Seeing a new Meleen deck come to life is always a happy time for this reviewer, but a reprint of an older deck can be just as much fun. Especially when said designer promises to give it a new twist and fix the few things that might have kept buyers away. So, here’s my review of the Rosetta Tarot. Or better said: Rosetta Tarot Papyrus Edition***.
The Rosetta Tarot Papyrus comes in the typical Meleen-styled boxes. At least, the ones we got to know from her Tabula Mundi decks. I guess you’d call them shoebox-style? A deck-sized box, with a lift lid top with no (magnetic) closure and an embossed symbol. In this case a dark blue linen textured box with a silver Ankh. Inside you’ll find the deck, but also – since it’s a limited edition – a numbered and signed card (Mine: 34/777), the personalized card with your name in hieroglyphics, an empty one to write them down yourself + your explanation on the glyphs.
Rosetta vs Rosetta
If you have the original full sized Rosetta or the one in a tin, you might want to know what the differences are. If you don’t have any of those decks, you can still keep reading, because there’s important info for you in there too. So what are the differences or improvements?
The former regular/tin Rosetta Tarot has a black border, one I was never a fan of. Yes, black let’s colors pop and if anything Rosetta Tarot has a lot to pop, but imho it was never a great addition to the deck and its art. The Papyrus edition has a border too. A brown/beige melee looking like old paper. Papyrus to be exact. (Surprise!). That border incorporates the fountain pen written hieroglyphics underneath, giving the titles in ancient Egyptian rather than English.
Border & stock
Exactly because it is a themed deck in this style it works and much to my surprise it isn’t too distracting but actually gives it something extra. I am rarely a fan of borders but in some cases it actually is a fitting extra (like with the Minoan Tarot too or with the Orbifold Tarot).
The coloring is also better. The blue’s are much brighter and the print quality overall is better. Less saturated and…should I say: tweaked? Anyway, it felt as if we see more of the original painting back in these cards. And those original colors also go better with the Papyrus background. The new Rosetta Papyrus edition is just slightly larger than the original regular sized deck, but still decent to shuffle. I wasn’t a fan of the Rosetta in a tin-stock, which I presume is the same as the regular sized original, but the Rosetta Tarot redeems itself by having much thicker and still flexible card stock. This will hold up as a go-to deck and if riffle-shuffle is your thing: that’s possible too.
So, all in all we have the same Rosetta but with some improvements in stock, box and coloring. That will be all for tarot readers who already have the Rosetta Tarot, but if the Rosetta Tarot Papyrus edition is the first you ever hear of the rest of this article is for you.
Read like an Egyptian
The Rosetta Tarot Papyrus edition is the second printing of the regular Rosetta Tarot and like I said: the Papyrus stands for a Papyrus-looking background (border). The Papyrus is only there in look, not in feel. In a way that was slightly disappointing, until my reality-check hit…I honestly have no idea how a look AND feel would have been possible without making this deck hundreds of dollars and a hell to shuffle (sorry, imagination!).
So on to the second ‘Egyptian touch’: hieroglyphs for titles. If you read for clients, working with a Thoth deck can even be more challenging than with the WCS that shows the ‘scary’ Devil and Death cards. Titles like Lord of Ruin can potentially have them run screaming from a reading. The hieroglyphic idea really saves you from any misunderstandings and freak-outs that can happen as a F2F reader. And it’s what makes this deck really honor Thoth & Seshet of course ;-).
By the way, they aren’t true Egyptian script, but based on English sounds and matched to the letters following that sound. Most of the card names are written phonetically and leave out ‘the’ (as in THE Fool),meaning they aren’t the true equivalent of the Egyptian word. Still, it is Egyptian in a way and gives the deck something special. Besides, you even get to practice your own name or other words with the ‘rosetta stone’** delivered with the deck.
The Rosetta Tarot Papyrus edition is in all other regards, just like its predecessor, as close to a Thoth deck as can be, without actually being a Thoth deck. That means as a relative Golden Dawn-deck beginner you can use a book on Thoth to get you going, as this deck does not have a LWB, but I’d much sooner advise The Book of Seshet, the companion for this deck, since it has a guide to reading Thoth on top of being the full guide to reading Rosetta. Especially if you’re a Thoth novice, or a Meleen-newbie, you’ll be happy you did, because it gives great info.*
The Rosetta follows Thoth in many ways and designer Meleen was obviously inspired by the paintings Harris made in the 40’s. There are similar, or practically equal, cards to Crowley’s work, but with just a more vibrant palette. However, I would do the deck and its creator an injustice to say it is a clone. Absolutely not. It feels like an ode, but with several – amazing – changes.
As we would later see in the Tabula Mundi decks, MM Meleen combines Golden Dawn attributes with other symbolism from Norse and Greek mythology as well as alchemy. That leads to some pretty exciting adaptations, telling us very strong stories at that. Like the Moon for example, which depicts sea monster-goddess Scylla. Here the Moon becomes a dangerous subconscious place where we have to either fight our inner water (emotions) demons and reach for the open sea or let them conquer us and be swallowed by the depths of our feelings and, quite possibly even, illusions.
I think this card, in many ways, also tells the story of how the Rosetta will read for you. Just as with my Thoth deck it feels strange to use this deck for more mundane questions. Every time I felt compelled to go deep and psychological. But, I was never disappointed with the answers I got. They were at least as deep as the questions. Fair warning: You better be ready for the truth, cause here it comes in no uncertain terms.
Hopeful & intermediate+
Rosetta Tarot Papyrus also seems to be big-hearted. It has a much softer energy than Crowley’s work. It’s honest, but more hopeful, I guess – even when the topic is already heavy and hard. In general I think GD decks are a bit much for beginners, since so much is going on. Meleen’s first deck (and reprint) is no exception.
Admittedly it isn’t difficult to read, but for the sake of all those extra layers, I still recommend getting a copy of the companion. Even if you’re an advanced tarot reader or at least know your Thoth/GD. The extra’s and deviations are what make this deck so special. They add, not detract. Using Meleens own interpretation and information on the symbology will give you the nuance or severity you need while interpreting (at first). Despite the fact Rosetta Tarot Papyrus really ‘pings’ on your intuition too. Who knows, once you start your GD-journey with this deck, you might even come to like it more than the deck it was based on.
If I were to hand out one complaint, it would be that fact that I have some issues with the faces and sometimes physique of the people in the deck. In an otherwise abundant, detailed and expressive tarot deck, they lack a bit. Here and there the bodies aren’t as strong and sometimes facial expressions seem to be missing. Or faces were close to identical in several cards. Male and female. I am not sure if this is done on purpose (there’s already a lot going on in the deck, faces might have been an afterthought or deemed unimportant), but they were a bit of a disappointment. For tarot readers who use so-called eye-lines and are swayed in their interpretation by using expressions too, that fact can be a turn-off.
Still, Rosetta Tarot Papurus is one of the more complicated – in a good way – consistent, vibrant and psychologically deep decks out there. And if you’ve always wanted to learn Thoth or GD-decks but felt like Crowley’s work wasn’t the way to go I definitely recommend this one.
The Rosetta Tarot in its first print was equally strong, but the quality of the stock and print job was always a slight disappointment. I can say, without a doubt, Meleen made an excellent choice with the reprint. The Rosetta Tarot Papyrus keeps all of the good and fixes the bad. The stock is much, much better and will withstand heavy use. The printing gives great coloring. Plus, I like this border with the hieroglyphic symbols because it fits a theme and it actually seems to promote the art, rather than take away from it.
So, when it all comes down to it. If you want to go Thoth, Rosetta Tarot Papyrus will take you there, with some interesting extra’s along the way.
NB. All images can be opened in a new window and show much bigger.
NB* I also obtained The Book of Seshet, the companion for all varieties of the Rosetta. A review on that book can be read too.
NB** Not a real stone of course, but a card that explains the meaning of all symbols. From now on you have your own ‘secret’ alphabet.
NB*** I reviewed the Silver edition. There’s also a Papyrus Gold, with an extra golden line around the frame of the painting. The box has a golden embossing of the ankh and it holds a tarot bag. If I’ve missed any differences, please tell me!
Buy Rosetta Tarot at authors site
Free hieroglyphics guide to the Rosetta
|Author or artist||Publisher||Publication|
|MM Meleen||AtuHouse/Meleen SP||April 2017|