Review by Bonnie Cehovet
Suits: Staves, Cups, Swords, Coins. Elemental attributions: Staves = Air, Swords = Fire. Court cards: King, Queen, Knight, Page. Major Arcana: Traditional Titles (exception: Hierophant = Priest).
I found the coloring and the style of this deck interesting, but it left me feeling a bit edgy. The more I looked at and read about this deck, the edgier it seemed. Not being schooled in art styles, I did have to do some homework on art nouveau, and my initial impression of the influence of stained glass design (a specific form of art nouveau) did hold true. However, if we define Art Nouveau as U.S. Games does in the LWB (Little White Book) that accompanies this deck: stylized and decorative, then it may fit the category.
My major rant about this deck may indeed be said LWB: as was the format of its time (1989) it is done in one sheet, folded in half, and then in on itself several times. I find this very annoying!
Myers originally painted in the Art Nouveau Tarot in oils, using live models. This is good and bad, because what has happened is that the same models were used for more than one card, and it becomes annoying. There is an extra card that is essentially a self portrait of the artist that is included with the deck. The predominate colors are orange, blue, purple and turquoise.
The LWB shows no scans of the cards, merely listing a short description of each card, and its upright and reversed meanings. The elemental attributions for the Staves and Swords are reversed from the traditional: in this deck Staves = Air and Swords = Fire. The Pips (numbered cards) are also a bit different, in that they show only one graphic representing the suit on each card (i.e. the Seven of Swords shows only one sword). Also, the Pips follow a storyline specific to each suit, and that do not necessarily bring out the true energy of the card in a definable manner.
The cards themselves are approximately 2 3/8" by 4 3/8", which does make them easier to handle by those of us with small hands. They are of good quality, glossy card stock. The backs have a 1/4" white border, followed by a thin gold border. The background is dark blue, with a vine-like gold illustration in the middle, with a circular gold graphic on either side of it, making it impossible to tell if the card had been drawn in the upright or reversed position.
The card faces show the same 1/4" white border. The Major Arcana show the Roman numeral for the card in white lettering at the top of the illustration, with the title in white lettering at the bottom. The Pips show the card number at the bottom of the illustration. The Court cards show the title and suit across the bottom of the card. For continuity, the clothing of the figures is color coded: Coins are yellow, Cups are blue, Staves are green and rust, Swords are lavender and rust.
Some of the cards are presented in a traditional manner, some are not. The Fool appears to be hovering in mid-air; the Magician has his hands out in front of him, as if he is juggling the four suit symbols; the Priestess is standing; the Priest (Hierophant) is a youngish figure that I do not relate to the energy of this card at all; Death appears as a dancing skeleton; the Tower is seen far in the distance. The Sun is seen as a male figure in gold, and is actually quite good.
Each of the Minor Arcana (Pips and Court cards) shows a vine-like border that is specific to its suit. The one card that looked traditional in each of the suits was the Ace, which was shown with its elemental energy body: The Ace of Swords showed Salamanders and tulips; the Ace of Staves shows a flowering vine and two brightly colored birds; the Ace of Cups shows fish and water lilies; The Ace of Coins shows weasels and roses.
The illustrations on the Pips are not traditional - they basically show the same male/female duo going through a series of issues. For the suit of Coins, the progression is fairly reflective of the nature of the card. The Three of Coins shows the female figure dancing in celebration, the Four of Coins shows the same figure seated, with the coin symbol in her lap. The Seven of Coins shows both figures planning together, while the Ten of Coins shows them seated and content.
The sequence for the Cups shows the couple with a baby. For instance, the Three of Cups becomes mother, father and child. The Four of Cups shows the mother holding the child, with her back to the father, who is seated with his arms crossed in front of him. The Five of Cups shows the father seated alone. The Eight and Ten of Cups brings the family happily back together again.
The suit of Swords uses the imagery of a couple again (without child). The Four of Swords is quite interesting - showing a single sword raised in the center of the card. The Five of Swords shows the male figure with sword in hand, while the female figure is at his feet, as if she is trying to hold him back from fighting. The Seven of Swords shows the male figure in a pensive posture, with the female figure dancing behind him. Not the Seven of Swords energy that we are used to!
The suit of Staves also uses the imagery of a couple, with no child included. The Three of Swords is very strange, showing the couple, seated, with a male figure standing, facing them. The Ten of Staves shows the male figure, with his head in his hands.
The colors and the artwork are well done, but the imagery, to me, was not enough to carry the intent of the cards. This deck would be interesting to have as an addition in the "art" category for collectors, or for an experienced reader that was attracted to the art. An inexperienced reader would have to constantly refer to the LWB, and the "storyline", and would be able to make little headway. This is one of those decks that I would use for specific readings, but not as a general reading deck.
© February 2006
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.