Review by Solandia
The pretty Harmonious Tarot pays homage to Walter Crane, an English artist, painter and designer of the Victoria area. He was best known for his innovative illustrations for children’s books, and also created later works for adults in a floral fantasy style.
The artwork is mostly Crane's, with some modifications by Ernest Fitzpatrick to better fit it to a Tarot structure. The cards have a very detailed, floral, languid appearance; a combination of Victorian England, cottage flower garden, and various historical eras. The costumes follow suit and randomly shift between twentieth-century dresses, hats, and suits; medieval fantasy boots and hose; Grecian robes; Native American feathers; or, most commonly, flower costumes and petal head-dresses. This floral theme is very pronounced - daisies decorate cows, a giant goose has leaves for feet in the Nine of Chalices, and a matron in the Nine of Wands holds a long-stemmed rose as a staff, to mention a few examples.
The major arcana cards are based on familiar Tarot archetypes that have often been slightly altered in positioning and detail to fit the theme. They follow the European tradition in ordering – Justice is at VIII, Strength at XI. The minor arcana have four suits of Chalices, Swords, Wands and Pentacles, all with fully illustrated scenes. The suit symbols here are usually arranged over the action in the numbered cards, rather than being part of the scene in the manner of the Rider-Waite Tarot minors, but a very similar meaning is expressed in both.
The court cards - arranged Knave, Knight, Queen, King – are very distinct in personality and appearance, and so are a degree easier to read than court cards in many other decks. The King of Swords bears a distinct resemblance to Henry VIII, while the Knave of Swords is a slim, moustachio'ed dandy; and the Knight of Wands rides a showy, high-stepping horse, where the Knight of Pentacles sits atop a controlled and calm draft horse.
All cards have the same floral border, and are titled in the usual six languages for a Lo Scarabeo deck. The backs have a murky green, blue and yellow stylized design, with the same outer border as pictured on the faces of the cards.
The companion booklet to the Harmonious Tarot takes a whimsical approach and sets the scene in London, West End, in 1893 and introduces us to Lady Victoria Westwood. An old and wealthy woman - and celebrated clairvoyant - into whose home we are invited, she welcomes us into her cartomancy room, and shows us her Tarot deck and faithful companion, the Harmonious Tarot.
"The character Lady Victoria Westwood is purely fictional. We like, however, to think that she really existed. In remembrance of the English cartomants of the end of the 19th century. In remembrance of cartomants of every age."
Lady Victoria explains the major arcana cards in a sentence, in a conversational tone, followed briefly by their keyword meanings. Then the minors, structure and suit associations, the attributes of the suit and the keywords. The meanings are purely divinatory (or cartomantic), eg. The Moon. Intuition, dreams. Mysteries and secrets. Nostalgia. Doubts. Lies and betrayal.
She adds some advice on ‘how to properly proceed in reading with the Tarot’. Laying out the cards, setting the scene, reversals, when the cards don’t answer, a tarot diary, and interpreting the cards (your own method is recommended). There are also two (related) spreads – the Magic Triangle, with six cards, and a double Magic Triangle with two cards in each position.
It’s a cute way to the introduce the deck, friendlier and less daunting than the usual dry listing of tarot history and card meanings. It’s also nice to see a basic introduction to Tarot included, so that a beginner could pick these up on their own (or be given them as a gift) and have something to work with straight away.
The Harmonious Tarot is light, pretty and expressive - perfect for readings with querents who are unsure or a little afraid of the Tarot – and is easily useable as a reading deck from novice level readers on upwards.
Kate Hill (also known as Solandia) is the founder and editor of Aeclectic Tarot, and has reviewed more than 200 decks over the years.