Dark Days Tarot Review

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Lovers of the Moon, rejoice! Here is a deck that honours the dark phase of the Moon, from which its name derives. A deck of Moon magic, of natural rhythms and lunar cycles, women’s spirituality, and a deep infusion of femininity and power (out of 78 cards, I counted three that show a masculine figure).

A black and white deck it may be, however its energy and artistic creativity are anything but. I have been very pleasantly surprised by this deck, although it is not one I would recommend to a beginner for reasons I’ll explain below.

Dark Days Tarot Fool A first in my collection, this is a square deck that follows Tarot structure by having 22 major and 56 minor arcana.

The major arcana are painted on a white background, whereas the minors have a black background. Moon phases feature heavily throughout most cards, starting with the beautiful, innocent Fool.

Dark Days Tarot High Priestess Hermit

It is hard to describe this deck – one has to see each and every card to realise and relish the beautiful and often highly original renditions seen in many of the cards – but overall, I would say it has a gentle, yet powerful, feminine energy, one that hints at incense, smoke, ritual, magic, and a deep love of the natural rhythms of life, of nature itself.

** I only realised after I scanned the cards that my scanner has a few smudges and lines on the plate, so I should clarify that the minors do not actually show these and the background is a flawless black. Blame it on the toddler…

Dark Days Ace Page Wands

Many minor cards have very original or unusual depictions – see for example the Ace of Wands above, or the 6 of Cups below, and thus will challenge your intuition and bring in new perspectives – this, I feel, is a good thing for the experienced reader, but may prove more challenging for tarot beginners. As a student and acolyte of the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) tradition, I advise beginners to really understand the minors in the RWS deck before exploring more unconventional tarot decks; this, I feel, sets a good foundation of understanding the numerology and element combination in each minor card. That aside, I really do think this is a brilliant deck that has so much to offer a reader – particularly one that follows the path of natural magic and witchcraft.

Dark Days 2 and 6 Cups

Dark Days Tarot 6 and Page Swords

Dark Days Tarot 2 and 8 Pentacles

If there is one thing I’d wish to be different, it would be the Queen and King cards, which again, offer a different artistic interpretation that does not show actual people (below). This, of course, is only my view – and while I do love the way these cards were drawn, I still think that Court cards should be true to their essence of having an actual person depicted, at various stages of maturity.

Dark Days Tarot The DevilThe deck comes in a sturdy box with a guidebook by Emily Mundy, which is great for when you are ready to read about card meanings, and offers good explanations for some of the different or more unusual cards. It also gives four card meanings based on the card position: upright, right, left and reversed. Given that I do not read with reversed cards, this is not really something I’ll use, and personally think it’s adding too much complexity in a reading – but that is just me. I am certainly more than happy to shuffle and lay the cards in one position (upright), and this deck has given exceptional readings this way.

Dark Days Tarot WorldThere is plenty of room in the box for you to add a crystal or reading cloth – I like to keep with the colour theme and chose a selenite to keep the cards company.

Finally, the card stock (I’m rather picky on this subject). Overall, it is good and has a laminate feel which should offer the cards some protection against wear and tear (and tea spills, which I am rather prone to). I do think they are a bit too thin through, and wouldn’t mind to see a thicker card stock in future editions – even one with a more paper feel to it, rather than plastic. Again, this is just me. I understand the need to laminate, yet I personally find decks that offer a nice natural tangible feel to them much more enjoyable to use.

Overall though, this is a stunning independent publication, and I love to see such amazing work grace and enrich the tarot world – a heartfelt thank you to Wren for making this happen and adding beauty and magic to our world.

Blessings,
Monica

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Halloween Tarot Deck Review

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This is a rather unusual review, in that I am not personally a fan of the grossly bastardised mainstream version of the pagan Samhain celebration, and all the kitsch, consumerist junk that gets peddled out every year to compliment its faux sense of tradition. I’d happily go on a soapbox rant about the adopted Australian version and all the annoying door knockers, but hey, I’ve moved away from town and that’s no longer an irritation I have to endure 🙂

And yet, despite all the above, I am happily in love with the Halloween Tarot. I simply adore this deck, and the cartoon style artwork is beautifully done, in my humble non-artist opinion. I guess it reminds me of childhood books which were a great source of comfort to me, and brings in that youthful, playful and innocent energy of childhood.

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The deck is the creation on artist Kipling West and is published by US Games. It was released in 1996 and 2012, so it’s been around for a while.

This deck is strongly fashioned in the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) tradition, and most of the cards are very similar to their RWS precedents, with a few notable exceptions. A main difference is the re-naming of the minor suits, so that Wands become Imps, Cups become Ghosts, Swords become Bats, and Pentacles are represented by Pumpkins.

 

Some of the Major Arcana cards feature scenes from popular gothic or horror movies  – see for example The Lovers (Dracula), or The Empress (bride of Frankenstein), below.

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The colours are well chosen to invoke the Halloween atmosphere, with a predominance of orange and black throughout. A black cat makes her appearance in every card, and it’s fun to see how the artist has blended her in every scene.

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The suit of Bats (Swords)

Those familiar with the RWS tradition will instantly recognise the setting, expressions and postures of the characters in the cards – see the 9 of Bats above and the King of Cups below, and compare their likeness to the corresponding RWS cards; however, I must say that despite this, the deck holds its own individual and rather quirky energy.

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The suit of Ghosts (Cups)

Personally, my experience with this deck is similar to that of RWS – it works brilliantly and can be used to ask all sorts of questions; I find it especially good with the day-to-day, often mundane issues pertaining to work, money, and the like. I do not mind the “cartoonish” feel of the deck, as noted above this is something I find enjoyable and it gives the deck a more relaxed feel (which says something for a Halloween deck!). Far from being a dark or macabre oracle, this is one that usually cheers me up and lifts my mood (well, I am rather fond of black cats and orange pumpkins).

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2-pumpkins-copyFor these reasons, this is a deck I would recommend to beginners, unless they strongly dislike the artwork or have a negative feeling towards Halloween. I’d think younger Tarot enthusiasts might also enjoy this deck, since it does not feature gruesome images or overly explicit imagery.

You can purchase this deck as part of a deck and book set, the book being written by Karin Lee. The book is well written and includes a history of Halloween, an explanation of the symbols and traditions of the celebration, and clear, succinct explanations of the cards that are fairly straight forward.

The cards feature a reversible back (orange and black) showing our main protagonist (the black cat) surrounded by Halloween symbols.

I’ll be shuffling this deck over the coming couple of months and trialling some new spreads for the pure fun of it.

Wishing everyone a blessed weekend ahead.

Monica

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Deck Review: The Housewives Tarot

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I’ll be straightforward: this is a brilliant, well executed deck. It is fantastic for pragmatic questions, topics on mundane affairs, and concerns dealing with the tangible, material world – yet it is far from being a dry, uninspiring deck. In fact the only thing dry when working with this deck is the martini you’ll be savouring as you shuffle the cards from the immaculately clean kitchen table 🙂

DSCF8672Let’s start with the package: a well made, sturdy box that serves as a filing cabinet, with tabs for the Major Arcana, Minor Arcana, and the instruction book: a perfect start towards domestic orderliness.

The deck is a collage of retro images from 1950s Americana, complete with vintage cars, domestic bliss (or nightmare!), DSCF8674scotch on the rocks, a plethora of martinis, the start of suburbia and kitchen appliances, and let’s not forget the politically incorrect (that Justice card, in particular…) Strictly speaking, I am not a fan of retro vintage art, however I love the creators’ clever use of words, colour and decor that bring the message across with ease.

The design is based on the Rider Waite tradition, and, for the most part, keeps well in line with the Rider Waite interpretations.

EPSON MFP imageThe suit of Swords features sharp utensils that can be equally used to cut a cake or to backstab: knives, skewers, pins and scissors are the favoured tools here.

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The suit of Wands is all about cleaning – now I don’t know about you folks out there, but this is a brilliant choice. As a fire sign myself, and knowing quite a few other fire signs too, I can attest to our love-hate relationship with keeping the house clean. Most of us end up hiring a cleaner at one point or another, since there’s just too much going on out there in life, than sweeping floors and wiping windows. Sure, I want a spotless home to come to, but in reality I am faced more with a 10 of Wands scenario at the end of the month, rather than that admirable 6 of Wands above.

EPSON MFP imageThe suit of Cups can be summed up in one word: Martini! It’s great to have a deck where there is no room for ambiguity or grey messages in a card. In the Four of Cups above, the woman is leaning away from what she is being offered: a full glass is being handed to her, while 3 empty ones sit in front of her. This is a great visual interpretation of not taking an opportunity when offered, which is something most people do at one time or another. Unless, of course, she’s an alcoholic – and then of course it is a wise choice 😉

EPSON MFP imageThe suit of Pentacles features mostly plates or dishes – in the Nine of Pentacles above we have, what must have seemed at the time, the ultimate in kitchen fulfilment: the invention of the dishwasher.

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The Major Arcana is equally ingenious and quirky – in the Temperance card we find “a delicious and healthy combination of opposite sides of the spectrum – a heaping helping of compromise or cooperation in marriage, relationships, or partnerships. Spoon this mixture into every aspect of your life“, the little book sagely guides.

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In Judgment we find a literal interpretation – still a common experience in many women all these decades later, the constant inner and outer judgements of how we look, how much we weigh, etc etc. It gives an immediate visual visceral punch: no matter the circumstance, the message is simple: you are not good enough.

Throughout the deck we find a liberal encouragement of cake making, martini drinking merriment. Heck, the devilish little package even comes with a few inviting recipes, such as “Madame Marlena’s Mystical Martini”, to go with their Martini spread, because, as the little book explains, having a dry martini will “enhance the effect of a reading.” Well if you say so, who am I to argue? I also need to point out the little book is excellent and the messages contained fit the cards well. This is no generic little white book, and the creators have done a brilliant job of succinctly getting the message across without getting too fluffy about it.

TowerMy favourite card? It would have to be the Tower: just check out how happy our lovely protagonist is! For she’s breaking from convention, she’s breaking from the known and comfortable and secure, she’s breaking the mold. What a brilliant Tower moment – for anyone who is afraid of it, for anyone who fears that limitless unknown, this is the card to see every time you wake up and face another day in the mundane mediocrity of conformity: break free, be yourself, and be joyous.

To conclude, this deck, my dear reader, is certainly worth your moolah: at worst, you’ll enjoy a few martinis and give the bathroom a good scrubbing. At best? You’ll get a deep, sensuous satisfaction of the simple life: a home in order, a garden well maintained, a wardrobe meticulously put together, a pantry well stocked, a decent martini at the end of a well lived day – even if it may all very well just be a vicarious experience and not in the least related to the actual state of your ramshackle, chaotic and messy life.

http://www.housewivestarot.com

Many domestic blessings to all,
Monica

Sirian Starseed Tarot Deck Review

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I have been kindly sent a copy of the newly released Sirian Starseed Tarot for review. Always happy to shuffle another deck, I have taken my time with these cards – despite having many name changes to the Major Arcana, and also re-naming the elements and the Court cards, this deck follows the Rider Waite Smith essence in its imagery.

Sage of Chalices

The pictures are digital collage, and blend in the mystical with the “new age”, having a strong celestial vibe to it. Despite the negative connotations this may bring to some people, it would be a shame to dismiss this deck instantly purely on this association alone. It certainly has its own voice and will add insight into readings – in other words, it works.

I have found it particularly good for readings with a more spiritual bend, or those with a meditative quality – the times when you might want to get to know yourself a little better, or want to spend time in quiet contemplation.

The one drawback I have found though, is the size of the cards – they are huge!

Sirian Starseed card size
Left to right: Druidcraft, Sirian Starseed and Rider Waite Smith

I have taken a picture to show what I mean – they are actually even bigger that the Druidcraft Tarot – so I had to adjust my method accordingly and instead of shuffling and cutting, I fan the cards out on the table.

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Of course, this is only a drawback if you prefer the classic shuffle and cut method – if you don’t mind fanning the cards out and then drawing, it’s not an issue. I am in fact contemplating cutting off the white borders, as not only will this reduce the card size, but also make the pictures really stand out.

The Shadow

In this deck, Crystals replace Pentacles, Chalices replace Cups, Orbs replace Swords and Flames are Wands. In the Court cards, we have the Seeker, the Adept, the Sage and the Master (respectively Page, Knight, Queen and King). The booklet that comes with the deck is comprehensive and very useful. Regarding the Court cards, it notes:

In the Sirian Starseed Tarot, the People cards depict levels of spiritual maturity, descriptive of the journey along the path of awakening. They are you, as they are others; they are traits, as they are indicators; they are situations, as they are experience.

The Major Arcana cards have mostly been renamed, and I have enjoyed to see some new keywords for these. For example, the Fool is Starseed, the Emperor is Reason, the Hierophant is Guidance, the Devil is the Shadow – I really like this last one, it reminds me of the great saying “I am not afraid of the Devil, I am afraid of people who are afraid of the Devil” – and bringing one’s shadow to consciousness is such a hard journey in life.

Overall I would say there is a lot to discover and enjoy in this deck, but as with any other, it works best if one sets aside preconceived notions or ideas and really lets go. I would recommend it primarily as a deck for spiritual discovery, vision quests, meditation or reflective practice. That’s not to say one can’t use for all sorts of purposes, this is simply the energy I get from most of the cards in this deck.

I must also say that on this occasion I have taken photographs of the cards, and the quality of the imagery is not as good as it is in real life. I would recommend the Sirian Starseed Tarot website or the Aeclectic Tarot website review to give you a better idea.

Flames

Crystals

Chalices

Orbs

Images  from The Sirian Starseed Tarot by Patricia Cori and Alysa Bartha, published by North Atlantic Books, copyright © 2012 by Patricia Cori and Alysa Bartha. Reprinted by permission of publisher.

Deck Review: Tarot of the Absurd

© Jessica Rose Shanahan

It is rare to have a new deck so wonderfully ingenious and fresh these days. Even though I am a fan of the romantic and ethereal, I do appreciate variety and substance. This deck has recently graced my table, and I believe you can still get copies directly from the author – check out Jessica Rose Shanahan’s site.

This first edition is a limited print of 600, and it comes with an extra card signed by the author. Mine happened to be the 9 of Swords, which, for once, I didn’t recoil in horror upon seeing it.

© Jessica Rose Shanahan

I love the way the dreamer holds the sword in this card, as if she is unfazed and completely comfortable in her night of dreams or nightmares. Like being in a lucid dream where you know that’s all it is and you cannot be harmed because you know it’s just a dream. Perhaps it’s an invitation for me to try and practice lucid dreaming, or change the way I perceive this card. Or simply, to not be afraid of the night, of being alone in the night.

© Jessica Rose Shanahan

The imagery in this deck is new and oddball and fruitloop and whacky, but equally it has depth and substance. I think this is a difficult combination to achieve, and yet it is well blended in the cards, without losing the essence of each card’s message. It is a black and white deck throughout, following the traditional structure of tarot.

The four suits are Coins, Blades, Cups and Sticks. I think the artist’s background as an arborist comes through in the Sticks (Wands) suit. For me, this brought back a few memories as I actually got half-way through an arboricultural degree a few years ago (I am still quite the hippy-tree-hugger enthusiast and get to spend a lot of time at work assessing trees and learning about them!). There is a beautiful synergy between people and trees in this deck, and I love the way this interaction is portrayed.

I think a black and white deck would be a very difficult task, considering there are 78 cards each with its own message. Difficult because of the challenge to infuse a card with enthusiasm, zest, and dynamism in the absence of colour, yet all of this is so abundant and overflowing in these cards. Personally, I think Jessica has done a brilliant job and I hope this deck makes its way to many happy shufflers out there. Enjoy!

© Jessica Rose Shanahan
© Jessica Rose Shanahan
© Jessica Rose Shanahan

Vanessa Tarot Review


Vanessa Tarot is an exuberant addition to the tarot world – a slice of modern pop culture, imbued with a strong feminine presence throughout. It’s relevance to modern life makes this an excellent reading deck for any situation – I’ve used it countless times and had great clarity and insight from the cards. This is the creation of Lynyrd Narciso – a Filipino artist and tarot deck creator. He has actually done other tarot decks yet I am unable to find a website for his work other than on DeviantArt (if anyone has this please let me know).

Vanessa Tarot has taken its inspiration from several areas of contemporary pop culture including female role models from the small and large screens of television and cinema, life-like fashion dolls, and heroines from comic books. In the same way that dolls encourage imaginative role-playing, Vanessa tarot provides scenarios for examining our fantasies, fears, decisions, desires and choices.” (LWB excerpt)

The cards come in a very cute and durable tin box – their small size means the box is light and easily portable (card size 6cm by 9.5cm). Despite the somewhat “catoonish” appearance and design of the cards, I would highly encourage tarot fans with more classic or traditional tastes in tarot to give this deck a go. The card stock is excellent – not too glossy, not too thin and not too thick either, which makes shuffling easy and fluid.

The accompanying LWB contains good information and explanations on the cards. The Minor Arcana are listed in numerical order, with information on numerological meanings for each number – this is great as often the numerological application, across all suits, is not provided in LWBs.

For those interested in this deck, it is published by US Games and there are further card images on their website. I include below a small selection from the Minor Arcana and hope you get to know this deck if you haven’t already done so.

Blessings,
Monica


Fantastic Menagerie Tarot Review


The Fantastic Menagerie Tarot is simply… fantastic! How can I describe this deck?!! It is so unconventional and yet so direct when reading with it. There is no hiding what is going on when using this deck, another sumptuous creation from Baba Studio. As the title hints, the pictures present a menagerie of animals, taken from original works of art by 19th century artist J J Grandville. The drawings were political caricatures, full of sharp wit and ridicule aimed at the ruling class, and thus in a reading the facial expressions and postures of the many who make up the menagerie are eerily human like.

This means one can not only relate to the scenes, but understand them too. Personally, I think this deck will continue to grow on me over the coming years. I didn’t instantly bond with it because the drawing style does not resonate with me, yet I simultaneously can tell it is one of those “wise” tarot decks. I bought mine in a pack that came with an excellent companion book which covers full card descriptions, stories for each card as well as spreads and sample readings to help you understand the deck. I should note that the cards are very, very thin, and do not appear to be laminated so I advise extreme care in handling these cards (card size 7.8cm by 12.9cm). Unfortunately, Baba Studio no longer have any copies for sale, and the few remaining out there are already reaching some astronomical prices online. Mind you, I’m sure if enough people write to Karen and Alex over at Baba Studio, they may just think about doing a deluxe version, you never know! In the meanwhile, I include a good selection of cards below to give you a taste of what to expect from this deck.