Monday, 31 July 2017

Deck Review - "The Star Tarot" by Cathy McClelland

One of the perks of working on Tarot Insider is I get to see some of the books and tarot decks that are coming out ahead of time.  When I was browsing a list of upcoming decks, I saw the Star Tarot and thought it would tie in nicely with both my tarot work and my witchcraft, so I contacted both the publisher and the author to see what would happen, and I am thrilled to say Dax Carlisle and I  will be chatting to Cathy McClelland on Tuesday 8th August 2017 at 2.30 Eastern/7.30 UK.

The Star tarot comes in a lovely box
Cathy is an artist and her deck is, in her words, "inspired by meditation, long walks in the woods, nature, my study of the Tarot and spiritual subjects, as well as the influence of different cultural symbols and myths." What this translates to is an intriguing deck that manages to be both modern and yet feel quite classical as well.

A selection of cards
Her artwork is quite bold, quite New Age.  Actually I think it is more appropriate to say it is New World, with a lot of patterns and symbolism that to me draws upon Native American symbology as much as it does anything else, yet that is only one aspect, and this is where personal interpretations come into it.  If we take The Fool, instead of the usual carefree raggedy traveller with his dog, chasing the butterfly of transformation yet unaware of the dangerous cliff edge ahead, we have a man holding a crystal and a staff, reminders of the gifts he brings with him and connecting the real world with the heavens.  The butterfly is still there, but the dog is replaced with a raven, possibly suggesting a link with death and rebirth, or our subconscious memories, or the knowledge of Odin's ravens Huginn and Muninn.  Meanwhile our Fool is about to step into a pool in which there is an alligator; is this an unseen threat in our subconscious or could it be the Egyptian god Sobek who controlled the waters of the Nile and was therefore vital to farming, fishing and trade, and therefore life itself?

This is what I love about this deck: it is a unique blend of myths and imagery that will mean something different to every single person who picks it up, and I think any collector or reader would benefit from having this deck in their collection, not just for readings but as a tool for helping the querent to open up their intuition in order to uncover blockages and unrecognised patterns of behaviour.

The back of the cards
On to the practical stuff. They measure 3.5" x 5.25", so are more the size of an oracle deck than a tarot deck; this allows the artwork to be properly seen but some people may find them a little large for shuffling. They are printed on good quality card stock, some bend to it without feeling too flimsy, and are high gloss so slide over one another smoothly without sticking.  The edges are not gilded, and the backs are a simple spiral and star design, so wouldn't hamper reversed readings.

Card 8 in the major arcana is Strength while card 11 is Justice.  The suits of the minor arcana are wands, cups, swords and pentacles.  The court cards are a little different; instead of pages she has used princes for wand and swords and princesses for cups and pentacles, which I actually quite like.

This deck comes with a great companion book that goes into a lot of detail about the symbolism on each card, but at no time does it feel dry or like a lecture.  There is also a great bibliography at the back with suggestions for further reading.

The Star Tarot by Cathy McClelland is published by Schiffer Publishing Ltd and is released on 15th August 2017.  It is available direct from Cathy's website at (you can get your deck autographed), or for pre-order on Amazon via my link below.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Book Review: "The Fortune Teller" by Gwendolyn Womack

Merry meet one and all and welcome to another book review!

This book really piqued my interest because the plot centres around a tarot deck and manages to weave through different timelines without feeling confusing and overwhelming.

Our main character is Semele Cavnow, an antiquities appraiser for a very high-end New York auction house who is sent to appraise an extensive library of rare documents and manuscripts and comes across a manuscript written in ancient Greek which, as she translates it, turns out to be a prophecy arcing through history from the time of Cleopatra to Semele's own life.

This is classed as a romantic thriller, but I would say this is a love letter to libraries lost throughout time.  In the memoirs we learn a very plausible origin story for tarot, one which feels like it could be close to the truth, and this book is written in such a way that I want to believe this to be a genuine prophecy.  As we progress through the book we get to see the timelines interweave through the novel, each chapter of Ionna's memoir carefully translated for us by Semele as this book progresses.  The prophecy is tied to a mysterious deck of cards, and we track their path through history until we get to a wonderful scene in Milan where we see the magickal 22 cards of antiquity being reinterpreted by an artist and given, along with a 56 card playing deck, to the mistress of Duke Filippo Maria Visconti, and the Visconti tarot deck is born.  Did it happen this way?  We will never know but it is completely plausible; the Visconti deck is an intricate work of art made from the finest materials and now housed in just a small handful of museums and private collections, but they must have come from somewhere, been created by someone.

This is what I loved about this book, its plausibility.  Yes it's a work of fiction, but one with a lot of research behind it.  There is a romance element, not just in the lives of the holders of the cards throughout time, but in the present and Semele's life, but at no point does it feel like it dominates the narrative at the expense of the plot.  It is also worth pointing out that you do not need an understanding of the tarot to be able to enjoy this book, as the card meanings aren't relevant although they do make good chapter headings as the characters travel from ignorance of what is ahead to better understanding of the big picture and things coming to a conclusion, which is exactly the journey taken over the 22 cards of the major arcana.

"The Fortune Teller" by Gwendoline Womack is published by Picador and is out now in America and available for pre-order in the UK in paperback or Kindle formats.

Until next time everyone,

Blessed be )0(

P.S. If you missed our interview with Gwen for our show Tarot Insider you can check it out on our YouTube channel - don't forget to like us and subscribe for more videos!

Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Dark Trio of Tarot: Part 1 - Death

There are a few tarot cards that seem to have permeated pop culture, and of these the one that everyone seems to know about is Death, or La Mort. However as a reader I am aware that there are certain cards that cause concern whenever they come up in a spread; Death is understandably one of them, but also The Devil and The Tower.  I call these the Dark Trio.

The Death collective

Of course no card is ever completely "good" or completely "bad" as it were, yet there is this misconception outside the tarot community that these three cards are doom-laden and can only bring misfortune.  It is because of this that I started getting fascinated with the varying imagery of these cards, because to me the actual image says more about the intended meaning than any one size fits all "how-to" book could ever explain.

La Mort, from the Tarot de Marseille
©1993 Funtime Ltd
My first tarot deck was a Marseille deck, and it was everything I wanted the tarot to be: mysterious, classic and somewhat gothic.  The Death card in particular caught my eye, appealing to my macabre teenage tastes.  Here I had the classic figure of death: a skeleton, still with flesh clinging to his bones in some places, walking over the dismembered heads and limbs of the dead, scythe in hand.  Yep my inner Goth loved it, but unfortunately when I read for friends and they saw this card they often failed to appreciate his unique beauty and, quite frankly, freaked out.

Death, from Old English Tarot by Maggie Kneen
Published by U.S.Games Systems, Inc
I started searching around for a deck that had a more approachable Death, one who wouldn't scare your granny and therefore the image wouldn't distract from the message, and I decided upon the Old English Tarot by Maggie Kneen.  Appealing to both my Englishness and my inner history geek, here I found a deck that really resonated with me, and the best thing was when I laid down the Death card in a spread my clients were now faced with a robed skeleton wielding a scythe on a field.  Yes, he'd gone from Grim Reaper to Farmer Giles, but it meant I could explain the idea that the change that was coming wasn't necessarily something to be scared of but instead could be embraced as a clearing away of the old and making way for new growth.  Suddenly everyone got it and I no longer felt mean for scaring people.

Death, from the Deviant Moon Tarot by Patrick Valenza
Published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc
From there I branched out, choosing decks that were a bit unusual and studying the art to decipher new interpretations.  In Patrick Valenza's Deviant Moon Tarot Death is seen as a female pregnant with the new beginnings that are to come, but fighting off the previous child as it battles to climb back into the safety of the womb. Dark stuff again, but the difference in emphasis here is clear: we cannot go back to how things were no matter how we may want to.  In Neil Lovell's Tyldwick Tarot we see the wonderfully gothic image of a skeleton over a classic organ like you'd find in a chapel, and this reminds us that no matter how beautiful a piece of music is it must still come to an end; the interesting question is what will you play next?

Death, from the Tyldwick Tarot by Neil Lovell.
© Malpertuis Designs Ltd 2013
Possibly the most interesting variation on the theme is from the Wildwood Tarot by Mark Ryan and John Matthews.  This deck has a mythology all of its own but the equivalent card is titled The Journey and shows a raven perched on a stag's skull and picking the flesh from the bones.  The raven is one of the most intelligent birds but is often associated with death and the occult.  Yet if we get away from the gore what we actually see is a reminder that not everything that has passed should be discarded.  There are things we can take from even the darkest of situations in order to grow and feed our soul, just as the raven feeds on the stag.

The Journey by Mark Ryan and John Matthews
Published by Connections
In part two I will be looking at The Tower and how if we ignore the message the Death card brings things may get taken out of our hands, while in part three I will discuss The Devil.

Blessed be )0(

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