The Buckland Romani Tarot
by Raymond Buckland, illustrated by Lissanne Lake
The Gypsies of England, called the Roma, have a lifestyle, culture, and history all their own. Although they have not been able to preserve all of their ways due to changing laws (such as those for education), they have maintained their convictions about who they are as a people. Trades, skills, language, art, and special practices such as fortune telling, have lived on in their communities. The regular journeying has given them a unique perspective on life and the world. Truly, the Gypsies have a wisdom we can learn from.
Raymond Buckland, a respected author of many books on the esoteric, has embraced his Romani heritage and has created a wonderful tarot set that shares the wisdom of his ancestors. His love for the Roma is strong. Through his work we understand and respect these often overlooked people. He has chosen to depict the Roma as they were in the mid-twentieth century, around WWII. This evokes a certain historical feel, and immediately gives the deck an element of charm, and mystery as well. Buckland made some other great choices. Suits are renamed to fit the Roma lifestyle and language. Bolers, or wheels (such as on wagons), replace Pentacles. Koros are traditional English cups, or in a few cards, water churns and cauldrons. The Suit of Staves or Wands becomes the Kosh Suit, which refers to whips or rods. Chivs, or knives, replace the Swords. These all work extremely well. Major Arcana cards are numbered but not labeled. This allows the reader to intuit meanings from the cards without the influence of words.
The artwork on the cards is strong, and in many cases beautiful. It is straightforward, earthy, rich, and colorful. It is easily read and understood. Buckland's advice to read a card intuitively before worrying about the written interpretation is complemented by the clear images. One can interact immediately with the cards, and readings come alive. There is a real sense of storytelling to this deck as well.
Buckland writes generously, with warmth and compassion. He wants us to take part in the wisdom of his history, to learn, to discover, and to grow. He also wants to make sure we understand the essence of the tarot. For beginners he explains that the tarot can show us a likely future, but that ultimately the future is up to us. He makes the tarot enjoyable and accessible, without diminishing its potency.
Interpretations and card descriptions in the full-size accompanying book (239 pages) are all complete and thoughtful. They provide answers and encourage further questions. There is much spread work to do, that is unique and effective. Additionally, all ages are represented in this deck, and women hold strong and powerful positions, as all people in Romani society are significant.
One final note: my husband is accepting a promotion and transfer at work. To try out this deck, I did one of the spreads (a unique past, present, and future reading, using eleven cards), asking about this upcoming job change. Though I can't yet comment on the future cards, the past and present cards were right on. Even details in the images were uncannily relevant.
This is a set that works in every way. It is attractive, insightful, cohesive, and understandable. It could be picked up and used immediately by a beginner, and could be used for just about anyone. More importantly, to me anyway, it is a genuine sharing from one man's heart and heritage; a gift to be appreciated.
Card artwork by Lissanne Lake
All writing and photography © N Levine - Illumination Tarot, unless otherwise noted. 1999-2020