Review by Bonnie Cehovet
“The Tarot of the Holy Light” is an independently produced deck from Christine Payne-Towler and her partner, Michael Dowers. It is an absolutely incredible project, with an in-depth companion book ready to go to print. Where to start … this is a traditional deck. A traditional Continental-style deck, I hasten to add. Christine might smack me if I didn’t make that evident! It is, after all, the foundation for this project! The astro-alpha-numeric associations for this deck are not those of the Golden Dawn (which is the basis for most modern decks). It is also the first Continental-style deck of the 21st century.
The associations for the trumps from this deck are keyed to the astral values taught in the Masonic lodges of Europe, and brought into the public light by Ettteilla in a veiled manner, as Christine writes, that was consistent with his times. The full system was brought out in the book “Divinatory Tarot”, by Papus. Christine also notes that the Pips (numbered cards) and Court Cards are distributed in a classic astrological pattern. (Note: For ease of use, the signs, planets, and elements that rule them are marked on each card.)
The traditional names have been used for the Major Arcana, with the following exceptions: Magus (Magician), Priestess (High Priestess), High Priest (Hierophant), and Tower of Destruction (Tower). Justice is VIII, with Strength at XI. The suits are Wands, Cups, Swords, and Disks. The Court Cards are Queen, King, Knight, and Page.
The deck comes in a sturdy cardboard box with a lift-off top. The imagery on the box (by artist Patrick Dowers) shows a female figure standing in a window, framed by green curtains. She is wearing a long sleeved, high-necked white blouse, and a brown pinafore, with a cross at her neck. She is holding a red heart in front of her, in both hands, with beams of light emanating from it. Birds and flowers adorn the sides of the image. One gets a literal feeling of Holiness when looking at the box.
The deck is a traditional 78 card deck, with two extra cards: one with the details of the companion book, as well as Christine’s first book, “The Underground Stream”. The second extra card gives the details for the deck, and has a lovely flowered vine running up the left hand side, ala the Marseilles tradition.
The deck is accompanied by a twenty-four page LWB (Little White Book), entitled “Tarot of the Holy Light User’s Manual”. Do not ask me why I heard the Star War’s theme when I read the title, but I did! The LWB comes separate from the deck, but fits nicely in the box once it is opened. (The deck and LWB were printed separately.) The background for the deck is touched upon, and Christine has shared some suggestions, such as noting where the Tarot cards fall in the reader’s personal astrological chart.
She also recommends shuffling in a manner that guarantees reversed cards. I do not read with reversals, so I will set that suggestion aside. She also gives the position meanings for a twelve-card reading, but does not offer a reading template, leaving it up to the reader to create their own. She also makes another interesting suggestion – to take the cards from one reading and place them (in the same order) in several different spreads.
The cards are presented text only, no scans. Upright and reversed meanings are given. In-depth information can be found in the companion book, which will be coming out in both soft cover and hard back copies.
The cards themselves are 3” by 5”, with what is termed a linen texture. I noticed this immediately, and had to ask Christine what that was. I described it to her as “looking like linen”, and was very surprised to hear that that was the term used to describe it! Held up to the light, fine linen-like lines can be seen. The texture itself makes the cards less slippery, and easier to handle. Kudos for making this choice!
Michael did just an astounding job with the artwork, which is collage art in very intense colors, referencing the art of the 1600’s. The card backs are done in black and white, with a little Sun glyph (with a smiling face) in each corner. There is a white border, with the image itself showing what appears to be a quarter moon with a face at either end, with a sun in the middle, light radiating from it. At first glance the backs are reversible, but if you pay close attention, a good reader could tell if they were upright or reversed. The theme for the backs is that of a doorway into the cosmos, with the Sun representing the material world, and the Moon representing the celestial world.
The card faces show a white border, with the card information at the bottom of the card. For the Major Arcana, we see the card number, title, and astrological glyph. For the Court Cards we see the card title, suite, astrological sign and glyph. For the Pips we see the card number, suit, degree and sign, and the glyph for the astrological ruler.
One thing that Christine pointed out to me was that Michael placed her initials at the top of the card that represents her – the Queen of Swords! I had to get my magnifying glass out, but they are there! What a nice thought! Other cards of interest to me (well, they were all of interest to me, but these stand out) include the Hierophant, which shows a male figure, arms outstretched, sun touching one hand, moon touching the other, and the Hanged Man, who is hanging from an ouroboros, with a triangle of seven golden circles behind him, with an eye in the middle of each one.
The Ten of Disks is an incredibly active and colorful card, with a Tree of Life focus. Strength has to be my very favorite card – the female figure carries her own power, especially the power of voice, but the small lion in front of her is wearing a very ticked off look – probably due to the green leaf he is wearing on his head!
The Ten of Cups shows beautiful green leaves, a golden sun in the middle of the card (with an eye in the middle of the sun), with a beautifully colored esoteric above it. The Two of Swords shows two swords – upright on the left hand side of the card, reversed on the right hand side of the card. There is a sun at the hilt, and a moon at the point of each sword. There is a reversible esoteric graphic positioned betweent he swords.
The Two of Disks shows a circle of moons, with a red and a green whorl in the center of the card. The World shows a female figure, in a red gown, standing on a graphic of the earth. The Sun is in the upper left hand corner, with the moon in the lower right hand corner, and glyphs for the seven planets to the lower left of the earth.
The Fool shows the sun, moon, and a standing figure with what appears to be a mythical figure at his feet. The Wheel on the Wheel of Fortune is a beautiful red ouroboros, with the traditional glyphs in the four corners of the card.
I love this deck! It offers esoteric symbology in a systematic manner that is interesting, but not overbearing. It will open up thinking on astrological attributions, A good choice for esotericists, those interested in art, and those who work with the astro-alph-numero associations.
© 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 Il Gatto
"Much have I traveled in the realms of
many goodly states and kingdoms
seen," is how poet John
Keats expressed his
excitement upon receiving a new
of Homer. Keats' words and sentiments come
as I reflect on my experience, a
I suspect, after having
collected studied, and read
Tarot decks over the last thirty
the newly published Tarot of the Holy Light
Christine Payne-Towler and Michael Dowers.
This pack is
unlike any other in my collection,
and any that I have
This unique deck offers the user an
window on the cross-pollinating worlds of
astrology, and Kabbalah, and as such
is the perfect
divinatory and philosophical
engine. In conjunction with the
Tarotlogy icon available for printing at
Payne-Towler's November 2011 Tarot
may take any reading and interpret it
in the light of their own birthchart or that of
another, as well as applicable solar returns,
Artist and designer
Michael Dowers has
created an incredibly
colorful and multidimensional deck,
and recombining imagery from alchemical
Fun to look at and to play with,
it speaks to the
imagination on multiple
levels, from the casually aesthetic
profound, because the images seem to
right out of the dreamtime.
I plotted several of the
readings I have
done for myself with this deck, along with
astrological transits current at the time of
the reading, on
the Tarotlogy icon. The easy
way to use this icon is
to print it, write in
the planets, angle points, and
the birthchart of interest, and then
the icon with these personal points added. When
current transits and the cards from the
identified on this personalized icon,
the results are
uncanny, adding a depth and richness
to the interpretation
of the reading.
Review by Pamela Steele
Warning! It is easy to get lost in the images of
The Tarot of the Holy Light. This profound, powerful
deck honors classic art and astral values (Masonic
lodges of Europe) with thought provoking scenes in each
of the cards. Using digitally mastered art from some
of the visionary masters of the 1600's, Christine and
Michael have blended their talents to produce what every
tarot reader dreams of...a tarot that is filled with
symbols and illustrations that will deeply inspire the
Printed on an exceptional quality linen paper, each card
is produced in brilliant clear colors. The drawings
look to be first scribed in India ink then shaded and
colored in jewel tones. Comfortable and easy to handle,
the cards nestle in a sturdy storage box that portrays
a child holding a heart from which golden rays are
shining forth. The card backs are simple elegant black and
white design with a 'Man in the Moon' motif facing
inward from two sides looking at a glorious sun. If you
look closely you will be able to see if the cards are
upright or reversed by the direction of the Moons. But
only if you're paying close attention. The suits are
titled Wands, Cups, Disks and Swords in this traditional
78 card tarot. There is a LWB that nicely introduces
you to the deck and provides basic meanings for each
of the cards.
I cannot say which cards are my
favorites. It is impossible to choose. But the Queen of Cups
gave me pause as she rose from the waves. A golden
haired mermaid with twin tails wearing a golden crown.
Her feathered wings spread behind her frame a shining
challis suspended in the sky. Water pours from her breasts
filling the ocean as a crescent moon that bears a man's
face gazes serenely at his queen from the water. The
card is titled (as are all) at the bottom left of the
image and the word 'Cancer' with the appropriate symbol
for the moon is printed to the right.
The 4 of Disks
also brought me to a complete halt. A phoenix rises
from the flames as a red and gold sun haloes it's head.
The intricate oak leaf pattern adorns the wooden oval
frame that surrounds the creature. The four corners of
the card are graced by a parrot, an owl, a heron and a
stork with the f disks represented below the phoenix. I
first saw them as 'eggs' although they are blue, brown,
green and red circles. I also saw the red flowers as
poppies and the smaller blues as flax blossoms. Crowned by
a now familiar crescent Man in the Moon who gazes
down on the phoenix as the destruction and rebirth are
observed. The name '4 of Disks' is again clearly printed at
the bottom left with 11-20 (symbol for degrees)
accompanying the appropriate planetary symbols, Taurus and
'ruled by ' Mercury.
I also have to mention the Empress.
This is one of the cards by which I decide if I do or
do not like a tarot deck as she is my soul card and
one of my name cards. The blue sky behind her is
vibrant and clear. She stands lightly upon the earth with
her left foot tucked under a crescent moon that cast a
full moon shadow upon the earth. I believe the trees on
either side of her to be oak to lend credence to her
timeless strength. Her long brown hair flows down her back
as she faces you with a look of pure compassion.
Scarlet fabric covers her head and drapes down over the
edges of her shoulders to cover her arms. Her breasts
are full and her torso is covered by smaller
renditions of breasts that she may nurture all. A metal
girdle surrounds her hips and is decorated in high relief
by a horse, a man, a stag, a phoenix, a bull and a
unicorn. A river flows past her in the distance and the
horizon is lush with trees. Ancient roots now covered with
grass show what once was, as stones peak through both
near and far to show the bones of the earth that
support the life above.
Although it may take me years to
master this deck, I feel a familiar comforting presence
that is both intelligent and comforting. The Tarot of
the Holy Light is one deck every reader should
experience. I feel privileged to have a copy and will treasure
it for years to come.
Pamela Steele is the creator of the Steele Wizard Tarot (now in its
second printing) with over 33 years experience as a Tarot
Reader. Currently creating the Wizard's Pets Tarot for
Children. Co-author of the Tarot Deck Creators webinar