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Friday, 17 August 2012

Now this brief interlude: the Art of Life Tarot

I admit I haven't read any further in Rachel Pollack's 78 Degrees of Wisdom. (I've been distracted by a novel I picked up at work called The Uninvited by Liz Jensen. A quirky and absorbing read.)

I did, however, receive the Art of Life Tarot yesterday. I blame Chloe of Inner Whispers entirely, I would not have considered it if she hadn't mentioned in passing that she'd ordered it herself. :) I was, as usual, beside myself with excitement when the postman arrived with a parcel.

Art of Life by Charlene Livingstone, US Games
To begin with the packaging is very clever indeed. A sturdy box with a fliptop lid that quite simply folds back to be propped into little grooves on either side to create a frame into which you can slide any of the cards for contemplation and admiration. That's so fantastic I think I may change my previous declaration that 'all decks should come in a tin' to 'all decks should come in a clever multi-purpose box in keeping with the theme of the deck'. Did I mention I love the box?

The cards inside are fairly large. The cardstock is a little on the thin side but sturdy enough to riffle shuffle without fear of damage. The backs of the cards are decorated with a detail from a Klimt painting, a tree with little birds in it.

Each card consists of the traditional tarot title at the top, a painting (all of them quite well known, which some art lovers may find too familiar for the intended use, but which for me is okay, because I don't really know that much about art, and I don't mind the images being familiar), and a quotation from a variety of authors. The paintings and quotations have been selected by the deck creator to embody the essence of the particular card. For the most part, I believe she has succeeded in this.

The card at right, Three of Swords, contains a picture of a dejected man. (When you check the credit under the image, it's actually 'The Agony in the Garden', which means it's Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Now that is surely a 3 of Swords moment! Good heavens!) But without intellectualizing any Jesus references, you can certainly see the suffering and dread in the figure. The images in all the cards go a very long way to expressing the emotion of the traditional tarot card meaning. Then there is a quotation provided, and its role seems to be to embody the essence of the uplifting message inherent in the card. This is true for every card. The meaning of Three of Swords is heartbreak, dejection; the Thoth deck labels it 'Sorrow.' But in this deck, you don't get key words, you get inspiration. 'Difficulties exist to be surmounted.'

I think this is a lovely deck and I am glad I bought it! It's quirky and interesting, and could be a way into tarot for those who are resistant or fear it. (I'm thinking of a work colleague who turns her face away as if avoiding  Old Nick himself when I open a tarot deck, but yesterday I told her, 'These are art cards, each one has a painting and a quotation' and she was quite interested. :) )


  1. Hi Carla,

    I was a bit disappointed with this deck because I felt the quotes were too uplifting, not true to the sometimes dark nature of the cards. However, you have given me a different perspective on them, so I shall return to them with a kinder heart <3

    I love that they may finally give your colleague a new perspective :)

  2. My thinking is, the quotes do the job that we as readers feel compelled to do when explaining cards. If I draw 3 of Swords for someone, I always end up explaining how heartache and disappointment are there, but how they are something everyone goes through, which leads to growth and development. The quotations do that work right there on the card. This makes the deck very useful for those learning tarot, which was the intention of the creator, to have the card meanings communicated through the image and quote, so that a book would not have to be consulted. :)