Tag Archives: Tarot decks

The Somnia Tarot: Review


It’s taken me a long time to review the Somnia Tarot because once I buy a deck, my tendency is to play with it for a while before I use it publicly. I’m not the type of person to collect decks just to have and not use them, although there is nothing wrong with collecting decks for art’s sake. But if any deck would lend itself to being a part of a beautiful deck collection for the artistry alone, this one would certainly fit the bill.

The Somnia Tarot is one of the few decks around that uses photography to tell the story of the Fool’s Journey. The photos are staged to reflect the dream state and subconscious mind of deck creator Nicolas Bruno. Although the basic concepts follow along with the interpretations of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the photos have a unique, surreal quality that drew me in immediately.

In the small pamphlet included in the deck (a full-length companion book is sold separately), Bruno explains that he had an interest in Tarot since childhood after discovering a hidden a deck that belonged to his great grandmother. Because Tarot was taboo in his religious household, he would look at the cards in secret.

Development of the Somnia Tarot began in 2020 during the early months of the COVID pandemic and the deck was ultimately published in 2021. The symbolism of this deck comes from Bruno’s dream journals and sleep paralysis experiences to add a unique flavor to the Tarot themes.

And that’s what I enjoy about this deck. Even though Bruno’s symbolism is unique to him, everyone can relate the strange world of dreams. These photos use sculpture, costume design, and the aid of Bruno’s family and friends as models, yet it’s easy to overlay my inner world onto these images to come up with my own personal interpretations.

I have not purchased the companion book, so I can’t vouch for what’s in it. I am interested to know what some of the symbolism means to Bruno, if that information is available. However, I also enjoy exploring this deck on my own without a roadmap. In the pamphlet that comes with the deck, Bruno includes a few key words for each card based on the traditional RWS Tarot.

For me, the appeal of this deck is the quirkiness of the photos. One thing that stands out is that all of the characters in Bruno’s deck (including horses) have their faces hidden—either in the shadows or else covered with a cloth. In some ways, this reminds me of artist René Magritte’s paintings. The obscuring of faces in the Somnia Tarot can possibly encourage readers to fill in their own blanks and not feel as if these quirky images are too specific to relate to.

Another theme that pops up often is the inclusion of a ladder in the images throughout the deck.

I’ve had this deck for a while: I’m proud to say that I supported it during the its Kickstarter phase and was one of the first people to have it. As of this writing, Bruno is creating an illustrated version of this deck that is scheduled to come out in the fall of 2022.

The Steele Wizard Tarot: Review


One of the things I like most about being on social media is meeting people I may not have otherwise. One such happy synchronicity is my connection with artist Pamela Steele. Steele is the creator and illustrator of the Steele Wizard Tarot, among other Tarot and Oracle card decks. She kindly gifted me a copy of the Steele Wizard Tarot deck. It is enchanting and powerful, and I was immediately drawn to its energy.

Steele, who has been a Tarot practitioner for decades, shared with me her long-held vision of bringing Tarot into the mainstream. She sees Tarot not just as a divination tool but rather as a tool for spiritual and personal development. I totally agree with that viewpoint and the Steel Wizard Tarot comes through beautifully in this regard.

First published in 2006, the Steele Wizard Tarot is an 88-card deck that follows the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition. It includes four additional court cards—Maidens for each suit. It also has six additional Major Arcana cards that are placed after the World card—in order, the Weaver, the Universe, Truth, Evolution, Soul Twins, and I AM. I have found that these cards add a rich resonance to the readings in which they appear.

The illustrations are beautiful and resonant. The scenes are set in a fully realized fantasy kingdom where both magic and simplicity play a part. While there is a touch of the supernatural, there is also evidence of real human struggle. Those who are familiar with the RWS system will be able to follow along. However, the pictures are not exact duplications and many include some subtle and interesting differences. One example is the Six of Swords, which shows only one person in the boat and the swords are not taken with them, but left behind. In the Five of Cups, only two cups are spilled over and three cups remain standing. The Strength card (not pictured) features a dragon instead of a lion.

Among the court cards, the Maiden comes between the Page and the Knight, giving a more nuanced transition between these youthful characters. In the guidebook, Steele gives brief interpretations of the cards upright and reversed, yet strongly encourages the reader to use their intuition when it comes to card meanings. Generally speaking, though, as I understand her guidelines, the Pages carry the elemental energies of new beginnings as it relates to the suit. The Maiden is an introspective energy and the Knights indicate outward action.

The Major Arcana in this deck is similar to the traditional Rider Waite Fool’s journey in some ways and different in other ways. In the Steele Wizard Tarot, Death is called “Transition” and the Devil is “Materialism.”

The Weaver, according to the guidelines, “shows you where you are on your path”—your destiny, if you will—following the events of the World card. The Universe indicates an awareness of infinite possibilities, not just those confined to 3D existence. Truth represents authenticity as you allow yourself to be seen for who you truly are. For me, Soul Twins is essentially the “shadow work” card—that is, the ability to accept yourself for who you are and who you are not, and loving yourself unconditionally. Evolution represents personal/spiritual growth in new dimensions across the expanse of the universe. And finally, the I Am card represents the awareness that each of us are connected as individual expressions of Source (unity consciousness).

The deck is rich with meaning and I love working with it. I recommend it for newbies and experienced readers alike. The third edition of this deck will be released in 2023. Visit Pamela Steele’s website for more details.

The HooDoo Tarot: Review


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.

(Photo credits: August de Richelieu from Pexels; Kebs Visuals from Pexels)

The Tarot del Toro: Review


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: Review


Illuminated Tarot: Box, backs of cards, and guidebook.

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.

The Joker

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.

Ten of Swords versus 10 of Spades

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.

Ace of Diamonds (The World)

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

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.

10 of Diamonds

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.

Me and the Ace of Diamonds

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.

 

The Angel Tarot: Review


Box, booklet, and deck

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.

Back of the cards

Angel-Like Characters
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

Fool card comparison

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.

The Moon, Rider-Waite

The Moon, The Angel Tarot

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

Images on the Minor Arcana are minimalist

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.

Rider-Waite Four of Cups full of symbolism

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.

Ethnic Diversity
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.

Conclusion
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.

Ms. Joyce holding the World card

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!