This week’s deck, the Gendron Tarot (US Games, 1997) is by “visionary artist” Melanie Gendron. Personally, I feel that all artists are visionaries to some degree. Still, looking through the LWB it seems that she is given this title because she meditated and did rituals to help her understanding of the metaphysical aspects of the tarot.
On the one hand, there are many aspects of this deck I really like. For instance, it is very inclusive, showing people from many different cultures and ethnicities. It is also inspired by the Divine Feminine, with suggested Goddesses from different religions given for each Major Arcana. In addition, the Majors are associated to Hebrew letters, astrology, and animals. There is clearly plenty of depth behind these images, which often veer quite far from the traditional in their depictions.
On the other hand, the images themselves don’t work quite as well for me. They are mixed media: with varying degrees of photo collage combined with painted elements. This can result in some odd visuals, which feel quite disjointed to me. It means that there is a feeling of inconsistency between the cards, and sometimes even within the cards.
And there is far too much male facial hair for my tastes 😀
Let’s take a look in more depth at a couple of images. The Star shows a meditating figure sat in lotus position. At the centre of this androgynous character’s chest, a star gleams brightly. There are smaller spheres of light at the throat and crown, as well as at the hands, and dotted about. Strangely, there are also dark stars, nine of them, in an arc over the figure, who appears to float in the vast darkness of outer space, above a blue planet. Yet, there are also butterflies flying beneath the figure and birds flying above them. And from one hand icicles drip, while the other holds a branch of autumnal leaves.
While the central figure speaks to me of spiritual guidance, and the butterflies suggest transformation, I don’t see as much the idea of hope here. The icicles and autumn leaves suggest a time of silence, of darkness, which may be necessary for exploration and finding that spiritual perspective. However, those ideas seem more suited to the Hanged Man. And the visual is confusing with the World.
The Court cards are richly illustrated, giving plenty to work with. Though once again, sometimes it can be a little confusing. For instance, in Monday’s reading I talked about the animals that accompanied the two Princesses. Here, in the King of Pentacles, we have a bearded figure, clearly taken from a photograph. Yet the peacocks (I’m assuming, the book doesn’t give such details for the Minors) look painted, as do his crown and the green of the lawn around him, interposed between more photographic architectural elements. Peacocks work well for representing wealth, as does all his finery and the idea of monumental buildings, so the King of Pentacles works for me at a symbolic level, at least.
I like the Ace of Wands – so much hope and potential there! A child in an orange onesie holds a wand, with flowers growing in the background that seem to almost merge with the wand. The sun gleams brightly from behind, and the moon and stars also shine.
The Ten of Cups, like the Four of Wands and Three of Pentacles shown above, shows how the cards sometimes challenge traditional notions. Roses bloom in golden cups as a couple stare into one another’s eyes, more reminiscent of the Two of Cups. The veil draped above them seems to suggest marriage, as does the strong stone arch, giving more of a Ten of Cups feel.
Overall, it is a deck which offers alternative interpretations. However, whether or not you want to use it may be strongly influenced by the visuals. For me, it’s a no.