When this deck came out, I was a bit ‘intimidated’ by it. I’m an analytical person up to a point, but when it comes to tarot I usually work with the art too. At first sight that seemed like an impossibility with the Orbifold Tarot. A deck that ‘just’ has orbs and is focused on numbers and elements. And then there was the mathematical inspiration behind it… However, here I am now: with a review on the Orbifold Tarot by Michael Bridge-Dickinson. Are first impressions correct or not?
I am a sucker for beautiful added materials – it makes any good tarot deck complete – so we started off great. The Orbifold deck comes in a deck-sized magnetic lid box in sleek black with white & black gloss lettering. You have to be careful when ripping the seal of this pretty thing, because it has a barcode to an Orbifold study group on it – awesome gesture by the way. The elegant and sleek outside is a clue for what you will find inside. The cards have the same elegance as their packaging. A combination of colors and texture; matte and gloss, black and white. With colored borders and spheric imagery. More on that later. The card stock is very good. Just not flexible enough to do an easy riffle shuffle, but extremely sturdy and of a thickness that will make most very happy. They’re easy to shuffle otherwise and will last you a long time.
The deck has a very tiny little white booklet, more a flyer actually, on glossy black-and-white paper. It shows the color-coding and keywords for both majors and minors, plus some meanings on the back for the elemental signs. A deck like this actually deserves a book, but Michael luckily has done a lot to guide readers who bought the deck. Not only is there a study group – which I had no time to check out alas – also his website shows many articles and examples on reading the Orbifold Tarot. It’s a different approach to a companion.
The Orbifold Tarot has two bonus cards. One is called the Void, the other Manifestation. Both cards don’t have a number and are placed before the Fool. The Void means pure, un-manifested potential. Manifestation is the card for that potential being manifested. Names and numbering on the other tarot cards are quite traditional otherwise and follow the WCS mostly (Justice is XI). Some exceptions are the Hanged Man called the Hanged One, the Wheel of Fortune named The Wheel, or that The Orbifold has The Universe card instead of the World. However those small adaptions are quite common in several other decks.
Art & elements
The real difference in the Orbifold Tarot is obvious: it is the art and its elemental dignities-core. While the deck may seem to stray far from traditional backs, being stripped from its ‘normal’ tarot imagery, at close inspection the Orbifold is actually very traditional – in a way. You could say that every card goes back to the *underlying* basic. Meaning back to the elements and their suit meanings. I am tempted to say that if you wanted to make the jump to elemental readings, this might actually be a perfect beginners deck. It is *not* a beginners deck per se and if you’re just starting out with tarot I would not recommend it. However: if you are all about reading elemental dignities and numerology this tarot is as ideal as they get.
So, how does this all translate into what you see? The card backs are completely black gloss with the Orbifold logo; several intertwined colored orbs. Therefore the deck can be used reversed. (One little ‘minus’: due to the high-gloss and black you will see fingerprint smudges soon. Plus, I had some transference from the black edges onto the white of the cards.) Despite not having scenics, or maybe exactly because of it, colors are of extreme importance in the Orbifold. Details in lining and color combinations are part of the meaning and specifics of the card.
Color-coding and borders
All the majors are a gorgeous matte black, have a colored border and their own specific harmonious geometric shapes. Those shapes are based on their numbers, but also represent more known imagery. Look careful and you’ll see it too. As far as I understood from an earlier presentation in Tarot Town sacred geometry and mathematical principles are applied to this specific tarot. The depth of that is beyond me, I am an alpha girl to the core here. But don’t worry: you don’t have to be a science geek to appreciate this deck. (and if you are: it’ll give you that nice extra).
The minors have a similar pattern. This arcana is pictured on a white background and the spheres you’ve seen in the major arcana come back here. Nifty ‘trick’: regardless of the suit element, every 4, 7 or 9 has the same shape, which makes it easy to connect. All the suit-orbs have their own specific color. Golden yellow for air, red for fire, green for earth and blue for water -logical eh? Border-colors run from mute on the top to gloss on the bottom. As soon as the card-number comes closer to 10, the border gets a heavier and deeper color. Almost to the black of the majors.
Everyone who’s read more than one deck review on the Queen’s Sword knows I’m not a fan of borders. But for the Orbifold Tarot I will make a huge exception. From day one I’ve loved those borders. Why? Not only do they fit perfectly into the design, but they are an intricate part of the meaning. They have a true function. Borders on the Orbifold are color-coded and link to the elements in that card. With any tarot spread you’ll immediately see which suits are lacking…or are there in spades. It makes reading the deck so much easier. And you can see which elements are assigned to the Majors too (For that Michael has his own system!).
The geometric shapes of the Orbifold take some getting used to. That’s where my initial hesitation came from. Let’s face it, most of us are drawn to the art of the tarot deck whether we are readers or just collectors. Michael Bridge-Dickinson took a risk with this deck, because that advantage is gone. (With his newest tarot, Arcanum X, he shows he can definitely do the gorgeous embellishments too). However, as soon as you start working with this deck, you’ll see soon enough that all the Majors are all linked to their respective minors in shape and amount of orbs. You can see the thought process that went behind it.
Sure there is no known symbolism to build on. But once you really look at those pictures and colors you suddenly see why The Moon is shaped like that. Once it ‘clicked’ I recognized The Sun, diverged Temperance, Justice, The Devil and many others. The courts and aces might be just one circle, but in so many ways that circle can tell you more than you know. And the great thing: because it goes beyond traditional tarot imagery in every way you won’t have clients trying to interpret alongside you ;-). Anyway, if you let the Orbifold Tarot do ‘its thang’, those orbs will come alive and start giving you intuitive hints too.
There’s a learning curve with the Orbifold Tarot for those who might have issues letting go off regular portrayals on tarot. Along the way I kept seeing more and more in the orb-like shapes of the deck though. Some cards that had me stumped in the beginning got more meaning when I let myself get pulled into them.
The Magician is an excellent example. Here we have a card with different colors, but with ‘just’ the dot, the cirlce in the middle. But all of a sudden that was not what I saw. What I saw was a core…the seed of the Major Arcana. It’s the one, the beginning. Just like with an Ace (numerologically als a 1 and art-wise also ‘just’ a bubble) there is all this potential. It’s a bubble full of opportunities, a seed waiting to be opened if you let it – at the highest level. And see all those colors: all that is out there is already inside you: red, green, white in the core, blue. You have everything in your possession. The only thing you need to do is trust in that core and the fact that all the tools you need in life are there for the taking if you exercise the will. Be your own Big Bang, if you will ;-).
I am pretty sure some of you will have remained with my first impression; those that though ‘uh-huh’ with my Magician example and just need scenics or certain embellishments. Nothing wrong with that (I also still get more with that). The Orbifold Tarot just isn’t your type of deck. If you are a more analytical reader and like to work with a system, this tarot deck is perfect for you. The same goes for those readers with more medium-type qualities who can look beyond what they see in front of them.
There is definitely something going on with those images and I have interpreted some cards differently than I would normally have with a WCS or Thoth or TdM. The Orbifold could pleasantly surprise you…but you have to let it. If you can, you will have a remarkable deck to work with: unique, innovative, brilliant in its simpleness and with the elegance and quality we love to see in our decks.
NB. I recently acquired the Starlight Dragon Tarot, which is just as innovative. But different in many other ways. Its review will follow soon after this one. When I saw them lying together, it all of a sudden hit me! Are you one of those tarot readers who sometimes works with two decks at once? Well, I am pretty sure that a cooperation between these glossy black elemental tarots, The Orbifold and The Starlight Dragon, will create amazing spreads and wonderful experiences. If you are going to try this tip…let me know on The Queen’s Sword Facebook page!
|Author or artist||Publisher||Publication|
|Michael Bridge-Dickinson||Self-published||March 2016|