The Dream Dust Shamanic Tarot… the name conjures up an image of an old wise man, bearded, sitting in a curtain of heavy smoke within his sweat lodge while throwing about glittered powder to give you a good night’s sleep. However, that’s a weird thought, doing no justice at all to this newest self published tarot deck. One that might have the healing touch of a shaman, but definitely won’t put you to sleep any time soon!
The Dream Dust Shamanic Tarot is quite the heavy package. The deck sits in a large sturdy purple-lilac box with a semi-magnetic lid. The carton sleeve that wraps around has a tarot card print and both name of deck and designer.
That designer is New Jersey artist and Shaman Sue Kovacs. Sue is a healer and tried to incorporate that energy into her deck. Now, for me any deck is initially just paper (the magic comes from the reader imho), but when a deck ‘feels’ like we (or the artist) envisioned it, I do a little happy dance. This is absolutely the case with the Dream Dust Shamanic Tarot. There’s tranquility, a soft energy, when looking at the cards. And at the same time a promise of strength. That befits the self-exploration and healing-idea behind the deck.
Hybrid or tarot?
The Dream Dust Shamanic Tarot is one of those ‘oddities’. Due to its art one could argue it is not a tarot deck, despite definitely following the pattern of one. My first impression was of a tarot pip deck within an oracle-facade or with oracle ‘touches’. Having worked with the cards, I now say you will read it as a tarot deck, but there are some alterations that not everyone will like. The reason why the deck seems oracle-y, is because of the type of art: it is absolutely abstract. Perhaps because of that some readers would also say it isn’t (a 100%) tarot. But, as recent innovative (and award-winning) decks like The Orbifold Tarot (geometrical shapes) or Starlight Dragon Tarot (alternate imagery) show; different art does not necessarily negate the stamp of ‘tarot’. So, you might classify the Dream Dust Shamanic Tarot as such too.
Designer Sue Kovacs agrees upfront there might be a ‘hybrid thing’ going on though, so no hard feelings on how you look at it. On her Facebook page she stated: “You do not need to know tarot to read these cards. Dream Dust Shamanic Tarot bridges oracle with tarot, there is nothing like it. This is a gentle deck that is very easy to use. It teaches you how to use your own intuition, inspires and helps you build your psychic gifts. (..) I use the structure of the Tarot, but this is an ancient divination tool, not just a professors idea of the perfect tarot. Professional tarot users may feel they are in a smokey dream with these cards if they don’t use their own psychic gifts and intuition to read.”
I’ll go into the way it reads later, but I can already reveal I concur for the most part…not all of it!
Kick ass / quality
Back to that purple box! The Dream Dust Shamanic Tarot is a looker for sure. The name of the deck is printed in gold cursive on the box. This storage container definitely has a very elegant and expensive look & feel. That continues when you open it -which, as you might have gathered, is scoring big points in the added materials review section. The deck comes with a card-sized companion, which is full color: white glossy pages and miniature color pictures of every card (very oracle-y actually). Kovacs spared no $ to create something classy and quality*.
So, with that in mind I expected kick-ass card stock and of course ditto print & art. I wasn’t disappointed at all! Just two exceptions; two that could be big for some… So, let’s start the show!
The cards of the Dream Dust Shamanic Tarot give a nod to most oracles. With that I mean – these three things: 1. They’re much larger than an average tarot (little challenging for small hands) 2. The stock is thick (still flexible in this case) 3. Hello mr. gloss and mrs. lamination. The lamination is a turn-off to some, I know. But if that is because of the expected stickiness: I encountered no such thing. Oh, the DDST has golden edges too and luckily they are of a decent quality. You will definitely have long-lasting paper to shuffle with, little to none gold smudging/transferrence and the shuffling itself went perfectly normal. Besides, abstract art at least pops better on gloss, right?
Then what I liked least…Also because I know this might get the deck crossed off several wish lists immediately: the Dream Dust Shamanic Tarot carries a white border – you know my stance on that…but this one isn’t that distracting. But here it comes: that border is the background for… keywords and key sentences! In tarot decks mostly a big no-no because it becomes a limitation at one point, similar to book interpretations. And where you can put a book away, that keyword is visible every tarot reading.
One positive I can say about it, is that due to the deck’s a-typical imagery some insight from a key-sentence could be useful when divining. Certainly in the beginning. Luckily the messages aren’t ‘blah’ or too standard either; this is where the shaman-part comes out to play. But, it is still a possible blemish on an otherwise very powerful deck. (Anyone following my personal Instagram could see a soul reading that blew my mind!)
Out of the box art
Speaking of powerful…As hinted (and shown), this deck is not adorned with any typical tarot art. Every single card could hang in a museum for contemporary art. They are all gorgeous images, although this is partly personal taste of course. Especially on a tarot deck. I appreciated the fact Kovacs chose a different canvas for her tarot and took a risk *while* staying within the system of 78 cards with Major Arcana, Minor Arcana, Courts and something looking remarkably like pip-cards.
And another thing to applaud. Sometimes, when the art of a deck is abstract or out-of the box images tend to get forced into the tarot (or oracle) mal. A designer needs a 7 of Wands and ‘makes’ it fitting. Decks like these (luckily not all of them) can have cards that feel ‘unnatural’, or they lack consistency. I’m pretty sure some of you read ‘abstract art’ and thought: Ugh! Not one of those! I can guarantee: the Dream Dust Shamanic Tarot is not. Every single card in this deck was made especially for the designated tarot card. That shows! The minors for example are not only highly consistent, but also recognizable as their more common counterparts.
As soon as you see which colors and forms are used for a suit symbol you’ll be able to use this in a reading pretty soon. Cups are yellow-golden orbs on a blueish-purple background, swords have pink-reddish stripes on a grayish canvas, wands show a (duh) fiery red backdrop and the amount of light blue curly swatches on that red tell you if you’re holding a 5, 6, 7 or 8 of Wands. Finally Pentacles has shades of green and globe-like figures on top of it. Usually in brown, orange and other earthy tones. You’ll need some time to learn the suit symbols, especially the Wands and Swords, but the background usually gives the element away quickly.
Step up & problematic
There is a slight ‘but’ though…Because the Dream Dust Shamanic Tarot falls into the category pip-decks AND is also painted in the abstract, this deck is a step up from reading a non-scenic tarot. I therefore would not recommend it to a beginner who prefers to read systemically and with certain symbolism (like a Tarot de Marseille). Yes, I was able to to pick out 90% of the cards after a day with a little quick mental arithmetic, but I do think it will take some time before you’ll see ‘automatically’ if you’re holding an 8 of Swords or a 3 of Cups. It’s not about figuring out a new system (you could use any prior tarot knowledge easily, which is a plus on the other hand), but a learning curve *is* present.
That learning curve-art becomes a little ‘problematic’ the minute we look at the Court cards and the Major Arcana. Kovacs is aware of this though. It is why she agrees the deck has oracle-qualities and it is why she writes in her companion and on her website that being familiar with f.e. the Waite-Smith (8=Strength) and texts in her guidebook is just a stepping stone for readers. A foundation, but not more than that.
She specifically designed this deck to make you focus more on your intuition. As a reviewer I feel obliged to say that indeed, you will *have to* with the 22 Major Arcana cards. Arcana, for once, is again a name that’s fitting. These cards – however pretty and powerful they may be – will keep their secrets for quite some time. From the 22 Majors I had just about 6 correct in one guess. The rest I would need to ‘learn’ or start feeling. When it came to the courts I was at a loss. I immediately thought of her earlier quote and had to let go of what I knew before and let the art ‘take control’ during a reading (only later memory would serve me).
Conclusion: challenging beauty
For some adapting to a totally different way of reading a deck *within* a known system – the pattern is 100% tarot after all – is no issue at all. Especially readers who channel or just use the cards next to their other gifts, might have been waiting for ages for a deck like the Dream Dust Shamanic Tarot. Others could consider this a barrier if they’re still somewhat insecure in their reading (or just don’t like adaptations).
In conclusion and in reference to the designer’s own words: I do think you need to know or learn tarot in order to read this deck; despite some alterations it is still very much a tarot deck. The Dream Dust Shamanic Tarot isn’t your every day deck. It’s an original and beautifully crafted tarot. For me it ‘oozed’ a very soothing type of energy, so my guess is that soul- and personal growth-type readers are ideally suited for it.
Contrary to what the designer has said ‘easy’ isn’t a word I’d use for these Shaman-inspired cards. Based on the amount of decks I see and test on a monthly basis, there is a ‘bit’ of a challenge in reading with this one (which will influence the readability grade). To use Kovacs own comment: ‘Professional tarot users may feel they are in a smokey dream with these cards if they don’t use their own psychic gifts and intuition to read.’ Exactly! So, that’s where the difficulty does come in. However, if that is no obstacle for you, you will get your money’s worth and a wonderful addition to your tarot collection.
* NB. You will notice this in her price, but honestly: I’ve encountered similarly priced decks with crappy stock or without boxes…so this one is actually reasonable.
|Author or artist||Publisher||Publication|
|Sue Kovacs||Sue Kovacs/ SP||December 2016|