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Saturday, 6 October 2012

Book of Shadows Vol 1: As Above

 Barbara Moore, LoScarabeo
Thursday evening my friend from work kindly dropped off a couple of parcels for me, and Book Shadows Tarot Vol 1: As Above was one of them. I ordered this deck on a whim last week after viewing an enthusiastic YouTube review of it. I'm not sure why I ordered it as it breaks lots my little 'deck rules'. Such as, I don't like decks that look CG (even though apparently this deck is hand-painted, it sure reminds me of CG). I don't like dark tones in the artwork or lots of scenes that take place at night. I don't like decks that depict all the females as dewy-faced nymphets with long, blowy hair. I don't like decks that change the names of the majors or the suits. I don't like decks that don't depict the proper number of pips in the minors. I don't like dark-colored borders. I don't like long, skinny cards. I don't like having to learn a completely new, idiosyncratic system in order to use a deck for readings. But for some reason, call it a moment of madness, I went straight from the YouTube to Amazon and had clicked buy before I knew what was happening.

When I first opened the deck, I was first struck by the narrow cards, thin card stock, and all the other things there that I find annoying in a deck. I was feeling very annoyed with myself, too, because I'd seen scans of the deck and was aware of its 'flaws', but I'd ordered it anyway. Then mild panic began to set in when I realised I couldn't even understand what was going on in the deck. Who were all these dudes standing in front of planets? What the heck were those gnomes planning to do to that cow, whose expression, by the way, could only be described as melancholic. What the heck, what the heck, what the heck? And how am I supposed to read with this thing???

As is my tradition, I sat in the floor and laid the cards out in majors, and then minors through courts. The cards are dark, very dark, in colouring. There are lots of very stiffly posed people. Many of them are young women with flowing hair. I sat and looked at the whole deck, angst and regret burgeoning. I bought the deck only, no book, because actually I didn't realise the book set was out yet. So I got out the LWB and began flipping through it, peering at the cards before me as I did so. The balance and pattern of this deck began to emerge, and I began to warm to it when I realised that, for me, this is not a tarot, but an oracle, and an oracle that is very rife with potential as a companion in spiritual practice.

The deck is wonderfully balanced. The majors contain the Wheel of the Year and basic elements of Wiccan craft. It is debatable how much of true tarot meaning is reflected in them, but with use I may become more comfortable with that. As it stands now, the tarot meaning for each card in the majors amounts to a small correspondence rather than the main meaning, in my eyes. I spent several happy minutes regrouping the cards into the Wheel of Year order and then laying out the other cards into groupings that were meaningful to me.

The minors, upon reflection, really amaze me with their balance. In the Water (Cups) suit, the goddess is represented throughout. Little 'nixies' (I call them undines) serve as pips, and on many cards, the number of undines actually reflects the card number, a plus for me. This goddess suit is beautifully balanced by the Fire suit, in which the masculine aspect is represented through the planets and their associated gods. Salamanders serve as pips. The Air suit concerns itself with various forms of divination, connection to spirit, and sylphs serve as pips. In counterbalance, the Earth suit celebrates the various environments and blessings of our planet, and little bearded gnomes are the pips. Best of all, the court cards have been changed from Page, Knight, Queen, King to Elemental, Maid, Mother and Crone, and I really love that.

So, after the angst, I rather like this deck. I like it enough that I fully intend to buy Vol 2, 'So Below'.

Another tradition of mine is identify, on first impression, my three worst cards and my three  favourite cards from a deck. Here they are:

Book of Shadows Vol 1, Barbara Moore. LoScarabeo 2012.
Considering this deck is so concerned with the Goddess, that is one hideous Goddess card. The Crone aspect looks like the evil queen from Snow White, entombed in what looks like Aleicster Crowley's custom-made wardrobe. The other two peer suspiciously over their shoulders, and a rabid bunny gets the brightest spotlight. Weird. Then there's that neurasthenic cow in 9 of Earth. This card is supposed to represent all the animal life of earth. Why dominate the card with a giant cow? What are all those gnomes expecting to happen? It's just a strange card. Finally, I really hate that Chariot card. I would not have ever associated Chariot with Transformation, anyway. And I particularly dislike these naked, winged tender young things that you see so often in certain decks and artwork. Blech.

Book of Shadows Vol 1, Moore 2012
I love this Queen of Swords--sorry, Mother of Air. This image attracted me to the deck in the first place. Also, I've been searching for some images of the masculine aspect, and this God image appeals to me. I don't know why I like it, I just do. Also, I really like the Magician card, which focuses on tools in hand to create. I like that the hands are masculine hands, and that each wrist has a bracelet that symbolises the element, and that the traditional suit symbols are represented. It's an appealing card.

So, those are my first responses. I say that, to me, it is not a tarot. Whether it can be used for readings remains to be seen. But its concept is interesting and I may find uses for it.


  1. So funny we both posted with this on the same day! I've been waiting for this for a while, having organised a group order for it through TABI. So, I've got the kit, and signed by Barbara :)

    And hilarious that my first CotD is one of your most hated cards ;) I agree the cow looks rather melancholic, though as I say, Barbara's description gives a very different perspective, one I expect you appreciate :)

    I know what you mean about it having more of an oracle feel than a traditional tarot feel. However, the As Below deck that comes out next year is RWS based. I'll bring the book next week so you can have a look (it shows all the As Below cards, too).


  2. I appreciate the message but don't like having a cow as a role model for mindfulness. I think she looks more vacant than in the moment.

    I look forward to seeing the book. I may bring a few extra decks; you reckon anyone would be interested in swapping? I have a few I wouldn't mind trading.

  3. Oooh, tarot meets and swapping... I remember those days...

    I was just mentioning on Chloe's blog that I really liked the majors on seeing them, but that the gnomes just ruined it for me. Also, I may be wrong, but does the consistency of the art style lapse a bit? I liked the masculine and feminine suits. And also that God you showed. But don't think I can get past those gnomes, lol.

    Thanks for a lovely review. Helped me to understand it better!

  4. Hi Carla,
    I've never tried trading at the UK Tarot Conference, or in fact anywhere ;) Still, I'm guessing it's probably worth bringing them along just in case...

  5. @Princelenormand: You're welcome, I glad you liked the review! I know what you mean about the gnomes, but I have become very fond of them lately. I recently bought two gnome figures for a faerie altar! I think the consistency in style lapses a great deal, as does the depth and quality of art from card to card. But 78 paintings is a lot to ask, particularly if it's a job commission with a deadline. (Don't if that was the case here or not).

  6. Just a follow up here to say -- I ended up going with my first instincts on this deck, after a few attempts to connect with and use it. The instinctive cons far outweighed the cerebral pros. It's long gone from my collection and I have not missed it at all!

  7. if i not pregnant.Jose Martinez he not playing with me.