by Kat Black
This is a tarot deck for dreamers and romantics, for lovers of beauty and fine, fine things. It would have been a special treasure when I was a young girl. The entire package is a treat - the gilded cards and their accompanying guidebook are held securely in a sturdy, attractive box, with a top that fits snugly. Kept out in the open for all to see, it will draw the admiring attention of even those who are disdainful of such pastimes as tarot or divination. Mine will likely travel from an antique school desk I keep by my bed, to an antique sewing table I keep under a bedroom window, to a funky handmade shelf I keep above my dresser, and to a handmade blue desk in my sitting room - except for those times when I might have it with me. I keep other favorite things in these places, and Golden Tarot
will quickly be at home among them.
is a collage tarot, and was created by an artist who has a wonderful, intuitive eye, as well as the faith to follow it. It is truly beautiful and exhibits a level of quality unique in today's tarot market. These cards are of heavy stock, nice and durable, and extra time was obviously given to coat all their edges in gold. A respect for history is apparent, in both the visual design and the interpretive text.
For Golden Tarot
, Kat Black has chosen pieces of art from the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, most of which were purposefully selected for being somewhat unfamiliar. She made a point of not choosing the obvious - images that many would recognize instantly. This decision was one of respect and love for the artwork of the time - she states, "... part of the joy I get from my collage work is gaining recognition for original artworks that are not widely known but deserve to be, so I've avoided pictures that are commonly recognizable." This is a great design decision, in my opinion, and reflects real heart. Although she says, "... my goal was to make a deck that looked genuine, so ... people might not even notice that the images are collaged," there are a few images in the deck that do betray her hand. But this is one of the wonderful things about this deck - Black's hand is sincere and loving, and these instances are so subtle, that all of the images feel very right, and artistically whole.
Now, let me tell you about the format of the deck and some of the individual cards. It is a 78-card tarot, inspired largely by the Visconti-Sforza
deck, but with a fully illustrated Minor Arcana that was based generally on Rider-Waite
images. Black's own description - "The result is a Renaissance deck that is visually authentic, but with modern ease of interpretation" - is quite accurate. I see some of these images as natural departures from Rider-Waite
, that seem to have grown quite elegantly from those designs. In the Four of Swords, for example, we see a man lying down in bed; there is a simple coverlet over him. Three swords hang above him; a fourth rests on the floor, close to hand. An ornate window is lit from behind. This adds to the Rider-Waite
design, but just enough - the meaning is clear, and perhaps easier to relate to. Another Swords card I particularly like is the Nine. Here, just as in the Rider-Waite
, a man sits up in bed, holding his face in his hands. The extent of his anguish is apparent in the nine swords that hang above him. In Black's card, however, this man is unclothed, which - I think, gives the scene even more vulnerability. A snarling dog is also added to her image. The Seven of Cups is quite interesting. Seven chalices are shown, filled with a variety of things, as in the Rider-Waite
card. It veers from the earlier card though, in that specifically religious symbols have been inserted. Rather than a man looking at seven choices before him, a nun presents us with these things, shown upon a parchment cloth. Joining her are six little angels. Black's given interpretation is traditional, so I am not sure she intended a religious significance, but when I happened to draw this card in a reading, I considered as well the spiritual implications of choice (and distraction and illusion). Some of the cards are simply just prettier than their ancestors. I particularly like the Four of Wands, which in the Rider-Waite
lacks the truly wonderful feeling that Black has provided hers. So too in the Three of Coins - both the Rider-Waite
and Golden Tarot
show a man working on a church decoration, joined by other figures. In Black's picture, there are three women working on needlepoint.
All of the Aces in Golden Tarot
are angels. I am a big fan of such artwork, so this is one of my favorite things about this deck. The Ace of Swords angel is joined by a butterfly, and looks out from the card with a serious gaze, while holding his sword upright. The angel in the Ace of Wands is dressed in reddish golds and sits before a wall of fire, holding a delicate flower. A white dove is on wing in the Ace of Cups, whose angel sits holding a full goblet. The Ace of Coins angel stands in a lush grove, holding a large golden coin, and joined by a peacock and a lion. Court cards are Page, Knight, Queen, and King, and are basically traditional, but each pose reflects the intended meaning of the card. The Page of Wands is clearly set on a path, and has fellow travelers - three small rabbits, and a figure journeying in the distance. The Knight of Cups rides his horse upon a shore, the watery element distinguished by roiling waves and a stormy sky. The Queen of Swords looks away from us - as she might, in her cool way - while the rest of the royal ladies look directly out from the cards. The King of Coins stands before his dominion, holding a small gold coin and gesturing to his possessions - tokens of wealth and success.
It is hard to determine a favorite card from the Major Arcana. They are all interesting - from the Fool who is a young woman beating a drum, to the warrior Queen being "drawn across a lake by two swans" in the Chariot, to the nativity scene in the Wheel of Fortune, to the risen Christ in the card of Judgement. I (who often have dreams in which my pet rabbit can dance and fly, in which a pet dog who passed away several years ago brings me messages from the dead, and in which strange animals speak to me in fluent English) find the Magician a card that resonates. He stands before a table on which sit his instruments, surrounded by a rapt audience of animals. Black says of this card, "Although the ability to communicate with animals is not literally traditional to the Magician in tarot, I feel that it is a powerful and appropriate metaphor for the meaning of the card." I also very much like Justice, in which an angel holds the scales. A man sits within one side of the scales, a woman in the other. Angels and demons do what they can to force their influence. And Death. This is one of the first cards I check in a new tarot deck, and this one is adequately eerie, and adequately respectful of this most important energy. A woman, who is a "deathly" white, lies surrounded by tiny angels who administer to her. In her hand she holds a white flower, upright, as if her hand still has life. A winged skeleton oversees the scene from above. The card gives me a sense that the strength of spirit continues after Death has had his say (or way). The Devil is hideous ... and I love it! This card has already come up several times in my readings, but although it does have ugly images, it also brings deep meaning. Fear, vileness, abandon, the things that perhaps gnaw away at us from inside - personal issues we cannot let go of - ah, fuel for knowing oneself. This Devil is a call and an insistence, and he mocks us dancing and laughing all the while. The Moon is another card with many animals, but that is not the only reason I like it. It is a lovely, mysterious card that reminds me of dreams.
The accompanying guidebook is short in explanation, but adequate. Anyone can pick up this set and begin doing readings, and be assured that they are learning "traditional meanings" of the cards. The meanings are a little dry at times, but also show wit, and offer fair advice as well. Reversed meanings are given too, and for each Minor Arcana card Black tells what it means when multiples appear in a reading. For example, for Fours, she says, "Three Fours mean hard work. Four Fours, however, mean rest and relaxation. A time for peace and quiet, reflection, and solitude." She shares insights about reading the cards, and offers instructions for doing a "Card of the Day," the "Simple Three-Card Spread," "The Celtic Cross Spread," and the "Horseshoe Spread." A full appendix offers details on every image used in the creation of the deck, categorized individually by card, and a bibliography is provided.
is a deck to buy as a gift for yourself or for anyone else who might be interested in such delightful things. It can be used for serious self-reflection and discovery, personal growth and transformation, spiritual insight, mundane issues and even fortune telling. Laid out in a spread the colors of the cards weave together in a tapestry, the human faces regarding each other with refined interest, animals hopping from one card to the next, castle turrets rising above and hands pointing downward. A hundred messages might be found in one reading, and thus, the cards allow long contemplation. It is a fantastic tarot offering and is highly recommended.
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Card artwork by Kat Black
All writing and photography © N Levine - Illumination Tarot, unless otherwise noted. 1999-2021