Authors: Nir Kasuto & Arik Ayal
Published by U.S. Games
When I heard the concept of this deck I was intrigued if a bit sceptical. Having simplified images with key words and basic meanings on all the cards seems a bit of a cheat. However, I thought about its usefulness for beginners – every time you draw a card you have a reminder of key words and concepts. Looking at the images on-line, the deck seemed to offer some interesting twists while remaining pretty RWS true. So, how does it stack up as a beginners deck, and does it have any value for those already more familiar with the tarot?
Well, let’s start with the basics: being a U.S. Games production, the card quality is good, and the size is fairly standard (11.9 x 6.8cms). The backs are reversible, with a blue background with a sun, moon and stars pattern. The cards have white borders with a black trim, with the title, keyword and a plus or minus sign all in large black letters, and a couple of sentences of basic meanings and suggestions in smaller black writing beneath.
The keywords are sometimes quite different from what I would expect for a given card. For example, “leadership” for the King of Wands comes as no surprise, but “uniqueness” is not something I especially think of for the Queen of Swords. Likewise, “disappointment” doesn’t really match my understanding of the Seven of Pentacles, nor does “freeze” express well my perception of the Four of Swords.
Far worse than this, however, is the use of positive and negative signs to sum up most of the cards. A few have no sign, and hence are considered “neutral”, but most have been designated with a plus or minus sign. I find the whole idea of this at best questionable, and at worst seriously unhelpful. My sense of the cards is that they are all fairly neutral or even helpful in particular circumstances. It’s a bit like saying a knife is negative, when in reality it can either be used to cut wood or to injure someone. Not only do I find the concept questionable, but also the designation for particular cards is rather ideosyncratic, too. For example, while I can almost understand the Moon being seen as negative, calling the Tower a positive card rather beggars belief for me! In the same way, I really don’t feel that the Four of Swords is a negative card, in fact perhaps having “permission” to take some time out has always struck me as rather positive, though I guess the reasons for needing it might not be. So, too, with the Four of Cups, although there is a certain feeling of stagnation, I always see the idea that there is something enlivening on offer if we can just open our eyes to it – not what I would call a negative scenario.
As for the basic meanings, these tend to be quite up-beat, even (or perhaps especially) for the cards designated as negative. This is quite nice in some ways – looking for the positives or how to move forward in a tricky situation. However, reading too many at a time can be somewhat saccharine. Here are some examples:
“FOUR OF CUPS = OPEN UP (-) You are emotionally closed and ignore all the love that surrounds you and is offered to you. Open up.”
The Three of Swords, showing a person with a thunder cloud over their head and three swords poking into their chest through a jacket, says:
“THREE OF SWORDS = PAINFUL TRUTH (-) You feel disappointment as you realize the truth. Now you are more aware and wiser.”
“NINE OF WANDS = STANDBY (-) You have many past achievements. Now you feel confused and stuck. Proceeding will allow more success.”
“STRENGTH = TENDERNESS (+) Your spiritual strength helps resolve every problem. You become powerful through tenderness and patience.”
“KNIGHT OF PENTACLES = FUTURE PLANS (+) New profitable ventures. You are reasonable but overly cautious. Proceed faster, it’s the right direction.”
“THE DEVIL = FEARS (-) Desires and fears could overcome you. Think positively and have faith in yourself.”
These basic meanings fit the “aim” of the deck. The box says: “Ask a question. Choose a card. Receive an answer!”. However, they don’t allow for the subtleties of Court cards being able to represent personality traits of the querent and/or a person and/or a situation in their life. Nor the variety of meanings for any given card! That’s to be expected with such short key meanings, I suppose, and at least they provide a starting point for a reading.
The artwork consists of fairly simple, coloured line drawings, somewhat reminiscent of the original Rider Waite, with less detail especially in terms of faces. Much of the overt Christian symbolism has been removed, and the images offer different perspectives around the card’s theme, so this isn’t just a RWS clone. Some images I particularly like include the Moon card, showing a waning moon, a bright star, a pool and a lobster/crayfish. What I like about this is the way the grasses around the pool echo hands lifted to “call down the moon” in Wiccan fashion. The Page of Pentacles has a rather effective-looking measuring tool to show his practicality. The Star shows a woman dancing under the stars, with a cloth that seems to blend into a stream. I also like the way that, in many of the cups cards, there are different coloured liquids in each of the cups. In Temperance an angel flies while pouring liquid from a jug into a cup, while beneath is a bridge with a red-robed figure on one side and a blue-robed figure on the other, moving towards each other. There is plenty here to work with for intuitive readings, as well as for learning wider meanings of the cards.
I think the cards do what they set out to in providing a basic, non-scary, non-esoteric image for each card, as well as key words and basic meanings. They would probably make a nice introduction for a beginner. While giving a meaning in some ways does narrow the focus, the images are still rich enough to allow moving deeper as the student progresses. As for reading with these cards at a more advanced or professional level, while I wouldn’t recommend them in a face to face situation (too simplistic and with too much distracting text, as well as perhaps suggesting the reader doesn’t know what they’re doing), the meanings can sometimes provide a different, positive perspective to add in to a phone or email reading (or help if you go blank). They can also open up a card if you’re feeling a bit stuck always seeing it a certain way and need a positive new take on things. Overall I rather like this deck, though I can’t imagine it becoming a favourite, nor using it all the time. However, for the occasional change, or for a beginner, it’s a good buy.