Review by Bonnie Cehovet
This edition of the "Bohemian Gothic Tarot" is a limited edition (500 copies) that is signed and numbered. It is a very special edition not only because of the stunning nature of the imagery, but because of the use of silver ink overlay. It is a full 78 card deck with one extra card … the "Danse Macabre", which shows a female figure, arms uplifted, dancing with skeleton figures. There is no meaning given for the extra card … but it is such a wonderful card that it could easily be used however the reader chose to define it … including being used as a card representing the Seeker. (The reading is, after all, the "dance" of the Seeker's life!)
There is no book that comes with the deck (there is, however, a book that can be purchased separately that can be used with both the regular edition and the Silver Edition of this deck), but there is a 32 page LWB (Little White Book). There is a very well done pure silk-satin Tarot bag, with scarlet lining and black glass fringe beading, that comes with the cards. As an added bonus, there is a discount coupon, for use with selected Bohemian Gothic designs and products through the on-line shop.
The LWB starts out with two spreads that were developed specifically for the Bohemian Gothic Tarot: a six card spread entitled "The Secret Fears Spread", and a five card spread entitled "The Vampire Spread". As the deck was designed to explore the shadow sides of life, the spreads were designed to help the reader explore darker questions, as well as helping them to deepen their relationship with the deck. The definitions for the questions for both of these spreads were quite interesting. I am going to share the ones from the "Vampire Spread":
1. Who or what is draining my energy? 2. Why am I vulnerable to this? 3. What is the main effect this is having on me? 4. What should I do in order to avoid this happening? 5. One further piece of advice about the situation.
The cards are presented as text only … no scans. Upright meanings are listed, but in place of listing reversed meanings, the heading is "Darker, shadow, or more hidden meanings". To me, this covers the nature of a card that is drawn in a reversed position far better than working with it as the opposite of the upright meaning.
From the LWB:
IX The Hermit
A time of isolation - physical or psychological - and contemplation. A quest for knowledge. Showing great patience, realizing that it takes time to find spiritual understanding. Looking inside yourself to find inner truth.
Darker, shadow, or more hidden meanings
Being rejected and isolated by society. Occult practice undertaken alone. Turning your back on mankind. Calling someone to the dark side. Being too isolated from others, this could affect your psychological well being.
The suit associations are Wands/Fire, Cups/Water, Swords/Air and Pentacles/Earth. The Court Cards are Page, Knight, Queen and King. An interesting note here is that the suits themselves have been defined from a Gothic point of view. From the LWB: Wands from a Gothic perspective: Demons and devils. Conflagrations. Alchemical experiments. The burning of witches. Impulsive and hot-tempered action. Flaming torches, braziers, bonfires. Stakes. Rampant and threatening plant growth. Artificial and man-made life.
Cups from a Gothic Perspective: The sea at its most wild. Rushing torrents of water. Whirlpools and maelstroms. Blood. Potions and philters. Goblets. Boxes. Secret drawers. Hidden vaults and tunnels. Vulnerability. The victim. Over-sensitivity. Love affairs, especially doomed ones.
Swords from a Gothic Perspective: Wizards and magicians. Plots and dark strategies. Clever or cunning murders and tortures. Doctors of medicine and philosophy. Students. Grimoires (magicians spell books). Maps and books of arcane secrets. Ancient documents and wills. Knives, swords and blades of all kinds. Birds, especially hawks, ravens, owls and crows.
Pentacles from a Gothic perspective: Meanness and obsession with money. Inheritance. Graves and graveyards. Coffins. Skeletons. Burial, including premature burial. A tie to land or place. Stones and buildings made of stone. Being walled or bricked in. Certain plants, especially gnarled trees, overgrown climbers and vines. Certain animals: spiders, mice, rats. Rot, decay.
The cards and Tarot bag come in a sleeve-style box. On the front of the box is a depiction of the Moon, with information concerning this edition of the deck on the back of the box. On the front of t he box the cards come is a depiction of Strength, while on the back there is a depiction of the Queen of Swords.
The cards themselves are 3" by 5", of sturdy card stock. The reversible backs show a black background, with a stylized image in shadowed silver-gray, with the central "figure" showing two skills, facing each other. The is a six-sided figure, with the words "Memento Mori" written on the inside edges. The card faces have no border … the imagery goes right to the edge, and is in dark blues, silver and black, with brighter colors (red and orange) used judiciously.
The titles for the Major Arcana are in silver/gray text against a black background centered on the bottom of the card. No numbers are given for the Major Arcana on the cards (they do appear in the LWB). The Minor Arcana Pips (numbered cards) show the card number and suit, centered on the bottom of the card, with the Court Cards listed by title and suit, centered on the bottom of the card.
This is not a deck that one needs to fear. For those of us that were around then, I equate the atmosphere of this deck with the 1960's soap opera "Dark Shadows". We took it seriously, but didn't run for cover! There are many cards that really drew me into this deck. The Fool was one of them. We see a dark figure standing on what appears to be a gargoyle jutting out from a building. The figure is standing on one leg, with the other knee raised and their hands out in front of them. Very much a yoga-like pose!
The High Priestess interested me in that she is not holding a book of any kind. She is shown standing between two statue-like columns, wearing a light blue head covering, a dark red dress and a darker blue cloak. In her left hand she is holding an object that appears to be a candle. In her right hand she appears to be holding a cell phone up to her ear. Her face looks like a gray/silver mask.
The Empress looks so innocent … a woman in a green gown, seated, with a blond child in a blue dress standing next to her. Behind the heads of both the woman and the child we see flowers. So what is not so innocent? In the large mirror behind the woman we see the back of her head … and a skeleton looking into the mirror!
The Hermit (the first card that I look at in any deck) shows a dark, hooded figure against a night sky, holding up a lit lantern in his right hand. Oh, yes … his eyes are glowing!
The Wheel of Fortune is a totally thought provoking card, showing an older woman reading the cards for a younger woman, who sits with her head on her hand. There is a lit candle on the table between t hem, throwing light on the Tarot cards.
The Hanged Man hangs from a lifeless tree, with water in the background. A moon shows behind him in the night sky, and an owl perches on a tree to his left.
The Devil shows two female figures embracing … one of them holds a syringe in her hand, about to inject something into her partners arm. A dark sky shows behind them.
The Five of Wands shows a courtyard scene, with a purple robed figure facing the courtyard, which is inhabited by phantom figures.
The Nine of Cups shows the figure of a gentleman, seated in his study with a glass containing a dark green liquid in his right hand. On his desk we see a lit candelabra.
The King of Swords shows a figure in armor, with an upright sword in his right hand, and a gold crown on his head.
We all, in some manner, need to address the shadow issues in our lives. I find this deck fascinating, all to real, and know that I will be working many times with it. I feel that it could be used by any level of Tarot reader … I would not advise that it be used as a learning deck, simply because the imagery is not traditional. The "Danse Macabre" is, after all, danced by each of us at some time!
© January 2008
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.