tarot_scholar: An image of Norman Rockwell's interpretation of Rosie the Riveter (Rosie)

Maybe another reason I've slowed down with this shadow work meme is that a lot of the prompts are sort of meaningless for me. Last one was about my Inner Child, which is frankly in the category of New Age concepts I don't buy into (maybe that's why my card was the 10 of Swords?); coming up is "inner god" and questions of divinity, which I don't really know if I hold truck with either. But I'll keep on keeping on. It's better to use my cards more often than not, right?

Today was day 17. According to the meme:

Intimacy: How I can strenghten [sic] my bond with the loved one(s)? )
tarot_scholar: An image of Norman Rockwell's interpretation of Rosie the Riveter (Rosie)
(or, is most often pulled to represent you?)

Most traditions assign Cancer (my Sun sign) to the Queen of Cups, and over time I've come to think of her as my significator:

Generally this is the card that feels the most "me" out of the courts. Aside from the Queen of Cups, I have a special place in my heart for the Queen of Swords: she is who I want to be:

However, it seems that the Page of Cups and the Page of Pentacles will pop once in a while to represent me.

tarot_scholar: An image of Norman Rockwell's interpretation of Rosie the Riveter (Rosie)
Yes. If you speak to most Tarot enthusiasts, you'll find nearly all of them have a small library of decks. Over the years I have owned:

  • The Tarot de Marseilles (as I mentioned in my last post)

  • The Rider Waite Smith (as I also mentioned in my last post)

  • The Thoth

  • The Gilded Tarot

  • The Robin Wood Tarot

  • The Mystic Faerie Tarot

  • The Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg

  • The Dragon Tarot

  • The Feng Shui Tarot

  • The Victorian Romantic Tarot

I don't have all of these anymore! Again, like I mentioned in the previous question, my Tarot de Marseilles deck got trashed and I gave my Rider Waite Smith deck away. Out of the rest on this list, I still own the Thoth, the Gilded, the Robin Wood, the St. Petersburg, the Feng Shui, and the Victorian Romantic decks, though I don't read with all of them.

A moment to talk about the decks I've since gifted away. The first is Peter Pracownik's Dragon Tarot. Other fantasy nerds (and note the use of other, there: I count myself among the benerded) went apeshit over this deck. I bought it mostly because it was different. It ended up being quite popular with the people I was reading for online at the time, but eventually I found the art a bit dull, inaccessible, and even juvenile. Sure, one air-brushed picture of a dragon in your bedroom when you're 14 is pretty cool, but a whole Tarot deck full of them (and it is almost nothing but blue, black, purple, and white, over and over again, with some red thrown in with the Wands and some green thrown in with the Coins) is overkill. Never mind that much of the art seems fairly disconnected from its RWS origins, almost like Pracownik decided to slap some Cups and Coins on his pre-existing art and call it a Tarot deck:

Sure I had the basic meanings and keywords of the cards (according to the RWS canon) I could draw on, but I found it impossible to extract any meaning or hint from the art whatsoever. After a couple years, I admitted to myself that this deck was a mistake and gave it away.

The next deck I released back into the wild was the Mystic Faerie deck. The art was much better than the Dragon Tarot. Vibrant colors, expressive figures, and a clear intent to actually convey meaning in every image instead of just HERE'S ANOTHER DRAGON:

The Art Nouveau style is also appropriate and a nice nod to Pamela Coleman-Smith's original art. What was cute (and clever) about this particular deck is that the images in each suit, from Ace to 10, tell a story of sorts, with the same figures undergoing different trials and eventually succeeding or failing—without messing around with the meanings of the cards. It's subtle at first, but then once you notice it (or until you get to that bit of the companion book), you can't unsee it. Ravenscroft's art is really quite lovely and I never hit a wall with it the same way I did with Pracownik's, but it became apparent that Fae imagery and folklore isn't really "my thing" either, so I sent this deck off to another owner.

I didn't take all of my decks with me during my trans-Atlantic move: the Gilded Tarot, the Feng Shui Tarot, and the Robin Wood Tarot are among the things I still have to pack up in the US. Out of those three, I haven't read with the Feng Shui in YEARS. It would probably be better off in the hands of someone more enthusiastic about Feng Shui and I Ching than I am now (I was at one point, but am no longer), but I can't bear to part with it until I know that I can find prints of the Major Arcana cards. The years have not dimmed my appreciation for the art in this deck.

(The Connollys renamed Death "Transition" in this deck.)

But as far as Tarot goes....well. This deck went to some weird places. The suits all have different names, instead referred to by an animal with the appropriate elemental association: Swords are White Tiger, Wands are Black Tortoise, Pentacles are Green Dragon, and Cups are Red Phoenix. I'm not schooled enough in Chinese metaphysics enough to argue whether these are correct associations, but it can be quite disorienting when you begin to read with this deck, especially if you're not well-versed with the elemental associations of Feng Shui (never mind that when you try to shoehorn a 5-element tradition into a 4-element system, things get wonky). People appear only in the Majors and in the Courts; on the pips, the image features just the animal in question, a setting that supposedly has some kind of specific Feng Shui energy, and a trigram in the bottom right. Like the Dragon Tarot, the Feng Shui Tarot is not a deck where you can easily intuit a card's meaning; I often found myself using the Tarot keywords (and my copy of the I Ching) to try to understand what was going on in the picture, to be honest. The art, at least, is lovely. I love the Majors but really the whole deck is some eye candy.

The Gilded and the Robin Wood I've used from time to time. I was in love with Robin Wood's art the moment I saw it in Tarot, Plain and Simple; I like it a little less now, but it's still lovely. The same goes for the Gilded Tarot. 

I save the Thoth for special occasions: readings for solar returns, the new year, and so on. I use the St. Petersburg Tarot for "the little things," you could say: day-to-day advice and frustrations. Soon after I purchased The Victorian Romantic deck I put it aside for special Story Duty so I haven't had too much of a chance to read with it yet.

Out of those five that I still read with, I'm not sure which one I would say is my favorite. I do love the miniature style of the St. Petersburg, though the images can often lack clarity. The Victorian Romantic has beauty as well as clarity. But then, those two are also my newest decks; who knows how I'll feel ten years from now!
tarot_scholar: An image of Norman Rockwell's interpretation of Rosie the Riveter (Rosie)

After many years of admiring from a distance, I took the plunge and ordered a copy of the Victorian Romantic deck. I don't know how I first stumbled upon it—most likely during a Google image search for one particular card or another—but it was love at first sight.

I had gone through a phase where I bought nearly every Tarot deck I stumbled across, just because, and I've had a few cases of buyer's remorse. After that experience, I abstained for a while; I think the last Tarot deck I had purchased before the Victorian Romantic was my Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg, and that was in 2008. Six years without purchasing a single deck! You understand, then, the kind of impression the Victorian Romantic deck made on me.

There were a few different editions printed; the only one remaining in stock at Baba Studios is the 2012 special edition. The cards are large—taller and fatter than my St. Petersburg and my Thoth—and the images are sumptuous. It comes in a sturdy box of heavy cardboard with a hinged lid (rather than your usual flimsy paper box and a folded tab opening). Very protective, though the deck fits in so snugly that getting it in and out is tricky business and one should be careful.

This edition also has lovely gold trim on the sides, which I think is a wonderful touch. It catches the light as you shuffle  and makes everything feel all the more magical. The whole deck has an air of a bygone fantasy era and a general sense of luxury. That is one word that keeps jumping out at me with this deck: luxury. Every image is detailed and rich with color; every card seems to spring from a sense of dreamy nostalgia where everything is beautiful and nothing hurts. Some of the images in this edition are new and did not originally appear in the first one, though I'm not sure which particular cards were changed. It also comes with two copies of The Lovers: one called "Dante and Beatrice" and the other called "Swept off her feet." I opted to use the latter for readings and keep "Dante and Beatrice" aside.

What makes this deck particularly interesting is that, because it is collage work of Victorian Classicism engravings and illustrations, most of the cards lack the traditional symbolism of having six pentacles or three cups or so on. There is nary a sword to be found in the above 8 of Swords card, for example. Some of the images chosen are also, in my opinion, quite unconventional and surprising. Nonetheless, they all fit well with the meanings of the cards; if anything, their departure from Pamela Coleman Smith's images in the Waite-Smith deck (upon which this deck is based) does a lot to clarify some cards and shed some light on their meaning.

I also appreciate the Court cards in this deck. Court cards have traditionally been simple portraits of their subject. There is only so much you can glean from a person sitting alone, however; while I've had the elemental associations and meanings memorized for years now, I've never been able to really "get" most of the courts and have longed for a deck that showed them interacting with the world and other people. I think the best ones I've seen have been Lady Freida Harris's—while they are still single-subject portraits, her use of perspective and geometry and color, in addition to the slightly more esoteric animal symbolism, was absolutely first-rate. Her court images still manage to convey a lot of information and ~feeling~ right on the surface.

Likewise in Marchetti's Gilded Tarot, he tried to convey the nature of the Queens by their posture/gaze/relationship with a column.

And Pamela Coleman Smith left clues in the nature of the Knights' horses and how they were riding.

Which has been a technique other artists have followed:

Here, many of the Court cards are shown with people. It seems like such a minor detail but it can make all the difference (for me).

 In my binge-buying days, I liked to sometimes do an introductory reading to learn a little bit about my new deck. I did the same with this deck. I also looked into all of the rituals and readings people do with a new deck, but most of what I could find seemed to be variations on the theme of cleansing: sage smudging, crystals, spritzing with herbal infusions, and so on. Daily Tarot Girl (a Tarot blog I hadn't encountered until now) suggests something similar to what I would do: ask your deck questions about itself. She also gives some suggestions about questions you might want to ask.

I opted for a simple three-card layout, but obviously that's what worked for me. I like three-card layouts; I like 3. You might like 1, or 4, or 7, or 10, or or or or....

How would you describe yourself? 7 of Cups

What attitude do you like? Knight of Wands

What attitude do you dislike? Ace of Wands

The 7 of Cups is one of those unconventional cards I mentioned earlier. The traditional Waite-Smith imagery for this card is a figure, back turned, gazing upon a dream of seven chalices. This is the theme you see in most Waite-Smith clones. But in the Victorian Romantic, we have a goblin-looking creature fishing treasures out of the murky depths. Or is he using them as bait to lure in unwary travelers? In the depths is a more human-looking figure, gaze fixed on the gold at the end of the fisherman's line. It is a totally unconventional representation of the lure of the 7 of Cups, but it works.

As a representative card of this deck, and how it chose to describe itself, it works: after all, the language I was using to describe it earlier falls under the realm of the 7 of Cups: luxury, magic, nostalgia, fantasy. And the card's unconventional art speaks to the various unorthodox facets of this deck. That said, it also seems like a bit of a trickster card to pick: the 7 of Cups is not without delusion and deceit. As any Tarot reader will tell you, the cards are not without a sense of humor.

The Knight of Wands is standing with his horse and talking to a woman who seems totally and utterly cheesed with him, while he has the tiniest hints of a smirk on his face. It's like he's just made some groaner of a pun or cutting remark that his companion is just not having. Still, he's a charmer; if he weren't, he wouldn't be talking to anyone at all. Confidence, charm, and enthusiasm. The Knight of Wands doesn't take anything too seriously. This seems more and more like a deck full of levity and goodwill.

The Aces, usually considered positive cards, can also have their downsides. There is such a thing as "too much of a good thing," after all. Mahony and Ukolov give positive and negative meanings for each card in the LWB (I'm a big fan of privileging the small details of a deck's LWB over generic, pan-deck meanings when those pan-deck meanings don't necessarily play out), and for the Ace of Wands they mention "machismo and forcefulness." With the wands in particular there is also the risk of brash, selfish ego; the obsession with the sacred fire of one's self. That Knight is only charming because he knows when to lay off and is sensitive to other people.

An unconventional deck with a sense of humor who dislikes people who are too far up their own asses and who too convinced of their own greatness. Well! Nice to meet you, Victorian Romantic. I'm sure we'll get to know each other quite well.


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