Chrysalis Tarot (US Games, 2014) before it even came out. Both the artwork by Holly Sierra and the ideas and structure created by Toney Brooks live up to expectations: it is lovely and fascinating in equal measure. However, it does challenge some traditional understandings of the cards. So, if you like your decks to be pure RWS-influenced, be warned.
All the Majors, for
instance, have been renamed. And while most retain a decipherable
connection to more standard archetypes, they also open up lots of
additional possibilities. Take Herne the Hunter (the Chariot): the LWB
connects this with following our will. Yet, Herne can also suggest
tapping into our inner wildness, and point to shamanic practices. And
as the leader of the wild hunt, I must say I think it's a shame he
wasn't shown with two different (coloured) beasts. That would have
brought the card closer to traditional iconography, while staying true
to what Brooks wrote...
Next, we come to the Court cards, in this
deck titled the Troupe. For me, this is the section I find hardest to
read. Each card is given a description - the Healer, the Visionary, the
Poet - while still being associated to a rank and suit - Page of
Spirals, King of Stones and so on. Yet I mostly find the description
doesn't seem to match the rank and suit. Here, for example, we have the
King of Stones (Pentacles) as the Minstrel. Now for me, the suit of
Stones is one of practicality, materiality, groundedness and
presentness. Whereas being a minstrel conjurs up
something far more emotive or communicative. I could see
him as the King of Mirrors (Cups) or the King of Scrolls (Swords), but
Stones (Pentacles)? The LWB says: "As your official or unofficial financial advisor, the Minstrel is a reliable source of knowledge." Even though this does give him a more King of Pentacles feel, this still feels more like the King of Swords if he were to turn his mind to finances.
However, it's not just in
the objects, titles and people that these challenges come, sometimes
it's in the very structure of the picture. This Two of Spirals (Wands)
with its two bird's nests straight away pushes my pattern-forming mind
to see the Two of Pentacles in the shape the nests form. While I can
see the Wands interpretation of choices or looking out at the world to
decide whether or not a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, it
once again takes a moment to turn off my immediate connections.
all this, or perhaps because of it, I feel this deck is worth
persevering with. Firstly, because it's so beautiful. Secondly,
because it opens up a wonderful world of myth and symbolism. And
thirdly, because it causes cognitive dissonance, making me do
double-takes, becoming aware of my assumptions and prejudices, and
opening me to new understandings.