The Chrysalis Tarot by Holly Sierra and Toney Brooks

The Chrysalis Tarot
Art by Holly Sierra, text by Toney Brooks
US Games, 2014

sw087_nonfiction_Arrington-Hayley_The-Chrysalis-Tarot

Review by Hayley Arrington

Chrysalis Tarot is now one of my favorite decks. Holly Sierra’s paintings for the cards are truly beautiful; I’m even enamored of the back of the cards, showing delightful, psychedelic butterflies. There is so much to see in each card that meditating on the images alone would be time well spent.

Chrysalis has some characteristic differences. Let us begin with the Minor Arcana:

Stones replace Pentacles/ Coins
Mirrors replace Cups
Spirals replace Wands/ Rods
Scrolls replace Swords

At first, I had trouble differentiating Spirals and Scrolls. However, remembering the idiom, “the pen is mightier than the sword,” when encountering Scrolls, has helped me to remember that they have the same associations as Swords. In Chrysalis, Spirals are associated with fire and Scrolls with air, but there is little in the cards to let the reader know this, it is told to us in the little white booklet (henceforth referred to as LWB). So, in my opinion, associate these suits with whichever element you feel comfortable associating them as, or are most accustomed to doing.

The court cards for these suits are collectively called The Troupe and are each given a distinct name. For instance, “The Weaver” is the name given for the “Queen of Scrolls” while “ The Acrobat” is the “Page of Stones.” These are delightful cards, but I must say that their representations bear little association with their suit, so it is all the more important that their “Queen of-,” “Page of-” names remain on the cards.

Working with Chrysalis has been fun and enlightening, although my experience with the LWB was generally frustrating. Upon reading through it, I noticed some cards whose interpretations were almost like their reversal meanings.

The Major Arcana is an interesting mix of world cultures and characters. I found these to be heavier on the Celtic theme than I would have thought based solely on the paintings. Here are several that I noted as odd or especially liked.

II – Sorceress (The High Priestess)”: This card is beautiful, and I like this card, overall. Brooks writes that Sorceress portrays Morgan le Fay, and in fact, calls her this exclusively in the description. I wonder why they just didn’t name the card this, then.

IX – Storyteller (The Hermit)”: This beautifully evocative card is my favorite in the Major Arcana, possibly my favorite overall.

XII – Celtic Owl (The Hanged Man)”: At first, I was taken off guard by this card’s representation not as a human figure, but as an owl in flight. Working with the deck has made me appreciate this card and the symbolism I feel it has. I am a little confused, however, by the description and keyword Brooks gives it, as “REBIRTH” (p. 14) is usually a keyword given to the Judgment card.

XIII – Ariadne (Death)”: If this is what death looks like when it comes my time to die, I will be happy to slough off my mortal coil. Brooks’ description, though, leads me away from the images in the card. Brooks writes that the figure in the card is “Ariadne, Celtic goddess of the gates of time…” (p. 15). The heroine of Minoan, society is suddenly Celtic. I am left guessing at the reasons for Brooks calling her Celtic and a goddess of something I’ve never heard her associated with. This description made me throw the LWB across the room.

Apart from using my favorite Tarot spreads, I used Brooks’ “Pentagram 5-Card Spread” which is similar to Shekhinah Mountainwater’s “Pentagram Tarot Layout,” from her book, Ariadne’s Thread.

Chrysalis Tarot is a beautiful deck, clearly made with love, and is currently a favorite of mine. It is my recommendation that Tarot readers, lovers, and collectors go out and get a deck and learn the many intricacies found within. Working with Chrysalis has definitely made me a true fan.

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