Review by Bonnie Cehovet
“The Transparent Tarot” is much more than the new deck on the block – it takes Tarot out of its comfort zone, and “evolves it” into something new and different. The basic structure remains the same – 78 cards, 22 Major Arcana, 56 Minor Arcana. The
traditional titles are used (with the exception of the Hanged Man, which becomes the Hanged One, and the Wheel of Fortune, which becomes The Wheel). The suit names are Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles, with the Court Cards titled King, Queen, Knight, and Page.
To understand the evolution of this deck, we have to look at Carding’s background. She is a visionary artist, priestess, and Reiki Master, practices Celtic Shamanism, has studied with John and Caitlin Matthews, and is working her way (with her partner) through the Merlin’s Wisdom series of initiatory gateways. She also holds a BA in Theater Arts from Bretton Hall College.
vIn her foreword Naomi Ozaniec speaks of Carding paying homage to tradition, while taking familiar images into a new realm. She notes that this deck would not have been possible without Carding’s considerable design and graphic skills – skills in not only creating each individual card, but skill in creating the cards in such a manner that they interact readily with one another.
In her introduction, Carding makes it very evident that the companion book to this deck is not meant to be definitive, nor is it even meant to act as an outline within which the reader places their own definitions. It is meant to act as a foundation upon which the reader will build their understanding of the cards, and how the cards interact with one another.
She makes a point of noting that the cards are best read on a white background – that a colored or patterned background could lead to cards becoming “lost” (literally and figuratively). I should probably say here that one of the evolutions of this deck is that it is transparent! Simple images are placed on plastic, which can then be read by themselves, or together, which build up a complex picture. I did try using a dark background, but white does work best!
Throughout the book Carding makes an effort to inform the reader that the cards are theirs – a tool for them to use, in whatever manner they see fit. It is a tool for unlocking intuition. The information in the companion book is meant to simply support the reader on their journey. Another point that she makes, when discussing Tarot history, is that where Tarot came from is of far less interest (to her) than where Tarot is going.
What Carding has done with this deck is to take the energy of each card and simplify the imagery so that it can be read in layers. For instance, the Fool is represented by a red rose at the bottom of the card, and a butterfly in flight in the middle of the card. The High Priestess is represented by a crescent moon and an open book. The Moon is represented by a full moon with the face of a female, spirals on her cheeks, and an eye in her third eye area. The figures in the Major Arcana show no faces, allowing them to appear as anthropomorphic archetypes. (Note: The figures in the Minor Arcana – Pip and Court Cards – do show faces.)
In her introduction to the Major Arcana, Carding suggests that the reader ask themselves the following questions:
- How does the energy of this card effect a reading?
- What cards seem to combine particularly well with this card?
- Which cards work less well together? What could this mean?
- What do I think of when I see this card?
- How does this card make me feel?
- What smells/tastes/sounds do I associate with this card?
- If the card could speak, what would it say?
Each Major Arcana card is presented with a full page black and white scan, a discussion of the card and its imagery, divinatory meanings (upright and reversed), and a sample three card combination with interpretation.
In her introduction to the Minor Arcana, Carding lists the following associations:
- Wands/Red/Fire/ What drives us, our energy, passion and will.
- Cups/Blue/Water/What moves us, deep emotions and intuition.
- Swords/Dark Purple/Air/The realm of intellect, logic, and ideas.
- Pentacles/Green/Earth/They show us the physical realm, and speak of matters of health, work, and finances.
In dealing with the Minor Arcana, Carding suggests that the reader ask themselves the following questions:
- Regardless of what the book suggests, what is MY first impression of what is happening in this card?
- What do I think might have happened just before?
- What do I think will happen next?
- What are my feelings towards the figure in the card?
- Does this image resonate with any event or person in my life?
- What do I think may be happening beyond the scene on the card?
- What smells/tastes/sounds do I associate with this card?
- How does this card interact with others in a combination?
- How does this image change when reversed or flipped?
- If the figures in this card could speak, what would they say?
Carding notes that with Court Cards, she feels that it is more appropriate to associate them with age and gender, than with status. The questions that she suggests the reader ask themselves about the Court Cards are:
• What sort of person do I think this card shows?
• Do I like this person or not
• What traits do I share with this person?
• Who do I know that is like this person?
• What can I learn from this person?
• What does this person have to say to me?
• Which card or combination of cards would I choose to represent myself at this time?
The Pips and Court cards of the Minor Arcana are presented with a black and white scan, a discussion of the card, its imagery and symbolism, and divinatory meaning (upright and reversed).
In her chapter on how to use the cards, Carding talks about divination, meditation, magick and brainstorming. Templates are presented for card(s) of the day, three position readings, the traditional ten card Celtic Cross spread, a Celtic Cross spread using three cards in each position, and a unique twenty-five card spread entitled Ripples of Consequence/Wheel of the Year spread. The reader is encouraged to play with the deck – that there are infinite possibilities for bringing out information using the cards.
I am going to add a couple of my own thoughts here. The first would be to take the Major Arcana and lay it out in a 3X7 format – three rows of seven cards each (first line = I-VII, second line =VIII-XIV, third line =XV-XXI), with the rows placed under each other. In this manner you can read the story that is the Tarot through the lines, and read the three card combinations (i.e. I/VIII/ XV, II/IX/XVI etc.). Pick the cards up and place them one on top of another, and look at the pictures that they form. Since the Fool represents the Seeker who is taking the journey, I would also add this card to any group of cards that I was reading. Read the cards with and without the Fool, and note how things change.
Cards I/VIII/XV are really stunning, in that the dragon tails appear to be wound around the sword of Justice, which comes out in the center of a circle made by the dragons, the arm that bears the scales of Justice, and the circle from the Devil. Cards II/IX/XVI show the lightening bolt seeming to come from the top of the mountain that represents the Hermit, ending in the open book that represents the High Priestess. Cards III/X/XVII show rolling hills and a red rose on the bottom, with a complex middle figure of the septagram from the Star and the medicine wheel from the Wheel.
Cards V/XII/XXI show the oak tree that is the Hierophant, with the cocoon from the Hanged One and the round face of the Sun superimposed over it. Cards VI/XIII/XX show the heart outline and yin/yang symbol of the Lovers, with the wheat from Death under it and the Phoenix of Judgment behind it. Cards VII/XIV/XXI show the two horse heads from the Chariot, with a spiral (the World) between them and a rainbow (Temperance) under them.
The Minor Arcana also lend themselves to play: placing the Court Cards from each suit together melds into a complete family picture. You can also place the numbered cards in a straight row, to read the story for each suit, or place the same number from each suit together. When you do this with the Aces, the result is the Pentacle in the center, the Cup in the center, and slightly below it, the Wand and Sword crossed in the middle.
From a counseling perspective, the cards could be used in many ways. The Seeker could choose to deliberately go through the deck and create a picture that represents who they are at a given point in time (past, present or future), or they could choose to build a picture of someone in their life, or of an issue that they are facing, or decision that they have to make. They could also choose to build a picture of the energy that they need to move themselves forward, based on information they received in a reading.
Working with this deck transports the reader, and the Seeker, into a truly magickal world, where anything is possible. There is one thing that applies to this deck that does not apply to other decks – it is temperature sensitive. The plastic in the cards will not do well in extremes of either heat or cold. I deeply appreciate my friend Carolyn Giles for bringing this up in a conversation that we had about this deck. (Of course, Carding also makes a point of mentioning this in her companion book.)
This deck could be used by people of any age (children included) or background. It will be read at the level that the Seeker understands, which is a true gift. This is more than a collectors deck – it is indeed a point of evolution in the world of Tarot.
© November 2008
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.