While there are definitely interesting interpretations opened up by the Navigators Tarot of the Mystic Sea (US Games, 1996), overall I haven’t connected with it this week.
The card stock is good to shuffle, and the non-reversible backs (showing the Kabbalist Tree of Life) don’t bother me. I’m also fine with a deck that has echoes of the Golden Dawn, keeping traditional Courts, but renaming many of the Majors in line with the Thoth Tarot or for other reasons. Although I don’t love having keywords on cards, having them on every card – from Majors to Minors and the Courts – is also not a deal-breaker for me. What most puts me off, which to me is generally the most important thing in a deck, is the artwork.
Take the Destiny (Justice) card. This is one of those where the image has echoes of the Thoth deck’s ‘Adjustment’ card, but the name is all its own. I rather like much of the symbolism here. The main figure is black and white, which is a good way of representing legal or differentiating thinking: seeing things as clear and simple, one way or the other. There is a feeling of balance to the card composition, too: the cross in the heart, the two elephants, the rising staircase behind, and the differentiation at the back – two people or a bull. However, I’m put off by the simple, blocky colours, and by the strange ‘people’ with no hair and strange colours.
This complaint is less apparent in the Knight of Wands. Although he is green, it is clearly a unitard, rather than being his skin colour. And his helmet hides his hairlessness. In terms of symbolism, he is suitably fiery and dynamic, leaping over a flame-filled chasm. Still, I don’t like the blocky, monochrome background.
Turning to the Aces, I don’t really like this Ace of Wands, either. The pallid-skinned, genitally-challenged figure could simply be like the disembodied hand in the RWS version of this card. However, the wand seems rather dull and puny, almost a background element. The sun seems stronger, and I like the way its rays reach out to the green tips on the otherwise dead-looking tree. However, there’s a Sun card for that, and the colour scheme overall feels cold and lifeless.
The Five of Swords is a perfect example of what I most dislike. The red, hairless figures have Barbie-smooth ground and hold unnatural poses. They are on an ugly plain made up of blocky elements that feel unnatural and wrong to me. Perhaps this is intended as an alien landscape to match the rather sci-fi people, but it’s not an aesthetic that appeals to me.
The bottom line is that I think this is a good deck, an interesting deck, but personally I don’t really like it.