Review by Solandia
“Inspiration for the Far Sight came about by observing both the simplicity and diversity of life... My version of Ouroboros appears on all the cards' backs and also on card one, the GENIUS. This ever-fascinating symbol of perpetual change also (to my mind) bears a resemblance to the sign of infinity, a strong influence in this deck. Along with this concept of the unity of all things, close family, acquaintances and self are portrayed in metallic hues inspired by statues from antiquity, and somehow all come together with mythological characters, astrology, animals, chessboards, the Southern Cross and personal memorabilia to form the designs of the cards.” - Helen Meinicke
The publication of the beautiful Far Sight Tarot set is the culmination of a long creative project for local Brisbane artist, Helen Audrey Meinicke. Years ago, she designed and painted the cards in acrylics for her own personal use, "as a means of exploring the mysterious qualities of tarot through self-expression". Much more recently, she wrote the companion book, and now in 2007, they are available as part of a self-published cards and book set.
I first saw the images for the deck at an early meeting of the Time Out for Tarot group in Brisbane. Helen had brought her paintings with her, and showed us though the cards one by one. She was unsure at the time of showing us the images at all, but she needn’t have been – we were all in awe at the colouring and carefully crafted detail of her paintings.
Her cards are a unique interpretation of Tarot influenced by her own ‘small world’. They are filled with personal association and meaning: her own belongings and possessions (from a well-loved vase in the Two of Water to dog-walking shoes in the Oddball); her close friends, family and her self. The scenes are usually set outside, among natural landscapes of oceans, mountains and sky, and are unbelievably detailed, with individual hairs visible in the manes of lions and the hair of dogs, horses and people.
There are lots of animals of both the domestic kind (Helen’s own dog appears in the Oddball), and natural and mythological varieties. I also enjoyed the Australian touches in some cards – a rosella in the Air King, a koala in a eucalypt forest on the Nine of Fire, our hundred dollar notes in the Earth King. Astrological symbols also appear in the cards, subtly placed as jewellery – necklaces, pendants, earrings – and tattoos.
The suits are personalised to Earth, Water, Air and Fire, with court cards of Girl, Boy, Queen and King. Also personalised are the major arcana titles:
0 – Oddball
1 – Genius
2 – Mystique
3 – Gaia
4 – Machismo
5 – The Hierophant
6 – The Lovers
7 – The Chariot
8 – Justice
9 – The Recluse
10 – Wheel of Fortune
11 – Fortitude
12 – The Twilight Zone
13 – Curtains
14 – Temperance
15 – The Hidden Hand
16 – The Tower
17 – The Star
18 – Psyche
19 – Sunshine
20 – Judgement
21 – Solstice
Along with the regular 78 cards, there are seven extra cards in this deck (well, eight if the blank card is counted). There’s not only an alternative Lovers card, but a choice between Temperances, Emperors, Oddballs, and some minors as well. Which card is used is up to personal taste – it could be the Emperor with the aggressive energy, shown with bared teeth and a raised sword, or the Emperor with the more protective feel. The two versions of the Oddball cards (The Fool) show the same Fool and dog, but one viewed from the front and one from the back. The two Temperance cards have been treated similarly. The Lovers cards are both painted in soft blue tones; one shows two entwined bodies from the shoulders down, while in the other the faces of the people are visible.
Both cards painted for the Ten of Water (Tranquility) are just beautiful – one shows a youngish, pretty blonde woman up to her shoulders in water, the sun setting behind her, lilies and green tree frogs all around her (even flying over her head). The other has another woman, this time as a ship’s figurehead, underwater in the purple deeps with turtles and jellyfish.
The cards are large enough - at 15cm x 9.2cm - to be able to appreciate the detail of the scene. They have a thickish stock and are pleasantly matte to handle (and also to stay in a stack on the table without sliding off). The backs have an image of a snake ourobouros in a figure of eight on a starry sky background, with a copyright message printed unobtrusively at the base.
The cards come with a spiral-bound 84-page book printed in full colour. It’s printed on good paper and has cardboard front and back – this is one companion book that won’t fall apart or get easily creased with use. It doesn’t bother with spreads or basic information on tarot, just an introduction to the deck’s concept, explanations of the changes made and influences on the cards, and the card meanings. These have a full-colour thumbnail image, and for the majors, the astrological ruler and it’s ‘mirror pair’. Both upright and reversed meanings are provided, sharing Helen’s take on tarot in a stream of consciousness style with the most pertinent and important keywords bolded to jump off the page.
My only real problem with the cards is the association of Swords with Fire and Wands with Air. I’m used the opposite attributions and founnd the switch just that bit confusing when reading with the cards (though it is the most natural to Helen’s own tarot system). If investing in the deck, I think it would best used as a sole deck for readings, and for long enough to become familiar with its own distinct personality.
The Far Sight Tarot may seem a little on the expensive side at $170 Australian dollars, but it’s not over the top for a self-published full deck of 78 cards (plus extras) and a companion book It’s a set of stunning, thoughtful tarot images, and I’m very glad that it has become available as an equally considered printed set.