The Tarot of Bones by Lupa

The Tarot of Bones
Lupa
Llewellyn Publications, 2012

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Review by Natalie Zaman.

I’m admittedly biased about The Tarot of the Bones because I supported the Indiegogo campaign. I’ve always loved Lupa’s work and have been eye-balling sets of her bone runes (visit her etsy shop at http://thegreenwoff.etsy.com for a look if you already haven’t), so when she started putting out the word for patrons to fund the creation of a Tarot deck that would be based in her artwork, I was in like skin (no pun intended).

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect a somewhat skeletal rendition of the Rider-Waite-Smith symbolism in The Tarot of the Bones. Lupa said that she’d be building on traditional symbolism, but Tarot of the Bones is unique. Each image is a combination of natural elements, arranged and collaged in Lupa’s signature style; stark, crisp, immersive. Looking at these images is a wander through the woods, or the careful navigation of a moss and wildflower-tufted cliff. It’s a walk along the seaside, or a peek inside a cave, a visual feast. Close your eyes and you might hear bird calls, the soft pad of feet in the underbrush, smell earth and rain. If you’re not comfortable of confident about handling actual bones, working with these cards would certainly be an effective beginner’s step.

I love beautiful collector’s decks, but ultimately, I like things that I can use. Some of The Tarot of the Bones’ nods to Rider-Waite-Smith are subtle, but obvious, like the serpent skeleton that chases its own tail to represent the Magician. I cheekily thought that I’d “gotten” that one: The skeletal snake is The Magician’s belt. Perhaps that can enter into the card’s meaning in a reading—after all, there is the archetype, and then there’s the intuitive pulls the reader draws from certain imagery. I couldn’t help but think of The Magician’s belt as soon as I saw this image. But it does not end there. The snake, as Magician, Lupa says, sheds his skin to emerge as something new. Then there is that sinewy magic of a snake’s movement. Even the type of serpent—the corn snake—was, she says, “a deliberate choice.” Not just the physical remains, but the whole animal and its nature is taken into consideration: The corn snake is often kept as a pet, Lupa says, and as such he is The Magician. Unlike his counterpart, The Hermit (played by a female hornbill skull). The Magician is evident, and in the public eye. Not so obvious was the Four of Cups portrayed as four white deer bones that form a shelter is, Lupa says, “the card of the introvert,” a safe haven from choices (at least for the moment), a place of contemplation. These details add a new and fresh meaning to the Tarot archetypes.

Like all takes on the Tarot, The Tarot of the Bones is loaded with symbolism, some traditional, and some with its own meaning entirely, embedded in natural elements, some I was familiar with (or thought I was familiar), and some not so much. I will need the book, at least at first, to help me identify all of the elements that went into each piece (It also occurred to me that this will make a marvelous reference for identifying and interpreting these natural elements both for working with this deck and otherwise.). Lupa is thorough in this regard—we get the story behind the card and its making, her associations and its connections with traditional Tarot archetypes where applicable. Her conversational and witty writing style makes this a pleasure (free Lupa with every deck!).

My favorite cards:

    • The Happy Squirrel (a happy add on after the Indiegogo campaign made goal). Apart from the Magician, it is the only other complete skeleton. I also love having a wild card type element in a reading.
    • Wheel: I have a thing about sand dollars, and was glad to see this shell-skeleton make an appearance.
    • The Lovers: I loved the almost pre-historic look of the albatross (made of resin) skulls in this image; they also look like the hands of a clock, pointing to the crystals that encircle them. Choices!
    • The King of Cups, represented by a turtle shell—perfect.

 

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The Linestrider Tarot by Siolo Thompson

The Linestrider Tarot Deck & Book
Siolo Thompson
Llewellyn, 2016

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Review by Hayley Arrington.

The opening lines of the accompanying book, The Linestrider’s Journey best exemplify the spirit of her deck: “The Linestrider Tarot is a deck that dances on the edge of magic and logic, animal and human, the conscious and unconscious mind. Drawing inspiration from the edge while still moving forward on the Fool’s journey — that is Linestriding” (p. 1). Linestrider is at times whimsical, but it is certainly not shallow. This is not an animal deck, per se, but many of the cards in both the Major and Minor Arcanas are populated with animals, for instance, the Magican is a monkey, the Hanged Man is a tiger, and the King of Wands is a powerful, crowned lion.

The Linestrider Tarot is a wonderfully creative contribution to the vastness that encompasses available modern tarot decks. Siolo Thompson’s unique ink and paint artwork render her images as inviting and worthy of study while using the deck. They are drawn in ink on a white surface with splashes of color throughout. There are no borders so her images dominate while not being overwhelming. This is a perfect deck for someone who doesn’t like too much going on in the art. Linestrider is a beautiful medium between heavily illustrated and austere.

The Linestrider Tarot is one of my favorite new decks. Thompson’s book is also a breath of fresh air. This isn’t just a softbound edition of a little white booklet. No, there is so much more here, from how Thompson first found Tarot and how she decided to create this deck, to interesting ways of interpreting cards, and informational correspondences. I love the familiarity that is there when the artist for a deck is also its author, hence its interpreter. Siolo Thompson’s sincerity of voice comes through in the accompanying book. I love all different kinds of decks, and with Linestrider I felt an instant rapport and have been using it as my primary deck for some months. I think it can find a home with novices as well as seasoned readers, those who like animals, modern Art Deco, and beautiful, easy-to-use Tarot. Highly recommended.

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The Chrysalis Tarot by Holly Sierra and Toney Brooks

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

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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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