Jac Reviews: Tarot Art Nouveau

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The Devil and the Two of Cups, some of the more interesting cards of Tarot Art Nouveau

Thank you for joining us for another of Jac’s reviews!

Today I’m reviewing the Tarot Art Nouveau, illustrated by Antonella Castelli. She was able to draw inspiration from the classic design of tarot to develop a flow of color that washes throughout her images. She keeps the focus primarily on human figure and their emotions in this deck.

I’m struck by the soft coloring contrasted with bold outlines to create a feel of watercolor that bleeds through every picture. Some of them are difficult to draw meaning from, however, even if you are familiar with tarot. While many reflect their inspiration from the classic design, others are too ambiguous to attach a clear explanation.

The Devil and the Two of Cups, for example, are clearly new creative visions of the cards. Far removed from Smith’s symbolism, these images still express the intent of tarot schema upon which concepts are built. The Devil looks devious, yet alluring, and the 2 of Cups shows a deeply close relationship.

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The Five of Pentacles, Ten of Pentacles, and Five of Chalices focus more on pretty figures than their meanings.

In contrast, however, we have the Five of Chalices and Coins along with the Ten of Coins. Fives normally express hardship and loss in their extremes, where these women seem a bit downcast there’s nothing to suggest pain or despair. The joy and fulfillment of success is absent from the 10 of Cups, as well. She looks rather blasé instead of even expressing subtle emotions, like pride or contentment.

It is a Lo Scarabeo deck. These offer a multilingual review of the card meanings and a basic layout for readings in its manual. Additionally, every card has its name written in the corners so many people can use them. While all tarot readings should have a variety of interpretations, I’m amused by the more literal approach. The small booklet itself also provides a generally adequate explanation of what each card represents.

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Backs of the Mini and standard decks

The full size deck and the mini deck both have a gloss finish which makes them slick to slide well across themselves for swirl shuffling. The card stock is comfortably thick, so I don’t feel as though I’m damaging them with every use. The back of the standard size deck has a bilateral image of The Fool, while the mini has a unilateral framing of Justice. The color seems a gentle wash in its larger form, rather than bold splashing in miniature.

The Art Nouveau style has always clashed with industrial design in favor of a organically inspired creation. The lines curve and flow, often blending nature and humanity. Within this deck you can feel the style held constantly. It does seem like the focus was more about illustrate a beautiful form over being able to express meaning behind the deck. Regardless, I don’t find it to detract from the cards usability and it’s a deck I have made great use of.

Like the look of this deck and want to try it for yourself? Click the links below to purchase!

Tarot Art Nouveau

Tarot Art Nouveau Mini

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Tarot Art Nouveau

The Spells Deck: A Tarot Tuesday Deck Review

IMG_20200310_175123-01When it comes to what decks I actually read from, I tend towards relatively traditional tarot decks with lovely new artwork interpretations. But I can’t help myself: If I see a deck that is particularly odd, unusual, or even silly I will be tempted to buy it.

So, on a recent road trip, The Spells Deck by Cat Cabral, with illustrations by Kim Knoll, caught my eye and, well, I bought it.

I will be clear right off the bat: this deck is not a tarot deck and does not claim to be one. The back of the (rather nice, sturdy box) reads:

“Enhance your life with magic. This enchanting deck features 78 rituals, spells, and recipes for love, empowerment, healing, and so much more. Brimming with alluring illustrations and powerful practices rooted in ancient traditions, this illuminating deck makes it easy to infuse each day with the wonders of magic.”

IMG_20200310_175346-01Interestingly, the deck does have 78 cards like most tarot decks, but as this is not a tarot deck there are no suits or arcana. Instead, each card gives you a mini magical lesson and a small way to practice what you learn. The cards come in eight categories: Witch’s Tools, Language of Magic, Bonds of Love, Abundance and Good Fortune, Rites of Purification and Renewal, Fires of Passion and Creativity, Intuitive Awareness, and Witch’s Familiars. It comes with a small pamphlet with some additional magical basics and suggestions on how to use the deck.

The deck has a nice feel to it – standard size, with a satiny finish and a relatively standard weight. I did have a couple of cards get wrinkles through them apparently in the printing process.

IMG_20200310_175235-01I have to disagree with the assessment of “alluring illustrations.” The card backs are kind of mediocre modern art, with a different color scheme/swatch and line combo for each of the subject categories. Each card has an icon and title in a sort of gold/mustard yellow, and otherwise is very plain text. The simplicity is easy to read, and illustrations are not really needed for that purpose, but as a very visual person that description is deceiving.

The information here is basic, but it covers the basics well. This is an interesting way to present the magical learning I have read many times in an easily digestible format. Kind of like flash cards for the baby witch. And as someone more experienced, I am mostly pleased with the information they presented. I am particularly happy with everything they decided to include in the “Witch’s Tools” section. I am confused by what deities it chose to include: mentions of Greco-Roman gods and Orishas, but not really any other pantheons, strikes me as an odd choice and I honestly wonder whether that was consciously thought out or not.

Honestly, aside from the novelty of the deck that was the reason I bought it, I can see two solid uses for this deck:

  • A solid beginning for the new witch who wants to take things in smaller doses
  • A good daily practice deck for the witch who wants to make magic a better habit and can use the cards as a daily refresher.

This sound interesting to you? Use the image below to share this article on Pinterest or other platforms, and click on the link below to buy this deck from Amazon:

The Spells Deck: 78 Charms, Remedies, and Rituals for the Modern Mystic

The Spells Deck

Tarot Tuesday: Jac Reviews The Steampunk Tarot

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Our wonderful Jac Smith is on hand in shop to read the tarot cards for you, and she’s sharing insights into the decks she has used. Enjoy!

First up, I have The Steampunk Tarot. The manual is written by Barbra Moore and the deck is illustrated by Aly Fell. Initial impressions are of how much effort was placed into creating the correct atmosphere for the deck. It tries to capture both the inspiration and the darkness of industrialism.  It must find a way to express the aesthetic tone of a diverse alternative history, while at the same time holding true to the Smith deck design. Striking the correct balance of creative originality and upholding a century of tradition proved to be a bit more discordant than I would have liked.

Moore proves she has a great deal of experience with the tarot in her writing. She can clearly articulate between conventional meanings and their variant interpretations as well as understanding the importance of reading cards together collectively instead of taking a meaning in isolation. Her wisdom shines when she acknowledges that cards can represent positive and negative aspects, but that it is essential to recognize these for what they can teach us and never placidly accept fate as immutable.

While she has been inspired by this subculture and has a sincere desire to portray it within her writing, it comes off as being somehow misplaced. Moore’s familiarity with tarot just doesn’t extend into Steampunk as well as she would like. Her passion for the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres are clear, but Steampunk requires a more narrow lens. The analogies feel forced and comparisons cliche. What emphasizes their awkwardness is that such descriptions seem placed so deliberately as though she needed to make the association. Instead of appreciation for a subculture it looks like it has been extraneously attached to the tarot.

The artwork is also clashing between the tones of inspiring and contrived. There is a dramatic flash that illuminates the entire deck with starkly bold light that directs the attitude of every image. The color is vibrantly over saturated like walking through a dream. Symbols have been altered and even gender has taken a delightful flip to accent that we all may hold the traits of Knights and Knaves! Yet these changes only highlight the traditions that were held to in the design process. Many cards look just as they would a 100 years ago, but now that there is a little brass paint and some gears included. There are also a handful that seem as though they have no design inspiration at all, and are instead loose pin-up pieces that were shuffled into the deck.

The cards themselves are thin with a gloss finish. Being thin aided in their maneuverability at first but I’m finding the wear on them concerning. They didn’t require being shuffled countless times to be broken in though. Their glossy coat can make a classic riffle shuffle a bit tricky for some, but if you prefer to “mix the pot” I’m sure that it would benefit. All reverse cards will be noticeable with a back design that is not symmetrical, however this deck places no great significance on card orientation for interpretive purposes.

Overall I’m happy that someone tried with all sincerity to capture the spirit of Steampunk in these cards, but by its very nature it cannot be contained. Every accomplishment is only another step forward in progress to which there can be no terminus. I’m delighted to see that such a strong foundation in the tarot was laid so you can see all that was built upon. With that effort it is easy to see where boundaries were stretched and creativity pushed to its edge. Not every goal was reached, but that too is essential in growing. It is necessary to imagine what we could do to improve upon the past and this deck encapsulates that sentiment perfectly.

We carry the Steampunk Tarot in store, or use the Amazon link below to help support our website!

 The Steampunk Tarot

Steampunk Tarot Deck Review

Tarot Tuesday: Food Fortunes

I’ve said before that I am a collector of tarot cards. When it comes to decks, there are two things I can’t resist: unusual art decks and good humorous decks. That’s why on a recent mall trip I could not leave without Food Fortunes by Josh Lafayette.

Food Fortunes follows a standard tarot format of 78 cards… but takes it in its own way.  The Trumps are “cornerstones of iconic cuisine.” Then there are its four unique suits: Mains, Sides, Sweets, and Drinks.

The deck has one purpose, and it embraces it with a delightful sense of humor: helping you decide what’s for dinner. Or breakfast. Or a midnight snack. The book is short and simple, and the illustrations clear and colorful with just enough of a hint of mystic imagery.

I tried my first hand for a meal for tomorrow, and here’s the result.

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The interpretation of this reading – tomorrow’s meal will not have any salad. In fact, it’s not a healthy meal at all, but clearly a dessert! In fact, it’s a unique drink somewhere between a cola float and an egg cream, with pie added in. Sounds crazy, but I have seen some crazy desserts! On the side, an orange juice.

This deck is more of a novelty image, but it will be a fun addition to my growing collection.

 

Looking to grow your collection? We have several new decks coming in to the shop at the end of this week, so stop by Saturday to have first pick of what’s new! Or look at our deck section of our Facebook store.