The Bonefire Tarot is a vibrant reimagining of the Rider-Waite, painted in a style influenced by vintage tattoo art. It's inspired by the symbolism of the 'bone fire', a time for ritual celebration, cleansing, rebirth and renewal.
The Bonefire is the root of the modern word “bonfire.” It has its own story: fires were (and are) lit ceremonially at Beltane, the pagan festival to welcome the sun and give thanks for survival of the long, cold darkness of the winters of the northern lands. Animal bones, devoured through the year, were gathered and formed the base of the fires… The Bonefire asks one to renew oneself through self-examination, transformation and learning. To keep out lives clutter-free and our minds will follow. (From the LWB by Gabi Angus West)
When assessing a new Tarot deck, I first ask: is it attractive to look at, and could one draw accurate interpretations from it? The Bonefire Tarot, designed by Australian artist Gabi Angus West, certainly fulfils both requirements.
The cards themselves have many pluses: a perfect size to hold (3 by 4 inches) and of durable thick cardstock. I find them easy to shuffle, but since the firmness of the cards makes this a thicker deck then average, some people may have difficulties. The cards have a smooth matte finish; a wise choice in the case of this deck, gloss would have made it look overdone.
Aesthetically, this is not a subdued deck. Tattoo enthusiasts will be pleased to note that the cards are rendered in dark inky blue and bold colours. The card designs are similarly bold, with an emphasis on sinuous swirls and flames. Images leap out from a midnight-blue background, and the artist’s signature of crossed bones on fire is found in every card. There is no letdown in visual intensity anywhere in this deck. Both Court Cards and Major and Minor Arcana are given the same emphasis. While the human faces all bear the same distinctive style, they show emotions appropriate to their card meanings. The narrow dark borders blend into the images themselves, leaving enough room for titles below. The card backs are black and white, showing the Bonefire motif in the center and suit symbols in each corner, and are reversible.
The Bonefire keeps the Rider-Waite card titles, except for Pentacles which have become Coins. Rirder-Waite images are also discernible throughout the deck, but the designer has brought in inclusions and innovations, all far too many to list. For instance, the suit of Wands, the wands have become pine cones. In the Nine of Cups we see Waite-Smith’s well-dressed, pleased-looking man with folded arms, flanked by a row of cups. But here the image is set in an ornate frame, behind a foreground collection of objects: a candle, a crystal ball, a quill and ink bottle, an apple, a lemon, a skull and hourglass, everything floating on the sea with a background sunset. I read this as showing the various gifts and riches of life, accompanied by a not-so-subtle memento mori. Other readers may have their own interpretations, but this to me is the sign of a good reading deck: one that offers multi-levelled views and encourages questions. I would recommend it to beginners and seasoned readers alike.
Bonefire is currently available for purchase from Gabi
Angus West. My deck came wrapped
in a hand-made felt pouch with a small wooden
Bonefire motif attached, and accompanied by a handwritten
LWB and a card signed by the artist. It is these
little touches that also makes this a special deck for
me: a delightful change from opening a slick,
mass-produced, shrink-wrapped box from a commercial publisher. If
you like this deck, remember that it depends on sites
like Aeclectic and word-of-mouth to become known, and
spread the word.