Review by Bonnie Cehovet
Suits: Wands, Cups, Swords, Disks
Court Cards: King, Queen, Knave
Maxwell Miller carries with him a world of
experience - as a performance artist, musician, artist and
world traveler. One of the aims in the creation of this
deck was to show cultural diversity, and to act as a
reflection of the times that it was birthed in. Miller sees
this deck as a means by which the Seeker may view
differing religions and belief systems in relation to each
In delving into the history of Tarot, Miller equates
Astrology with the element of Air and the rational world of
Air signs; Kabbalah with the element of Earth and the
movement between heaven and earth on the Tree of Life;
Alchemy with the element of Fire and the creative
processes; Tarot with the element of Water and the intuitive
Miller has tweaked traditional Tarot to fit his
worldview. He has renamed four of the Major Arcana cards to
better reflect his concepts: Strength becomes desire,
Justice becomes Karma, Temperance becomes Time and
Judgment becomes The Revelation.
The traditional pantheon
of 16 court cards (King, Queen, Knight, Page) have
become a pantheon of 12 (King, Queen, Knave). Miller's
reasoning is twofold: (1) in order to assign astrological
correspondences to the court cards, there need to be 12, and not
16 cards, and (2) this fits in with his numerological
view of the Tarot, in which the numbers 3 and 7 are
keys. (Three court cards instead of four within each
I personally have a small problem with the above. It
would take some of the traditional energy from the deck
in terms of accessing information, and it could be a
problem for those readers that work with significators
(although a significator could simply be drawn from another
deck). It also smacks of trying to fit one system over
another - and not really doing justice to either.
cards themselves are easy to handle and visually quite
appealing. They are 3 1/4" by 4 1/2", on good quality, glossy
card stock. The backs of the deck have a beautiful
greenish/grey marbled appearance, with astrological symbols in
gold on a white background, framed in gold in the
center of the card. The face of each card is bordered
with the same marbled effect on the backs of the cards,
with a thin white border framing the illustration
itself. The title for each card appears at the bottom of
the card - white text on a black background within a
thin white frame.
The coloring for this deck is done
very well, the artwork somewhat stylized. For me, some
of the representations did not convey the traditional
energy of the card. A good example of this would be the
Three Of Cups - generally quite an energetic, "happy"
card in most decks. Here we see three cups superimposed
over a downward triangle (indicating the physical
nature of this card). The metaphysics are here, but it
lacks a bit of "heart". The cards are heavy on
astrological and alchemical symbology - which is one of the
main reasons that I purchased this deck, but it is also
something that could stand in the way of using this deck for
general readings (i.e. with clients).
book gives the Seeker a good understanding of the deck
and how to interpret it. Included in the back of the
book are tables for each of the card groups (Major
Arcana, Pips and Court Cards) relating the card to its
astrological representation. There is also a short index of
subjects, which most books of this type do not have, and
which I find to have great value.
Each card is
presented with a small black and white scan of the card, a
general discussion of the symbols within the card and the
energy of the card, and a keyword that represents the
"purpose" or energy of the card.
One of the cards that
really attracted me, although it is far from traditional
in representation, was the Six of Wands. From the
"Six is one of the most balanced and harmonious
numbers. It is also the number of accomplishment. In the
suit of fiery wands the six suggests victory or
success, but only after strife and hardship. It is an
auspicious omen, a harbinger of good news, and heralds a time
of celebration and positive hope.
arranged in three groups of two, are actually the Lamaic
"crossed dorje', symbol of equilibrium, immutability and
almighty power. So the overall message is tremendous, but
now well balanced, energy. This is a fair description
also of the astrological reference in this card, of
Jupiter in Leo. Jupiter takes that fiery power and turns
it into warm relationships coupled with success.
dorje is the scepter of the Tibetan Lamas. Used in most
Lamaic rituals, and signifying mastery of life in the
material world, it is also known as the thunderbolt of
Indra - Indra being, more or less, the equivalent Indian
deity of Jupiter.
In this case, the unleashing of the
thunderbolt has passed and its fire now burns steadily in the
two flames, the twin lamps of Jupiter in Leo, which
cast their warm glow over the whole situation,
creating a stabilization of energy.
In the center of the
crossed wands are the Tibetan swastikas which symbolize
spiritual victory. The two triangles behind each swastika
indicate balanced polarities.
The Key to this card is
Final thoughts about this deck - it is a good deck to
work with to gain an understanding of astrological and
alchemical symbols, and lends itself well to more spiritually
A bonus is the nine appendix cards that
are included with the deck. Miller has taken the
keywords for each card and placed them on deck sized cards
for easy reference. If one understands that this is a
somewhat non-traditional Tarot deck, it can be a wonderful
tool to work with.
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.
See card images from the Universal Tarot
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