New Tarot Cupboards

I’m into my tenth day of trying to organize my bedroom. I have one tiny half rack I’m using for clothes in the walk-in closet, and the rest is all craft, art supplies and doll or dollhouse stuff. Yeah, I’ve got MY priorities straight.

These are flat-pack pantries or wardrobes. These are fairly light and hold a lot with the extra wire racks I put on the shelves. I had one extra shelf cut for each cupboard and still they are filled up.


Now I have to organize and put away the mess at the end of my bed. I have ordered a nice wooden blanket box in a “chocolate cherry” stain but that won’t be here for weeks. My quilts are reeking of plastic after being stored for 2 years or so in a Rubbermaid plastic bin. Never again. I’ve washed the ones I can, but the quilt tops can’t be washed so I’ll try to air them out in other ways.

I can actually get to my decks now and I found I had room to display my tarot bags facing toward the front—so pretty. I JUST had room for all the boxes too. While reorganizing the decks, I got rid of two so I’m still under 400 at 399 decks. I couldn’t fit my postcard collection in the cupboards, so they’ve gone into the closet for now. I wondered while looking at some of these decks why I bought them but I think the Internet has a lot to do with fuelling the purchase of stuff.

My next task is to enter my four new decks in my database. I received the 72 Names of God deck by Orna Ben-Shoshan yesterday and I really love it, it has such depth in information and artwork.


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.

Database in Medieval Blue


Guido Zibordi Marchesi illustrated the Medieval Tarot that I am discussing today, as well as the Giotto Tarot, one of my first and favourite decks, and the Bruegel Tarot which illustrates many of the Netherlandish Proverbs. The only deck of his that I don’t have is the Michelangelo Tarot.

He does beautiful architectural illustrations and models as well as paintings, and you can see how meticulous in detail and research he is by viewing his biography and a list of his various exhibits. These sites are in Italian but you can use Google Translate to get the gist of them. He is a real master of words and art, no wonder he is one of my favourite Lo Scarabeo illustrators.

For me, I look at an artist like this, and it drives me to purchase decks that an artist has spent some time researching and creating. Lo Scarabeo decks usually excel at this, I have great respect for that attitude.

What really attracted me to the deck was the blue skies and backgrounds, so reminiscent of illuminated manuscripts which are an interest of mine. Ultramarine in those days was made from lapis lazuli, and Guido Zibordi Marchesi captures that feel of the Middle Ages in these colours. This deck was published in 2007 and still holds up for me, a gem of people and colour, initiating a grand old browse through my many books about illuminated manuscripts.


The Tower card is very like castles depicted in illuminated manuscripts, particularly the castle of the Duc Jean de Berry in the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry where his castle is seen on the calendar for September.


You can see more examples from the book here.

As examples, two other 15th century manuscripts that have the style and colours that perhaps inspired this deck are The Bedford Hours, made for John, Duke of Bedford, and the Bouquechardière Chronicle by Jean de Courcy, also known as Chronique de la Bouquechardière.

The descriptions for the deck are priceless:

“A medieval inspiration: The Art of Memory is one of the greatest secrets handed down by alchemists and medieval sorcerers. The later Middle Ages have a brighter aspect, marked by the rebirth of the arts, philosophy, and sciences. It is the second period that inspired Guido Zibordi to paint the Medieval Tarot. These 78 cards, in fact, recall the magnificence of the princely courts and pastimes of the courtiers, the battles of the Crusades, the solitary study of philosophers and discussions of theologians, the daily work and beliefs of the common people.

This is not, however, a commemorative or historical deck. On the contrary, the Medieval Tarot contains the spirit of Ars memorandi, a memory system passed down in the schools aimed at developing intellectual qualities and spiritual virtues. The Ars memorandi, which attributed an exemplary value to images, without a doubt traces the first Tarot decks back to its origin, a “wordless book” that taught the rules of true nobility, that of the intellect and soul.

Today like in the past, simple yet profound rules let each individual follow a path of improvement and reach the top of an invisible ladder uniting the material world with the spiritual dimension.”


One of the reasons I’ve been keen on decks for 16 years is the spiritual dimension described above, the ideal of archetype and Medieval pageantry, lush, saturated colour steeped in history, and the human world absorbing and reflecting it.

How could you resist the courtly ideal of it all?

A Revisit and Overview of Database Monday

Database Monday is a category where I post about card decks and use the scans from my digital visual database to discuss them, perhaps adding a few personal notes and updates. Memory is a strange thing, I thought I’d done about twelve of these, but when I looked I discovered I had done twenty-eights posts on the subject, starting two years ago.

My last post was on October 29, 2015, over a year ago. Selling our old house and moving across the country, and home renovations swamped me, but several categories on this blog are subjects or exercises I’m fond of, so I made a list of the decks I have posted for Database Monday thus far. I remember duplicating a couple of them last year so I’ve now made a complete list so I’m organized when I start up again.


1) Lord of the Rings Tarot – Oct. 29, 2015
2) The Healing Deck (Zerner and Farber) – Oct. 12, 2015
3) Kazanlar Tarot – Sept. 3, 2015
4) Victoria Regina Tarot – Aug. 10, 2015
5) The Answer Deck – June 22, 2015
6) Javanne Tarot – June 15, 2015
7) Nature’s Wisdom Oracle – June 8, 2015
8) Tarot Francais des Fleurs (tarock deck) – June 2, 2015
9) Bird Cards – May 25, 2015
10) Silenus Tarot – May 18, 2015
11) The Mystic Rubaiyat – May 11, 2015
12) The Art of Japan Knowledge Cards – May 4, 2015
13) The Tarot of Vampyres (Ian Daniels) – April 27, 2015
14) Ancient Minchiate Etruria – April 20, 2015
15) The Essential Meditations Deck – April 13, 2015
16) Birds of China Playing Cards – April 8, 2015
17) British Wild Flowers Card Game – Mar. 30, 2015
18) Energy Healing Oracle – Mar. 24, 2015
19) The Secret Language of Color Cards – Mar. 16, 2015
20) Vacchetta Tarot (digitally coloured and printed) – Mar. 3, 2015
21) Black and White Photography Postcards – Feb. 9, 2015
22) Animal Playing Cards (published by WWF) – Feb. 2, 2015
23) The Circle Deck – Jan, 26, 2015
24) The Transformational Tarot – Jan 20, 2015
25) Buddha Discovery Deck – Jan 6, 2015
26) Bird Signs – Dec. 20, 2014
27) Creature Teacher Cards – Dec. 16, 2014
28) Robert E. Lee: Strategies for Leadership – Dec. 8, 2014

Here’s to further examination of the 398 card decks I own in the upcoming weeks and months. I do like to look at my cards.




Eagles Across Decks

I thought I had all my cards unboxed from our cross-country move but while searching for particular animal decks, I realized that some loose ones that I wrapped separately from their boxes were missing. Fortunately the spouse rounded them up for me. You would think with 394 decks I would forget but Judith never forgets a deck!

An overview with an attendant eagle figure, this one by Schleich.


And don’t forget those other four decks Jude. The eagle in the card with the yellow border has taken a fancy to my figure, he’s zooming toward him with some urgency. Figures inspire everyone I suppose.


The KING OF SWORDS  was the card I drew today from the Animal Totem Tarot that started the eagles flying. I had mentioned to someone recently how my deck collecting had gone down lately because I just want to buy art created by hand or at least created by hand in Adobe Illustrator. Upon taking these cards out my heart sang with the impact and beauty of the art and each artist’s expression and composition. It does not get better than this for me as a collector, this stuff makes me happy and inspires my own artwork.

The King, in his highly analytical way, enjoyed this comparison. In this card as you fly higher you strip away what isn’t important, your soaring height makes things clearer, shifts the focus, lets you drop nonessentials. Not a bad reflection of how I currently feel about card decks.


The Magical Menagerie was one deck I couldn’t find this morning so I knew I had another box somewhere. The Pathfinders deck holds up, it’s one of my favourites. Susan Seddon Boulet has been dead since 1997, but her Animal Spirits Knowledge Cards are still in print, and no wonder; what a legacy.


I think the Animal Messages deck is out of print now but I’m so glad I bought one when it was readily available, it’s a treasure, and Sue Lion’s Spirit Animals always looks so fresh and comes in a tin with a window so you can put your card of the day in view. The Animalis deck is also a fresh vision with lots of bones and unusual compositions.


More decks that hold up for me: the Tarot of Reincarnation is one you have to hunt for the species and some of the names have changed. I have a fuller discussion and small review of it here. It has nothing to do with reincarnation, unless you figure the original illustrations (long out of copyright) have been reincarnated.


I absolutely love both these bird decks, they are definitely treasures both for the art and the variety of images. I rarely use the Medicine Cards but they are neat in their own way. At the time they were published I don’t think there were many animal decks in existence, so it was important.

Ah, the satisfaction of a card comparison after a long break from my cards. It’s like coming out of a desert to drink a glass of ice water. Cool baby.

Happy Sunday!







Database Walk Through Ecumenism

Let’s tiptoe through Database Monday on Thursday. I seem to be having an allergic reaction to something with the mad itchies coupled with insomnia at 2 a.m.

This is the Kazanlar Tarot by Emil Kazanlar published in 1996 by A.G. Müller, a deck I traded for and almost never use. This is just my kind of deck with mythology, history, folk tales, religion and bits of Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. This delicious mix appeals to me. I wonder if there is too great an ecumenical bent to absorb it adequately to use? No matter, I generally do single cards anyway.


I like a certain amount of exploring, of looking things up, of understanding and comparing, but this seems a bit like stodgily working through James Joyce and trying to figure out the references. Still, I like a good workout. Dang, I only gave it a 4 out of 10 rating in the database.

I think I need another look at this, so I’ll find it and use it for a bit. No wonder I liked it so much that I traded for it, look at these interesting cards. Kazanlar wrote and illustrated the deck, and I always feel that denotes extra passion and commitment to the ideas, to getting the art to reflect accurate ideas.

Click to enlarge.


Here is the blurb from my database on it:

The ecumenical attitude allows that different religions lead equally to God, so Kazanlar refers to this deck as The Ecumenical Tarot.

The Kabbalah references lead to the both the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible. For reversed meanings, the Kabbalistic Sephiroth changes.

Kazanlar was born in Iran from a father of mixed Persian and Turkish origin and his mother was Hungarian, so he grew up with two different religions. He also has some reference to the Islamic Koran in the deck and Hindu mythology.

The pictures range from the Indian dynasty of Moguls in the Wands (Clubs) suit; to the history and legends of Hungary in the Cups (Hearts) suit; to Persian history and fables like The Thousand and One Nights and imitation of Persian miniatures in the Discs (Diamonds) suit;  to Egyptian hieroglyphs and the history, customs and mythology of ancient Egypt in the Swords (Spades) suit.




Database Regina

I have been forgetting to do Database Monday for the simple reason that I can’t remember which day is which.

One of my favourite decks is the Victoria Regina Tarot created by Sarah Ovenall in 2002 and published by Llewellyn, it is collaged from old illustrations and clip art. She co-write the book with Georg Patterson, which is excellent. Ooooh, and she’s got fountain pens in there. I have always liked reading non-fiction about the history of the British royal family so immediately got this when it was published.


At the time, Sarah had a note on her web site showing how she’d embellished the velvet bag included with the deck, and invited people to send pictures of how they embellished their bags. A woman I was selling tarot bags through did one and wanted me to do one too so I did.

I remember sewing this during the last day of my first dog, my first Labrador Retriever Winnie. She had cancer and the tumour was interfering with her breathing, so I brought her down to the cool basement so she could breathe better but she couldn’t walk so I had to carry her. Poor old soul had to be euthanized the next day, but I sat with her and sewed this at my drafting table; it’s a special memory of a lovely friend.

I used silks, silk ribbon, plaids, white cotton lace and a small tartan Scottie dog button on this to reflect Balmoral, the castle in Scotland that the royal family purchased in the mid 19th century. When I sent it to Sarah she never replied, acknowledged me, or put the picture up. I sent it again thinking that it might have ended up as spam. Nothing. Yet, she put my compatriot’s picture up right away. I guess I wasn’t famous enough, not a tarot bigwig or anything. It’s not enough to contribute, to spend hours on something, to care and have initiative with some people, you must be a famous name. Who knows? I gave up trying to figure people out around 2008. (Click to enlarge.)


This was my favourite draw with this deck, one for which I felt compelled to write a poem.

You see, it doesn’t matter if people pay attention to you or acknowledge you, you can still create and enjoy your cards. I have a small sub-genre of black and white decks in my collection that I love. I also have some of the Dover clip art Sarah used in this deck, including some fountain pens which I just used in some stationery I made myself.

It’s all so interesting. It was this book that taught me that Princess Louise (Princess of Wands) was an artist and sculptor, and came to Canada when her husband was the Governor General here from 1878 to 1883. Victoria had so many children, I often found it hard to differentiate them, but lovely Louise the artist, I remember because of this deck. I also remember Bertie, riding gaily on the Six of Wands with a fountain pen in hand, and dogged, old-fashioned Georgie, Bertie’s son, on the Prince of Coins writing sappy letters to his darling Motherdear ad infinitum.

One of the first writing exercises I devised with my cards was what I call “Random Passages”, wherein I pick a random passage from a book and a random tarot card and write with it. Way back on February 28, 2003 I did this as a suggestion to others on how they could use their decks instead of merely acquiring them and packing them away in storage boxes. It was not a popular attitude at the time, many people assuming it was a frivolous time-waster and they were too busy, busy, busy, but with the advent of blogging I have seen others come around to my view that useful writing exercises are interesting with cards.


My random passage for this one was from a short story by Connie Willis called The Father of the Bride.

“I should be happy. Everyone tells me so: my wife, my daughter, my brave new son-in-law. This is the happily ever after for which we have waited all these long years. But I fear we have waited for too long, and now it is too late to be happy.”

I randomly pulled The Empress and this is what she had to say about it:

“Too late?” says The Empress with a skeptical look on her face. Indignantly she puts her hand on her hip to let you know how silly it is for you to say this, She smiles, and all the languorous smiles of lovers entwined in jungle rhythms, the heat, the fecundity of it assails you. Her feminine voice with laughter and love surrounds you and she sings, slowly stirring the green air:

“The world grows, leafy palms develop, grass greens, the bark shags off trees, my breasts suckle and tantalize, my hips beckon you, I create stars. We are crowned and enveloped by life and growth, the green of opportunity, the moldering bacteria I stand upon feeds the ripeness of creation.”

She is silent a moment while the cadence of her last notes can be felt in the plants around you, the skin of your body, your eyes vibrating, seeing what she sees. “We live green, it is never too late” she says touching your cheek, and the fields call you with meadow sweetness, and you hear the sound of water, ever circulating, ever moving, ever nourishing you.

A good deck, and this is more than a good deck, is forever.