Author-artist-musician Maggie Stiefvater has created an unusual theme deck that centers on ravens. She was inspired by Welsh myths and tales that feature fire as a creative force. This led her to create a tarot deck that conveys the tug and pull between logic and artistic creativity. The deck is immensely compelling.
The book “Illuminating the Prophecy” accompanies the deck. Stiefvater provides an overview of the tarot’s structure with some tidbits of advice for handling the deck. The card descriptions include a key world list, an in-depth description of card meanings and the symbols in the rendering shown in a black and white illustration.
The card feature paintings set in orange borders that are a striking contrasts to the black backgrounds used in the images. Traditional tarot symbolism is cleverly stripped down to bare bones. The cards feature a mix of old and modern items that include images from nature, plants, flowers, animals, and hands in a semi-impressionistic, semi-abstract style. The Minor Arcana cards omit the strict depiction of the suit symbols. Some of the pip cards and court cards do include the suit symbol, but not always. Each suit includes thematic props. The Cups are the suit of the ravens. Coins feature flowers, especially gorgeous yellow roses, and gardening tools. Swords features hands in different postures and some metal tools like scissors. Wands also include ravens with branches, fire, candles, and a match stick.
This eccentric suggestive approach to tarot symbolism is highly successful. The 2 of Wands shows a silhouette of a raven in front of a fiery blaze carrying one branch in its beak and another in its claws. The image conveys energy and enthusiasm, but non-specific enthusiasm as the raven still is indistinct and without a destination. The 9 of Coins has a close-up image of a rose with all the colors of the rainbow. The 4 of Cups has two ravens standing in a puddle. Their images are doubled by the reflection in the water. The Lovers shows a black and white deer back to back with horns entwined. The image choices effectively allude to the card’s meanings.
The orange-and-black theme colors make this a terrific deck choice for Samhain readings, but this is a deck for all seasons. The uncluttered tarot art allows the mind to wander and pick up clues and ponder the feelings and thoughts that a spread generates. Highly recommended for tarot readers with some experience and ready for an evocative non-traditional deck. Well done!
~review by Elizabeth Hazel
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Llewellyn Worldwide, 2015
$28.99 boxed kit includes a 184-page book, 78-card deck, and non-custom white card box