Review by Bonnie Cehovet
The Bright Idea Deck is clearly meant to act as a follow-up to McElroy's previous book, Putting The Tarot To Work. There is a slight tilt with this deck and book, however, as the word Tarot is never mentioned - anywhere. Not in the book, not in the publicity (it is being marketed under the category of Self-Help/Business).
It appears that it is being marketed under a veil, as it were. Businesses, groups and individuals who might balk at using the Tarot will jump at using "cards, just cards" for creative brainstorming. However, the deck is broken down into twenty-two trumps and four suits, with four approach cards entitled "Learning, Doing, Feeling, and Controlling" in each suit.
There is also a plethora of astrological symbols hidden in relatively plain sight on each of the cards, as well as a fair amount of occult symbology, such as the red circle, yellow diamond, and crescent moon on the street sign in the Yellow Two (Debate), the wings on the heels of the figure in Trump 1 (Capability), the green snake in Trump XI (Boldness), the dove and crescent moon in the Red Nine (Release), the seven birds in the sky in Trump VIII (Balance) and the Blue Four (Restlessness), and the veritable alchemical quilt in Trump XIV (Synthesis).
The 202 page book accompanying the deck is truly full of bright ideas. The deck is being promoted as a powerful idea processor and brainstorming tool, leading to a quicker turn-around time in solving problems, ease of generating new ideas and effectively thinking outside of the box. McElroy lists some of the ways in which this deck can be used: generating ideas in planning sessions; mapping out storylines, character motivation, plot twists and writer's block; boosting creativity for marketing departments and advertising agencies; corporate trainers and presenters can use this deck for ice-breakers, attention getting games and memory aids; and anyone can apply this deck for personal use (exploring options, problem solving, building action plans).
It is suggested that each card can be used in several ways: as an approach to problem solving; an action to be taken; a person (or type of person); a moment or situation from everyday life; information about an issue or situation; a factor that influences, creates, perpetuates, or could resolve your situation.
The deck is broken down into two types of cards: trumps and suits. The twenty-two trumps carry more weight, representing methods, motivations and influences that deserve special attention.
The four suits are broken down as follows: Red (actions, desires, goals and intentions); Blue (emotions, feelings, perceptions, intuitions, reactions, and prejudices); Yellow (decision making, logic, mathematics, strategies, responses, judgment, and reasoning); Green (material resources, the five senses, physical objects, and the environment).
The numbers of each suit are defined as follows: (1) Opportunity; (2) Duality; (3) Productivity; (4) Stability; (5) Instability; (6) Flexibility; (7) Psychology; (8) Activity; (9) Totality; (10) Finality.
McElroy lists the following steps in preparing to use the cards: (1) Prepare Yourself; (2) Phrase Your Question; (3)Select A Spread; (4) Shuffle the Cards; (5) Deal the Cards; (6) Make Some Meanings; (7) Plan Some Action.
There are several spreads listed in the book: a five card Four Dimensions spread; and a three card Past/Present/Future spread. McElroy also describes laying out lines of cards for working with options (Pro and Con spread), and for working with individuals.
Each card is presented with its Title; Associations (Encourages and Cautions Against); Exploration (a listing of five questions to ask about the card); and Commentary (a short paragraph about how the author sees the card). There are no scans used in the book.
The book and deck come in a very bright yellow box that opens from the side. My only complaint here is that the box is of very light construction. Inside are the book and deck (but no bag to place the deck in once opened).
The cards are approximately 3" by 4 1/2", of good quality, glossy cardstock. The back of the cards show a hand holding a glowing lightbulb, over a multi-color background. The graphic is used facing each direction, so that it would be impossible to determine if the cards had been drawn in the upright or reversed position. There are two extra cards with the deck: one that lists the number associations, and one that lists the trump and suit associations.
The face of the cards shows a 1/4" colored border (Purple for the Trumps, and Red, Blue, Yellow or Green for the suits). For the Trumps, across the bottom of the card is listed the number and title. For the suits, across the bottom of the card is listed the card number and a keyword. The keywords are written in a lighter version of the trump or suit color, so that they are not distracting, but in reality - this doesn't work, except for the Yellow suit. The artwork is that of line drawings, with nice use of color. However, the color is both muted and flat. This type of deck might have been better presented with a more vibrant, intense color scheme.
The Blue 1 carries the keyword Motivation. Here we see a gentleman, dressed in a suit, facing a table with a goldfish bowl sitting on it (and a goldfish swimming in it). He has a large gold cup in his left hand, and a folded whip in his right hand. On the wall behind him is a gold picture with the numbers 69, and an astrological glyph. One of the questions that can be asked here is: "What motivates you more, the promise of the gold cup or the whip?"
Trump 0 is entitled Freedom. At the top of the card, we see a black spiral on a yellow background. Following this are curved stripes in red, yellow, green, blue and purple. Resting on the blue stripe is a white egg. On the yellow stripe we see a brown dog, with an open book floating in the air above him. In the center of the card is a businessman dressed in a black suit. In his left hand he carries a stick with a Joker's head on it, and in his right hand he carries an hourglass.
Green 1 carries the keyword Receiving. We see a young lady, wearing a red dress and shoes, seated on a large stone. In her lap she holds an elegantly wrapped green box that she has just opened. She is seated in the middle of the desert, with green cacti in the background. Note the visible split in the ground, with the green plant growing from it. This is another card that shows multiple astrological glyphs. The commentary for this card concerns whether we are ready to make the most of what comes to us each day.
Trump II is entitled Intuition. It features a female, dressed in a green dress, wearing green shoes and hovering over an expanse of water. She hold both arms over her head. In her left hand she holds a book, in her right hand she holds a lit candle. In the background we see a crescent moon. The commentary revolves around tapping into our feelings and allowing them to carry us through the desert to the happy oasis.
The Red 10 carries the keyword exhaustion. Here we see a male figure, seated at a table. His jacked it off, his sleeves are rolled up, and his torso (but not his arms) are in chains. The table is filled with stacks of paperwork, and there is a clock on the wall behind him. The look on his face is one of resignation. The commentary here deals with what pointless tasks are draining our energy.
The concept behind this deck and book, the organization and writing, as well as the illustrations are all top notch. It is easy to use, fun to use, and will certainly fill its intended purpose. My one problem here is that the format of the Tarot has been taken in blanket form and attempted to be placed into a more general "creativity" format. Prospective purchasers of this book need to be aware of this. If your purpose in working with these cards is to work with/expand your own creative nature, then they will work very nicely. If you attempt to work with them from a Tarot standpoint - I don't think they will work as well.
© Bonnie Cehovet
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.
Review by Solandia
"Welcome to the Bright Idea Deck, a powerful idea processor and brainstorming tool disguised as a deck of cards. With this deck you can solve problems faster, generate new ideas more easily, and think outside the box more effectively than ever before."
Mark McElroy, author of down-to-earth and pragmatic Tarot books Putting the Tarot to Work and Taking the Tarot to Heart, extends his business-like approach to a full deck of 78 not-quite-Tarot cards. Together with illustrator Eric Hotz, he has made a deck for executive, manager, writers, or even marketing departments that can be used for creative brainstorming, idea generating, corporate strategising and much more.
The Bright Idea deck has 22 trump cards that are the "twenty-two highly experienced advisors", associated with methods, motivations and influences, and four suits of sixteen cards each. All have very modern imagery with an emphasis on the urban business and corporate world. The Tarot archetypes remain, though in detail they are very different in their depiction of contemporary scenarios and concepts. Judgement, for example, shows an unusual angle from inside a person’s mouth behind the teeth (white but for one) while a dentist leans in to check.
The 78 cards are colour-coded: trumps with deep purple edges, and the suits coloured and named Red, Blue, Green and Yellow. Red stands for actions, desires, goals and intentions; Blue for emotions, feelings, perceptions, intuitions, reactions and prejudices; Yellow are the decision, making, logic, maths, strategies, responses, judgement and reasoning cards; while Green are the material resources, five senses, physical objects, and environment. All the minor cards show modern scenes from suburban or city life. The Red 10 card, Exhaustion, will be a familiar feeling to anyone who has worked in an office – a red-headed man slumps despondently in chains in front of a desk loaded with piles of paper.
The art for the Bright Idea Deck was produced by Canadian illustrator, Eric Hotz. It is similar in general style to his previous work, the Magical Menagerie, and has fully illustrated line drawings of fairly thick black ink, filled with colour. In content the cards are a little like the Gay Tarot but drawn with more ambiguity, with less detail in its images and less overt Tarot symbolism. The men and women pictured in the cards are representative of the business and executive world; while predominantly white and of working age, there are men and women (and some who could be either) with skin colours of all tones and of all ages. They mostly wear corporate attire of suits and ties for men and jacket and skirt sets for women, or smart casual.
Along with the non-standard imagery, titles and suit simplifications, the court cards also differ. Here they are called Approach Cards, and are titled Learning, Doing, Feeling and Controlling. Much of the occult, Christian, and traditional symbolism common to a Tarot deck has been removed or altered to scenes more easily comprehended by a modern and corporate audience. In spite of the emphasis on the practical and away from the mystical and spiritual, there are occasional astrological and elemental symbols used in the card imagery, apparently as decorating on walls, furniture and other objects, though these are not explained in the cards.
The companion book, Creative Brainstorming with the Bright Idea Deck, offers a fresh perspective for using the cards. It has a basic guide for using the cards, a ‘cheat sheet’ of ideas for the trumps, and a large section on the cards themselves with Associations, Exploration and Commentary. The Associations have two sections: Encourages and Cautions Against. Exploration is a series of questions intended to make you think about what aspects of the card’s image might mean to you; what associations it brings up in your mind. The Commentary is the individual advice referring to the images and scenes in the cards. Finally, there are fifty things to do with the Bright Idea deck from sharpening your artistic skills, to putting a finger on what is bugging you, and coming up with great gift ideas.
The whole Bright Idea set is packaged in a flip-front, rather flimsy cardboard box and contains the book, cards and an empty white box without an apparent use. The cards are easy to handle and glossy, with reversible backs picturing a rainbow background and a mirrored hand holding a lit bulb.
I found the Bright Idea Deck was not conventionally attractive, but very functional. Developed for use in practical and business situations requiring a fresh perspective, it provides plenty of starting points for new ideas, plans and strategies. Ideal for people requiring new solutions for corporate management or advancement, a kick start in the creative or writing arena, or simply some practical problem-solving in their every day work - or home - life.
Kate Hill (also known as Solandia) is the founder and editor of Aeclectic Tarot, and has reviewed more than 200 decks over the years.
Review by Djenra
Nowhere on this Bright Idea Deck box will you find the word Tarot, yet it is Tarot deck with 78 full cards. It has fully reversible images on the back and is every thing a Tarotist would recognize and use except it is called by the author of the concept Mark Mc Elroy - *a brainstorming tool*. This is Tarot for the marketplace. Tarot for the business world. Who would want them to be able to identify what they are really dealing with so lets just say - it is a *deck of cards*.
The deck has renamed the 22 Majors:
High Priestess- Intuition
Hanged Man- Perspective
The Court cards have disappeared replaced by four functions:
There are no suits in this deck. They have been replaced by color coded borders. This is not a new idea, it was used quite successfully in the Wheel of Change Tarot. Thus Red is the equivalent of Wands, Blue of Cups, Yellow of Swords and Green of Disks. The Trumps have a purple border.
The art work by Eric Hotz is done in a graphic novel style. Some of the concepts are quite good and I have seen in a number of cases in the minors or pips where the illustration gives a real insight into a card that one may have grappled for in traditional Tarot. Some of the keywords shine quite brilliantly in Mc Elroy’s work.
The 216 page paperback that accompanies the deck oddly has no illustrations of any kind other than the author's photo. This detracts from the use of the book as one has to have the deck on hand when accessing the content ascribed to each card. At least I find this method to be useful. A black and white illustration would have been fine, if cost of production was a factor in this decision. I think that the exclusion of the cards in the book is a further example of how the author wanted to maintain a distance between his deck and what is a Tarot book about a deck!
The authors concepts about business are traditional. There is a disproportionate number of European people in the deck, only a few Blacks and no Asians. The women seem to be portrayed more as homemakers and aren't as much involved in the business world. There are some blonde figures pony-tailed that are hard to pinpoint gender wise. Thus the predominate business culture is fairly represented in this deck where things are not *even-steven* nor are they *fair and square*.
Speaking of clichés the author uses a lot of them in his descriptions of the cards. He tries to *ramp up* with a little business lingo, but all in all the BWB or big white book (with color cover) that comes with the deck could have been better designed or planned a bit better. Like the box there is no mention of the word Tarot in the text of the book except in the bio blurb of the author.
Purpose of the Deck
Each new deck gets a reading in which it can tell me of it's purpose and how it can be used in my life. The first card was the Red 2. In the author's deck the keyword for this card is CONFLICT. An apt view because this deck is itself in conflict. It is Tarot marketed as something else. The concept itself is conflicted. McElroy says: *push frequently turns to shove and conflict is born*. To a Tarotist these words brings to mind the animated RWS 5 of wands, where people are pushing and shoving.
The 2 of wands to us Tarot folk is a card of dominion showing an attempt to control or to lord it over something or someone. Thus we can see by looking at this card in two different ways that the function and the purpose of this deck was to enter into competition not as a Tarot deck where there is a lot of competition but to *rule elsewhere* being marketed as a *business tool*. Conflicted purpose is the description pulled out of the hat of the BRIGHT IDEA DECK.
The reading goes on to say that the deck itself was conceived by a brainstorming technique in order to make a good impression or leave a mark. It continues to say it would make a good gift to someone who wants to access the Spirit of Collaboration! Well, the deck speaks well and it speaks true. I can see the possibility of using it for business or finance related readings, at a corporate funded psychic fair, or in an investment club meeting.
Since it is such an eloquent deck, it would be a mistake to overlook or to underestimate it’s value and it’s place in the world of Tarot because of a marketing decision.
Djenra is a Spiritualist with over 35 years experience with Tarot. She is a former member of the World Tarot Readers. Djenra is an initiate in several African based religious systems. She is working on her first Tarot Workbook and on a second book on Tarot history. She is a writer, the published author of a book about the Lukumi religion, and a poetess.
Review by Clara Yvonne
I love this deck and find it a highly creative contribution for both the novice tarot reader and the experienced tarotist by someone who understands how people learn. Despite its many innovations, it is readable right out of the box.
Let me say first that I voted for the Bright Idea Deck by Mark McElroy for Aeclectic's Best Tarot Deck for 2005. That said, let me, also, say that though the word tarot does not appear anywhere in the deck, book or packaging, it is, to me, more of a serious and traditional tarot deck than almost any I have seen. So many are just about pretty art. For me, it is a five star deck.
Please do not get your feathers ruffled over McElroy's marketing decision to create a deck accessible to those who would not ordinarily buy a tarot deck and whose identified purpose is as a tool for creative problem solving. Let's not be at all distracted by it either. Clearly, he is trying to address the two worlds he lives in: corporate and tarot. Just be open and, with fresh eyes, look at the deck; those familiar with tarot will find a wealth of both traditional and new symbology in a deck well suited for ANY purpose be it brain storming, meditation, problem solving as well as developing the characters and plot of a novel, fortune telling or anything else your little heart desires...and the more you already know, the more you see. The symbolism isn't always obvious and may be pictorial but it is there waiting for you to discover it. This is a deck that will gently challenge you because this is a deck you can grow with.
This 78 card tarot deck, in the tradition of the Rider Waite Smith Tarot (RWS), has fully illustrated minors but the majors follow in the Marseille tradition in structure and meanings with The Lovers card depicting a choice and Vlll as Justice and Xl as Strength. However, in this deck, there is totally new yet tarotistically valid imagery that is very modern in keeping with McElroy's pragmatic approach. The meaning of the cards are more numerologically based. This means there is more consistency from suit to suit as to the meanings of... say the fives. This does, in some cases, affect meanings but does not create confusion. The cards have been renamed so, for example, The Magician is called Capability. The suits are identified only by the color of the borders (red, blue, yellow, green) with the majors having their own color (purple). The court cards are the most innovative. They are called Learning, Doing, Feeling and Controlling instead of Page, Knight, Queen, King and do not conform even by gender to the traditional tarot court images.
An interesting issue that this deck brings up for me is the numerological and tarot significance of the numbers 9 and 10. This has come up for me in other decks. At what point do we have completion, excess, reality, wishful fantasy/nightmare, fulfillment of the element??? Numerologically, 9 is the end point and 10 is 1 + 0 or 1. McElroy, in his blue bordered "10.Overwhelmed" (10 of cups), implies excess or something beyond completion.
I cannot praise this deck enough!! He has reduced the tarot deck to its essentials, lost nothing of its true form and meaning and has reinvented the whole look and feel of the deck. Yet it all feels quite natural and comprehensible despite so much being completely new which is quite a trick to so sucessfully pull off. Anyone familiar with a tarot deck will find that they immediately understand.
Because I use my tarot decks for meditation and associate to the imagery when I do a problem solving reading, imagery is important in my deck selection. Artist Eric Hotz's colorful line drawings depict no high priestess, angels or mystical visions and are not "pretty" in any conventional sense; his focus on everyday situations feels, to me - once I started to work with it, more personally relevant and, therefore, both more spiritually and more emotionally evocative. This is the real world from which our spirituality creates its starting point.
The card quality is quite good though just a tad slippery and the size (about 3" X 41/2") could be just a tad more narrow for my hands. Because I do a kind of comparative tarot and only shuffle and select cards from my primary deck (RWS) and, then, add the equivalent cards from whatever other decks I am using in that reading, I cannot not comment on how it feels to shuffle this deck.
Overall, I find the deck and book to be extremely well thought out. I was very impressed with the cohesiveness of his thinking and, for this reason, also recommend his other books. There is much to like. For starters, there is the plain-talk clarity of the 202 page book, Creative Brainstorming with the Bright Idea Deck which accompanies the deck as a set. Because McElroy is targeting a non- taroist market and given his background hosting and producing corporate training seminars as well as writing training manuals, the book's style, format and language benefit from this gestalt: all is so simple, well organized and clear that even though I own more tarot books and decks than I care to admit, I found I gained new understanding of the tarot especially of the court cards and it immediatly joined my top favorites- RWS, Osho Zen and Melissa Townsend's Tarot.
Another thing that I like is that his ideas are in sync with my understanding of the meaning of each card as being neither all positive or all negative but representing a continuum. There are no all good all or all bad images in this deck; each card has both. The book's card descriptions include what each card "encourages" and each "cautions against". For those who reverse cards (I do not.), these cards are reversible.
Then, there are the other books that McElroy has authored -Putting the Tarot to Work, What's in the Cards for You, Absolute Beginner's Guide to Tarot and Taking the Tarot to Heart. I find his books open doors and windows. This deck is clearly an outgrowth of Putting the Tarot to Work which was his first book, came out 2004 and explores creative problem solving. I especially recommend it though, to be honest, I must add that Taking the Tarot to Heart did not charge my batteries.
I, also, like McElroy as a person; he was one of the presenters at the annual week-end Reader's Studio of 2005 sponsored by The Tarot School and I did not know quite what to expect given his corporate background. He is funny as hell which I am sure is related to the fact he handles groups of people all the time. He is, also, very serious about tarot. What was most enlightening to me was how he does a tarot reading. He was one of three I selected to do 1-1 tarot readings for me at the end of the day by appointmnent for a fee. To me, this would be an important part of the learning. Each of the three approached me in a totally different way. One passed his hands over the layout at the start of the reading and began to talk about the energies from the cards, where it was hot and where it was cold. He went on to relate it to the traditional meanings and his conclusions were accurate but his manner was cold which did not surprise me as I have heard him lecture on tarot history which he presents in a manner both fascinating and dry. The second reader was warmer and more personable but more directive. McElroy, the third, was very interactive, had me associate to the card imagery before he came in with his response, wrote down stuff for me to think about and take away with me and was very empowering. We used my copy of his deck for the reading. I had presented exactly the same question to all three. He seemed thoughtful, gentle and observant. Some do not like how his humor manifests in his books but I have no problem.
In summary, from a tarot perspective, regardless of how McElroy markets it, this is an excellent TAROT deck that will serve your EVERY tarot purpose.