Chris Butler, known from the Son Tarot (with a gay theme), recently published his newest title The Healing Tarot with Lo Scarabeo. I had been eagerly awaiting my copy for a while, because I wanted to know if the premise of working with light & shadows and portals to a healing place remained simply a pretty but not entirely working concept, or would made for an effective tarot deck. Actually it wasn’t at all what I’d expected…
The Healing Light Tarot comes in a small, handy kit version where the top comes off as if you were to undo a parfum bottle…sort of. It’s a very nice box. Entirely glossy black, silver embellishments and the title on the top, tarot card pictures are on each of the 4 sides of the bottom half.
It might be a smaller kit, but it is sturdy and looks luxurious. I vote for these boxes more often!
Kit & cards
The companion inside is deck sized, but thicker than the average LWB. As Lo Scarabeo befits, the The Healing Tarot deck-guide comes in several languages. Much to my surprise Chinese was one of them and German was missing. What I did like was the fact that the English part was expansive: i2/3 of a page for each card and an explanation on one of the things that should make this deck special: the overlapping circles on every card, the mandorla. This symbol should be seen as a sign of the divine feminine and where the two circles overlap a portal to healing and wholeness can be found.
The cards are a little bigger than the average Lo Scarabeo deck (I like this size, but for tiny hands it is *just* possible to shuffle), have dark backgrounds and are printed on glossy paper with rounded edges. The card-stock is on the thinner side, but acceptable (as in: I’ve now accepted that most decks simply don’t have the gorgeous, thick though flexible linen stock as some decks do. As long as they shuffle ok, I am ok…ish).
The Major Arcana have white titles in capitals – usually without ‘THE’ and carry Roman numbers. The minors only show a regular number, nothing more, whereas the courts give the name of the rank. It’s all clean and strong. But when it comes to the art, The Healing Light Tarot is harder to describe.
On the one hand it has this ancient vibe to it. Like you’re looking through the ages, seeing magic from a past time. I was almost expecting Arthurian knights to stumble though or impressive stone castles surrounded by dark, eerie forests. On the other, there is a distinct futuristic feel to the The Healing Light Tarot, as if you’ve entered the 27th century where buildings and surroundings are seen from a different perspective; where the light gives us muted coloring. It’s funny, because the original working title of Butler’s deck was Time between Times…and in a way that would have been a truly apt title, based on what I *feel* looking at the art.
In most cards it is as if you’ve been trying to stare straight into the sun to see what is standing in front of you. And then, with that sunny dark spot burnt into your retina, you will be shown the image that was waiting for you. The light takes centre stage in The Healing Light Tarot and as a result most figures are shadows. The people in the suits are dark figures playing in – respectively – a fiery yellow-reddish blaze of Wands, turquoise-blueish flashes of Cups, demure green-glow of the pentacles, or in the harsher cold luminescence of the Swords. Where the actual artwork is not extraordinarily, it is the concept that makes its all so wonderful…in my humble opinion (but who dares speak against a queen, right? Right…?)
WCS pattern & Thoth-idea
Whether you like this art, I can hardly imagine nothing of its power won’t seep through if you work with it. And working with it is surprisingly easy. The use of light and shadows, the inclusion of the mandorla’s and several alterations in the Majors and (part of the) Minors is what gives the deck its originality and edge. It isn’t exactly a typical beginner’s deck, but I would not say advanced either. The structure is very recognizable, as are the cards – despite any differences.
Anyone with a basic knowledge will be able to read this deck soon enough. It is mostly patterned after the Waite-Smith. It has scenics and many of those – although the courts are different – will be easy to spot. Yes, a multitude of cards deviates from the standard Waite-Smith drawings and also (and especially in the companion) the influence of the Crowley’s Thoth can be noticed. But all-in-all The Healing Light Tarot is a pleasant combination of known interpretations, imagery and a consistent altered theme of light & darkness. It is exactly that pattern that creates for an interesting reading partner.
As always, I’ve done several test readings. Due to the promise of healing and wholeness I ventured on a deeper path with this tarot deck. And that was definitely possible. Answers were to the point but always felt…ehm nice? I honestly don’t know if these Mandorla’s had any effect on how I interpreted the outcomes (perhaps that hopeful feeling might have creeped through). I rarely needed to use the booklet – the only place where their meaning was sometimes added – but I can tell you that the art of the deck definitely brings dynamic to the reading table.
Despite the lack of detail, facial expressions, coloring and everything else you would normally focus upon while reading a tarot deck, it is the movement and potency that tells the story. The energy jumps from the cards and I was pleasantly surprised every reading was immediately very clear and sound.
Hope vs darkness
Another remarkable thing about The Healing Light Tarot is the fact it seems quite a dark and thus sombre deck when you look at several pictures, but it isn’t at. Perhaps it will read different for you, but the idea behind it, ‘healing light’ and ‘hope’ translates a lot more in the answers than any of the shadows and darkness will.
With some decks, bridging the cards, by focussing on what links them, can be a struggle. With The Healing Light Tarot the movement and directions of/on the cards is tangible. The dancer jumping elegantly on the 9 of cups really seems to fly, you can almost hear the dancing lady figure on the 4 of wands sing a celebratory ‘whoop-whoop’. And if there ever was a knight handing over his carefully protected Pentacle with earnest it would be the KnoP in this deck. This effect is visible in Majors and Minors alike. Emotions on both sides of the spectrum ring true on the cards, they are seen and felt. The Healing Light Tarot contains lively shadows and their energetic powerful stances will draw you in. I can’t think of a better deck to do storyboards or larger readings with.
The Healing Light Tarot was not what I expected, but everything I’d hoped for. Sure, I pick a review copy because I expect it to be interesting for you guys, but this time my fear was that these type of drawings would be flat. And they were everything but.
I am not blown away by the card-stock and I know the gloss on the cards will be a turnoff for some (didn’t bother me, it fits the light & dark play more than a matte deck would have accomplished),but the box is very pretty and will hold the cards for a long time. At one point I didn’t notice the Mandorla’s any more and I was so drawn in by the dynamic pictures, part of the theme was perhaps slightly ineffective (for me). But that could be different for you, especially if you’re a beginner and in need of a guidebook every now and then.
One thing is clear: Once you let yourself be led by the light in The Healing Tarot, its shadows will show you the way. This tarot deck is excellent for questions that need hope, since I asked a few hard ones, and for those that need a strong step-by-step solution. Butler created a beautiful and lively deck that isn’t regular or simple, but can still be picked up by intermediates. Most tarot decks reserved for shadow work have complicated designs or work with modalities. If there ever was a ‘simple’ deck great for shadow work…it would be the one focused on the light.