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 I’ve never seen 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.

Tarot Decks for Beginners

Let’s say you’ve never touched a deck before in your life but want to learn Tarot. Or maybe you’ve been reading for years and want to know what to recommend to students. Please don’t automatically reach for the standard Rider-Waite! There are better options!

I know them are fightin’ words for some of us, so let me explain.

What makes a good beginner deck? 

New students aren’t looking to do professional readings right off the bat, so they don’t need to look for decks with that in mind. Instead, they need a deck that will get them familiar with Tarot structure, ground them in basic meanings and associations, and introduce them to intuitive card interpretation. Once those skills are firmly in place the student can move on to more challenging decks and broaden their basic skill set.

In my opinion, the best decks for beginners hit the following few points:

  1. A good deck consists of the standard 78 cards, broken into the standard Major and Minor Arcanas with Court cards. The names and associations can deviate from the traditional, and the Majors can be reordered, but they all need to be there.
  2. A good deck is approachable. There should be something about it that is familiar, comforting, or interesting enough to immediately engage the person using it. This is completely up to individual preference.
  3. A good deck ideally relies on stories instead of complex symbolism to convey meaning. If meaning is conveyed symbolically, the symbols need to be carefully chosen, easily understood, and as minimal as possible.
  4. The art of a good deck is at least moderately attractive, and all labels are clear. This is, again, a wholly personal choice.
  5. It’s readily available and affordable (preferably under $25, but definitely under $50).

So which decks hit all the notes?

Recommended Beginner Decks

These are my nine beginner picks. A few might even surprise you! They run the gamut of themes and approaches while meeting my requirements and staying true to the essence of Tarot.

They are, in alphabetical order:

The Beginner’s Guide to Tarot Kit (aka the Sharman-Caselli Tarot)

If a student must go with a straight-up RWS-style this is my absolute favorite of the bunch. The creators deliberately stripped out most of the esoteric Golden Dawn stuff and simplified the presentation. They wound up with a deck that has the feel and associations of the original Rider-Waite without all the extraneous bits that can confuse newcomers. The book works well as an intro to Tarot, too.

sharman-caselli

Three cards from the Beginner’s Guide to Tarot, a simplified and approachable version of the Rider-Waite.

Available here for about $30, book included.

The Bright Idea Deck

Marketing-wise this isn’t a Tarot deck (even though it totally is). It’s been pitched to businesses and professionals as a way to “generate ideas, expand creative expression, and stimulate thought processes”. As a result, there’s almost no esoterica in this deck, making it uniquely accessible to beginners and those turned off by overt mysticism.

bright-idea

The Bright Idea Tarot. Here we see this deck’s interpretation of the Magician, the Star, and Justice.

One of my favorite aspects of the deck is that the companion book offers more open-ended questions than it does rock-solid meanings. That encourages the reader to engage their intuition from Day One, as opposed to having to learn over time to trust themselves enough to step away from the book when necessary.

This Tarot is fantastic for practical application. It’s not very suited for deep spiritual reflection, though. Students may also find it challenging to move from this to another deck, especially with the way the Minor Arcana is streamlined. For those attracted to this one, I’d suggest also eventually getting a more traditional Tarot for meditation purposes. That’ll make it easier to transition to other decks when you want to spread your wings. I review it in depth here.

Available here for about $15, book included.

The Gaian Tarot

The Gaian Tarot shows people experiencing spiritual moments during daily activities and while out in nature. Those students focusing on conscious living and environmentalism in the modern world might find this to be a very comfortable deck. It is softened yet powerful. It’s also inclusive, which is very welcome in a Tarot deck!

gaian

The Gaian Tarot. The Guardian of Water is one of my favorites in the deck, the Three of Earth shows a modern kitchen, and the Strength card resonates with serene power.

The Gaian Tarot is very Rider-Waite-like in structure, but some of the card names have been changed to reflect the deck’s theme. The Court cards were carefully balanced for gender (two men and two women for each rank), which I like, and associated ranks have been changed to stages of life (Child/Explorer/Guardian/Elder). Traditional suits are dropped in favor of elements: Pentacles, Swords, Wands, and Cups become Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. The book is solid, too, so bonus.

Available here for about $30, book and awesome box included.

The Mythic Tarot

This is my standard recommendation for beginners. It’s based on Greek mythology, giving those who have studied it a nice sense of familiarity with the deck. Major Arcana and Court cards are associated with a specific story or mythic figure, while the pip cards take us step-by-step through a story associated with the given suit. That makes the cards much easier to remember!

majors

The Mythic Tarot. Here the Lovers card depicts the Judgment of Paris, The Star shows Pandora opening the box, and The High Priestess evokes the whole story of Persephone’s abduction.

I’ve already done a fairly in-depth review of this deck here. The original, which I prefer art-wise, requires a bit of hunting down and can be expensive. However, the NEW Mythic Tarot, with “updated” art, is available here for under $10. I also highly recommend the workbook, available here for the New Mythic and here for the original. I’d say get the book for the original version regardless of which version of the Mythic you go with, though, as the information is the same and it’s much cheaper. Yay bargains!

The Pagan Tarot

Ok, the Pagan Tarot is one of a kind. The structure and meanings of the Rider-Waite are maintained, but all the art is thoroughly and completely modern. There are cars and computers in here! It focuses more on scenes from day-to-day life than esoterica, which makes this deck easily relatable for those new to Tarot. It’s also very Wiccan in focus, so that may or may not appeal.

pagan

The Pagan Tarot. Here we have a fantastic modern interpretation of the Hermit, a relatable Nine of Pents, and a Death card showing the transition of between “old self” and “new self” that happens during initiation.

As a note for those interested, this deck is careful to balance genders among the Court cards. Not surprising for a Wiccan-based deck, but still worth mentioning. I don’t personally like how it’s done (Swords and Wands for men, Cups and Pentacles for women), but I do appreciate that an attempt was made in that direction.

Available here for about $30, book included.

The Tell Me Tarot

Think of this deck as a Rider-Waite with training wheels. The artwork is vastly simplified and interpretation suggestions are actually written on the face of every card! This makes getting started much less frustrating – going back and forth to a book sucks. This deck doesn’t even bother with a book. Instead, it comes with a couple of extra cards that give the barest of basics and lets the cards clarify themselves.

tell-me

The Tell Me Tarot. On the face, we can see both a cartoony version of traditional Rider-Waite symbolism as well as some text. The traditional name is given, as is a keyword and card alignment (whether it’s generally a more positive or negative card). After that come interpretation suggestions.

This is definitely a transition deck. It’s excellent for beginners and sets them up well to move on to other Rider-Waite decks, but they will need to move on – and fairly quickly at that – if they want to get deeper into the cards. Students may find it worth the investment, though.

Available here for about $20.

The Science Tarot

In the Science Tarot, traditional mysticism has been exchanged for scientific theory. It works remarkably well. Also, since we did learn science in school and didn’t learn mysticism it’s wonderful for the beginner. We might have to think back to our school days or look up things that we’ve forgotten, but the meanings come across brilliantly.

While it’s set up in Rider-Waite fashion, the art and associations are quite different. Here the Major Arcana have all been associated with scientific stories or concepts, such as Schrodinger’s Cat for the Wheel of Fortune. The traditional Pentacles/Swords/Wands/Cups suits are instead Magnifying Glasses/Scalpels/Bunsen burners/Beakers. Court ranks have been exchanged theme-wise as well while keeping standard meanings, and each one is associated with a famous scientist. There’s even some gender exchange in the Court, which is always a plus for me.

science

The Science Tarot. Here we have a Major, Court, and Minor card.

As a bonus for the scientific and mathematically minded there are equations and formulae scattered all throughout the art. Have fun finding them!

Available here for about $25.

The Whimsical Tarot

Don’t let the cutesy art fool you – this is a fantastic beginner Tarot that can grow with you. Designed by the same woman responsible for the classic Hanson-Roberts Tarot, all of the images here are drawn from fairy tales and nursery rhymes. That gives us access to a ton of nuance we already know!

The cards that can scare Tarot novices are rendered in a friendlier fashion, too. For example, Death is Sleeping Beauty, the Devil shows Pinnochio as a puppet, and the Tower is the Wolf blowing down the house of the Little Pigs. We know that the situation was transitory for the characters in all of those stories, which reassures us that the scary stuff can pass for us as well.

whimsical

The Whimsical Tarot. Notice how the label for the Major Arcana card isn’t static. The numbers are, but the labels are placed differently depending on the card.

I will say that the book is pretty lame, though. It’s super small and the descriptions are brief. It doesn’t even tell us which story the card comes from! Not to worry – this list gives us the stories in case we can’t figure them out, and we can use those to flesh out the sparse meanings. There’s also a full-length book you can get for this, but it’s so pricey I wouldn’t bother unless you love the deck. It’s certainly not necessary.

Available here for about $20.

The Wizards Tarot

Into Harry Potter? Give this deck a whirl! From the get-go, we’re pulled onto the campus of a Hogwarts-esque school called the Mandrake Academy. Each of the Major Arcana cards is reimagined as a Professor of various magickal disciplines, while the Rider-Waite-inspired Minor Arcana cards show students of the school. The Court cards depict elemental creatures associated with the suit.

wizards

Three cards from the Wizards Tarot. The Initiate is the Fool, starting their magickal education. We can see Mandrake Academy in the background of the Six of Cups. The Hanged Man is also the Professor of Runes, particularly fitting in this location when we consider Norse lore about the origin of the runes.

One of the coolest things about this deck is the companion book, which is a pretty entertaining combo of Tarot guidebook and Basic Magick 101. Each Major Arcana card teaches both a practical magickal technique and has its very own associated spread. How cool is that?

Available here, and the most expensive one I saw was $30. Make absolutely sure you get the one with the 200+ page book that came out in 2011, too. The 2014 version’s 80-page booklet just isn’t the same.

Have any others you’d like to recommend? Let me know in the comments!

The Mythic Tarot – Tarot Review

As many of you know I’ve been hard at work on my new and unique Tarot deck. Add in the fact that I’m now advertising my reading services and I’ve been breathing Tarot. Because of that, I thought it would be wonderful to present some of my Tarot favorites and go into a bit about why I like them. Even if you don’t read Tarot, the symbolism is fabulous and the art is gorgeous.

Yes, this will be a series. 🙂 Bring on the Tarot reviews!

To kick things off I thought I would start with my favorite deck for beginners. And it’s not the Rider-Waite!

The Cards

The Mythic Tarot was first published in 1986 and has gone on to become a classic. There are now two versions, though. The Mythic Tarot is the original, and the New Mythic Tarot has redrawn the art while keeping the meanings and associations. The art of the original is kinda meh – I’m not a fan of this style, and even within the style the figures are very stiff-looking – but I loathe the art of the New Mythic Tarot. Loathe it. It’s a personal preference, and I’m sure there are a ton of people who prefer the new one, but there ya go.

The Eight of Swords from the Mythic Tarot is displayed next to the Eight of Swords from the New Mythic Tarot.

The Eight of Swords. The original Mythic Tarot is on the left, and the New Mythic Tarot is on the right. And I have to ask – what the hell, y’all?

Either way the art’s not the reason I recommend the Mythic to beginners. It’s the structure that sets this deck apart.

Every card of the Major Arcana is based on a story or figure from Greek mythology, and most of us are at least a little familiar with that without trying. That gives us a little familiarity right from the start.

Additionally, the image on the card isn’t meant to be symbolic solely on its own, it’s meant to evoke underlying mythic associations in the reader. How nifty is that? Not only does it lend scope to the reading, it makes the meanings of the cards MUCH easier to remember.

majors

The Lovers depicts the Judgment of Paris, The Star shows Pandora opening the box, and The High Priestess encapsulates Persephone’s story.

The Minors (1-10) are set up in a similar fashion, but each suit is a story. Every card reveals the next stage of the narrative in a linear fashion. The story of Eros and Psyche, from meeting through struggles to happily-ever-after, makes up the Cups. We learn about Daedalus the Artisan and get to see how success and failure manifest throughout his life in the Pentacles. Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece is depicted in the Wands.  Orestes and the curse on his family are explored through the Swords, and I really appreciate how this deck doesn’t try to downplay the conflicts of this suit or the story.

Through this story-based technique the memorization required for 40 cards is handily reduced to four stories, prompted by the pictures on each card but not limited by them. I love that, and it helped me move from book-reliant reader to intuitive reader.

The Court cards are my least favorite part of this deck, but for me that’s pretty par for the course. (I don’t tend to like Court cards. *shrug*) Each figure is associated with their own story, and while they’re harder to remember than the Majors they still serve the purpose.

Using the Cards

If you’re an experienced reader the booklet that comes with the deck should be fine. You’ll need it, though, because while these are very close to standard Rider-Waite meanings they’re not exact. If you’re new to Tarot in general I’d recommend picking up The Mythic Tarot Workbook with the deck. It offers exercises for getting more in touch with the stories and symbology of the cards, giving a much firmer foundation to start with.

Available here.