with the deck.
Oracle of Visions

In a world of sometimes forgettable decks Marchetti has created one that is truly unique, gorgeous to look at, and managed to maintain his artistic integrity through the partnership with U.S. Games Systems, Inc.  Marchetti has graciously provided all the images and some special downloads on his website, where you can also find beautiful boxes and reading cloths.  The Oracle of Visions is available wherever you usually buy your decks, or directly from U.S. Games.
Oracle of Visions

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Deck Review - Shadow of Oz

Shadow of Oz Tarot - The Fool
Coming to us from a successful Kickstarter campaign is The Shadow of Oz, A Tarot Deck. The creative folks at enlisted 17 artists and seasoned comic book writer Mark Anthony Masterson to bring their vision of the shadowy, magical world of Oz to life in tarot imagery.

From the box- "TAROT- a series of symbols that evoke the mystery of the human imagination and inspire connectivity of thought. OZ- tales and characters from L. Frank Baum that explore and delight in the human imagination, inspiring future stories and creativity. COMICS- a storytelling medium where images juxtaposed in sequence convey emotion, information, and drama."

Most of us are familiar with the timeless film classic featuring Judy Garland, The Wizard of Oz. If we had a particular kind of childhood, we even read the book. L. Frank Baum managed a feat of glory and true beauty in creating a whole world, consisting of fourteen full length published works. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is the tip of a fanciful and very large iceberg of imaginative storytelling and American fairy tales. The Shadow of Oz cleverly transposes the imagery of the wild and wooly land of Oz onto traditional tarot structure to make a deck that is eminently readable, relatable, yet hangs on to the air of magic and mystery that will evoke nostalgia and echoes of beauty in most of us.
Shadow of Oz Tarot

 The deck comes housed snugly in a sturdy two part box which will serve very well for storage and stand up to years of loving use. The cards themselves are large, measuring 3.5 inches by 5 inches, on satin matte cardstock which shuffles beautifully. A 75 page black and white guidebook is included, which will prove invaluable to remind the reader of the characters names and predicaments or to introduce them anew. The guidebook includes an insightful spread by prolific tarot author Janet Boyer.
Shadow of Oz Tarot

The image on the backs mirrors itself, but a slight gradient in tone makes them not fully reversible. The cleverly written guidebook does provide "The Shadow Notes" for each card, which makes perfect sense in a deck named The Shadow of Oz. These are fairy tale characters, with no nudity or violence evidenced in the card, but they do embrace the full range of human experience, and you will not get any sugar coated readings from this deck.

There are 22 Major Arcana, identified by Roman Numerals on top and a label at the bottom. They are traditionally named, with Justice appearing at VIII and Strength at XI. The Majors are identified by a small green border inset a black border, like all the cards. Each suit will also bear its' unique inset border color, with Wands being red, Cups being blue, Swords being yellow, and Discs being purple. The Court Cards appear as Page, Knight, Queen, and King. The imagery is firmly rooted in Waite Smith tradition, but it definitely is not a straight clone deck in which the artists simply substituted their own characters doing the same thing as Pixie Smiths. They are unique to the world of Oz, which gives a delightful twist on traditional meanings. This deck will be easily read by students of tarot, intuitive readers, and anyone familiar with the world of Oz.

A danger that exists with collaborative decks, especially with so many artists, is that cohesion can be lost between the images. I am happy to share that I feel this deck is incredibly cohesive and easy to read, and it is apparent these artists shared a vision for what the deck should look like and work easily together. The guidebook is entertaining in its' own right and much more than a LWB (Little White Book, the booklet that comes with many traditionally published decks).
Shadow of Oz Tarot

The Shadow of Oz would make a lovely gift to any tarot reader or collector, and because it does such a beautiful job of encompassing the whole universe that L. Frank Baum created, as well as being lusciously rendered in comic book styling, it will also appeal to fairy tale-istas, scholarly or otherwise, and comic book collectors.  The deck is largely free of esoteric imagery, and relies more on the prolific symbolism of the world of Oz rather than Golden Dawn, Thoth, or Marseilles associations, so readers who require those symbols may not find much to work with.
Shadow of Oz Tarot

Shadow of Oz Tarot - The World
My favorite cards feature the Tin Woodman, now come into his own as The Emperor, the exquisitely intertwined Lovers Princess Ozga and Jo Files, and the vaguely steampunkish rendering of the Three of Swords. The World card features Dorothy surrounded by her traveling companions in the corners, which fell a little flat for me, but in tarot readings all imagery definitely has the "your mileage may vary" tag and one card from 78 that didn't jive with me is a pretty good record.
Shadow of Oz Tarot

The Shadow of Oz, A Tarot Deck comes with a hearty 78 Whispers approval rating, and is available from the folks at