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Friday, 6 June 2014

Deck review: Chrysalis Tarot

Chrysalis Tarot by Toney Brooks and Holly Sierra, US Games 2014

I have used this deck every day for a week and made a study of the LWB and examined and considered most of the cards. Here are my thoughts...

What's included
A deck of 78 cards in the usual US Games tuck box, with 59-page Little White Book. Each card gets roughly two short paragraphs of supporting text. There is one spread in the back of the LWB, a 5-card 'pentagram' spread.

The cards
The cards measure 12 x 7 cm. The deck is 3 cm high when stacked. Card stock is nice to the touch, extremely light lamination, almost matte finish, which is just right for the rich coloration of the cards. The cards are just thick enough to make riffle and bridge shuffling slightly difficult for those with small hands or timidity in handling the cards. A hand-over-hand shuffle may be preferred.

The art
The art is extremely appealing. It is quite luminous and magical. The vivid blue card backs are completely reversible and feature butterflies, spirals and a lotus blossom. Of course, a chrysalis is an insect pupa, from which a butterfly will emerge. The implication is that this deck helps your inner butterfly break free. Certainly the art touches the spirit in magical ways.

The artist, Holly Sierra, says she was unaware of the work of Chesca Potter when painting this deck, which is remarkable as I find that in feel and even in style, sometimes, her work echoes Chesca's. There are also, as I've mentioned before, shades of Will Worthington and more whimsical 'fairy' touches in some cards that remind me of Linda Ravencroft. Overall, I find the artwork very pleasing. The card backs are so gorgeous that I find myself laying cards out face down, a thing I never do, just so I can see the layout with all those beautiful backs. The borders of the cards are a pleasing golden color with an ornate but unobtrusive design. In short it is a deck that I can sit and look at for hours.

The majors
 Almost all of the majors have been changed:

0 Merlin
1 Ravens
2 Sorceress
3 Gaia
4 Green Man
5 Divine Child
6 Lovers
7 Herne the Hunter
8 Maat
9 Storyteller
10 Wheel
11 Papa Legba
12 Celtic Owl
13 Ariadne
14 Golden Flower
15 Bella Rosa
16 Kali
17 Elpi
18 Moon
19 Sun
20 Phoenix
21 Psyche

Each major does provide the traditional name on the card in addition to the new one, but you may find that some of them bear little resemblance to traditional meanings. It is up to you to decide if this bothers you. Everybody has a different line between what makes something a 'tarot' vs an 'oracle'. For me, this deck is definitely a tarot. It's only slightly different. To its credit, the LWB does, in most cases, mention the traditional meaning and explain why this deck has deviated from it. About Divine Child: 'Most tarot decks title this card Hierophant, a religious authority figure. In Chrysalis Tarot, the task of spiritual growth is an individual responsibility that requires an open mind and critical thinking.' That's well and good, but what about all the other meanings tied up in Hierophant - authority of all kinds, social conventions and institutions such as marriage, counselling of all types including doctors, lawyers and such. Sometimes we need to access wisdom outside ourselves, and that is actually what the Hierophant represents (in my tarot world). This sort of narrow interpretation of traditional meanings also narrows the uses for a deck. This is a deck which seems to be designed for introspection, and in my opinion is not necessarily well-suited for readings of a more practical nature. If you want to do traditional fortune telling, perhaps you'd be better off with a more traditional deck, such as RWS. If you want to break out of your spiritual 'chrysalis', that seems to be more what this deck is about.

You may have noticed there is a mix of figures from different pantheons, myths, legends and traditions. In this way, it is a New Age deck - eclectic and free-spirited in its use of spiritual wisdom from all sources, mixed together. However, there is a theme of earth-based spirituality running through all choices.

The minors
Spirals (Wands) suit from Chrysalis Tarot

For the most part, the minors follow traditional meanings. If you have ever strung together a sort of story through the minor suits, you can still do it with this deck. I've been thinking about tarot from the point of view of a beginner lately because I've been explaining things to my hubby a lot, and I strung together a loose story with the RWS wands for him recently, that pretty much goes with these Chrysalis Tarot minors. The Wands (Spiral) energy is the life force itself. The story goes: You have the potential for life and you are a divine spark (Ace). You are born - the life spark divides itself and you 'become' (2). You become self-aware and contemplate motion (3). You settle in to existence, establish yourself (4). You find that existence brings with it troubles of various kinds (5). You triumph over these troubles (6). You realise that you don't just win these battles once and for all but must remain vigilant (7). Being alive requires a lot of activity and communication (8). You've been through a lot and are wary but a survivor (9) - this one is not as evident in Chrysalis, and is not borne out so overtly in the LWB either. If you are not careful, life can become quite burdensome if you try to carry it all yourself (10). 

The elemental attributions are evident but not overt in the minors - Spirals are fire (red and gold colours), Scrolls are air (purple), Stones are earth (green colours), and Mirrors are water (blues). 

These things may not be important to you, and they are not always important to me, but in most cases, I must admit I prefer my tarot to fit familiar patterns. I quite like the minors and most of them make sense to me quickly.

The courts
The courts are called the 'Troupe' and in most cases, for me, correspond only vaguely, if at all, with traditional tarot courts. There are 16 of them, four for each suit, but the details of each character don't match up terribly well with my own concepts of the individual court cards. I've decided to consider that there aren't court cards in this deck and just go with what I've been provided, the 'Troupe' and take them at face value. It eases my mind to do this, rather than to force myself to believe that a magician is the Knight of Pentacles.
I prefer to look upon these cards as fresh new characters to get to know. 

The verdict
This is a beautiful deck and an utter pleasure to look at. Despite my moaning about the court cards, I love it. Even if all I ever did with it was sit and look through the cards, it would be worth owning. But it also is an interesting deck for reading. I'm looking forward to doing readings for people using this deck and of course for myself as well.



  1. Hi Carla. A great review. Now I know even more I've made the right decision buying it. )

    1. I hope you enjoy. It does seem like your kind of deck. I know you love Crystal Visions, for example. :)

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you, ducky. My deck reviews are more like detailed product reviews, but these are the sort of things I'd like to know about a deck before I buy it, more than a few ramblings about how wonderful (or terrible) it is with no useful information. :)

  3. Interesting about the Divine Child. The image makes me think of a film about the reincarnation of a great guru, and how a young child was treated as a hierarchical figure because of other people's traditional ideas about him. In that way, this could still work for other Hierophant notions... Haven't read with my copy yet, but I'm looking forward to it after reading your posts :)

  4. Does it have that multidimensional feel to it? Not that much stuck in earth?

  5. Does it have that multidimensional feel to it? Not that much stuck in earth?