The HooDoo Tarot is an amazing deck that I am adding to my rotation of cards used for my daily Tarot readings for the collective. Published in 2020, this deck is a powerful divination tool and can also serve as a way to connect with the ancestors. Deck creator Tayannah Lee McQuillar did a great job of applying HooDoo concepts to the 78-card structure of the traditional Tarot. The result is a deck that is completely unique. It is beautifully illustrated by Katelan V. Folsy.
For many African Americans, bits and pieces of HooDoo tradition are interwoven into our everyday lives, whether we are aware of it or not. Because HooDoo is not centralized, many of the practices and philosophies are casually passed down through the generations and thus can be taken for granted. Using this deck has helped me connect more fully with my cultural background. However, anyone regardless of cultural identity can enjoy this deck. Watch the video here for details about the HooDoo tradition, the Tarot deck, and my impressions about it all.
This beautiful deck, illustrated by Tomás Hijo, was inspired by movies of director Guillermo del Toro. It called to me because of the strange and beautiful images, as well as my connection to del Toro’s movie “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Check out the video for the full review.
The Illuminated Tarot (2017; by Caitlin Keegan) is a beautiful 53-card deck “for divination and gameplay,” as the guidebook says. Strictly speaking, it is not a Tarot deck but rather an Oracle deck. However, the card meanings assigned to the Illuminated Tarot includes many of the same interpretations as in the traditional Tarot.
The artwork is fun and fanciful. I could actually see these images being in an adult coloring book, which I hope doesn’t sound like an insult, because it’s not intended to be. These images make me happy and that is why I was drawn to this deck.
Getting to the more technical aspects, the suits follow those of a regular deck of playing cards with spades, diamonds, hearts, and clubs. These correspond, in order, to the swords, pentacles, cups, and wands of the Tarot. Like in a regular deck of playing cards, the suits are numbered from 1 to 10 and there is a jack, queen, and king. The 53rd card in the Illuminated Tarot deck is the Joker, also known as the Fool. It is given the number 0.
The interpretations of the Illuminated Tarot only loosely follow the Rider -Waite, with less of an emphasis on astrology and numerology. It might help for a reader to know something about the traditional Tarot to get the most from this deck, but a beginner who trusts their intuition could start reading the Illuminated Tarot right away. Keep in mind that using this deck won’t necessarily help a new reader learn traditional Tarot meanings.
For instance, the focus of the Ten of Swords in the Rider-Waite is on endings. The image on the card is of someone lying on the ground who has been stabbed, and in the distant background the sunrise is coming up to represent the dawn of a new day.
But in the Illuminated Tarot, the corresponding 10 of Spades features a beautiful picture of a rooster. The focus is more on the new beginnings than on the endings and the meaning of the card is “waking up.” This 10 of Spades card also corresponds to the Rider-Waite Judgment card.
And that is one of the most interesting aspects of this deck—that the Major Arcana is incorporated into the meaning of select cards within the suits. You may have noticed that I always use the World card as the mascot for this website. In the Illuminated Tarot, the Ace of Diamonds is the card that corresponds to the World card, with the meaning of peace, travel, and open mindedness. The guidebook doesn’t mention the idea of new beginnings, money, and practical matters like the traditional Ace of Pentacles Tarot interpretation. But for those who know the Rider-Waite, you can see how the traditional meaning can be applied and expanded here if you wanted to.
The guidebook is quite colorful but minimalist. The opening pages briefly explain the origins of tarot and cartomancy, and provide a few spreads that you can try. As for the card meanings, each card is given three or four keywords listed in brightly-colored block letters. For some people, that may not be enough, but for my tastes, I love that there is not too much symbolism to distract from my own impressions and intuition.
Like in a regular playing deck, some of the cards in the Illuminated Tarot look the same whether the card is upright or reversed, like in the example of the Joker above. But some cards look different when reversed. It’s not a deal-breaker, but I wonder why there wasn’t consistency—either all different or all the same.
One example of differences is the 10 of Diamonds that uses a bright yellow color on the top half and a darker blue-green on the bottom half. In some cards, the difference is extremely subtle, like in the Ace of Diamonds shown above (Saturn on top but not on the bottom). And with some, like the 10 of Spades above, there is only one possible choice as to which way is upright. The guidebook doesn’t address reversals and perhaps in cases where there is a difference between top and bottom, a reader using this deck may want to take that into consideration if they want to include a reversal or shadow interpretation.
What I love about the different decks that are available to us all these days is the diversity of ideas they provide. While some stick to tradition, each brings a new perspective in terms of artwork and variations in meaning.
Lately, I have become interested in cartomancy and I am in the process of developing interpretations for my own deck. Although I will draw on my knowledge of Tarot and astrology, I want the meanings to be a product of my unique world view. I’m taking my time with that project, so I don’t know when I will be ready to show it to the world. But in the meantime, I have a wealth of riches with the various decks out there to enjoy and use. The Illuminated Tarot is one of those decks and I highly recommend it.
I recently started working with a new Tarot deck called the Angel Tarot, published by CICO Books. It’s a 78-card deck based on the Rider-Waite system. Included with the cards is a 64-page booklet written by clairvoyant Jayne Wallace.
The packaging has vibrant, bright colors and the artwork on the box drew me to this deck instantly. I felt a strong, compassionate, reassuring energy just by handling these cards. The card stock is good — just the right amount of sturdy and flexible.
The images on the Major Arcana and Court cards feature characters with angel wings. The blurb on the box says that the cards are “angel-inspired.” There is no indication that these “angels” are necessarily associated with beings such as Archangel Michael, Raphael, or others from any of the various religious belief systems. And to me, that is a strength of the cards — that they are not overly bogged down with a lot of preconceived ideas. As a result, the characters can be seen as angels, spirit guides, or any type of being that resonates with you.
Differences from the Rider-Waite Deck If you are familiar with the traditional Rider Waite deck, you may know that the images have a lot of detail in them and there is a lot of symbolism from Christianity, astrology, Kabbalah, and more. By contrast, the images on the Angel Tarot are beautifully drawn but simpler. To give a hint at the cards’ meaning, the Angel Tarot cards include keywords that are close to the meaning of the corre
sponding card in the Rider-Waite deck.
For example, with the Rider-Waite Fool card, the color of the sky, the pattern on the Fool’s clothing, and the flower the person is carrying all have a significance, according to traditional interpretation. On the other hand, the image of the Angel Tarot Fool does not have that type of symbolism. Instead, the words “Angel of Innocence” are written on the bottom of the card. The idea of “innocence” is the bare bones meaning of the Fool card in the Rider-Waite deck.
I like the simplicity of the Angel Tarot because to my mind, it doesn’t carry the tremendous weight of lore and tradition that the Rider-Waite deck carries with it. I find that some Tarot readers try to cram in every bit of symbolism of the Rider-Waite cards when they do a reading, even when it doesn’t really fit the situation. There is a danger of getting bogged down in tradition instead of really answering a person’s question. I believe that there is less chance of that happening with the Angel Tarot. The reader is better able to focus more on the question and channel a meaningful message, with the lighter energy of the Angel Tarot Deck serving to help guide the reader’s own intuition.
Major versus Minor Arcana
The images in the Angel Tarot are most detailed with the Major Arcana cards and the Court cards in the Minor Arcana (Cups, Swords, Pentacles, and Wands). The number cards are like a regular deck of playing cards, with the pips drawn against the background of wings (no angels in them). Again, on the bottom of each card is a descriptive word that matches with the concept of the traditional Rider-Waite card. So with the Angel Tarot Four of Cups, for example, the word “Indifference” is written on the bottom of the card. But the image on the card of Four Cups doesn’t help to interpret the Angel Tarot card the way is does on the corresponding Rider-Waite card.
Some people may think that it would be hard to read the Angel Tarot without prior knowledge of Rider-Waite. But I’m not so sure about that. The key words definitely help. Also, the booklet gives a bit of guidance on how to interpret the cards. (It also suggests that the suits represent the four elements.)
Even with my knowledge of Rider-Waite, if I were doing a reading for someone with the Angel Tarot cards, I could look at the Four of Cups card to think about the word
“indifference,” and use it as a tool to channel a message from the Universe for the person. Without relying strictly on my memory of traditional card meanings, I would draw on the idea that the suit of Cups relates to the element of water; I would use a similar concept of the elements when it comes to Swords (Air), Wands (Fire), and Pentacles (Earth).
In other words, I think a person using the Angel Tarot could draw on their knowledge of Rider-Waite as much or as little as they feel comfortable. In fact, with the key words on the Angel Tarot cards, you could start reading the cards immediately with absolutely no knowledge of Rider-Waite or any other system. You could simply use free association based on the card and key word sitting in front of you.
One of my favorite characteristics of the Angel Tarot deck is that there is a multicultural flavor to it. I truly appreciate that the “angels” seem to come from various ethnicities and some of them are racially ambiguous. I applaud this effort toward inclusiveness.
Although I am a huge fan of the Rider-Waite deck and I respect its rich traditional symbolism, it can be a challenge to interpret the cards freely based on modern thinking, modern culture, and individual spiritual guidance. When I use the Rider-Waite deck, I find myself tailoring the reading to resonate with my sensibilities and guidance, as I think everyone should.
With that being said, it’s nice to have so many other decks to choose from, including the Angel Tarot, to offer a fresh perspective on traditional interpretations and to help the mind expand to new horizons.
Long story short, I really love the Angel Tarot deck and I would encourage anyone to give these cards a try.
Any comments? Have you had experience with this deck? Let me know!