Friday, March 25, 2011

REVIEW (by Zanna): Wizards Tarot

When I first heard that Llewellyn was publishing a deck called Wizards Tarot, I imagined that the cards would depict various types of wizards engaged in various wizardly activities. I thought that sounded okay, but not exciting. Now that I know what the deck is really about and have seen it, I'm excited!

Corrine Kenner (author of Tarot for Writers, Simple Fortunetelling with Tarot Cards, and numerous other books) begins the Introduction to Wizards Tarot as follows:
"Welcome to Mandrake Academy -- where you are the student, and tarot is the teacher. Sit down, unwrap the cards, and you'll discover a whole new world of magic and mystery."
FROM THE PUBLISHER'S PRODUCT SUMMARY:
"Step through the doors of Mandrake Academy . . . where you will don the robes of a magical apprentice and learn from your instructor—the tarot. Featuring gorgeous, intricately rendered digital artwork by John J. Blumen, this wonderfully unique tarot deck presents a full course in basic magic while teaching you the timeless art of reading the cards."
BASIC INFORMATION

The deck follows the Rider Waite model, with 78 cards, 22 trumps, and four suits.

The Major Arcana cards are not numbered, and some of the names differ from those in the RWS deck (for example, The Fool has become The Initiate, Death is Transfiguration, Temperance is The Alchemist, and The Devil is The Dark Lord). The Strength card appears in the Wizards Tarot Handbook as the 8th Trump and Justice is the 11th Trump.

The elemental associations for the four suits are: Wands/Fire, Swords/Air, Cups/Water, and Pentacles/Earth.

APPEARANCE, SIZE, QUALITY OF CARD STOCK

The cards are a nice size for shuffling: 4-1/2 inches by 2-3/4 inches. The stock is a bit thinner than I would like but not atypical of Tarot decks. The finish is glossy. The backs of the cards contain gold scrolls and streaks forming intricate patterns against a dark blue and gray background. A matching 1/8-inch border appears on the faces of the cards. In my opinion, the borders are not so wide as to detract or distract from the images. Card titles appear in black against a narrow gold banner at the bottom of each card.

ACCOMPANYING BOOK

The 264-page Wizards Tarot Handbook (paperback) is a treasury of information and inspiration. Kenner's writing style is clear and concise, easy to read and understand.

Each Major Arcana card is represented by a Mandrake Academy professor. I find the assignments to be clever and appropriate. I love that The Star is the Professor of Astrology and that Strength is the Professor of Familiar Creatures. As you might expect, The Emperor is Headmaster of the academy. Judgment is Proctor of Final Exams, and The World is Queen of the Witches.

For each Major Arcana card, Kenner provides Key Symbols, Practical Magic applications, and a special tarot spread associated with the card (the spreads are listed on a separate page for easy access). Details are also supplied concerning the areas of expertise associated with each professor or administrator. For example, The Hanged Man is Professor of Runes. In that chapter, Kenner discusses runes in general and the Elder Futhark in detail.

At the beginning of her section on the Minor Arcana, Kenner writes: "Now that we've been through the major arcana, it's time to put theory into practice." We are then introduced to The School of Wands, The School of Cups, The School of Swords, and The School of Pentacles. We are given a quick course in Number Magic, One through Ten.

For each Minor Arcana card, Kenner provides:
  • a Magic Power (for example, "The Ace of Wands is a card of spiritual passion and enlightenment")
  • a Magic Charm (for example, "Focus on the Ace of Wands when you want to be inspired")
  • Key Symbols arranged in easy-to-grasp bullet points. 

Bullets are used throughout the book to organize the material, giving the pages an attractive, accessible appearance.

I particularly like the Key Symbols segments of this book. The information included in these sections applies not just to this deck but to any Tarot deck based on the RWS tradition. For example, in the Key Symbols section for Strength we see: "The professor's fiery red hair, like a lion's mane, hints at her connection to Leo. So does the ruby-red heart pinned to her blouse, and the giant glyph for the sun behind her. Leo rules the heart, and Leo is ruled by the sun."

In the Handbook, the Court Cards are grouped together in a section titled The Royal Families.  Kenner writes, "The court cards in the Wizards Tarot depict the elemental creatures that rule the natural world. . . They represent a daughter, a son, a mother, and a father." Each Page is called a Messenger (for example, the Page of Wands is Messenger of Fire); each Knight is called a Hero; each Queen is called a Guardian; and each King is called a Ruler.

The Wands court cards belong to the "salamander family." The Cups courts belong to the "undine family." The Swords courts belong to the "sylph family." The Pentacles courts belong to the "gnome family."

An excellent Recommended Reading list is provided at the end of the book, along with information on how to contact the author.

ART

The art on Tarot cards plays a huge role in whether I'm attracted to a deck or not. The artist for the Wizards Tarot, John Blumen, has created the sort of bright, compelling, evocative digital images that this deck deserves (and that I love). The level of detail in the images is impressive.

In an interview at http://wizardstarot.com/blumen.htm, Blumen explains that he got family and friends to serve as models for the Wizards Tarot cards. His son was the model for the Death card; Blumen himself modeled for the King of Swords, the Hermit, and the Knight and King of Pentacles. Blumen notes in the interview that the photos are just a starting point, and that often the finished image may not even resemble the model.

Whatever his method, Blumen did a fabulous job of capturing the spirit, essence, and tone of the Wizards Tarot. Because he used human models, I felt that I could relate to the characters on the cards. (I should add that I normally don't like decks that use human models. It's just a personal preference. However, I do like what Blumen has done with his illustrations for this deck.)

BOTTOM LINE

Here's what you get with the Wizards Tarot:
  • a beautifully illustrated Tarot deck
  • a collection of Tarot spreads
  • insight into symbology
  • insight into all kinds of occult subjects
  • specific suggestions for using the Tarot cards for meditation and magic

What's not to like?

I think that beginning Tarot students could easily use this deck. I also think that the more experience a student has with the RWS, the more he or she can appreciate and gain from the Wizards Tarot.

Wizards Tarot by Corrine Kenner
Illustrated by John J. Blumen
Llewellyn Publications
Product Page: http://www.llewellyn.com/product.php?ean=9780738712857

Per the FTC regulations, please note that Wizards Tarot was sent for review by Llewellyn Publications at no charge to the reviewer.

7 comments:

  1. Darn it, you guys; I didn't want to like this deck ;D But now I'm feeling all *grabby hands* I've changed my opinion on the artwork, seeing it in its finished form and I love hearing how the guidebook has been set up.

    I've added it to my wishlist!

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  2. Oh shoot, submerina. Well, there are worse things you could be wanting to grab... (Did I just write that?)

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  3. Zanna, you're so right! What's not to like about this deck! I just got mine a couple of days ago, and I LOVE it! It makes me feel like I'm a Harry Potter descendent getting ready to enter the school of magic.

    The book is so nicely outlines and I can totally engage with it!

    Thank you for this lovely interview on a much-loved deck! For those who don't have it, I'm sure they are going to be eager to get it, too!

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  4. I'm glad you liked the review, Velvet Angel! I believe Helen is planning to do an interview with the deck after she receives it. That should be fun!

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  5. A very nice review Zanna! Now I can't wait for mine to arrive.

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  6. Oh my my my ... yet another deck on the list to buy in the future!

    Just how many decks do you possess Ms. Zanna???

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    1. LOL -- I stopped counting a long time ago, Violet. :)

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I love hearing from my readers!
~ Zanna