Review by Solandia
The time is now; the place, here. Merely lift the veil to reveal what is already conscious within the unconscious. Another world so close and familiar, yet hidden beneath a soft layer made hard by the passing of your daily lives, penetrable only be a true seeker.
This is Balhundorra – The Shadow Lands. Here the sun is forever setting. A perpetual twilight reigns where two moons hang frozen in a starless sky. Here the souls of each of you journey, your truest selves, searching for that which you cannot name. An eternal landscape within which dwells your greatest heroes, your cruellest enemies, your longing for truth – both the sacred and the profane.
So says the Message from the Magus in the introduction to the Magus Deck, a set of 54 oracle cards that are the first in a line of products based on the mythical place of ‘Balhundorra – The Shadow Lands’. The inspiration for this fantasy otherworld was provided by Dr Joseph Found: his impressions and recollections of his transformative spiritual journeys to Balhundorra forming the basis of the cards created by Anne-Marie Mackay and Dennis Tufano.
The Magus cards are intended as a "tool for delving deeper into your quest for personal authority” and are the “archetypal or quintessential embodiment of traits or values", depicted in vibrantly colourful art. The images have an interesting spray-painted-on-concrete effect on some cards and a finger-painted effect on others, and are almost but not quite abstract. At first glance they look like coloured designs without specific meaning, but on further observation they hint at shapes, faces, people, and movement. Some are subtle – Woodsman, Trickster – others are more overt, like the Wise Owl, Labyrinth, and Demon Keeper.
The bulk of the deck’s 54 cards have these descriptive (trademarked) titles, such as Gateway, Harmony, Wise Owl, Swamp of Despair, Reflection, Sea of Iniquity. There are also seven Aura cards (Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, Purple, Orange and White) with identical designs, and two extra cards – Light Shadow and Dark Shadow. (These are designed to answer yes/no questions only and should be removed from the deck for normal open-ended readings.) The art is attractive, though the designs on the Aura cards are repetitious, and the ever-present trademark symbols on each cards are a little distracting.
The gold, fold-out cardboard outer case opens to show instructions on the outer case, and 54 full colour cards and a companion book inside. The cards are the size of regular playing cards and printed on thin stock. The companion book is titled “Magus: Your Gateway to Balhundorra ™” and is a bound 80-page book divided into four chapters:
Chapter 1 - The Journey Begins
Chapter 2 - Morgana’s Bow and Single Card Draw
Chapter 3 - Revelations
Chapter 4 - Sample Draws and Interpretations
The book offers basic information on the deck’s theme and how to use oracle cards in The Journey Begins; a new three-card spread called Morgana’s Bow and a sample reading with interpretation; and of course the card meanings - ‘Revelations’ - for each the 52 main cards. These Revelations give a few keywords and short phrases, two paragraphs on the story, description or explanation of symbolism, then a final paragraph of ‘Indication’ with the divinatory or advice meaning.
On the whole, the Magus Deck is an effective tool for confronting the subconscious through dreamlike images, useful for introspection and as a springboard for the imagination. The Magus Deck would make a make a pleasant gift to someone interested in Oracle cards or self-transformation.
Kate Hill (also known as Solandia) is the founder and editor of Aeclectic Tarot, and has reviewed more than 200 decks over the years.