Review by Nisaba Merrieweather
Not long ago I received my copy of the Whispering Tarot by Elizabeth Hazel. Self-published in a signed limited edition, I am quite happy with the outer presentation. Both book and deck are signed: my deck is also numbered, 548. There is one title card and a second title-like card for the number and signature, with the number also occurring on the solidly-constructed azure box the deck is held in. There is no LWB, which as far as I'm concerned is no great loss, frankly. The deck is playing-card size, better than most Tarot decks for ease of shuffling, but almost as hard on the eyes as a miniature deck - it's exactly twice the size of the miniature Rider-Waite.
The accompanying book is printed under a similar azure cover featuring a much larger-than-lifesize print of The World. Signed but not numbered, it is spiral-bound which is the simpler alternative when self-publishing, but for a bibliophile for me it has one huge plus and one huge minus. The plus is that you can real the book many times and leave it open - it will not close on you, and it does not have a spine to split. The negative is that if every book in my library were spiral-bound, they'd tangle up with each other on the shelves as they stand touching - the different forms of spiral binding all protrude slightly further than the covers.
The book is, honestly, a litle bit of a disappointment. There are a couple of nice spreads in it which I judge to be reasonably easy for most people to use. One of them, the Laughing Turtle, has, I think, the potential to do the same job as the Celtic Cross and possibly even take over from it; but then again, I've never been a big Celtic Cross fan, even in the old days. Given that the advertising material promotes the deck as one that whispers and giggles and passes its secrets on gently, I was slightly disappointed in the content of the book - she could have conveyed more of her philosophy of Tarot. She removes links to the Kabbalah in her system, but includes some quite specific astrological information that some people will find very useful and others will ignore. She writes in a pleasant style, clearly but not deeply.
The deck itself is pretty: a lot of pastel colours, some jewel colours. The images have an almost fairy-story or animated quality to them. What I like best about her artistic style is how she handles water, and in particular waves. She is really, really good at waves, reminding me of traditional Japanese art (NOT manga!) in that respect. All the Water cards, Major and Minor, are just a joy for that reason. the Major Arcana are unnumbered, but when I first opened the box, Strength occurred in position eight and Justice at eleven. A bit of shuffling, and I'll never remember that. I don't get a sense from the cards about a huge amount of conviction in why they were in that particular order.
The first pleasant surprise was the Magician: he is entirely naked, and the ugliness of the naked male body is not glossed over or prettied up. He is side-on to us but looking at us and standing in the Magician's diagonal pose connecting Earth and Air, a snake with a dragon's head rising up his left arm.
Occasionally you'll find a card where you get the feeling that Elizabeth hasn't really internalised the values of the archetype. The High Priestess is one. In the divinatory notes she mentioned the words "older woman" but the creature she has drawn isn't out of her teens yet, and like most youngsters can only fake spiritual authority. She also mentioned nothing about this card's connection with intuition, which to me is one of the crucial functions of this card.
Every so often, though, she will throw us an image that is just right, and the Empress is one of those. I love how she, an earth goddess, has a really earthy, fleshy body. That works for me, as does the newborn still attached by the umbilicus to his mother. But why, then, is he wearing a pair of underpants if he has only just slid out? the Emperor is a toroughly satisfactory figure, even down to the subtlety of the book that the planet is resting on, too.Often a deck works on hos its opposite numbers look as pairs: the kings and queens, the Emperor and Empress, the High Priestess and Hierophant, etc. This is one couple I can't imagine together.
Another card I think is not fully explained in the book, is the Chariot. The "horses" are traditional in that they are not pulling in the identical direction giving you a sense that not only urgency and control, but also choice, is involved in the situation. the choice seems to be wholly missing from her understanding, at least as far as the notes go. There is something quite expressionistic about the Strength card that I rather like. And I love the indications in the Hermit of a student-mentor situation: going on retreat as a part of a teaching relationship works for me.
My overall impressions? An easy deck. It would make a good deck for someone who's not fiully confident yet, or is learning, or is very young. In appearance it's a bit girly and not at all confronting, so it could be a deck to give to teenage daughters who might be getting interested in learning. It has a charm to it that is added to by my copy being signed and numbered. Something to keep - it has a place in a collector's cupboard.
Nisaba discovered Tarot in the 1970s and did her first paid reading in 1981.
Review by Bonnie Cehovet
The “Whispering Tarot” is a 78 card, independently published deck from Tarotist/Astrologer/Author/Lecturer/Ceremonialist Elizabeth Hazel (author of “Tarot Decoded: Understanding and Using Dignities and Correspondences”). It is a signed and numbered limited edition (500 copies – minus a few that didn’t travel well in transit from the printer). There are two extra cards: an information card, and the signed and numbered card, which caries the following fortune-telling charm:
“By Dragon’s Head
This deck be bound.
The Seeker’s Fortune
Sure swift be found.”
A CD, entitled “The Whispering Tarot: Softly Spoken Secrets”, is available for purchase separately, and acts in place of a LWB (Little White Book). I have been fascinated with the use of CD’s in conjunction with Tarot decks ever since I first encountered Ciro Marchetti’s “Tarot of Dreams” deck/CD set. What a wonderful alternative!
The deck is traditional in style: suits are titled Pentacles, Swords, Cups, and Wands; the Court Cards are titled Princess, Knight, Queen and King. The Major Arcana carry traditional titles, with the exception of the Moon, which has been renamed The Eclipse. Strength is number VIII, Justice is number XI.
From Liz’s website:
The Whispering Tarot: Good Things Come In Small Packages
“The Whispering Tarot is a deck for all times and all places. And this is a talking tarot: it whispers, it giggles, it reveals what you need to know. This deck has a gentle but powerful soul. It’s bound with a fortune-telling charm and true to its muse. Knowledge, wisdom, emotion and esoteric lore hum through the lines and colors.”
The CD consists of a 55 page “book” in PDF format. The front page image is that of The World – showing a female figure dancing on top of a graphic of the world. What a great way to begin! The forward starts out very “a la Liz”, noting that the deck was conceived in a “wild pencil sketching spree” in the winter of 1996. One would not expect less from this highly creative, highly energetic, very unpredictable lady!
Liz notes that she created a set of “monk’s rules” to guide her in the creation of her deck. She did not want it to be either a Rider-Waite or a Thoth clone, and she excised as much overtly Christian and Masonic symbolism as she could. Note: There is Pagan symbolism here – but not placed in an overt, “in your face” fashion.
What did inspire her were the line drawings of Pamela Coleman Smith’s work, so she followed suit with pen and ink drawings of her own. What followed was three years of work, which she then colorized using Prismacolor ink markers (completing the deck in 1999). A prototype deck was presented at the World Tarot Conference in Chicago the summer of that year. The deck was enthusiastically received – unfortunately, its subsequent reception from publishers was not as good.
Life took some strange twists – Liz’s incredible book, “Tarot Decoded”, came out in May of 2004 to rave reviews (my words!). In June of 2004 Liz experienced extensive damage to her house due to heavy rain, and ended up needing a new roof - and the necessity to remodel all three floors of her home due to water damage. Her energies were required here, and not with the deck. In the ensuing years, the deck size and title changed, and the deck was self-published in time for yet another Tarot conference – the TABI (Tarot Association of the British Isles) conference in the summer of 2008, where Liz was a presenter.
Each card is described in detail, including the symbols used in the artwork. What I like is that the meanings are not cut and dried – they are meant to act as stimuli for a wide range of ideas, some traditional, and some developed by Liz in her personal Tarot studies. The attributions used are from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Liz notes that she associates Knights with fixed signs and Kings with mutable signs. She has also noted in the text where her attributions depart from the GD (Golden Dawn) attributions, with the GD attribution being included. Astrological assignments are not printed on the cards, nor are astrological symbols used in the artwork, as Liz wanted to leave room for the reader to use their own preferred system, without having someone else’s system thrust upon them.
Each card is presented with a full color scan, a description of the card, the divinatory meaning, the ill-dignified meaning, and the attribution. From the CD:
The Fool is brightly dressed in red and yellow. The diamonds on his costume signify that all of his chakras are open. He is carelessly holding a small pouch – is it filled with tricks or treats? His attention has been caught by a shining star in the sky to which he is pointing, meanwhile, he is oblivious to the cliff at his feet or to the possible threats from the dragon and wind zephyr behind him in the sky. A little dog chases a butterfly at the Fool’s feet. In the background, a river flows through the valley. Mountains rise in the distance, a vast and unexplored realm.
Meaning: Innocence, possibility, a new path. Awe and wonder in discovery, openness to new ideas and influences. An unexpected visitor, possibly one with unusual experiences. A person whose views offer a fresh, original perspective. Comedy, child’s play, foolery. Dumb luck, beginners luck.
Ill-dignified: Folly or foolishness. Oblivious to important clues or events in the environment. A blast of impersonal fate or crisis for which one is unprepared. Ignoring obvious realities for pie-in-the-sky visions. Big mistakes and errors.
Attribution: Air, Uranus
At the beginning of each section on the suits is a short commentary which includes the elemental attribution (Wands/Fire, Cups/Water, Swords/Air, Pentacles/Earth), general characteristics (Wands = ambition, creativity, energy; Cups = emotions, feelings and relationships; Swords = rational intellect, communications and movement; Pentacles = growth and development of a physical, emotional or financial nature, as well as the level of trust we have with others), and symbolism (Wands are symbolized by birch trees – a living connection between earth and sky, with mountains, dragons, horses and the sun thrown in; Cups by traditional chalices that may contain liquids, potions, dreams and wishes, with dolphins, water faeries and sylphs in the background; Swords by the traditional sword, acting as both a tool and a weapon, with wind zephyrs, harpies and birds in the background; Pentacles by discs that contain geometric shapes or stars with the number of points indicating the card number, with buildings, landscapes and animals in the background).
The Spreads sections includes a 13 card Vala Cross Spread (remember – Liz is also Lady Vala!), a 9 card Finger of God Spread (a good spread to use when dealing with choices, or conflicting issues), the 10 card Athena’s Spear Spread (a good spread to use when facing a challenging situation, when needing to make a quick decision, and when critical errors need to be avoided), and the 8 card Laughing Turtle Spread (a good spread to use at fairs or events).
Also included on the CD is Ptolemy’s “Table of Essential Dignities and Debilities of the Planets”, followed by a section on “Notes on Essential Dignities For Tarotists”.
The cards themselves are 2 ½” by 3 ½”, of good quality, glossy card stock. They are easy to work with for those of us with smaller hands, and hold up well. The backs show a ¼” black border, surrounding a reversible pattern in lavender, gold, black and white. The card faces show the same ¼” black border, with the title across the bottom of the card in small white lettering (the title alone for the Major Arcana (no numbering), the number and suit for the Pips (numbered cards), and title and suit for the Court Cards).
I am so drawn to these cards (although I do prefer cards without borders) that, left to my own devices, I think that I would describe each and every card – at least those of the Major Arcana! However, we need to make choices here in the name of expediency. Each card carries the traditional “look” to it, with Liz’s own inimitable take on it. The Fool is reaching for a star with his left hand, while loosely carrying a small pouch in his right hand. The Magician stands in his traditional “as above, so below” position, with a dragon coming up through flames and circling his left hand. The High Priestess holds a scepter in her left hand, while her right hand points to the ground, where a book with a eye on the cover sits. Behind her are two candles on the shore, with a body of water in the background. In front of her is a cauldron of water.
The Hierophant shows a figure with his hands in the “as above, so below” position, floating in the air over a scene of water and land. He is surrounded by animal totems – bear, dolphin, dove, snake, bull and lion. I love the whimsy of the Lovers, which shows a young couple standing between two pillars, with a faerie creature relaxing above them, pondering whether to shoot them with her arrow.
The Wheel of Fortune shows the three Fates as faceless figures surrounding (and pointing to) a sacred wheel. Justice shows a cat stalking a mouse in the foreground, against a background of black and white squares. The Hanged Man shows not only money, but representations of home, time, and beliefs (a rosary) falling into the cauldron beneath him.
I love Death in this deck! He is a traditional skeleton with scythe, dancing his way along – but here he is portrayed with the spiral (or cycles) of life surrounding him. Temperance is quite literal, showing an angelic figure pouring water from one hand and fire from the other onto a human figure in the water below.
The Star brings in a sense of whimsy with the use of two swans in the foreground. The Sun shows a warrior standing with his sword over the dragon that he has just defeated. At first glance, the dragons in this deck look like snakes – but the symbology works for me either way.
One thing struck me immediately about the Pips (numbered cards) – and that was the use of unique imagery, such as the reflected images (images that are back to back with each other, reflecting from the top to the bottom of the card, each with their own coloring) that we see this in the Two and the Four of Pentacles. The four Aces move away from the “hand in the clouds” imagery to the use of a populated setting (Ace of Wands and Ace of Pentacles), wind being blown from the four corners (Ace of Swords), and the symbol standing alone, filled to overflowing with water, showing a dolphin in a bubble above the cup, and water faeries to the sides (Ace of Cups).
The Four of Cups shows all four cups in the upright position, with a female figure lying next to a mystic well, stirring the water with her finger – awaiting visions. The Five of Cups shows two images – a more traditional image of upright and overturned cups (although here three, and not two, of the cups are pictured upright), with a sorrowful figure to the side, and an upper image of a mage, his hands in the “as above, so below” position, commanding the waves to rise, with five water faeries winging their way in the sky.
The dragon imagery is continued throughout the suit of Wands: in the form of the cloud in the sky in the Two of Wands, in the ships head in the Three of Wands, winding through the trees in the Seven of Wands, flying through the sky in the Eight of Wands, emerging from a cracked egg in the Princess of Wands, forming the lemniscate below the Queen’s feet in the Queen of Wands, circling the King and rising to the sky in the King of Wands.
The Whispering Tarot is all that is says it is – and more! It stands alone on its artistic merit, presenting gentle imagery that tells the story of the Seeker in non-frightening terms – yet it asks both the Seeker and the reader to ponder closely what it has to say. It requests that we enter its world, and promises to guide, protect, and enlighten.
This deck could easily be used for reading/divining by any level of reader/Seeker, and also lends itself to ceremonial/ritualistic/journeying purposes. I fell in love with this deck, and I think that you will too!
© 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.