Witchy Tarot Review for TABI
Published by Lo Scarabeo
By Antonella Platano & Laura Tuan
When I first started looking at decks online, this was one that caught my eye. However, due to the bad reviews it had received, and the fact that it clearly wasn’t a RWS clone (my preferred type of reading deck), I didn’t buy it. Several years on, despite the bad reviews, I gave in to my desires.
So, now that it’s mine, what do I think? Well, it’s certainly true that the imagery has little or nothing to do with traditional tarot meanings. It’s also true that reading the LWB is even worse than just looking at the images. Cards have daft titles like “SMS message between witches” (Eight of Boulders – two young witches spray-painting quite attractive symbols onto a big boulder. There’s not even a sign of a mobile here, though mobiles do appear in other cards, so what’s it got to do with SMS’s?) Wiccan/pagan symbols are also grossly mistreated: toads become loathsome and deceitful, as opposed to symbols of fertility and possibility, for example. Most of the witches wear pointy hats in a variety of colours. As for their clothes, most of the girly witches (and they do mainly look like teenagers) look like they’re heading for a rubber club, rather than a coven gathering. All that being said…I like the deck!
First, some of the basics. The cards have fully reversible backs, a purple depiction repeated in each of the quarters of the image from the Three of Boulders – a witch in (you guessed it) a pointy hat, holding an athame and a wand, and wearing a purple halter-neck dress which bares her midriff. The cards are typical Lo Scarabeo stock in terms of size and feel – slightly flimsy, laminated, 12cm by 6.5cm. They have a pale lilac border (just off white, really), and the titles in six languages. Each card also has a thin edge – purple for the Majors, red for Flames (wands), green for Cauldrons (cups), blue for Broomsticks (swords), khaki for Boulders (pentacles).
From the LWB: “The twenty-two Major Arcana take on the symbolism of the traditional Tarot and may be further divided into groups of 7 which include the Tools, Plants and Animals that accompany Witches. The twenty-second card does not belong to any group. It is the Devil, Leonardo.” (If anyone knows why the Devil would be called Leonardo, I’d love to hear it.)
The Majors are:
0 – The Fool – Billy Goat
I – The Witch – Athame (dagger)
II – The High Priestess – Cauldron
III – The Empress – Book of Shadows
IV – The Emperor – Hat
V – The Hierophant – Walnut Tree
VI – The Lovers – Garter
VII – The Chariot – Broomstick
VIII – Justice – Owl
IX – The Hermit – Yew Tree
X – The Wheel – Elderberry
XI – Strength – Mandrake
XII – The Hanged One – Bat
XIII – Death – Digitalis
XIV – Temperance – Ointment
XV – The Devil – Leonardo
XVI – The Tower – Monskhood
XVII – The Stars – Cat
XVIII – The Moon – Toad
XIX – The Sun – Donkey
XX – Judgement – Crow
XXI – The Universe – Mushroom
The court cards have also been changed to Celebrations (Pages), Moons (Knights), Goddesses (Queens), and Trials (Kings). The Celebrations represent Imbolc, Lammas, Beltane, and Samhain. The Moons represent the phases of the moon (full, waning, waxing, new). The suits, as well as having changed name, aren’t always obvious from the image. For example, the Trial of Flames (King of Wands) has two young witches flying on broomsticks, one carrying a lantern with a bright flame, as they battle through a hailstorm. I like it: having to protect your ideas and fight for them, as there will often be inertia (hail) or even active opposition (wind), both things which could quench the flame of inspiration and new ideas. However, just looking at the card image, the broomsticks do confuse the suit.
Why do I like the cards? I’m not a teen, not even in my twenties, in fact. But, the cartoonish irreality is one of the things I most enjoy about this deck. I read in a Gestalt/intuitive/brainstorming manner, and the images are loaded with people, animals, plants and objects to associate to. The fact that the scenarios are so different from RWS means that I don’t get tied up in thinking about what the “traditional” meaning is, and can simply let my imagination fly. The people’s faces are very expressive, and there is a broad range of emotions throughout the cards. And then there’s the silly, funny, playful side that really appeals to Younger Self.
I also like the fact that animals and insects are portrayed very positively. For example, The Universe (The World) shows a woman dancing on a mushroom, with four big insects around her. At first I thought, “Ugh, huge bugs!” but delving deeper I find a message of humans really not being any more important (bigger) than any other life form on the planet, and that only through relishing this understanding can we truly dance with life. Likewise, the Goddess of Cauldrons (Queen of Cups) offers her harvest bounty to two rats, a lizard and a snake – all are creatures of the goddess in the end. I have some doubts when it comes to The Hanged One – a bat being tickled by two teens. The bat is certainly hanging, and seems to be willingly putting up with the torment, but no witch should be mistreating a creature like that! Oops, Talking Self sure raised her head on that one.
Cards I really like:
The Emperor: The card shows a teen leaning forward to grab a pointy hat. For me this brings up ideas of “What hat do I have to wear in this situation?”, “Can I adopt the behaviour needed of me in this role?”, ”Just as I can put on a hat/role, so, too, I have to be able to take it off again when the time is right”, “What does this hat/role represent to me?”.
The Lovers: Rather more challenging than many, we see a guy getting his hands all over a tempting brunette who’s flashing her garter (feminine wiles) at him, while a pissed looking blonde behind him with a book in her hands looks on. I like that there’s a bat overhead, dropping nuts (wisdom), so I hope one or other of the three will have some sense knocked into them, and make smarter choices.
Temperance: A young witch calmly tends to her broomstick, watched by a lizard, and surrounded by mushrooms. Some of the other cards are rather free and easy with flying broomsticks, and the universe helping you out. Here I see that all this fun and movement requires some good, old-fashioned hard work and preparation, but that this, too, can be enjoyable, even meditative.
Six of Flames: a young girl has stripped down to her panties, and holds a candle. She’s also clutching her chest and looking distinctly nervous, while a donkey holds her hat in it’s teeth, a frog looks on, and a cat places its paws territorially on her broom. For me this is one of those “Now look what kind of a mess you’ve got yourself into” moments. You’ve bitten off more than you feel comfortable chewing, but maybe the animals will help you, and you’ll be able to pull it off, or you’ll decide this was a bad idea and back out. It could go either way, and that’s OK, too. Skyclad sounds exciting, but sometimes it’s just cold and uncomfortable, and other times it’s the most natural thing in the world, but there are lots of factors in between the two scenarios.
Ace of Broomsticks: A young witch holds high a knife, preparing to cut an apple to share with a rabbit sitting grooming itself on the tree branch next to her. Behind her leans her broomstick. OK, so the broomstick of the title isn’t doing much, but there’s the knife/sword/athame held aloft, glinting in the sunlight, and ready to cut into the apple, the seed of new ideas, and the path to sharing/making connections with other beings. Plus the rabbit is just cute!
The Priestess: The only plump, middle-aged woman portrayed in the whole deck, but she’s got the best card of all, as well as a snake, a cauldron, a scroll, an owl, a stone archway into the depths of the earth, a three-headed wand and a truly dreadful frilly apron and headscarf (OK, so you can’t have it all).
The Hermit: She’s old, she’s ragged, and yet she’s beautiful, her light is bright, and she walks towards a yew tree in flower.
Eight of Cauldrons: The same woman as in the Hermit, but now she’s stirring a cauldron in a cave, with bats flying in the distance, and a girl with a doll in her hand looking on. On the negative side you could see this as bad voodoo, cursing some guy. On the positive side I see this as Cerridwen and her cauldron of transformation, with the girl putting in a representation of something she wants to change in her life, and being helped in this by a wise woman/goddess.
Two of Flames: A girl with a flaming torch draws a line on the ground with her wand, creating a barrier to the hate and anger being thrown at her by another witch. Calm and intention are all you need to protect yourself.
Cards I really dislike:
Strength: A cat and dog viciously attack a woman with dreadlocks. She wields a huge mandrake root as though it were a club. Where’s the “soft” control, the taming of animal instincts? Why are the animals attacking the woman in the first place? Why does she wield the mandrake as a club, rather than use it to make a potion, or hold it as a shield? I understand that the author wanted to make the majors represent “the Tools, Plants, and Animals that accompany Witches.” Still, I can’t find the redeeming factors in this card.
The Sun: A young witch sits on a donkey, with a brilliant sun behind her. The donkey seems to be sneezing and the witch looks like she might fall off. Neither of them looks happy. How does this relate to either traditional notions of the sun, or even to the LWB: “Clear ideas, power, success, truth, crucial choice, communication, happiness, friendship, stubbornness.” OK, maybe the donkey is stubborn. Other than that…
Cards I’m just not sure about:
Ace of Flames: A witch with an incense burner and a flaming torch is cleansing a stone circle, but seems to ignore, at least for the moment, the crushed soda cans behind her. I’d like this card better if there was a second person picking up the cans – cleansing spiritually and also physically.
Eight of Boulders: Two young witches spray paint a sun, a star, a spiral, and a yin/yang symbol with arrows to the four directions onto a big boulder with barren trees in the background. Although the designs are quite nice, I have serious doubts about the ethics of graffiti in the countryside! On the other hand, there are shades of cave art here.
Trial of Broomsticks: A young witch, with two other girls and a guy looking on, kneels behind a donkey and kisses its butt. Five broomsticks are piled in the foreground. So, high flying ideas are all well and good, but you also have to learn humility, and love towards other beings. Still, it’s just dangerous (in so many ways) to kneel behind a donkey. You try brainstorming “What happens next?”
Overall, this isn’t a deck I would dream of using for a reading with the general public, and I’d have to think seriously before giving it to anyone, teenage or otherwise. However, I really enjoy using it for myself, to brainstorm, to call on Younger Self, and to work to see the good that can always be found if you really want to.