Art of Life – a tarot deck by Charlene Livingstone

July 5th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Art of Life - tarot deck by Charlene Livingstone

The Art of Life Tarot is beautiful. And it can hardly help but be given that it’s made up of 78 art masterpieces.

Charlene Livingstone has taken her experience as an art historian and used it to curate an absolutely gorgeous fine art Tarot.

Renoir, Klimt, Van Gough, Cezanne, and da Vinci are just a few of the many masters represented.

She’s also included quotes on each card from the greats of philosophy and literature, people like Emerson, Thoreau, Plato, and Lao-tsu.

As a mini art-gallery with inspirational commentary, these cards are amazing. The fact that they’re structured as a Tarot deck makes them even better.

Art of Life - 8 of Pentacles

Though not at all a standard RWS deck, the paintings Livingstone chose to represent each card loosely follow the general themes of the Golden Dawn tradition. And many, in fact, are very clearly RWS inspired.

For instance, Gauguin’s portrait Van Gogh Painting Sunflowers is a beautiful depiction of the traditional 8 of Pentacles, as is Raphael’s Pope Leo X with Two Cardinals for the Hierophant.

Art of Life Hierophant

But some of Livingstone’s other choices offer us a slightly different perspective on the cards.

Instead of the familiar scene of five figures flaunting their sticks in the 5 of Wands, she chose the painting Pere Magloire on the Road to Saint-Clair by Gustave Caillebotte.

It pictures a man unhurriedly walking down a quiet white road, no sign of battle or discord anywhere.

Art of Life 5 of Wands

The image suggests to me that the remedy to the strife commonly associated with the 5 of Wands is quiet solitude, maybe a walk by the sea.

The accompanying quote by Euripides fills this idea out – The wisest men follow their own direction.

And following her own direction is clearly what Livingstone did when creating this deck. As she says in the short booklet that comes with it,

I knew that I wanted the format to be different from the others [Tarot decks] I had worked with in the past – more personal and direct, without the interruption of looking elsewhere for card interpretations.

In that I think she succeeded.

Though an understanding of the RWS or Golden Dawn Tarot systems will likely add insight to your readings with this deck, it’s not at all necessary. These cards stand alone, both metaphorically, and quite literally.

One of the especially nice things about the Art of Life is its oversized cards and the beautiful box they come in.

The box allows you to display a card as if it were a little framed painting on an easel. It’s pretty cute, and perfect for the contemplation of a single card and its message.

This is a really nice deck. I recommend it to Tarot reading art fans, bibliomancers, and collectors alike. It’s not just a Tarot deck, it’s a magical fine art collection in a box.

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Art of Life © U.S. Games Systems
Card images used with permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Joie de Vivre Tarot

June 22nd, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Joie de Vivre Tarot by Paulina Cassidy

The Joie de Vivre Tarot by Paulina Cassidy and released by US Games is a very pretty deck. It’s a world of fantastical creatures in pastels and soft lines.

There are bunny-eared fairies, merlions, and well-dressed cats. Rabbits wear clothes, hats have faces, and seahorses can fly.

Joie de vivre, or the joy of living, is obvious in this deck. It’s happy and light, playful and friendly. But that doesn’t stop it from being serious as well.

For instance, its take on the Tower – a woman falling from a collapsing fortress of open-mouthed snakes, is hardly disregarding the impact Tower energy usually describes.

#16 The Tower from the Joie de Vivre Tarot by Paulina Cassidy

And the 3 of Swords clearly illustrates the pain of unreleased sadness. It’s just whispered, not shouted.

This isn’t a deck for those people most interested in traditional tarot symbology, or who want their cards to talk tough. But don’t be fooled into thinking the Joie de Vivre is just a frilly, fluff deck. I think it has real spirit.

3 of Swords from the Joie de Vivre Tarot by Paulina Cassidy

It loosely follows the RWS structure and those readers familiar with that system should have no trouble understanding it. But Cassidy’s pictures are unique and create their own Tarot universe.

Each character has a name and their story is described in the booklet that comes with the deck. The names are derived from the energy of the card and can be used as key words.

Examples include Ponder for the Hanged Man and Orbit for the Wheel. The Devil’s called Deception, and Gleam, Glitter, and Glow are the ladies in the 3 of Cups.

It’s clear that the focus of the Joie de Vivre Tarot is finding joy, but I still went ahead and asked it my usual ‘new deck’ question – what do you like talking about most?

10 of Swords from the Joie de Vivre Tarot by Paulina Cassidy

The card I got was the 10 of Swords, certainly not the most joy-filled card in the deck.

In fact, the veiled fairy in the picture looks sad, lonely and unconsoled by her snail and snake companions. There’s darkness in the background and the moon is shrouded in fog.

The booklet says the fairy’s name is Lament and that she’s at her lowest point. Her dreams feel like dust and all she has left is her will.

But the nine swords in the background are her worries, and they’re further away than she thinks. And on her lap is the sword of fortitude with which she’ll carve a new beginning.

This 10 of Swords is the perfect card to explain what the Joie de Vivre Tarot likes to talk about most. Finding joy in the very pits of despair.

When your name becomes Lament and even the light of the moon has been dimmed, this deck wants to talk. Like the tiny star shinning above the fairy’s head, the Joie de Vivre wants to be a source of light.

What a sweet message and sweet pack of cards. If you’re looking for a little light, try out this deck.

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Joie de Vivre Tarot © U.S. Games Systems
Card images used with permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Ghosts & Spirits Tarot

June 15th, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

I just got a copy of the new Ghosts & Spirits Tarot by Lisa Hunt. Released by US Games, it features ghosts and spirits from around the world gathered from ancient myths, folklore, and literature.

Ghosts & Spirits Tarot by Lisa Hunt

Some of the ghosts and spirits found in the deck are sweet, but some are more than a little scary. Hunt’s artwork though, makes them all beautiful.

If you’re a fan of Hunt’s other decks like the Fairytale Tarot, the Fantastical Creatures Tarot, the Celtic Dragon, the Shapeshifter, and the Animals Divine Tarot, you’ll really like the artwork in the Ghosts & Spirits Tarot.

Finely detailed, soft and flowing, Hunt’s ethereal creatures magically float through each card and show us that the spirit world and our own share the same space.

The cards themselves are sturdy, and standard in size. The borders are unobtrusive and the titles for each card follow a mostly traditional RWS system.

The only two that have changed are the Hierophant who has become the High Priest, and the Devil who is simply called ‘Chains.’ There’s also an unnamed ‘bonus’ card.

But though the titles are familiar, as are many of the divinatory meanings listed in the accompanying booklet, this is not an RWS clone deck. The ghosts and spirits found within these 79 cards are telling a Tarot story, but they’re doing it in their own way.

#5 The High Priest from Lisa Hunts' Ghost & Spirits Tarot

Each card portrays a different spirit or ghost, visual representations of our unconscious fears and desires. And as Hunt says in the booklet, ‘all are part of an anthropological landscape and a relevant aspect of our humanity.’

The booklet describes a little about each of the characters in the cards and they’re certainly not cartoon Caspers. Some of these ghosts are scary!

Death and transformation are big themes in many of the cards, but the ideas aren’t meant simply to terrify. They’re meant to help us to uncover our shadows, and the areas in our lives where we resist transition to our own detriment.

To test-run the deck, I tried out the Realm of the Spirits Five-Card Spread at the back of the booklet. The reading turned out to be very insightful, and despite all the ghosts, quite uplifting.

I also asked the deck a question I ask most new decks I get – what do you like talking about most?

The card I got was the Nine of Pentacles representing the Hawaiian Menehune, tiny magical fey who live in forests and caves. It’s a delightful card, very pretty – a cavern of living crystals with little people all around.

9 of Pentacles from the Ghost & Spirits Tarot by Lisa Hunt

Hunt describes the Menehune as nocturnal beings, with expertise in swimming, high-diving, and playing pranks on humans. But apparently they also have kind hearts and can be helpful when they feel like it.

The cave the Menehune are pictured in is rich in natural resources and in the spirits of both the past and the present. The enormous stalagmites all around represent the three levels of psyche merging into wholeness.

So according to this card, the Ghosts & Spirits Tarot isn’t as scary as some of the ghosts in it might suggest. It just wants to dive deep into the unconscious and bring some of the stuff that’s hidden down there up into the open.

Sometimes it’s frightening, and sometimes it’s unbelievably beautiful.

As a metaphor for working with the Ghosts & Spirits Tarot, this 9 of Pentacles is perfect. In fact, it’s a wonderful description of working with Tarot in general.

I especially like that it warns us to beware of the occasional prank. All my favourite decks have a mischievousness to them, and one full of spirits and ghosts can hardly be expected to play it straight.

I really like the Ghosts & Spirits Tarot and look forward to getting to know it some more. I wouldn’t recommend it to people seriously disturbed by the concept of death or the darker side of our psyches.

But for those who enjoy a swim in the unconscious, and who like a good ghost story, this is a deck definitely worth checking out.

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Ghosts & Spirits Tarot © U.S. Games Systems
Card images used with permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

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