Dragons are a legend in many cultures, and they appear in quite a few different colours and poses in this highly popular Dragon Tarot deck from fantasy artist Peter Pracownik.
The Dragon Tarot, by nature, is a specialty deck. It will appeal to those of us who find dragons and dragon lore appealing. You won't find traditional visual symbolism here - but you will experience a deck that is artistically well thought out and well presented, and eminently "usable".
Donaldson introduces dragons as ancient symbols of knowledge and power - in virtually every culture of the world. The very word "dragon" comes from the Greek word Drakoni, which means "the seeing one". In The Dragon Tarot, Donaldson calls on dragon legends from around the world to present a saga of myth and magic. There is a very interesting section called "Dragonland - A Traveler's Report" , in which the reader is allowed to experience the adventure and magic associated with dragon energy.
In "Your Journey", Donaldson presents techniques that allow the reader to access their imaginations. In "Mastering The Tarot", he shows the reader how the cards come together to tell their story.
Dragon myths run the gamut of experience - from those encompassing greed, lust and the dark side of our personalities to (primarily from the Middle East) to those symbolizing wealth, power and supremacy (primarily from China). Some of my best "growing up" memories are of watching the Dragon winding it's way down the street at parade time. It was fascinating, exciting, colorful - a whole other "world"!
The Dragon also has its place in astrology, which is not something that I was aware of. The Dragon's Head (also called the North Node) represents the karmic lessons that we are to learn in this lifetime. How much more important can anything get - this defines what each lifetime is!
Each Major Arcana card is presented with a black and white scan, a description of the card, and section where the card "speaks" about the archetypal energy that it represents, the divinatory meaning of the card (in the upright position only), and a short discussion of additional symbols that have been placed on the card.
Each Pip is presented with a black and white scan, a sentence on what the Dragon guide in the card is trying to accomplish and the divinatory meaning.
Each Court Card is presented with a black and white scan, a description of the energy of the card and the divinatory meaning. There is also a short addendum to the court cards, with the admonishment that while the court cards represent either male or female energy, that this energy exists in both males and females - each of us carries dual energy.
While Donaldson does not present reversed meanings, he does indicate that they are a question mark that needs to be paid attention to - that the energy of the card is in some way not working as it should.
In the section on spreads, the Celtic Cross is presented, along with two separate readings that are left to the reader to interpret along the lines of key questions that Donaldson presents. Donaldson has done something quite interesting with the three card spread - he has presented several different possible questions dealing with different life situations (relationship, home, career, life path, children's education and life path). There is also the beginning of a work sheet that show the reader how to bring the cards together in story form.
The cards themselves are on good quality, glossy card stock. At 2 3/4" by 4 1/4",the cards are easily worked with by those like me that have small hands - a definite plus! The backs of the cards have a 1/4" white border, with an inset background of deep purple. A light blue and white dragon is placed in each of the four corners of the inset - the four dragon tails are interwoven in the center. Behind the dragons there is a diamond-like schematic outlined in fine gold lines. The cards read the same upright and reversed, so there would be no way to tell which position the cards were in before they were turned over.
The majors are a combination of dragons and traditional symbols. They have a 1/4 " white border, with the number and title of the card in black lettering against white across the bottom of the card. On either side of the title is placed a glyph of the astrological sign associated with each card. The only title change is that the Hanged Man becomes the Hanging Dragon.
The pips have the same 1/4" white border, with the name and number of the card across the bottom. The pips are not illustrated in the traditional manner - they contain a dragon "guide" and the symbols representing their respective suits. On either side of the title are glyphs representing the element of the respective suit.
Some of the cards in this deck are fairly true to traditional Tarot, and some are very different. The traditional cards for me were the Tower, which is represented by a Tower, lightening, water and fire; the Moon, which shows a full moon in a night sky, overlooking two pillars - one on either side of a flowing stream, with a dragon between them; Justice, which shows a dragon head between the two pillars of justice, holding a set of scales in his mouth over a globe of the world and the Wheel of Fortune, which is depicted as a wheel with twelve spokes, each containing a glyph of one of the signs of the zodiac. Perhaps the most traditional card is the Three of Swords, which is seen as three swords piercing a heart.
A card that I found beyond traditional, but very well done, was the Sun. Here we see dragon wings surrounding a lion face, around which are placed glyphs of the twelve signs of the zodiac, with flames surrounding them. In the mouth of the dragon we see the Yin/Yang symbol.
Strength also falls into the "same but different" category. The top of the card shows a night sky, the bottom of the card shows green hills in daylight. The middle of the card shows a lion and a dragon on either side of a caduceus, which has fiery flames at its top. It appears that the lion and the dragon are having a wonderful time playing together!
Donaldson ends the book with a section on dragon myths from around the world - ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, North America and Mexico, China, Japan and the West.
Dragon Tarot opens up the imagination, just as the author
intended it to. While not for all people, and definitely
not for beginners, I found it interesting and believe
that it has a place in the Tarot world.
When I first became interested in reading the tarot, the one thing that I had a problem with was finding a deck that suited my feelings and represented ME. I did a lot of research, and most suggested that the best decks to start with were either the Rider-Waite or Robin Wood. So I took a look at each of them, and I saw why they were highly suggested, but the pictures didn't seem to mean anything to me. That's when I decided to let my real interests do the talking.
Then one day I stumbled upon the Dragon deck, and I felt like my prayers had been answered! The artwork and symbolism, combined with the rich history, myth, and mystique that surrounds dragons in general, turned out to be just what the doctor ordered. The use of many rich colors was something that I felt, at that point in time, many other decks didn't seem to have (although now I know otherwise). But, my absolute favorite part about this deck are the Major Arcana. They were (and still are) like nothing I had ever seen before. The capture all the symbolism of traditional tarot decks, but they also contain a draconic twist that is sometimes a bit funny (in particular, the Hanging Dragon card!).
All in all, the Dragon Tarot was the first deck I ever owned, and it remains my favorite to this day. I highly suggest this deck to anyone who doesn't feel connected to the more traditional decks, and longs for something deeper. It is very hard to put into words all that I feel with this deck, so you may be better off experiencing its power for yourself, but believe me, you won't regret it! Again, I have seen many decks in my days, but none of them compares to the power and imagery of the Dragon Tarot!
When I first saw the Dragon Tarot, I couldn't help but be reminded of good times in middle school, playing Dungeons and Dragons games with my friends, and wondering exactly why we couldn't get dates to save our souls. This may be one of the better rendered decks out there, however one has to step back and admire the simplicity of its cliche imagery. The typical Fantasy-genre Dragon is depicted in beautifully colored scenes reminicant of late-80s period D&D bestiaries.
Even those who are fortunate enough to have not played the game during their adolescent immaturity, can still relate to the imagery. Almost everyone has seen depictions of Dragons in various forms; on T-shirts, posters, television, movies, videogames, and even toys and books. There are Dragons in mythology, and bedtime stories. To most Westerners the word Dragon conjures up images of oversized, winged reptillians breathing fire. All while some schmuck is standing in front of that 4000-degree inferno wearing a metal suit in hopes to rescue the fair maiden, heat-conducting metal shield and all.
This is the utter beauty of this deck. Its images are something everybody can identify with in some way. This makes learning the deck a breeze for complete beginners, and a valuable reading tool any expert can pick up and use right away without thinking about how to adapt to its iconology and symbolism. Any one who has used a Waite deck will feel right at home reading the Dragon Tarot.
The Dragon Tarot uses the Waite deck as its basis, given the transposition of the 8 Strength and 11 Justice cards from the 8 Adjustment and 11 Strength / Lust of the Thoth and Golden Dawn decks. The only card with a changed name from the Waite deck is that of 12 The Hanged Man, to 12 The Hanging Dragon. I must confess that this name change brought about a good laugh when I saw that card.
There is some traditional Waite imagery, such as that of the three swords piercing the heart on the 3 of Swords, and the hooded figureholding a lantern on 9 The Hermit. However, most images are original workings developed by the author and artist to better fit the maenings of the cards with the theme of the deck.
The book, either sold seperately or with the deck as a starter kit, is very well written and easy to follow. It details the authors experiences with Dragons, and gives valuable insight into the creation of the deck's imagery. Peter Pracownik takes considerable effort to bring the images to life as he details Dragonland (his own fantasy world), how to read with this deck as both a divinatory tool and guided meditation, and details a story behind each card. The whole deck soon becomes a journey through Dragonland, and is left up to the reader exactly how far they go with it. The book advises readers to use the book and cards as a guided meditation to bring about the full meanings of each card. Between this and practicing readings from the examples in the book, to live humans will bring about divinatory knowledge, in theory.
As for me, I read the book for good-times sake, but left alone the recommended method of absorption as it seemed a bit too juvenile to relive days of role-playing past. The back of the book details the story of Dragons from earliest known myth, to modern Fantasy and Science Fiction. Not many stones were left unturned for this section. Very well researched, and nicely presented. For me, this was worth the price of the book alone.
The meanings of the cards differ slightly from traditional divinitory meanings, however you may apply traditional divinitory techniques and meanings to the cards. The book states that reversals are up to the reader on how to interpret, therefore no reverse meanings are given, save for the 22 Major Arcana in the booklet that comes with the deck. Suits are color-coded for easy identification of the elements. Red for Wands, blue for Cups, grey for Swords, and green for Coins. The Major Arcana are presented with its Astrological correspondances by the addition of glyphs in boxes on the lower right hand corner of the cards. Additional triggers are present on some Major cards, but sadly enough, not all of them were fortunate enough to recieve one. This would have been an invaluable tool for the deck, and a big downfall on its behalf, as this deck is geared more for the novice.
The court cards differ in that of the King and Page recieving Alchemical triangles of elements / sub-elements, the Queen and King recieving traditional Chess-piece crowns, and the Knight being the lone Dragon who recieved no special treatment at all. Maybe in reference to those of us who were dorks in adolescence, wondering why no one would take us seriously.
This deck was bought for me, I had to make a choice. The person who bought me this deck was considering it for purchase, however got talked into buying a more-expensive Oracle which was not suitible for Divination. Without telling me which deck she was considering I picked out two decks to show her I wanted. The Tarot of the Old Path, and the Dragon Tarot.
When reading other people, most people react quite well when seeing the Dragons. Alot of them make comments about how great the artwork is, and want me to show them each and every card. I am ever so thankful for this deck, and though I am partial to the Book of Thoth, I continue to use the Dragon Tarot as my primary reading deck.