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.


Ace of Pentacles/Coins Across Decks

I saw in my statistics page that someone had come to my site searching for images of the Ace of Coins. I thought to myself that this might make an excellent study.

Danger, danger, hours later after searching through dozens of decks and scanning, adjusting, rotating and labelling in Photoshop, I’m a bit punchy. When you’re in a funk, nothing helps like a bit of sorting, categorization, and organization. This was more than a bit, but hey it made for a keenly interesting day.

Dealing mostly with the Rider-Waite model (here used in the Universal Waite deck) I decided that there were three kinds of imagery with this card: the classic “hand of God” approach; the figurative approach related to the theme like in the Golden Tarot; and the pattern and shape decorated or changed similar to a pip in transformation playing cards, like in this marvelous Ace of Pentacles in the Sun and Moon.

In this study I am ignoring the figurative approach, and looking more at the other two.






I don’t see too many people using the Fradella deck but it’s one of my favourites.

















I’ve talked about that Universal Fantasy card before, it reminds me so much of an old brooch.

So that’s it, about 8 hours of work and 39 decks!



Cry Me a River Elizabeth



This is my ultimate personal card, even all these years later, I am this Queen. This is not my favourite depiction of her though, as she reminds me of caricatures of the dissolute Emperor Nero. However, she is St. Elizabeth of Hungary and was probably chosen for this card because she was a widow before becoming a nun. The Queen of Swords is often associated with widows.

Here is the original painting by Simone Martini.


Perhaps because of the widowhood, this card can also mean grief. Yes, she is intellectually astute and suffers no fools, but she also carries grief with her too, and that’s what I see today.

I am having a time adjusting to everything it seems. I try to do projects to compensate but I overdid the embroidery the other day and have a tender bruise now on my arthritic hand, so have to break for a day or two. This leaves me in my Queen of Swords mind, slashing and biting myself. Yesterday I sat at the table saying to the spouse how I didn’t see how I could continue to live, tears streaming down my immovable face, no comfort forthcoming from that manly quarter.

What a thing. The old human condition. Sometimes you can’t think your way through things Queenie, sometimes you have to feel it. “Oh how awful!” says Queenie, reaching for a biography of William Morris and finding that it hasn’t arrived at the library yet, leaving her with nothing to waylay her mind.

What to do, what to do to keep from going mad? Nothing I’m afraid, you have to sit and feel. Logic and goals, the quick-witted rational mind, are in the soup, floating for a time, adrift. How dramatic, but that’s this Queen, she never does thing by halves. Clinging to grief won’t cut it Queenie, you have to go through it. In a way, that offers a type of independence that this Queen would like.

Sigh. Bloody feelings.



Ursuline Enlightenment

I was rummaging looking for the perfect border fabric for a baby quilt I started in January. I had set it aside for a while because something was off. I realized yesterday that it needed a dark blue and not a red colour for the border and once I decided that, I appliquéd 3 blue circles onto patches within the quilt that needed toning down so I’m set to go again.

This often happens with my projects. I can tell something isn’t working, usually with the colour, and it takes a break to see it with a fresh eye. A good example of why rushing something is not always the best way.



I immediately think of the four evangelists with this card since their symbols are classically on here. The main character here is St. Ursula and the Holy Virgins. One absolutely delightful thing with this deck is that the booklet lists all the art references for each card. Kat Black has collaged the frame and gilt, the clouds, and each evangelistic symbol from different sources, in such a clever way.

This card seems fresh to me since I rarely draw The World. It seems auspicious that I do today. Something to think about when considering choice in the big, bad world:

“One person can make the world a better place.”

This includes surrounding yourself with enlightened people and attitudes.



Time Enough to Breathe and Create

I rarely use this deck today. Back when it was created I raved about it, because it was one of the decks that rekindled my love and interest in Art History. A few years later I saw the author being rather snarky on the Jump the Shark forum along with another author, and it sadly put me off both their decks. I noticed a few authors, one reviewer, and one woman who authored the book for a deck, who let it go to their head over time and change them from pleasant, knowledgeable people, to ego-charged meanies.

I imagine the attention, particularly as sales and discussion of your work builds, would be hard not to let go to your head. The rock stars of the tarot world are human after all. I don’t want to know. Having been a bully at times myself when I let my temper get the best of me, I think a kinder, humbler approach does us all good.

I also think it best that we create our own artwork rather than collage the work of others. Still, I have several books on frescoes and Art History that contain bits and pieces from this deck so I remain fond of the artwork.



Yup, I’m feeling this today. In the Rider-Waite deck, this card has my favourite illustration. The falcon, the garden, the richness of the landscape, all point to golden hours with your basic needs meant and time and money for creative pursuits. The only thing she’s missing is a decorative plate or two.

Oh wait…




Big Red, the Drama Queen

Daily Draw August 9th, 2011


It’s the all fiery, all passionate lady with the red angels flanking her. Volatility, dare I say frazzling moodiness. The drama queen of the court cards.

Well, apart from guarding against having a temper tantrum, I can’t think what this might mean for the day. Maybe the idea of holding my energy inside rather than letting it fly—the way her hands are crossed also speaks of guarding or holding in emotions. She does have great energy, it’s just that it sometimes gets away from her in ways that are not beneficial, mostly to others.

People often speak of the Queen of Swords as being dangerous or moody, but this Queen is the one I watch out for, she is all fire, fire, fire.

The Same Rut in the Road

Daily Draw August 8th, 2011

I pulled out the Golden Tarot today, which I seldom use. I started the first thread on it at the Jump the Shark forum years ago. At the time I was just rediscovering art, particularly Medieval and early Renaissance art, so this really lit me up.

Strangely though, it is a deck that doesn’t live up to its promise. I have noticed other people saying this too, so I like to pin down such things. How can something that was so important not live up to expectations?

One reason for me is that the popularity of the author seems to have changed her into someone prone to comments denigrating the work of others. Alas we are all prone to the swelled head syndrome, but several public figures in tarot, including a dubious reviewer and a few deck creators seem to have been carried away with themselves.

Also, this work was culled from the work of many other artists. My sense of futility with regard to the prevalence of collaged decks rears up. I made myself a Lenormand deck with collaged clip art because it helped me explore the meanings, but it was just for me, a personal exercise in composition and meaning. To sell it without my own artwork would not be something that would interest me.

I tend to like and respect decks where someone has actually drawn or painted the art themselves. I have enormous respect for Lo Scarabeo illustrators because I like commercial illustrations, they bring a freshness of effort to decks. I also like primitive art and several decks I own with odd, primitive art, because they hold up an interesting light to archetypes and the same old polished and cemented Rider-Waite clones.

It’s a subtle thing to find out why something doesn’t appeal in the end, but for me it’s the lack of originality in this and any other collage deck, that makes them tired, like horses plodding along the same rut in the road.


Ah yes, a little respite is what is needed. Getting away from the world and people, pulling into the Self, like wrapping yourself in bed covers.

Work has begun on our house so I’m hunkering down and hiding in the basement, pinning fabric.