Review by Bonnie Cehovet
It is an amazing thing to know that one has been with a deck from start to finish - which is exactly the case for me with The Tarot Of The Crone. I don't know Ellen personally, but I was on an e-list that Ellen was on, and had the very rare privilege of hearing her thoughts as her deck progressed, and seeing each card as it was born. What a wonderful journey Ellen gifted us all with!
The background for The Tarot Of The Crone is diverse - Ellen's own preference for the Thoth Tarot, her personal understanding of the maiden/mother/crone archetype and her own earth centered spirituality. All of this shines through in an awe inspiring way within this deck. BTW - did I mention that Ellen is also a wordsmith par excellence!
I was so very excited when Ellen wrote me that a deck was available - I had been on a waiting list for this limited edition deck and thought that I really had no chance at ever seeing it become part of my Tarot library of decks. I almost fell over myself in my excitement at getting the deck from the mailbox to the house so that I could open it! No one can make a presentation like Ellen can!
The outer wrapping was lovely deep purple tissue paper. (Yup - I am a purple lady - I love t his color!) Gently laying the tissue aside, I found a black, spiral bound book, with a lovely black Tarot bag on top. This was held together with a wine colored ribbon (which now adorns my letter opener!). Tied into the ribbon was a miniature wand. I was literally overcome with emotion - the care and thought that went into this presentation was amazing!
I want to take the time to give credit to two people - Crystal Sage, who did the Tarot bags, and Arnell Ando, who did the miniature wands. Kudos, ladies - you did a wonderful job, and became part of an absolutely marvelous project!
I unwrapped everything very, very carefully. The miniature wand now resides in the bag, with the cards, along with a piece of rose quartz. Then I turned to the book. It is spiral bound, with the front and back pieces solid black - no lettering, nothing to take away from the impact of the color. The book itself is approximately 5 1/2" by 8 1/2", and 98 pages long.
In the introduction, Ellen talks about the Crone, and who she is as an archetype. Short and to the point. This is followed by a chart discussing color associations. I think this was a marvelous way to introduce this deck, and certainly set the tone for the work to be done here. Ellen describes the Major Arcana as the Crone speaking directly to our souls. Once you see her deck, you will see what she means! The sequence of the Major Arcana follows the Thoth and Tarot de Marseilles decks, with Justice as 8 and Strength as 11.
In the section on the minor arcana, Ellen presents a highly usable chart on the numbers and their meanings. She defines the elemental qualities as follows:
From the book:
Fire: Spirit. Personal power, Charisma. Vitality. Personality. Spirituality.
Water: Heart. Soul. Emotion. Devotion. Intuition. Dream. That which wells up from the depths.
Air: Mind. Thought. Knowledge. Mental processes. Abilities. Achievements.
Earth: Body. Flesh. Self. Home. World. Reality.
The Court Cards are referred to as Face Cards - each being a different "face" of the Crone as expressed through the elements. They are how we express our own Elemental power.
The Face Cards are defined as follows:
Beast: The primal instinct of the power. The wild and whole expression of the element.
Witch: The focused use of the power concerned with fulfillment and expression of self.
Grandmother: The mature expression of the power concerned with family and community.
Shadow: The element's overdone, destructive and transformative powers.
Each card is presented with a black and white scan, followed by the energy of the card speaking through poetry. There are no keywords, nothing to take away from the "bare bones" of how Ellen sees it. Works for me!
The cards themselves are approximately 3 3/8" by 5", of good quality, non-coated cardstock. They will need to be handled with care, as they are not coated, and they are slightly large for smaller hands to shuffle. The backs are solid, coal black - containing more than a hint of the depth, energy, and intensity of this deck. The faces are to the edge - no borders, nothing to limit their energy. The artwork is somewhat primitive in style, and haunting in nature. If you don't want to address your shadow sides, please have the courtesy to pass this deck by so that it goes into the hands of someone who will make best use of it. There is no text on the cards at all - you are left alone with the imagery and the messages that the Crone has to offer. They are intense, and will take you into worlds that you will need all of your courage to enter. The gift here is one of transformation - The Tarot Of The Crone acts as a mirror for all that is your soul.
Look at this card closely - see the tiny star in the middle of the void of the Crone? This is the Fool - falling through space and starting upon a new path. What incredible trust in Universe we need to become this person! From the book:
To know me, you must first know this -
In the Beginning, as in the End,
There is Nothing.
Behind your ordinary world
Behind all manifestation
Lies the Void.
I am the emptiness surrounding the universe
I am the uncertainty of the electron
I am the nothingness hiding in your soul
In the Void you have no name
Words do not exist
You have no memory, no past or future
Time does not exist
You find no landmarks, you have no body
Matter does not exist
You may still exist
A mere spark of awareness
But that is enough
That is where you begin
When I first saw this card, I immediately thought of the Trickster from Native American tradition. A scary fellow, but one that you are ever drawn to. Power beyond measure. Look at the power in that vibrant red outline, and the shining yellow eyes! Can you feel the power of those fangs? Always remember - the world of the Magician is a shadow world, a crossover world - one part illusion, one part reality. From the book:
I am the Something
That comes from Nothing
I am the Mistress of Illusion
I am the Mistress of Reality
I am the One
Who passes between
What a powerful message this card brings us! This IS what tradition is all about - our personal reflection of our ancestors - a reflection that goes many layers into the past. Dedicated to Rachel Pollack, certainly an icon in her own right, this card is the Door of Time.
Four of Wands
This card takes your breath away! Symbolism par excellence - the four corners, the four elements, the arms raised to the heavens - manifestation personified! From the book:
Four of Wands - Command
I set the boundaries
I know the names
I call on the powers
And they answer to me
I call on my power
And say what will be
Two of Swords
I do not think there is anyone out there that will not identify with the image of the Crone looking into the mirror. It is sometimes scary - it is sometimes enlightening - it is always empowering. From the book:
Two of Swords - Reflection
I have the power
to see my Self
To see within
To see beyond
To see Reality
Changed by my Looking
Beast of Swords
This card immediately brought to mind Native American spirituality. The strength and splendor of the Crow - and it's connection with bringing forth knowledge between the worlds, is awesome. And the truth shall set us free. From the book:
Beast of Swords - Crow
I go where the road does not
Shadow of Cups
Have we all not felt like this at times - drowning in our emotions, incapable of movement? Bodies suspended in the waters of time? The water is soothing as it laps against our bodies - yet we cannot breathe! From the book:
Shadow of Cups - Drowning
All I feel
is all I am
And I am
At $130 (this includes shipping), this deck is not cheap. It is also not a coffee table deck, IMHO. It is a deck that takes one beyond where they have been, and transforms them into who they can be. It is a deck that deserves respect, and will need to be worked with to be understood. For those who wish to do the work, I cannot recommend this deck enough.
NOTE: This is a limited edition (100 copy) deck, and Ellen has had over 100 requests for the deck, so no more are currently available.
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.