Database in the Golden World

“…fleet the time carelessly as they did in the golden world.” [Shakespeare, As You Like It]

This week while looking through one of my art history books, I came across a leopard that Kat Black had used in her collaged Golden Tarot on the High Priestess card. I have a number of books on frescoes, illuminated manuscripts, and Sienese painting and every now and then recognize snippets from this deck.  It made me want to discuss the deck.


I started the original thread for this deck on a forum under a name that I used at the time. Kat sent me a signed card when I bought the deck to thank me for that, which was nice.


I remember being incensed at the derogatory review that K. Frank Jensen wrote about this deck. He was disparaging about the pretty deck as a mere clone of the Rider-Waite, gussied up for the fans. I find many old-time tarot people can be dismissive of themed decks, not even giving them a chance. One fellow whom I e-mailed made fun of me for recommending the Pagan Cats Tarot when it was published, but it’s a good deck, and has some depth, despite the sound of the cheesy theme name. I prefer people who work with a deck for some months to do reviews.

Yes, it’s pretty but these images really pull you into the archetype, pull you into the reflection of the human condition. I laud Kat’s depth of experience and wisdom to visualize that.


I respect the deck because of the art and Kat Black’s mastery of collage is very good in comparison to other collage decks. It’s an easy technique but not easy to compose seamlessly from disparate references. She did a great job. Over time, I have come to be wary of collaged decks and prefer hand drawn illustrated decks, but this holds up for me.

Over time I can pull this deck out and feel my fondness for it, the attraction of the Medieval landscape quietly inhabits my mind. It reminds me a lot of the Grail Tarot, with artwork by Giovanni Caselli, another favourite of mine. Here are four cards that are beautifully done.


I never bought the Touchstone Tarot because Kat changed the head on a painting depicting Elizabeth I as a young girl; I couldn’t bear to look at that card as I adore the original painting. I also felt the deck was a bit same-y after the Golden Tarot, although she used artwork from a later period. Such is the subjectivity of art and deck publishing.

The Golden Tarot definitely has staying power, and I shall use it for a bit, re-familiarize myself with the deck and generally enjoy it, a personal favourite. I saw recent comments online about newer editions having glossy lamination, whereas this deck, the original publication, has matte lamination which beautifully complements the Medieval/Early Renaissance time period. Still, the fact that it’s in-print says a lot about the spirit of the deck and its author.

Good on you Kat.


4 thoughts on “Database in the Golden World

  1. I don’t review decks because my attitude often changes toward them. Some that were such beauties I find hard to work with; others that weren’t very eye-catching are easy to read. But like you, I don’t put much stock in a review in which the person doesn’t own the deck or hasn’t used the deck more than once or twice. I’ve got both of Black’s decks and don’t see myself giving/trading either away any time soon. I could relate to words said in an emotional moment that I wish I could take back. Can’t unring the bell, as the saying goes.

    • I review the ones I really like. I’ve got lots of good ones I didn’t review–not sure what the difference is for me, probably the artwork. Mostly I just use the decks I love a lot and figure that speaks to the matter.

      I don’t think the words were particularly emotional, just several deck artists disparaging another. I’ve never heard that “can’t unring the bell” but it’s delightfully apt.

      This review thing: I also don’t think discussing card stock and the box and throwing a few cards out is a review. A review is when you work with something, let it sit in your world for a while, when you suspend your bias and work with the system whether it’s different or not. I like a good, long wrangle with a deck before I bother speaking about it in depth. I also like to do my own artwork in response to a deck as part of a review. Sometimes I make jewellery, it’s a real immersion for me and requires a lot of energy.

      I would never pour that kind of energy into reviewing an awful deck. I’ve had one awful deck in 15 years and I threw it in the garbage and deleted all my posts about it. That felt better than doing a negative review.

      • I believe the “unring the bell” phrase is from the judicial system – it was a caution not to say something unwarranted to a jury because they couldn’t unhear it no matter what you told them.

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