The Incidental Tarot (self-published, 2012) is the brain-child of Holly DeFount. Basically, she challenged herself to do a “card-a-day” project, and from it was born this beautiful deck. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that these cards were just quickly knocked out. There is still clearly a wealth of knowledge, thought and emotion incorporated into them. To see some readings with these cards, click here.
The cards are a comfortable size to shuffle (8 x 12 cms, 3 ¼ x 4 ¾ inches) if rather more square than many mass-market decks. The backs are fully reversible, and the card stock is good: quite firm; not flimsy; and well-laminated for ease of shuffling without being too slippery.
The suits have been renamed Arrows (Wands), Roses (Cups), Quills (Swords) and Oaks (Pentacles). Many of the Majors have also been renamed, on which more later. The pips are semi-illustrated, not showing people, but with suit elements of varied shapes, sizes and colours, in different landscapes or settings.
While I didn’t use to be a fan of non- or semi-illustrated pips, I have been delighted by how easy to interpret and multi-faceted these cards are. For example, in the Seven of Roses (Cups) we see a wreath of six roses in varying shades of red and orange, with a single white rose in the centre, allowing the traditional interpretation of a variety of options, but also suggesting choosing from a pure heart. In the suit of Quills (Swords), the Two shows a grey and a white feather quill, crossed over at the top, each writing it’s own thing. The idea of being at cross-purposes or a stalemate is possible to infer, but I also see the idea of two heads are better than one.
As for the Court cards, each suit has a King and Queen, and two additional courts split evenly between male and female. Interestingly, the Page/Princess and Knight/Prince equivalents do not have hierarchical titles, but simply descriptors. So, the “Page” of Quills (Swords) becomes “The Oracle”, while the “Knight” of Roses (Cups) becomes “The Bard”, the “Knight” of Oaks (Pentacles) is “The Builder” and the “Page” of Arrows is “The Messenger”. I feel this works very well, opening up interpretations based on a person’s character traits rather than on ideas of age or hierarchy.
Moving on to the Majors, many of these have been renamed. For example, the Hierophant has become the Cathedral, which I think works very well to imply notions of tradition, structure and institutional religion. Strength is renamed Gryphon, and offers us a picture of this magical creature, with no human present. I think this works, because as a magical creature the Gryphon blends animal physicality with a more spiritual, mystical nature. The Hanged Man is another card that undergoes a metamorphosis, becoming Eclipse. Here we see a moon, eclipsed by a blood-red shadow with a barren-branched tree (or are those the roots pointing skyward) on its surface. When I think of an eclipse, and how it feels like a time out of time, a chance to have a different perspective on day and night and life, I can see the connection.
There are also two additional cards, Ariadne and The Labyrinth. Holly states that these cards are to be interpreted as favourable signs, however I feel they are open to a number of understandings. For example, the myth of Ariadne is a tale of pride coming before a fall, as well as being about making connections and winning love and acclaim. Likewise, my first reaction to the word Labyrinth is to think of confusion and being lost. Still, the first time this card actually came up for me in a reading I was moved to follow the lines of the Labyrinth with my finger, and realised that, although it was doubling back on itself and going part way round a circle, the path was in fact a single one, with no turns or dead ends. I find this a beautiful description of life, and an encouragement to accept our path where ever it leads us – it might feel confusing or stuck, yet every turn is part of what will brings us to ourselves.
Altogether, this is a lovely, beautifully illustrated, well thought out, interesting and innovative deck. It may not be as easy for a beginner as a fully illustrated deck, but that is a personal choice. The Incidental Tarot has an overall upbeat feel, probably due to the warm colours and the lack of angry expressions and body postures. It is gentle and delightful, deep and wise, not shirking difficult situations or questions, but managing to still offer a variety of interpretations. It is a deck I have come to love very deeply, and which I highly recommend.