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


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