Review by Bonnie Cehovet
The “Otherworld Tarot” is the product of Alison Williams wish to create a deck of her own, and Sarah Howell’s lovely, color intense fantasy based artwork. It is a traditionally structured, 78 card deck, using traditional titles for the Major Arcana, with Justice at VIII and Strength at XI. The suit titles are Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles. The Court card titles are King, Queen, Knight, and Page.
The deck and companion book (a hard-cover version of a Little White Book – LWB) come in a hard cardboard box, with a lift off top. The 96 page LWB includes a short introduction to the Tarot, working with card definitions and your intuition, setting the atmosphere for a reading, and allowing the story to tell itself.
Sample spreads include the three card Past/Present/Future spread, and the traditional ten card Celtic Cross spread. The cards are presented with small black and white scans, keywords, and a description of the card and its energy. The Minor Arcana (Pips and Court Cards) include one keyword, along with a description of the card and its energy. The text is very “bare bones”, with a somewhat simplistic view of the cards. It does serve as a basic “getting to know you” primer.
The cards themselves are good quality, heavy card stock, measuring 3 ½” by 5”. The backs have a wide lavender border, with a lighter, ¼” inner border. The image shows two winged horses on either side of a beautiful curved graphic. The backs are reversible.
The card faces show a wide (1/2”) color coded border, with a small “V” shape in the center of the top, bottom and sides. The Major Arcana border color is gray, with Wands a Light Green, Cups a Sea Green, Swords a light Blue, and Pentacles a Brownish-Red. I found both the wide borders and the “V” shapes to be distracting when reading.
The artwork is whimsical/artsy, with a sprinkling of fairies, elves and other fantasy figures. The colors are intense, and minimalist. The figures are gaunt to the point of looking anorexic, with long limbs.
The Major Arcana show the card number (in Roman Numerals) and title across the top of the card, and a keyword/phrase along the bottom of the card. (For instance, the keyword phrase for the Hierophant is “Spiritual Guidance”, and for the Nine of Cups it is “True Happiness”.) The Minor Arcana show the card number and suit, in text, along the top of the card, with a keyword/phrase along the bottom. The Court cards show the card title and suit along the top, with a keyword/phrase along the bottom.
The imagery in some of the cards (such as the Tower, the Empress, the Emperor, and the Lovers) is fairly traditional, although done in a fantasy format. Other imagery is quite different – Judgment shows an Archangel standing on top of a coffin, blowing her trumpet. The World shows a globe being held between two hands, while the Page of Cups and the Queen of Cups are depicted as mermaid. The Knight of Cups is show riding a sea creature. The theme of snakes runs through several of the cards, including Strength (wound around her waist), the Four of Swords, and the Eight of Swords. The Minor Arcana is done in a semi-Marseilles style, with the use of icons and minimal imagery.
The Two of Swords is quite an interesting card, showing two eyes (in a blue face) behind two crossed swords. The Magician stands with one foot in the middle of each side of the lemnescate, with a wand held in his left hand, across the front of his body, and a sword in his right hand, behind his head. The Fool is sitting in front of a lit candle, his head braced on one hand, and one finger of his right hand reaching out to touch the flame. Death shows a female figure in black, standing in front of a white horse with a scythe in her right hand and the horse’s reins in her left hand. The Tower shows the electric bolt in the sky, and fire on either side, but no bodies falling from the structure. Justice stand upright, with her arms out at shoulder height, a scale in either hand. A sword is above and behind her head. The Chariot shows something that I have seen before, which is the two horses (unicorns in this case) facing in different directions.
The strengths of this deck are its delightful use of intense color, and ability to move the archetypes beyond their traditional formatting. It would work well to help a reader that wants to open up their readings, and would be attractive to someone that likes this type of artwork. It would not work well as a beginner’s deck – i.e., as a deck to learn from.
© 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.