Deck Review, Reviews

Tarot Deck Review: Egyptian Tarot

Deck: Egyptian Tarot
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
Writer & Artist: Silvana Alasia
Overall Rating: 5/10

Cardstock: The cardstock is Lo Scarabeo standard, which holds up pretty well and isn’t too flimsy. The sides have a tendency to scuff over time, but I’ve used this one for years and it’s holding up well.

Artwork: The artwork is all Egyptian themed, with figures (some of which are recognizable) for the court cards and majors, and pips for the number cards. There are also quite a few hieroglyphic inscriptions, but alas I cannot (yet?) read those. I like the art style and faux papyrus texture a lot more than I like the ragged black borders.

LWB: It’s in five languages, so each card has barely more than four keywords, and none of the art is explained. I’ve heard there is a longer guidebook but so far I haven’t been able to get my hands on it. For general meanings, the LWB is pretty useless, and it doesn’t clarify much of anything about this particular deck, either.

Likes: It’s very Egyptian. I needed something Egyptian, and this is some of the best Egyptian tarot art on the market.

Dislikes: It took me a long time to learn to read with this deck, because it’s not RWS-based and it has so little information. I think it might be Thoth-based but I’m not familiar with that system and I’m not sure. Also, those borders are really high contrast, which draws the eye too much,

Overall Recommendation

If you’re familiar with multiple systems of tarot, or if you can get your hands on the elusive guidebook, this could be a really great deck for anyone who works with Egyptian deities. If you can’t find the guidebook but you’re willing to put in a lot of work, OR you are better than I am at recognizing deities in art and reading hieroglyphs, it could work okay for you. I cannot recommend it to tarot beginners, though.

Deck Review, Reviews

Tarot Deck Review: Shapeshifter Tarot

Deck: Shapeshifter Tarot
Publisher: Llewellyn
Writer & Artist: DJ Conway, Sirona Knight & Lisa Hunt
Overall Rating: 6/10

Card images (c) Llewellyn

Cardstock: It’s somewhat flimsy, but very springy to shuffle because of that, and the high gloss makes the cards slide against each other smoothly. It doesn’t have any nicked edges, but in the five years I’ve owned this deck it’s never been one of my go-to choices, so it hasn’t seen as much usage as some of my others. I’m not sure how it will hold up under heavy usage.

Artwork: The art is heavy on the blue/green/yellow part of the spectrum, and the images are soft watercolors with no hard outlines. The art almost looks a bit washed out in comparison to the dark blue borders. In keeping with the theme, many of the cards have figures that appear to be in the middle of shape-shifting, with animal imagery overlaying human figures. There’s also some implied nudity, so be aware of that.

LWB: The little white book is pretty useless if you’re looking for actual card meanings. The Majors each have a short paragraph, which is helpful, but the pips and court cards have 3-5 words and that’s it. I’m glad that we have more information for the Majors, though, considering they renamed almost all of them (Sorcerer and Sorceress for Magician and High Priestess, Mother and Father for Empress and Emperor, Circle for Wheel of Fortune, Shapeshifter for Hanged Man, Rebirth for Death, etc). They also added three cards: The Double, The Journey, and The Dreamer. The LWB also includes a couple of original spreads, which is nice.

Likes: I’m partial to air wands and fire swords, so I like that about this deck. I also generally find the artwork evocative, which helps considering how sparse the LWB is. I also like that the court cards are all depicting figures from Celtic mythology, and that these are clearly labeled in the LWB. For example: Gwydion and Arianrhod are the King and Queen of Wands, and Lugh and Brigid are the King and Queen of Swords.

Dislikes: I’m not really sure that the shapeshifting theme is really strong enough to carry this deck, and not all of the mythology choices for the court cards make sense within this context. Brigid, for instance, is depicted as shapeshifting into a wildcat of some variety, which seems an odd choice to me. I think transformation might’ve been a better theme, and would have given them a little more artistic leeway.

Overall Recommendation:

Overall I’m kinda lukewarm on this deck. If the idea of shapeshifting really resonates with you and you’re an intuitive reader, it’s probably perfect. If you’re looking for a deck that draws from Celtic mythology, you’re probably better off looking for something else. I like it, and I’m going to keep it in my collection, but I think it’s going to remain a deck I only use occasionally.

Deck Review

Tarot Deck Review: Fantastical Creatures Tarot

Deck: Fantastical Creatures Tarot

Publisher: US Games Systems, Inc.

Writer & Artist: D.J. Conway, Lisa Hunt

Overall Rating: 8/10

IMGP2636

Cardstock: Not too bad.  One of the cards tore slightly about halfway down the side like the third time I ever shuffled the deck, but besides that, there’s no damage after about 4-6 years of moderate usage. (I’ve had this deck for about 10 years but for the first five I barely used it, and a few years ago I bought a ton of new decks and stopped using it for about a year.)  The backs are a sort of ivory-beige and there is some discoloring from repeated handling, or possibly they weren’t quite uniform to begin with?  Shuffling is fairly easy, and the coating is still intact and slick.

Artwork: The art is very vivid, super evocative, and perfect for intuitive readings.  The backs allow for reversals.  The color palette tends toward blues and greens.  The cards have rather wide and decorative borders, and the images fill the entire inside with detail.  The original artworks are referred to as “paintings” in the LWB and to my inexpert eyes it looks predominately like watercolors.  The human figures are well proportioned.  The aesthetic feel is generally of temporarily suspended movement, a snapshot of a larger world.

LWB:  The book is pretty helpful. Its main strength is in the explanation of the fantastical creature chosen for each card and a tidbit about their mythology and the symbolism in the artwork.  That is the longest paragraph, and following it is a short paragraph about the divinatory meaning (upright only), and a few lines about potential magical uses of the card. For example, 7 of Pentacles: “Use to convert negative energy into positive energy, which will attract good fortune.”  All three paragraphs are longest for the Majors, of a medium length for the court cards, and shortest for the numbered Minors.  The book does not include any suggested layouts.  Also, it is important to note that this is a Fire Swords/Air Wands deck.  I prefer that elemental association, but some people find it counterintuitive.

Likes:  I love the general feel of the artwork, and I love how it feels to read with this deck intuitively, based on the artwork and what catches my eye about the card.  I find that the deck is happy to read with reversals, and it tends to give gentle and encouraging answers, which is useful in a lot of situations but might be too wishy-washy for an “only” deck.

Dislikes:  I’m really not crazy about the color choice for the backs and the borders.  I’m also a little put-off by some of the fantastical “creatures” being deities (Morrigan, Manannan, Neptune, Anansi, Kali Ma, Yemaya), although some of these are court cards which makes a certain amount of sense.  I’m a lot more bothered by “creatures” (again, often deities) drawn from closed traditions (Aboriginal Rainbow Serpent, Iroquois Atahensic, Nahuatl Quetzacoatl, and depending on one’s perspective, this also includes Anansi and Yemaya).  There are also quite a few from semi-closed traditions, like Hinduism, Shinto, and African Diaspora Religions.  (Some people consider ADRs fully closed, as mentioned above. I know and respect black practitioners of both viewpoints, and it’s not really my business so I don’t have a firm opinion.)  On a completely separate note, I’m also not crazy about how the fae are depicted and described, because it’s very New Age: they’re extremely helpful and benevolent tiny spirits.

 

Overall Recommendation:

Despite a few misgivings, I generally recommend this tarot deck to beginners and advanced diviners alike, especially anyone who likes to read intuitively based on artwork.  I really can’t say enough how much I like the artwork, and the photo above  doesn’t quite capture the wealth of detail in the cards.  I’ve been working a bit more with this deck lately and I think it may become my go-to for in-person tarot readings because of the ease of interpretation.  It’s available for about $20 on Amazon which is about average for a deck like this, by a major publisher.

Deck Review, Reviews

Tarot Deck Review: Archeon Tarot

Deck: The Archeon Tarot

Publisher: US Games Systems, Inc.

Developer & Artist: Timothy Lantz

Overall Rating: 9/10

archeon fan
Image (c) US Gaming Systems, Inc

Cardstock:  Easy enough to shuffle.  Seems to stand up reasonably well to moderate use – several of the cards have nicked borders, but none of them are separating yet, though I’ve been using it pretty frequently in the past six months.  The tuck box is deteriorating, though, since I keep throwing it directly in my purse.

Artwork:  Back allows for reversals.  Black borders and greenish frame.  Card names on lower frame. Most artwork depicts human figures, animals, and pips, sometimes in ways that are reminiscent of the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith images.  Artwork is digital mixed media heavily based on model photography, and there’s a fair amount of artistic nudity but nothing I would consider pornographic.  Facial expressions of the models are fairly evocative and match card meanings.  Overall the artwork feel is somewhat dark and emotionally intense.

LWB: Pretty helpful, especially considering this is not a strict RWS deck.  Meanings are pretty consistent with traditional themes, though some of the gender symbolism (which I ignore anyway) is different.  Each Major entry begins with a short quotation, and a few explanatory paragraphs before a list of keywords for both uprights and reversals.  Each Minor entry begins with a short line that almost feels like poetry, to complement the artwork, and then gives keywords for both uprights and reversals.  For example, the 9 Wands above begins with “One by one, they aligned themselves with the stars.” It gives one spread example: Celtic Cross.  Does not give much information on how to read tarot.

Likes: The artwork was a bit intense for me at first but it grew on me, and it fits an empty space in my collection.  I’ve been using it as my go-to deck for talking to Na Morrigna.  I like how evocative the images are, because my primary mode of reading is very intuitive.

Dislikes: I usually buy tarot decks based on whether or not I fall in love with The Star, which is my personal significator… and I don’t love this one.  I also don’t like how the reversal keywords are basically just the opposites of the upright keywords.  There is so much more to reversals than that, and honestly that space could have been better used by providing more fleshed out meanings to the upright cards, since they usually have no more than about a half dozen words or phrases.  Also, the LWB has quite a few typos and formatting errors.

 

Overall Recommendation:

This is a solid deck for someone who’s familiar with tarot already, and likes reading intuitively based on artwork.  That said, the artwork definitely isn’t for everyone, and the nudity on the cards might make it difficult to use for in person readings in some public places.  It’s available for $20 on Amazon which is about average for a deck like this, by a big publisher.  Full disclosure, I have done a little modeling for the artist for another publication of his, but I paid for the deck myself.  He’s fairly local, and I got him to sign the title card at FaerieCon East a few years back.  In general I recommend this deck if the artwork speaks to you.

 

Deck Review

Tarot Deck Review: Lord of the Rings

Deck: The Lord of the Rings Tarot Deck & Card Game

Publisher: US Games Systems, Inc.

Developer: Terry Donaldson

Artist: Peter Pracownik

Overall Rating: 7/10

IMGP2447

Cardstock:  Easy enough to shuffle.  Seems to stand up okay to heavy use – I have a couple of cards that are separating a little and most of the cards have nicked borders, but I’ve been using this deck for years, so that’s understandable.

Artwork:  Back allows for reversals.  Black borders.  Card names on stonework border to the left.  Short phrase or sentence on wood plank beneath the image (For example, the Fool depicts Gollum seated with a fish by a pool of water, with a waterfall in the background, and the sentence beneath him says “Gollum, by a pool of water, considers the many possibilities open to him”).  Most artwork depicts scenes or figures from the Lord of the Rings, sometimes with pips superimposed.  Artwork is detailed, like miniaturized paintings.  Facial expressions are somewhat ambiguous, owing to the small size relative to the card.  The two borders take up a lot of room.  Some of the artwork is a little strangely proportioned, and Eowyn is oddly sexualized in a moment where she ought to be wearing battle armor.  Some of the artwork, especially when it relates to Sauron or the One Ring, is more stylized and less of a “scene”, which interrupts the continuity of the artwork a little.

LWB: Pretty helpful.  Gives a decent amount of information on both Majors and Minors.  Some information on reversals for Majors (but not Minors).  Meanings pretty consistent with traditional themes.  Gives one spread example: Celtic Cross.  Does not give much information on how to read tarot.  Half the book is the weird card game you can also play.  There is apparently also a companion book which does the work of bridging the little phrases on the cards with the meanings in the LWB, but I’ve only ever seen one, and that was in a second-hand shop (I bought it, of course!).

Likes: I’m a huge LOTR nerd, so I loved the theme.  I don’t know if this is exactly how I would have done it if I were going to make a fan-art LOTR tarot deck, but I’m pretty happy with it.  The fandom angle did help me get a better understanding of the meanings for the most part.  I also really like the detail in the artwork, though I could see why those who dislike borders or have vision impairments would find it difficult.  I’m ambivalent on the sentences at the bottom – I liked the idea when I bought this deck (it was my first one) but they don’t line up quite as well as I would like and sometimes they’re more unhelpful than helpful.

Dislikes: I wish the facial expressions were readable.  I also kind of wish the deck included characters from the Hobbit and the Silmarillion, because the cards are all just the Fellowshippers over and over again, really.  Too much border, not enough art.  The awkwardness of the card game, which means there are little extra graphics on the cards.  Not much information on tarot in general.  I’m not crazy about the artwork style, even though I appreciate the detail – I would prefer more continuity and more realistic proportions in the figures.

 

Overall Recommendation: This would be a good deck for anyone who doesn’t mind borders and likes LOTR.  Probably not a good idea for a beginner deck, though it worked out okay for me.  The theme and art would probably make it a good choice for in-person readings somewhere like a fantasy fair, and it holds up well to repeated use.  At $15 on Amazon it’s pretty inexpensive, and might make a good deck for someone on a budget.  In general I like it (it’s one of my go-to’s in my admittedly small collection) but it’s certainly not for everyone.

 

Readings with this deck are available in my Etsy Shop.