Friday, 19 September 2014

Overview of the Alice Tarot

As I mentioned on Monday, although this is the Standard Edition of the Alice Tarot (Baba Studios, 2014), rather than the Special Edition, it comes with shiny, metallic finishes.  These are just gorgeous, and add a really luxurious feel to the cards.  The Standard edition also comes in a lovely, sturdy box, which opens smoothly down the middle.  It is so nice and easy to use that I'm considering leaving my deck in the box, despite having bought a beautiful bag for it!

I also went for a copy of the companion book, written by Karen Mahony.  As with other books she has produced, this one is detailed, well-written, nicely illustrated, and shows the depth of thought and research that has gone into this deck. 

Take the Empress: showing the Duchess and her baby, you'd hardly say she was the image of womanliness!  Yet, as Mahony points out, there are no good mothering figures in either of the Alice books.  So, while giving traditional RWS ideas about the card, she also suggests that when this version comes up we might think of more dysfunctional mothering relationships, like having the Empress reversed.

There is a lot of humour in this deck, too.  For instance, the Page of Cups, rather than having a fish in his cup, is a fish himself.  This character from the book is a fairly good fit, being a dreamer who tries to be helpful, but in an often naive way.

As for the Aces, these follow the slightly surreal but very readable format of the deck.  For example, the Ace of Swords shows a knife spreading butter in the Mad Hatter's watch: a caution to do some research and planning before acting on a new idea.  As for the Ace of Coins, it shows Alice about to eat a cake that says 'eat me'.  Doing so causes her to change in size, and isn't the boon she hoped it would be, at least until she learns to find the right balance.  This leap into a new physical experience is a funny invitation to try something new.

Finally, we have the Eight of Coins, showing a plate with eight jam tarts.  These are beautifully presented, with little hearts in the centre of each.  A reminder that, in cooking as in many other material pursuits, mastery comes with repetitive practice.  And with the added 'Alice' warning to beware of others who may wish to steal your hard-earned success.

The companion book also contains abridged versions of both the Alice books, with small scans of the card related to any particular section.  This is perfect for a quick read, and for a deeper understanding of the cards.

Altogether, this is an absolutely wonderful, somewhat surreal, and delightfully shiny deck.  It will appeal to Alice fans, as well as fans of RWS decks who also like a touch of the bizarre.  Colourful and crazy, I look forward to reading with it much more.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Weekly Reading With The Alice Tarot

This week, I am delighted to have finally gotten my hands on the latest deck from those Baba Studios creatives, the Alice Tarot (standard edition).  I've wanted this deck since Karen Mahoney first announced they were working on it, a couple of years ago!  Still, first impression is: it was worth the wait!

Situation - King of Wands

I'm not sure you can tell from the scan, but these cards have shiny bits.  On this card, that translates not just to gilt bits, but also blue and red metallic bits: very nice! 

The Mad Hatter is passionate and enthused about life, and manages to carry others along with him.  Some folks think his actions a little crazy, but there's no doubting his dynamism.

Don't - The Devil

I like the way some elements of the images seem to burst out of the borders, as though they are too strong or big to be contained.  We see that here, with the Jabberwock: a fiercesome creature, part lizard, part bat.  Of course, our own fears are always far worse than the actual threats we face, and the worst that happens to us is more likely to be from our own poor choices.  Still, "Beware the jubjub bird and shun the frumious bandersnatch" :)

Do - Queen of Swords

Oh my, this Queen looks rather grim, despite the warm colours of her clothes (highlighted with lots of metallic, can you see the glitter?)  Still, the Queen of Hearts seemed a pretty grim character, yelling "Off with his head!" at the drop of a hat, or tart.  Yet, later in the story we hear that she doesn't actually execute anyone.  So, a softer touch than she seems: a woman who threatens swift justice but is actually kind-hearted under her bluster.

What mad, exciting plans do you have this week?  How might letting fear control you get in the way of those plans?  Can you make snap judgements if needed?

Friday, 12 September 2014

Overview of the Ghost Tarot

This week's deck, the Ghost Tarot (Lo Scarabeo, 2014), is clearly a theme deck.  As such, it may appeal to goths, as well as having potential for both Halloween and mediumistic readings.  That isn't to say that it isn't a readable deck, though.

I really like some of the imagery here.  For example, this version of Death is very atmospheric and adds some interesting symbolism.  A ghostly, cloaked figure carrying a scythe floats within a graveyard, with a mausoleum just behind.  It stands on a path through the graveyard, framed by the iron doors, and with a full moon shining brightly above it.  There is sorrow and grief here.  Yet, there is also a place for such things, and structure to help us deal with it.  And perhaps a power connected with such endings, the clarity that can be associated with closure.

The King of Wands, on the other hand, represents one of the less sterling aspects of this deck.  Some of the CGI looks overly fake.  Like the figure in the Five of Swords on Monday, there is an irreality, a plasticness, to some of the people that doesn't sit well with me.  And yet, I quite like how these ghostly courts have been done, glowing with the colour associated with their suit.  The symbolism, too, is appropriate and helpful to reading these sometimes tricky characters.  Here, the King sits firmly in his throne, glowing red and holding his wand proudly before him.  He is forthright, and dynamic even in this static pose.  His throne sits with windows behind him, and the sky glows outside: he has oversight in his given field or domain.

The Ace of Cups works nicely, too.  A ghostly hand reaches out beneath a slightly glowing goblet, which floats above a larger fount of water.  Steam rises around the waters, suggesting the veils between the worlds being drawn back.  While there isn't an overflowing here, there is a feeling of abundance and depth, an offer to experience more if we look deeply into the waters.

As for the Minors, all are clearly related to traditional RWS notions.  Yet, each adds its own quirk.  Sometimes, these work beautifully, like Monday's Five of Swords.  Other times, they are a little more strange.  The Eight of Pentacles is a case in point.  A woman in a wedding dress chisels R.I.P. onto a gravestone.  Above it floats a man's figure, with slicked back hair, little round glasses, and a book in one hand.  Is this the woman's intended?  Her father?  Or is she some kind of black widow who has already gone through seven other husbands?

Not a great deck, perhaps, but one which has enough symbolism to read (generally), and enough variety not to be a bore.  The idea of ghosts being around us all the time is one that will appeal to some, and it certainly works very powerfully in some of the cards.  What do you think?

Monday, 8 September 2014

Weekly Reading with the Ghost Tarot

From last week's neo-Victorian creatures, this week we move to the very modern, CGI Ghost Tarot (Lo Scarabeo, 2014).

Situation -The World

A ghostly figure swims within a green,glowing crystal ball.  She wears nothing but a draping of material, and lines of light flow from her, or to her.  Do those lines feed her, or bind her?  Given this is the World card, the former seems more likely.  Yet, altogether, it is a rather claustrophobic version of what is more often a joyous card.  I am tempted to see here more the idea of finality, completing a cycle, and perhaps realising how confined you have been.  There is a hope for a wider experience and a new start.

Don't - Five of Swords

In the foreground, a rather annoyingly plastic-looking figure smiles as he holds three swords, with two more in the ground just in front of him.  Meanwhile, two rather despondent,ghostly figures walk away from him, towards a lake.  Above the scene, a rainbow fills the blue side of the sky, with clouds above the smug figure.  The expression that comes to mind is "giving up the ghost".

Do - Eight of Swords

A woman stands, with hands bound and eyes covered atop a rocky outcropping.  Behind her, a pair of angel wings rise up.  Is she aware of the wings?  Though her hands are bound and she cannot see, if she just dares to take flight, she will be safe.  This card has a Fool quality to it, as her left foot seems poised to step off the boulder, into the unknown.

Where might you make a new start this week, expanding your horizons?  What would help you not give up on your dreams?  How can you give yourself a little extra security to make this move?

Friday, 5 September 2014

Overview of the Isidore Tarot

As I mentioned on Monday, the Isidore Tarot (by Bethalynne Bajema) is based on the artwork of J.J. Granville.  So, we find many quirky beasts and insects, neo-Victorian clothing and artifacts, and a touch of the bizarre.

Take the Sun, which shows an elongated horse, a mini-tin pot dictator instead of a naked boy, and a calm yet somewhat frou-frou Sun above.  There are also sunflowers, yet they are low to the ground, changing the feel of the card a fair bit.  This card speaks less of innocence, yet still expresses new energy and a desire to explore the world - look at how high that horse raises its foreleg.

The Court cards are very well done, in my opinion.  Like the Queen and King of Cups that we saw on Monday, there is plenty of symbolism to be getting on with, though the images are far from busy.  So too, here on the Page of Coins, we have a rather dapper bird in a mustard coat, holding his Pentacle and looking quite pleased about it.  One finger points to the Coin, as though to say: Here, look at this!  Small flowers bloom around him, connecting him to the element of earth, and to new beginnings in the physical plane.

I also love this Ace of Swords, a hand reaches out holding what looks like a carving fork.  On top of it is a crown, with gems in a colour that matches the sleeve of the hand.  This is a far more "civilised" version - the hand is obviously clothed, there are matching accents and plenty of elegant detail in the fork.  And yet, the card itself remains quite simple and clear, which is a theme of all the images.

As for this Six of Wands, isn't it fabulous!  A donkey wears a wreath, and rides on the back of a zebra, while other donkeys stand around, gazing at this victor.  The six wands rise up around the donkey, intricate yet clear, and in a pattern that is tidy, yet not entirely symmetrical.

This deck is very readable following RWS tradition, and has a lovely simplicity to it, despite the detail of the main elements.  The only downside for me is that, despite quite nice cardstock, the deck came without rounded corners.  So, half an hour with my trusty corner-rounder was required before being able to use it.  The yellowish tones of the deck appeal to me, a bright, yet autumnal palette that suggests sepia, while being far more colourful.  And the quirkiness of the artwork, the strange juxtapositions mixed in with a clarity of design, makes it an interesting reading deck.