Review by Christopher Butler
I have usually found that this deck doesn't provoke a lukewarm reaction. You either love it or hate it. Hot or cold. End of story. I personally love it and it is one of the most frequently used decks for my personal readings. I love the fact that the cards were painted with oils on canvas; the colours are incredibly rich and vibrant and there is a depth and solidity to the images that is rare. There's something psychological here for me as an artist - these feel like the sort of images I would encounter in an art gallery rather than straightforward commercial illustrations. To me this is as much of an art tarot as it is a working deck which makes me feel good when I handle the cards.
Unlike many of the esoteric decks which are imbued with either breathless solemnity or an almost religeous conviction, this one manages to do full justice to the depth and meaning of the age old symbols while somehow not taking itself too seriously. The characters on the cards have a dark, almost camp wit with a slightly sinister edge too them. Everything is wildly out of proportion and etherially coloured yet somehow it all works. If anyone asked me why, I really couldn't say, but the humour in the pictures seems to conceal but invite you to look deeper in the same breath.
On a practical level, the numbered cards of the minor arcana are pip cards only, which I know will deter many from this deck. Whilst I love the richness of the Rider and similar decks I will always have room for the more traditional approach. Often it can be an advantage. A card may have one particular emphasis in the Rider system while having another in the Crowley Thoth system. Many non-standard decks give their own particular slant, adding further to the confusion. With traditional pip cards such as these and an overall knowledge of other systems the pips can mean whatever your intuition tells you. The possibilities are greatly enhanced.
I would thoroughly recommend the accompanying Tarot of the Witches book by Stuart R. Kaplan. This gives detailed descriptions of the Major cards and the artist's thinking behind them. Reading this greatly enhanced my appreciation of the deck and its sheer originality.
Downsides: The name! This was the deck used in the film 'Live and Let Die' and was originally marketed as the '007 Tarot Deck'. Who takes credit for the present marketing concept I do not know for this seems to have little or nothing to do with witchcraft. If that's what you want, see Ellen Cannon Reed's wonderful deck. Secondly, the dreaded U.S. Games generic tartan back design. The artist may be scottish but the pink and beige tartan on the back of the cards does no justice to what's on the front of them. Change it, please!
To sum up, don't let any minor quibbles such as those mentioned put you off. This is a highly original and I think very beautiful deck. See for yourself. I can guarantee you will either love it or hate it!
** TRIVIA **
Next time you see 'Live and Let Die' look closely at Solitaire's cards. Her deck had a couple of illustrated minors that weren't published with the commercial issue - a lovely six of swords complete with boat and a verdant seven of wands with warrior. You may also see a few Rider and Albano Waite cards from time to time!
Chris Butler discovered the Tarot in his teens
whilst watching a James Bond movie. Now, almost thirty
years later, he has illustrated three oracle decks and
five Tarot decks. He is the illustrator for the Quantum Tarot, published by Kunati Books.
See card images from the Tarot of the Witches
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