Revelations Tarot – Tarot Review

The Revelations Tarot is essentially an RWS-inspired deck with a new approach to the art. It’s got the standard Tarot cards in the standard RWS order, but the cards show both upright and reversed interpretations on their face. Regardless of the card’s orientation during a spread, the reader can see both the aspect of the card in play and the potential lurking underneath. How cool is that?

I had to check it out.

The Deck

The Revelations Tarot comes as a set. There’s a sturdy box with a magnetic closure, a single well holding the cards with a ribbon to help lift them out (thank you thank you), and a companion book.

The Revelations Tarot set. The box is open sideways here, showing both the companion book and the cards. The ribbon is a lovely touch AND there are little gaps for your fingers. Huzzah!

The Revelations Tarot set. The box is open sideways here, showing both the companion book and the cards. The ribbon is a lovely touch AND there are little gaps for your fingers. Huzzah!

The cards are a touch smaller than standard. That makes them nice for small hands, I suppose, but I feel they’re too small to effectively convey the art. There is a lot going on here, and in my opinion a larger size would showcase that better. There’s also something about the finish my fingers don’t like – the cards “catch”, and feel a bit bumpy – but I don’t know if anyone else would even notice. They certainly shuffle well enough!

The reversible back of the card, flanked by two spread guide cards.

The reversible back of the card, flanked by two spread guide cards. Really, Llewellyn? You had two extra cards and this is what you chose to do with them? Ok then.

Let’s hit the book first. This is not at all written for beginners. There’s no “intro to Tarot” section, no Tarot history, nada. We get like a page and a half from the author about why he created the deck and then jump right into the card meanings.

Each of the Major cards gets about three pages worth of write-up while the Minors get two. I found this part to be particularly nice. An equal amount of space is used to explain upright and reversed meanings (not surprising, considering the deck!), and while the upright images have fairly standard associations the reversal explanations shine. These are creative, well-written, and entertaining to read. I quite enjoyed them!

The Fool and the Aces. The Aces are the only ones not getting much of a reverse difference, which makes a certain amount of sense considering.

The Fool and the Aces. The Aces are the only ones not getting much of a reversal difference art-wise.

The spread section was a huge disappointment, though. The whole rest of the book was apparently written for people who’ve been around Tarot for a bit, but the four spreads included were basic and frankly uninspired. The name of the deck is “Revelations Tarot” and there wasn’t a spread that played off of the title? What a wasted opportunity!

The art is unique. It’s done in a fantasy style with a kind of swirly stained-glass vibe. It’s really pretty, with lots of deep saturated colors. The images seem to carry the written card meanings quite well if you pay attention, too. I’ve put what are perhaps my favorite contrasting Majors below. They really do come across as two different cards depending on orientation!

A lineup of five cards from the Major Arcana: The Emperor, The Lovers, Strength, Death, and the Moon. The first row shows all the cards in an upright position while the bottom shows them all reversed.

Uprights are on the top, with reversals shown on the bottom. There is a clear difference between the two sides, giving us clear visual cues for both card orientations.

Using the Deck

Personally, I find it interesting just how quickly I adjusted to keeping my attention on only the top half of the card while reading. I was also kind of fascinated by how visually playing with the comparisons between the top and bottom gave new interpretation avenues to explore. 

All that being said, though, I don’t see myself keeping this deck for personal use. Quite a bit of the traditional symbolism in the cards has been lost to visually accommodate both card orientations, and I found myself ignoring the art entirely to give more complete interpretations. To be fair that might be because I’ve been shifting over to TdM-style decks for awhile now. These felt very “surface” and confining by comparison. Additionally, more of these cards fell flat for me artistically than I can handle in a deck I use regularly.

All in all my feelings about this deck are mixed. It’s not for me, but I can see where other people would really enjoy it. There’s not enough here to go on for beginners, and it’s a bit too basic for the advanced, but intermediate readers will likely find it a comfortable fit. It’s an excellent learning tool for those wanting to incorporate reversals into their readings but are unsure of where to start, too.

Want to see what the Revelations Tarot might reveal for you? Available here for about $30.

Universal Tarot of Marseille – Tarot Review

A comparison of the Star from the original Burdel TdM on the left, and the Universal Tarot of Marseille on the right.

In my last review I mentioned the Universal Tarot of Marseille as an excellent travel TdM. Let’s unpack that, shall we?

As we can tell from the name the Universal Tarot of Marseille is a TdM deck. This particular version is based on a Swiss deck published by Claude Burdel in 1751. The original linework has been retained but the cards have (thankfully) been recolored, meaning the colors are much more saturated and actually stay INSIDE the lines.

A comparison of the Star from the original Burdel TdM on the left, and the Universal Tarot of Marseille on the right.

Burdel’s original Star on the left, and the Universal’s cleaned-up and recolored version on the right. Let’s hear it for 250 years of printing improvements!

The Deck

The deck comes in a surprisingly sturdy tuck box, containing both the deck and a rather substantial LWB. It should be substantial, though. The same text is written in five different languages!

The English section is only 12 pages long but don’t dismiss it – it covers the deck surprisingly well. It guides the reader through the bare-bones version of Tarot history, dips a bit into Plato (!!!), each Trump gets a little write-up listing suggested correspondences, and the Suits are all covered with a general description and a quick trip through the numerology of the pips (a system I VASTLY prefer to the standard RWS approach). Court cards are handled the same way.

Honestly, this is one of the best – and certainly most succinct! – TdM intros I’ve found to date. If you can find the kit within your budget, first off tell me your secrets, then grab it fast. The book included in the kit is apparently 64 packed pages of the same amazingness that’s confined to the little eensy LWB. I’ve heard about it anecdotally but not read it myself, and I kind of really want to!

The tuck box, not-so-little LWB, and the deck showing the lovely reversible image on the backs of the cards.

The tuck box, not-so-little LWB, and the deck showing the lovely reversible image on the backs of the cards. Isn’t that sheen gorgeous?

The cards themselves feel sublime in the hand. Publisher Lo Scarabeo is known for good-feeling cards, but for some reason these feel particularly fine. As a tactile person I appreciate that more than I can say. They shuffle like a dream, too, with a perfect combination of slip and snap-back.

Image-wise the lines are basic, and the color saturation doesn’t change the fact that this deck uses the typically limited palette of a TdM deck. Unlike most TdMs, though, the sky/background of the cards are colored with a watercolor effect. Majors have a greenish-blue sky (with a few exceptions), Cups have a pinkish-red background, Pentacles go with a golden yellow, Wands use a rather pretty sage green, and Swords are backed by blue.

The Fool and the Aces from each suit are all presented together, showing the coloration used for the backgrounds.

The Fool and the Aces from each suit. Here we can see the backgrounds as well as more detail of the coloring used for this TdM variant.

However welcome the backgrounds are, they’re not color correspondences I typically use for those suits. Mine are Golden Dawn-based, as are those used by most of us who came up through RWS-inspired decks, and while these cards predate those associations the originals didn’t have background color at all. These background colors aren’t even correct if we use traditional TdM color correspondences! Since the colors chosen were rather arbitrary anyway, why not use what most people are familiar with? It’s probably my biggest gripe with the whole deck. Keeping the exact same shades but matching them correspondence-wise to the suits would have made so much more sense. It’s a little detail, far eclipsed by the other positives with the deck as a whole, but I do find it annoying enough to mention.

Using the Deck

As long as all the standard elements are there, as they are here, which TdM deck you use is strictly a matter of personal preference. They’re all based on the same template. The feel of these cards is so nice that I enjoy using this particular variant, and the sturdiness of the tuck box combined with the low price point make these particularly suited for travel.

I primarily use these for readings, and have used them for altar work in the past with great effect. These are not the cards to inspire meditation, however. There’s nothing particularly visually appealing about them, and I require that for Tarot-based meditation.

I don’t usually recommend TdM decks to beginners, but if you just have to start with one there are worse ones to choose. The LWB is even enough to get you minimally started, especially if you’re already used to thinking in terms of correspondences. There are a number of good full-length TdM books you could pick up later to continue building your knowledge.

A bonus with using this style is that you could theoretically buy just one TdM and use it for life. I don’t know a single person who’s managed to do that, and I personally don’t advocate it, but if that’s a goal consider this one.

Available here for less than $20.

Le Tarot Noir – Tarot Review

The open box of Le Tarot Noir. The accompanying book is propped up, with the deck split in half in front of it.

In my post on Tarot Style Families I showed a quick glimpse of my current Tarot crush, Le Tarot Noir. It’s my very favoritest TdM deck, and I’m excited to share with you why I love it!

The Deck

The deck’s packaging reminds me of an old-school crayon box. The top opens like the cover of a book. Inside is the book it comes with, and underneath that the deck is split in half and banded with plastic.

The open box of Le Tarot Noir. The accompanying book is propped up, with the deck split in half in front of it.

The open box of Le Tarot Noir. The accompanying book is propped up inside with the deck split in half in front of it. The card backgrounds are a lovely cream – the weird shadows going on are lighting-related.

The box is meh. It’s nice in concept but the top doesn’t latch or tuck or anything. It just sits there. Shrink wrap is the only reason it managed to reach me in one piece. I certainly don’t trust my cards in it for travel. If you plan on taking these cards around with you I recommend getting a bag or box from the get-go.

The cards themselves are amazingly impressive-looking. The whole deck has edges gilded in gold, which is nice, but honestly it feels like a superfluous detail when looking at the card faces. There’s a level of artistry here I haven’t found in others of this style. The images have the limited palette of a Marseilles (thankfully muted) and the artist focused quite a bit on fine line work and draping. Add to that the dark whimsy the artist brought to the deck and I find myself purring whenever I touch it.

The High Priestess, the Moon, and the Tower cards from Le Tarot Noir.

La Papesse (the High Priestess), La Lune (the Moon), and La Maison Dieu (the House of God, aka the Tower).

The Aces are the loveliest I’ve ever seen in a TdM. The Ace of Cups especially makes me swoon.

The Aces from Le Tarot Noir. Top row is the Ace of Cups and the Ace of Swords. Bottom is the Ace of Coins and the Ace of Wands.

The Aces from Le Tarot Noir. Above are the Ace of Cups and the Ace of Swords. Below are the Ace of Coins and the Ace of Wands.

The rest of the pips are equally gorgeous. I love the emphasis on curves and the fleur-de-lis detailing.

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Here we have the Three of Swords and the Ten of Swords. The back of the card, with its lovely inlaid-gold motif, is shown below. See that gloss? Don’t you want to pet it?

Overall the deck is simultaneously traditionally elegant and otherworldly. I feel a tingle every time I pick it up.

The book it comes with is beautifully printed but the binding is awful. It split the first time I opened it and pages started falling out almost immediately.

The book from Le Tarot Noir is lying on a table, the split spine clearly visible.

Really??? I think I’m going to have the now-loose pages bound at a print shop or something so they don’t get lost.

As you might be able to tell from the above pic the book is also written completely in French.

For all of its lovely visuals, the book doesn’t help much with card interpretation even if you do read French. If you’re looking for a “how to read this deck” intro any TdM book on the market will serve well (although I particularly recommend this one). However, if you want to read what this book says I’ve included a how-to at the end for quick-and-dirty translating. You’re welcome! 🙂

Using the Deck

Reading with this deck is a profoundly enjoyable experience. It’s like the cards latch into a different part of my brain and make my intuition work harder.

They’re also big and kind of awkward. They’re more square-shaped than standard decks and can be difficult to manage. If you’re going to read with these you need room to spread out a bit. I have a dedicated 30″ x 30″ cartomancy table, so space isn’t really an issue for me, but those working in tight quarters may want to opt for a smaller deck.

The size of this deck is one of the reasons I don’t travel with it (the other being that I worry about my baby getting damaged). If I feel like reading a Marseilles-styled deck on a travel day I’ll take my Universal Marseilles in its little tuck box with me and leave this beauty safe at home.

Aside from readings I adore this deck for Tarot spellwork. Seriously. ADORE. They feel so much more targeted than RWS decks that spellwork just flows. The only downside is that the deck isn’t usable for divination until any spellwork is completed.

This is not a deck to shuffle. Part of that is due to the shape and size, which makes the whole deck a mite challenging to hold all at once. The gilding also sticks a bit. The most important reason, however, is that I’ve read reports from others that the finish on the back can start cracking if they’re bent too far. Since I would be beyond upset if anything happened to these cards I treat them more like little paintings. No bending! This is the only deck I have that I refuse to bridge shuffle.

I never recommend TdM decks for complete Tarot novices, but if you’re already pretty grounded in Tarot and want to jump into TdM-style decks this is a fine place to start. No reason not to go straight to the Best in Class, right? And this deck is certainly that!

Available here for about $35.

Translating the Book

As I said earlier, the book that comes with Le Tarot Noir is written completely in French. Translating it doesn’t reveal any info that couldn’t be obtained from other books in this style family. However, I didn’t know that when I got it. I wanted to know exactly what it said, and I always enjoy reading the artist’s approach to the cards. So I translated it. Here’s a step-by-step so you can do the same thing if you feel so inclined.

  1. Take a picture of a page with your phone and transfer it to your main computer.

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    The page on the Judgment card in the Le Tarot Noir’s book.

  2. Go to this link. According to the blurb on the page (which I edited for punctuation because I had to), “NewOCR.com is a free online OCR (Optical Character Recognition) service. It can analyze the text in any image file that you upload and then convert the text from the image into text that you can easily edit on your computer.” How cool is that?
  3. Click “Choose File” and select the picture you took. Right below that set the recognition language to “French”.
  4. Click “Upload + OCR”. If you need to rotate the picture you’ll get a chance after you click. Make sure the text you want to translate is in the box and click “OCR” above the image.
  5. Once it loads you can scroll down below your original picture to see a box containing all of the text from the image. It’s still in French, but it’s out of the image!
  6.  Above that box you’ll see a link to Google Translate. Click it. Another window will open containing all of that text in English! It’s like magic!

Here’s how the above page came out. I made some punctuation changes I didn’t note, but otherwise this is exactly what Google Translate spit out. My commentary is in [brackets]:

The map of the Judgment is composed according to a vertical diagram [like a hierarchy].

Characters occupy the bottom of the map and an angel with trumpet overhangs the whole. This “top / bottom” representation is typical of medieval society: the whole of life was conceived in this way, according to the Christian tradition, with the Hells below and the opposite, the kingdom of Heaven.

The angel with the trumpet is a herald of the Last Judgment; awaken[ing] the dead and lead[ing] them to their final destination, whether Hell, Purgatory, or Paradise. The flag that adorns the trumpet is linked to the resurrection of Christ.

The naked couple of the arcana prays and surrounds a chest from which seems to go out the third personage [from which the third person seems to emerge]. All three are cleared of their attributes Terrestrial [free of earthly trappings], in the simplest apparatus [no clothing-naked], humble before the Divine power.

The chest can be seen as a coffin. Perhaps they pray that this third man is resurrected, or more likely to be sent to Paradise? The identity of this third man remains rather vague.

[It is] also probable that this couple died and awaited the judgment of the angel for soap [no idea here – they’re awaiting judgment, got it] or it will pass eternity. In this case, the man who leaves the trunk [chest/coffin] may be a trubhon [minion?] of hell, waiting to take them away.

That’s not too shabby! A few weird words, expected considering I doubt Google Translate has to do a lot of esoterica, but otherwise coherent. And way faster than going word-by-word with a dictionary! Better yet, the translated text can be easily copied and pasted into a Word document or the like. Do the whole book this way, make whatever edits you need, and you’ll have a pretty fair translation you can print out and keep with the deck!

I realize that doing this 78 times might seem like a bit much. However, not every card in the deck has accompanying text in the book. All the Majors do, as do each of the Aces. Court cards share the same paragraph by rank (only one for all the Pages, for instance). Nothing at all is said about the other 36 Minor Arcana cards, so there’s nothing to translate there. If you want to be really thorough you could translate the short intro page and the conclusion, but it’s so not necessary.

And there it is! As you can tell from the above there’s not much in the book that you couldn’t figure out for yourself, but if the completionist in you wants it here’s how.

Happy reading!

Voyager Tarot – Tarot Review

A spread of five Major Arcana cards from the Voyager Tarot.

The Voyager Tarot was one of my very first decks, given to me as a gift when I was just learning by someone who wasn’t familiar with Tarot at all. That’s unfortunate because this is not a beginner deck. Attempting to use it just confused me when I was getting my bearings.

Since those early days the Voyager has become a fantastic tool. I just needed to know what to do with it first.

The Deck

One of the first things anyone notices about this deck is the sheer size. It is significantly larger than most other decks. That’s bad news for shuffling but great news for image clarity. And image clarity is an important factor with the Voyager Tarot.

Comparing the size of the Voyager Tarot to the Gilded Tarot. The first picture has the Voyager underneath the Gilded, while the second shows the two decks stacked side by side.

Comparing the Voyager Tarot with the Gilded Tarot. The individual cards AND the stacked decks are larger for the Voyager.

This is a modern Tarot deck created entirely with photo collage, giving it a very unique feel. The images come from cultures and practices around the world – making it workable regardless of personal religious affiliation – and figuring out the nuance each image represents in a given card’s meaning is part of the fun with this deck.

However, it does mean that this deck is a one-off. While the cards loosely correlate to standard meanings they are by no means exact, and some of the names have been changed too.

A spread of five Major Arcana cards from the Voyager Tarot.

Major Arcana cards from the Voyager Tarot. Notice the cards for “Fool-Child” (Fool), “Art” (Temperance) and “Time-Space” (Judgment).

The images are crisp and sharp, as you’d expect from a photo-based deck, but unlike the Golden Tarot by Kat Black no attempt was made to smooth the pieces into one united image. They’re all jumbled together, which forces the eye to jump around to make any sense of what you’re seeing. That’s kinda the point.

The four Aces of the Voyager Tarot.

The Aces of the Voyager Tarot. Here we can see the Suits. Cups and Wands are standard, but the Voyager switches out Swords for Crystals and Pentacles for Worlds.

The deck comes with a fairly informative little booklet, better than the standard LWB, but for $20 a specific Voyager guide is available. It’s even free for KU subscribers! I’d suggest it if you really want to dive into these. There are so many layers here that details can be missed if they’re not specifically pointed out.

Using the Deck

I’ll state straight-up that I do not use these cards for readings except in the very rarest of cases. That’s because these cards feel, for me, more like targeted scrying than cartomancy.

That’s not to say that others don’t read these all the time with fab results. They do. I, however, read the Voyager Tarot almost exclusively with free association. Sure I use basic Tarot keywords as I go, but nine times out of ten the meaning I draw from the card has less to do with those keywords and more to do with where my mind goes when my eyes catch on a certain image, or even a pattern of images across numerous cards.

That being said, these are excellent for meditations and creative visualization prompts. Their size is a bonus here as there’s more card to fall into. I don’t like them for Tarot-based spell work, because their scope makes that feel messy to me, but they rock for Card-a-Day pulls too. Anything more introspective or intuitively-based could easily benefit from adding these in.

I would absolutely not recommend these for a beginning cartomancer. However, if you’re strictly looking for a tool to help with self-development or meditation work it’s hard to go wrong with these, even if you’ve never touched another Tarot deck before. I’d also recommend these for scryers to are stepping into the world of Tarot for the first time, or for Tarot people who want to start scrying. They’re a fantastic bridge for that.

Available here, for less than $10 new if you go through a third party seller.

The Bright Idea Deck – Tarot Review

Three Trump cards from the Bright Idea Deck - Passage, Shadow, and Demolition.

I’m always on the lookout for new and innovative approaches to Tarot, so when I started hearing about The Bright Idea Deck I was intrigued. The more I heard the more I liked, and eventually I got it into my hot little hands.

Interestingly, this deck makes absolutely no claim to be a Tarot deck. That’s deliberate. It is a Tarot deck, but it’s marketed as a creativity and brainstorming tool in the Self Help/Business section.

That’s kind of fitting. Like any other Tarot deck, it can be used for divination, but it’s specifically designed to jump-start creativity and foster insight, especially in corporate settings. Suggestions in the book include using them for novel plotting and character development, marketing campaigns, party and event planning, and career navigation.

I was skeptical at first, but after working with them a bit I have to admit I kind of love them. They just have to be used within their intended design.

The Deck

The “bright idea” of this deck was realized by reconsidering and then redesigning everything about a traditional Tarot deck.

I’ve got to give major props for out-of-the-box thinking. What Mark McElroy came up with is recognizably Tarot, yet utterly unique and in line with his vision.

Some of that out-of-the-box thinking?

  1. The backs of the cards are standard reversible, but the borders on the face side of the cards are color-coded. Majors are purple, and the Minors are bordered in their associated color. I didn’t realize just how helpful that would be until I started looking for specific cards, or culling out the Majors for dedicated uses. The color-coding just jumps out. This isn’t the first deck in history to use this technique, but it’s not all that common either. After using it with this deck I kind of wish it was.

    Three cards from the Bright Idea Deck are showcased here, the two "helper" cards and the reversible back image. The rest of the deck is fanned out below, and the accompanying book's spine can be seen above.

    The deck comes with 78 face cards and two “helper” cards with black borders (the back image is in the center). The one on the left shows basic suit associations and the one on the right shows the way the pip cards are streamlined.

  2. Almost all occult anything has been stripped out. There are symbols scattered throughout the art, especially astrological ones, but honestly having them in the art is kind of gilding the lily. The keyword and the art together make reading these cards dead easy even without symbolic help.

    Blue 1 (the Ace of Cups) from the Bright Idea Deck.

    Let’s take this card, Blue 1 (equivalent to Ace of Cups). The astrological signs for Scorpio and Cancer are behind his head, but we don’t need them to interpret this card. The keyword is Motivation, and that’s what this card asks. What is your motivation? Rewards or praise? Avoiding punishment? Or simply swimming around your comfort zone and not making waves?

  3. The Majors have been significantly overhauled. If you know what you’re looking at they still retain their traditional roots, but every single one of them has been renamed and approached from a less esoteric (and less off-putting for newbies) angle.

    Three Trump cards from the Bright Idea Deck - Passage, Shadow, and Demolition.

    Here we see the three cards that most often disturb people new to Tarot: Passage (Death), Shadow (The Devil), and Demolition (The Tower). I personally adore Shadow – what a cool (yet creepy) interpretation of this card!

  4. The pips have been overhauled, too, and streamlined as steps in a process. I’ve seen other decks approach the pips as stages in a story, but it’s rare to see a deck make everything as consistent between suits as this one does.

    Yellow 9 and Yellow 10 from the Bright Idea Deck.

    Here we have Yellow 9 and Yellow 10. In Yellow 9 we see that the product is finished and is ready to go. We’ve accomplished our goal. Yellow 10 shows us what happens when we refuse to let it go and move on – we obsess over minutiae while neglecting research and development for the next project.

  5. The Court cards, y’all. We need to talk about those! Ranks and hierarchies were completely ditched. They’re called Approach cards here, and each shows an approach that can be taken to a situation. This might be my very favorite aspect of the whole deck, especially for newcomers to Tarot. It makes the Court much easier to understand! Again, it’s not a unique-to-this-deck approach, but it’s utilized here to amazing effect.

    The four Approach cards of the Red suit.

    The Red Approach cards.

The cards themselves are a bit stiff out of the box, but they’re perfectly shuffleable. They feel sturdy and aren’t too slippery to work with.

The horizontal tuck box everything comes in is flimsy, though, and honestly kind of useless once the plastic’s peeled off. There’s a bigger-than-the-deck well the shrink-wrapped cards are dropped into, an empty white cardboard insert that takes up space (although not enough space to keep the cards from banging around), and the book just sits on top of everything. It’s one of the least appealing packaging jobs I’ve ever seen for this kind of set. I’d suggest acquiring a sturdier box or bag for the cards at the same time you purchase the deck because you’ll need it immediately.

The full-size softback book is fantastic, though, which makes up for the shoddy packaging. It offers ways to use Tarot I’d never considered.

Speaking of which…

Using the Deck

The deck itself is innovative. The book continues the theme. It’s hard to find truly fresh takes on Tarot these days, but this provides a whole new toolkit to play with.

The first section lays out the deck and offers some usage suggestions/exercises. I’m used to seeing some unique spreads in these kinds of books, but the Bright Idea Deck goes beyond that to offer truly unique approaches.

One of my favorites is called “What Would the Trumps Do?”. The book compares the Trump cards to 22 wise advisors, each with their own powerful perspectives and tried-and-true strategies to bring to a problem. Regardless of the issue, the book says, it can be brought to the Trumps for insight and advice.

Three cards from the Bright Idea Deck.

Three Majors from The Bright Idea Deck. Here we see this deck’s interpretation of the Magician, the Star, and Justice.

Pull out all the Major Arcana cards, put them in order, turn on a recorder, and then ask “What would Freedom (the Fool) do?” while thinking about your situation. Spend no more than 30 seconds on it and spit out the first idea or approach the card suggests. Then move on, asking “What would Capability (the Magician) do?” and consider that card. If you draw a blank keep moving. Progress this way through all of the Majors. Twenty minutes later, when you’ve finished the exercise, you’ve got 22 new approaches to your situation. Not all of them will be doable or advisable, but there should be a few that at least hint at a new direction. I certainly get some interesting insight using this technique!

After that section, each card gets 2 scant pages of explanation (with no pictures, so keep the deck close as you go through it). There are a collection of keywords, then 5 open-ended questions to encourage the reader to make their own connections with the cards, and then a brief story-type thing about each card to explain the meanings of specific artistic elements. The author states at the beginning, though, that you should feel free to ignore what doesn’t work for you. That fosters intuition from the get-go. Journaling is highly recommended with this deck!

Personally, I don’t find these to be cards for deep spiritual exploration (although I do occasionally use them for #CardaDay pulls). I also don’t like them for Tarot-based spellwork or altar meditations. If you prioritize those uses I’d suggest looking elsewhere. However, the Bright Idea Deck shines for more mundane introspection and really does encourage brainstorming. I also find the emphasis on process to be incredibly helpful – this is the deck I turn to for project kick-starts. The removal of traditional Tarot imagery makes them palatable for those who shy away from excessive “woo-woo stuff”, but it can also limit more esoteric interpretations.

Many of the qualities that make these cards fresh and unique also make them especially suited for Tarot beginners. If this deck appeals then, by all means, pick it up! You’ll have to order it because it’s out of print, but there are lots available online. However, please do realize that this is not a standard deck. If you plan to start here and eventually move on to other decks, know that the transition might be more jarring than if you’d started with something a little more traditional. That’s by no means stated to dissuade you, but it is something to keep in mind.

On a totally personal note, there are a few blonde guys in suits, like in the Capability card, that remind me entirely too much of Melon Mussolini. I find that to be hella distracting when I read. Now that this review is done I plan to go through the deck with a Sharpie and change the blondes into brunettes. It’s my deck. I can do that.

Available here for about $15.

The Five Keys – Unlocking Meaning in Tarot Readings

Note: This wound up being more advanced than I usually address on this blog. It’s aimed at those doing readings for others. I considered not posting it at all, then figured someone out there might be able to use it. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below!

There’s more to reading Tarot than memorizing the little white book that comes with the deck. Sure, we need to learn what each card means, but we have to go beyond that to best serve our clients.

Luckily there are Five Keys to help us unlock the meanings of our readings. The more we as readers utilize these Keys the more accurate and applicable our interpretations will be.

The Five Keys are Question, Art, Placement, Relationships, and Follow Through.

1) Question

Tarot is a tool that helps us answer various questions. We need to understand those questions before we can use the tool. That’s what this Key is all about, and this part of a reading takes place before the cards are even shuffled. It sets the stage for everything that follows.

If the client comes in with a clearly thought out, simple, and concise question, then yay! They’ve already done the heavy lifting with this Key, so we can use it as-is and quickly move on.

That’s not always the case, though. Some clients, especially first-timers, go to a reader because the situation they’re dealing with is confusing or overwhelming and they’re a bit lost. The sign that I look for here is a client who, when asked what they’d like to read about today, offers up a whole explanation instead of a simple sentence.

A woman holds her temples with a confused expression in front of a chalkboard covered in squiggles and arrows. Caption reads

I think we’ve all seen this before. Hell, I think we’ve all been this before!

That gushing, stammering, stuttering explanation is a plea for help. Help them.

It might be that the situation appears overwhelming because they’re not seeing it clearly. For instance, let’s say they ask about changing jobs, but everything they say about why has to do with this one coworker they can’t stand. Readers can help by pointing that out and talking it over with the client. Maybe the question they really want to answer isn’t about changing jobs so much as how to most effectively deal with the coworker. Figuring that out before we begin gives us a totally different read.

Or maybe the situation appears overwhelming because they’re lumping several separate things into one overwhelming issue. This is often the case when multiple issues inspire a similar emotion. The client focuses on the emotion and doesn’t see what all is feeding it. As a reader, we can help them untangle that big knot into separate threads and then read each one individually. That leads to the resolution the client sought in the first place.

2) Art

The art of the card itself can help us interpret it. We’re all drawn to different styles of decks, right? There are also types of decks that we find easier to read than others. Those decks, for whatever reason, work with our minds and intuition in a cohesive way. So let’s use that!

Run your gaze across the card while considering the client and how this card might apply to their situation. Does something about the art jump out at you? If so, free associate with that symbol to see how it might influence the reading.

Strength, from the Voyager Tarot.

Strength, from the Voyager Tarot. The collage style of this deck is particularly suited to this technique.

For instance, take the above card. The book meanings of the Strength card all tend to reference inner strength or self-control. That’s fine as far as it goes, but how incredibly vague! There are lots of different kinds of inner strength and ways for it to manifest. To truly help our clients we need to get more specific and narrow this down some.

When we gaze at this card, maybe our eye is drawn to the butterfly. That could indicate a need to focus on the Strength that comes through change and evolution. Or maybe our eye goes straight to the ancient ruins in the background. That could indicate that the Strength of endurance might be more applicable in this reading. The flowers? There is Strength in expressing our vulnerabilities, too, and it’s one many overlook.

The Magician from the Rider-Waite Tarot.

The Magician, from the Rider-Waite Tarot. This technique works on traditional decks too!

Or gaze at this card. There’s a lot of symbolism here, and where your eye catches can direct the thrust of your interpretation. Does your eye catch on his hands? That symbolizes bridging the gap between the heavens and the earth. Maybe this card is referring to the client’s ability to bridge a different kind of gap. If your gaze lingers on the chalice, this card probably has a lot to do with an emotional-type question. The red of his robes? Maybe the client needs to seek out more worldly and material forms of attainment (which is what that red robe symbolizes).

Clients rarely go to a reader for abstract philosophical expositions of where they are in their current karmic cycle or whatever. They want applicable answers to their present concerns. This technique helps us give that to them.

3) Placement

Every book I’ve ever picked up on Tarot has a whole section on spreads. There’s a reason for that. Spreads offer placement-dependent questions that further clarify the card’s meaning.

Perhaps the most famous spread is the Celtic Cross.

My version of the Celtic Cross, showing the order in which I lay out the cards and what each position means.

This is the version of the Celtic Cross I use (which is why you’re all stuck with a graphic made in Paint). Cards 1-6 are the Cross and 7-10 are the Staff. Don’t worry if your version of the Celtic Cross is different from mine – there are a thousand variations on this particular spread. Experiment and find the one that works for you.

Let’s say we’re doing a reading and the previously-mentioned Strength card pops up in the Celtic Cross. It gains shades of meaning depending on which position of the spread it’s in.

Is Strength the Covering card? That’s where the client is right now. However, if that same card is in the Crossing position, then Strength – either a deficit or a surfeit – is a challenge that must be overcome. If in the Above position Strength is a goal to which the client aspires (perhaps indicating a current position of powerlessness or helplessness, or attempts to move out of such a state), while in the Advice position Strength is something they need to address the conflict.

See how much the position changes the emphasis? Combine that with a clear question and free association of the card’s art and deep, intricate meanings start jumping out!

4) Relationships

Cards are not read in isolation (unless we’re doing a quick one-card pull, anyway!). They’re read in relationship to each other, and those relationships invite conversations between the cards. It’s those conversations that lift a session from “interpreting a series of individual cards” to “doing a reading”.

Let’s look at that Celtic Cross again (and reuse that splendid graphic). There are some obvious links between cards to explore there.

A diagram shows relationships between cards of the Celtic Cross.

Relationships between cards of the Celtic Cross.

First, we have the Covering and Crossing cards. Those obviously relate to each other, and even the name of the Crossing card tells us that this is a little Cross in the middle of the big one. So look at them together. What do they have to say to each other?

Then we’ve got the arms of the Cross to look at. Vertically we’ve got Above, Covering/Crossing, and Below. This whole axis gives us amazing insight into the client, showing us where they’re at right now and what factors are most influencing them. How do all of these cards work together? If Above and Below – their goals and what drives them – are complimentary then moving forward is easier. However, if they’re working against each other then resolving that disconnect in the Now might be necessary before forward progress can be made. (Look to the Advice card for insight here.) How does their Crossing card relate to the goal or what drives them? Does it? Or is it just an irritation that distracts them from where their focus should more productively be? Lots to pick through here!

The horizontal axis of Behind, Covering/Crossing, and Before is a straight-up timeline. How did the Behind card contribute to the current situation, and how will the momentum those cards create together lead into the immediate future? This clarifies the whole thrust of the current situation.

Once we’ve done all that we’ve got the Staff to work with. Interpret the cards individually in their places, then take in the reading as a whole. Is the Outcome something the client is happy with? If so, excellent. Carry on then. If not, though, the future’s not set. We can change it if we like, and now that we have an overview of the whole thing we can look at ways to do that. For instance, maybe the Advice card could be shifted to get the client where they want to go.

Now we can start tying the cards of the Staff to each other and back to the Cross.

Compare the Above card to the Outcome card. Are they in alignment? If so, then the Outcome shows the client’s goal is reached. If not, then either the goal is misunderstood (by the reader or the client) or the Outcome is not desired. Clarify that and come up with possible approaches to reconcile those cards.

Does what’s going on Below have anything to do with our Hopes/Fears? Would dealing with what’s going on in one change the other?

How does the Others card relate to the Crossing card? If they’re related, then there may be a way to defuse the external drama and thus deal with the conflict. If they’re not, then the struggle may be more internal to the client. Perhaps Others can assist with easing it.

I could keep going, but you can see what I mean here. The cards aren’t static in their places. They talk to each other. Regardless of the spread you choose to use in your readings, use the relationships between the cards to further clarify and amplify your interpretations.

5) Follow Through 

This is the Key that happens when the reading is done and we’ve gotten all we can from the cards. We can’t just say “ok, we’re done here – have a great day!”. Clients come to us for perspectives, tips, and ideas they can apply to their lives. What can they do, on a practical level, to navigate their challenges and reach their goals after they walk out the door, hang up the phone, or close their email?

Sometimes they need to open themselves to a new way of approaching or looking at the situation, or work on some personal development that will assist with the current situation. I’ll often draw a “for further thought” card at the end of everything and recommend that they meditate on it for the next little bit. That can help. (As a nice touch, email them a picture of the card you drew for them or recommend they find an example online they prefer. This is especially useful for phone or online readings.)

Another idea in the same vein is suggesting an affirmation to help them focus on attaining their goals. One I offered recently is “I am a strong, fierce, fabulous woman who stands my ground”. Work with the client to come up with something that works for them, then make sure they have a copy.

Cleansing baths, spelled candles, and charged stones are all wonderful options here too. For in-person readings, I like to charge a glass pebble with good vibes towards their goal and gift it to them.

Be creative!

From clarifying the question to following through, these Five Keys are designed to help us as readers best support our clients on their journeys. Try using them in your next reading to unlock the meanings in your readings!

Gilded Tarot – Tarot Review

I clearly remember when I found the Gilded Tarot by Ciro Marchetti.

I was surfing the internet and listening to Mark Knopfler’s Shangri-La when I stumbled across some Tarot pictures that blew me away. I was absolutely captivated by the fantasy-meets-steampunk vibe of the deck. I found all the pictures available, getting more and more excited, and within about 30 minutes I blew off my college-student budget and ordered it. I had to have it.

The week of ramen afterward was worth it.

The Deck

This is a review of that original deck, so I can’t speak to the card stock quality of the newer ones. The one I have, though, is my absolute favorite deck for shuffling. (Note: I bridge shuffle every Tarot deck I have and get frustrated if I can’t. So there’s that.)

It’s also been over 10 years of heavy use since I first opened the box. The edges are a bit worn, and the original box is toast (I use a bag now), but the cards still shuffle better than any other deck I have

And the art! The art is exquisite. Seriously breath-taking. Here, look:

Six Major Arcana cards from the Gilded Tarot.

Six Major Arcana cards from the Gilded Tarot. The High Priestess and the Hierophant are my favorites.

See the light? These cards seem to glow from within. How cool is that? The colors are vibrant and vivid, the cards themselves are lush, and the textures (check out the Empress’s dress!) are fantastic. He used real faces for the figures too, which gives them realistic expressions and life-like proportions. What’s not to love?

Marchetti digitally drew every card. It’s obviously based on traditional Rider-Waite-Smith imagery, making it easy for RWS people to pick it up, but the art has Marchetti’s own unique and visionary flair. The Gilded ditches the standard medieval backgrounds in favor of a more cosmic setting, including stars, planets, and the occasional comet. I find that especially fitting for the Majors, as they reflect a universal theme, but it works for the Minors too.

Using the Deck

I find this to be an unusually responsive deck. Some readers are turned off by the Gilded’s combination of mysticism and technology, but I find that a plus. We live in a technological world – why shouldn’t our cards reflect that? I don’t want every card to look like a circuit board or anything, but I find the fantasy/steampunk feel here awesome. (I also do cybermancy, though, so take that as you will.)

This is actually a fine deck for beginners. It’s RWS inspired, but it doesn’t have the dense Golden Dawn symbolism of the original RWS. What symbolism it does have is easily understood by modern readers, too.

Don’t take that to mean this deck is stripped down, though. I’ve been reading for 20+ years and still enjoy using this deck. I use it with clients, too. There’s nothing stripped down about it.

If you’re just starting out and are drawn to this deck, by all means, grab it! The publisher even made it easy for you and released it as a kit. It’s called The Easy Tarot and packages the Gilded Tarot deck with a Tarot 101 book.

Don’t need the intro book? The Gilded Tarot is also available here with a much more basic companion book. I wouldn’t bother with it, though – the kit has the exact same deck and is about $8 cheaper on Amazon.