There are decks, that once you open that box and hold the cards in your hand something special happens. It doesn’t occur often, even if you have a huge collection, but when it does a deck like that becomes the go-to-wonder or the answer to ‘what would you take with you if you got stranded on a deserted island’. The Llewellyn Tarot deck by Anna-Marie Ferguson is such a deck for me and if you’re a fan of RWS-inspired tarot cards you should definitely check this one out.
The Llewellyn Tarot deck is inspired by Celtic mythology and Welsh culture and that really shines through in cards like Judgement, The Devil or The High Priestess. Only the art on the majors is a little or completely different from the paintings and drawings Pamela Colman Smith made in the beginning of the previous century. If you look at the minors, that pretty much follows the concept of the Waite-Smith deck (RWS), with a few exceptions in scenic portrayals. For example the 3 of swords doesn’t show a pierced heart but a distraught and shabby looking girl sitting in front of three swords. To me that actually grasps the concept of the suit of air a lot more than a pierced heart. In a way it gives you room for a broader range of interpretations than just betrayal.
Anna-Marie Ferguson hand-painted all the cards in watercolors with a focus on primary colors and loads of yellow and blues. This gives the cards luscious details and combination of a realistic and slightly dreamy style. As if I am watching mythology unfold when using the deck. Magical they are, at least to me. They are like the straightforward friend who is diplomatic at the same time. No beating around the bush but not a blunt a-hole either. They invoke the deepest of subconscious voices and basically whenever they’re used for advice they bring you a step further towards personal growth. They work perfectly for one of my spreads called The Inner Flower, that I use for insight and lessons into difficult situations.
Perhaps they won’t be as successful for everyone, sometimes it is also a matter of taste, but I can at least guarantee that the symbolism is very clear and the book that is provided with the deck is very good. Every card is portrayed in black & white, gets a description, keywords and an interesting explanation about the myth that is behind the minor or major. It is one of those actual books instead of a miserly white booklets. The only thing I am not a fan of when it comes to the design are the borders, so after long deliberation I gave them a borderectomy. Sorry dear designer, but your work actually looks much better now. Due to the back of the deck it should not be used for reversals. However, the cue for a Rx card, the tiny red dragon inside of the pentacle, is so small you’ll only notice when paying close attention.
Like most Llewellyn decks, the cards come in one of those square little white boxes (why? so ugly), packed in a rectangular bigger cardboard box that -design wise – makes use of one of the tarot cards. And isn’t sturdy at all. When it comes to packaging, this deck is little miss. The outer box is nice, but not suitable to hold a deck and that inner white thing…nope. I had to throw it away and use a baggy or arcana case. Like with a lot of decks actually, so perhaps I should not make too much of a fuss about it. The card stock isn’t very thick either. The deck is pretty ‘bendy’ and when I spilled half a glass of water I could throw most of the cards away. Sure, it is paper. Paper and water are enemies. But I think that if I use Tarot-911 on wet decks (immediately wipe them dry, press them between paper towels and thick books) with better stock this should not have been necessary. So, as it happens I am basically on my second deck and bought a reserve just in case. It is one of my go-to decks after all, so I don’t want to miss out.
However, this is the case with most mass market editions.
I can understand that collector or readers who prefer originality, a different use of coloring or a completely different approach will not be as happy with the Llewellyn Tarot. It is pretty and also pretty clear. But is it very original? No. There are more decks based in mythology (Ferguson’s own Arthurian Tarot for example) and save a few exceptions the symbolism pretty much follows the Waite-Smith line. Nothing wrong with that, but ‘special’ in that way it is not.
I am pretty much a fan, that was clear. If you are looking for originality or an artistic wow-factor you might think this one is just okay-ish. If, however, you like pretty hand painted decks, decks that follow the RWS and you prefer very clear symbology – especially for therapeutic sessions – definitely put the Llewellyn Tarot on your wish list. Whether you’re a beginner or not. In a way Ferguson’s deck has its own unique art and definitely deserves a place on many, many shelves.
|Author or artist||Publisher||Publication|
|Anna-Marie Ferguson||Llewellyn||Oct 2006|