Friday, 7 November 2014

Chrysalis Tarot Overview

I loved the sound of this deck, the 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.

Similarly, some of the other images challenge my associations at a deep level.  Here in the Ace of Spirals (Wands) we have a goat, which I associate with Capricorn, and earth, rather than fire.  Still, the goat is certainly a force to be reckoned with, nimble and able to scale heights as well as being quick to change direction.  So, I enjoy many of these cards, once I manage to turn off my 'jumping to associations' brain.

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.

Despite 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.


  1. Interesting overview, Chloe.

    I remember someone else scratching their head with this deck (it may have been Carla?) and I sympathised by how similar sets had confused the heck out of me in the past - the New Orleans Voodoo (an ordeal in parts), the Enochian (don't even go there).

    This is a beautiful set of images, but as I have stated on a number of occasions, just not for me at this moment in my journey. I remember another deck you reviewed using names for the courts, which this reminds me of a little. That one seemed more in line with Rider Waite thinking, if I am right?

    Great look through the deck though. I appreciate these posts because of their honesty. Not every deck is for every person, however lovely. I keep looking back at the Mary-el. Despite loving her artwork, I just wonder if it would confuse me personally, more than it would enchant.

    1. Hi Steve,
      Yes, Carla also worked with it when it first came out. I think ultimately she decided she wouldn't read with it much.

      Hmm, maybe you mean the Incidental Tarot (one of my all-time favourite decks): and

      And funny you should mention the Mary-El. Ellen is using it at the moment, but that's a deck that I bought when it first came out, and still have not done a single reading with!! :)

  2. Great review Chloe you've managed to name all the reasons why I had to have this deck. And the most important one is to silence my 'jumping to associations' brain. Opening up to its symbolism instead of squeezing it in a RW jacket is giving this beautiful deck what it deserves (Perhaps it is a bit like working with the Mary El) :)

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Ellen. Yes, our "jumping to associations" brain is a very useful things in many situations, but it can get us stuck in a rut :) And I'm enjoying your posts with the Mary El, maybe I'll even dare to try it myself one of these days :D

  3. Ahhh I am so loving this deck. I am starting to notice a trend in my own favorite decks.. they are often the ones that stray from the "traditional" usually because they offer additional layers, or new ways of conceptualizing the cards. The New Orleans Voodoo is one of my all time favorite decks, and incidentally the Enochian is on the way (I think it will be here tomorrow! - and I'll admit, I'm very curious because it's quite a different structure, and I know very little about Enochian magic!). Some of the Troupe in the Chrysalis really shine for me - others are less so - mainly the King of Stones (I am not sure I'd hire a minstrel to be a financial advisor anyway!! haha..) and sadly the King of Scrolls looks like Fabio. But I I just find myself picking this deck up again and again, moreso than I have with many of my other decks. So that says something. I love it. Oh, and I believe the Ace of Spirals is a ram (like Aries), not a goat!! :-)

    1. Ah, the ram makes so much more sense! I guess as my Big Boy is a Capricorn, and spirals make me think about pentacles due to the shape (as opposed to long, pointy wands), that's another part of why my brain got stuck on that connection ;)
      Yes, I do love decks with extra layers. Will look forward to seeing how you get on with the Enochian...