Review by Bonnie Cehovet
The “Paulina Tarot”, by artist Paulina Cassidy, is a traditional 78 card deck. There are two extra cards: one card carries information on the deck, while the second card carries information on the artist/author. The Major Arcana titles are traditional, with Strength as VIII and Justice as XI. The suits are Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles, with the Court card titled Page, Knight, Queen and King.
Before I get into the deck itself, I would like to share the information from the author’s card. The minute that I read this information, I understood how this deck came to be, and why I was reacting to it as I was. Paulina has been drawing since the age of two. Instead of just reading fairy stories, Paulina enjoyed drawing characters for her own handcrafted books and cards. At the age of 14 she began illustrating editorial cartoons for local newspapers. From there she moved on to illustrating for numerous magazines, with her work also appearing in several books and art collections. Paulina spent some time in New Orleans, a place that she says continues to exert its mystical influence on her creative endeavors. Her interests include ocean life, holistic healing, dream imagery and the Victorian era. All of this is evident in her cards, which are a whimsical, eclectic mix of symbols and images.
One thing that I very much appreciated about this deck was the LWB (Little White Book) – it was the size of the cards, with type that I could read without a magnifying glass! The LWB is text only, consisting of a description of each card, along with the upright and reversed meanings.
In her introduction, Paulina notes that she stayed immersed in each card until it was done – until it had taught her all that it had to teach. The process took 18 months, and includes some lovely spirit people that make themselves known if you look slightly out of focus at the cards (my version of how to see the spirits!). She also notes that life events seemed to coincide in some strange way with the card that she was working on. Part of the Paulina Tarot was created in New Orleans, with the imagery of Mardi Gras and Victorian influenced costumes.
From the book:
“0 ~ The Fool
Wandering unafraid, the free spirited fool imagines soaring like the birds, whose beauty and freedom inspire him. His concerned canine companion warns him to avoid risky situations. Yet the optimistic fool eagerly ventures in faith that his intuition will guide him wisely. The stony cliff is intricately shaped with memoirs left by those who have ventured before him.
Meanings: The journey of life, the discovery of one’s individual path. Decisions, impulse, child-like optimism, new beginnings, spontaneity, adventure, irresponsibility, inexperience.
Reversed Meanings: Being blind to potential problems, making foolish decisions, a lack of thought or consideration, irresponsibility.”
The traditional ten-card Celtic Cross spread is presented at the end of the book.
The cards themselves are 2 ¾” by 4 ¾”, of good quality card stock. The backs are reversible, with a ¼” white border surrounding a grayish background with line drawing of symbols and two winged creatures. I wasn’t sure exactly what these creatures were (other than magickal!), but they also appeared on cards within the deck, so I wrote Paulina and asked her what they represented. She told me that I could call them magickal – that for her they were what she terms birds of passage, birds of spirit. That the abiliy to take flight as a free spirit is something we all aspire to and are nurtured by.
The artwork (done with watercolors) is very much along the lines of whimsy and fantasy. The colors are muted pastels, more towards browns, grays, yellows and greens, with the occasional red and orange. The imagery in the cards is a combination of the traditional imagery seen in the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot, and the creatures of spirit that wanted to be included in the cards (this from the author). I did find that each time I looked at a card, I saw something new and interesting. My thought with this deck is that what needs to be seen will be seen each time the cards are read.
The Three of Cups shows three lovely ladies in party dress, toasting each other. Look closer – they are standing in a field of lovely flowers, and a very interesting creature is standing between two of them. The trees arc above them, filled with fruit, and the three cups seem to have liquid being poured in them from above.
The Moon is a very eerie card, with a river running through the card, back towards a series of trees. To one side, on the bottom of he card, we see a black creature baying at the moon. On the opposite shore there appears to be a white creature. Look closely, and you will see t he crayfish emerging from he water. A snake appears to be winding itself around a tree on the right hand side of the card, and the face in the moon appears to be all seriousness.
The Six of Cups shows a female mermaid figure, leaning towards a young mermaid, who holds a cup in her hand. Five more cups appear in an arc underneath them.
Justice is a stunning card, showing a winged figure, standing, with a sword in one hand, and scales in the other. A yellow sun arcs behind her head like an aura.
The King of Wands shows a male figure, wearing a red robe with a green cloak, seated on a throne. In his right hand he holds an orbed scepter, while his left hand rests on the arm of his throne.
The Nine of Cups shows a female figure, in red, holding a cat. Arced around her head and shoulders are nine cups, resting on a living vine.
Strength shows a red winged Lion facing a female figure in white, with a lemniscate over her head. Her hat and gown show a wonderful Victorian influence.
I found that the imagery in this deck simply pulled me in! Very delicately done, following tradition, with the addition of many whimsical elements. Each card adds to a wonderful fantasy world, replete with faeries, forests, plants and animals, and unique symbols in the background. This is a deck that could be used under any circumstances, even when reading for children. It would be an excellent addition to any Tarot deck collection.
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.