Tarot de St. Croix is a contemporary, multicultural deck which was inspired by current affairs, mythology, synchronicity and the artist's personal experiences. It has 78 cards with unique images intuitively illustrated in rich oil paints.
I am blessed to be in possession of Lisa de St. Croix's Tarot de St. Croix, a deck of 78 cards, beautifully reproduced from Lisa's paintings. The boxed set with booklet and warm toned palette feature her Sun Card - a woman in shadow/silhouette cupping the sun disk amidst a profusion of sunflowers. This joyful Sun card is a warm and welcoming prelude for us to settle in and enjoy the journey.
Reading the booklet and expanded description on Lisa's blog reveals her own creative journey as deeply personal and intuitive. The artist does not shy away from the range of emotions that naturally surface when immersed in this work. Her gentle yet powerful words describing each card's meaning, echo the journey we all share. Along with the seeds of hope and positivity planted in each card - the message of each visually and verbally is immediately relateable.
As I walk through the deck, I am struck by the perfect blend of mystery and clarity. The color palette is cohesive and the warm golden-hued borders compliment each image. I can't imagine the task of creating 78 paintings, each a beautiful story on its own - and have them come together after a long process and still fit together so well.
I selected four cards to write about, a hard choice as they all speak to me.
The Moon: a diving woman reaches into the deep sea to touch the full moon, between the two columns from the High Priestess card, each column crowned with a pink water lily. A crescent moon gleams above. It's a beautiful card that shimmers with layers of color and depth. Lisa writes about a trauma she experienced "There is something very profound about being so swamped by feeling, I feel surrounded by spirit."
If we allow ourselves to feel our emotions, instead of drowning in them, we can come to understanding and healing. I love the details on this card, the splash where her dive broke the surface, the air bubbles (which remind me to 'breathe'!) And of course the lovely bright pink water lilies - an unexpected delight.
The Hanged Man: Again, we see the many layers that a skilled painter's brush strokes can achieve, in the sky and clouds and tree bark, and in the Hanged Man. He is made of stars and dark night sky, suspended in glittering contrast to the dreamy blue twilight sky and drifting pastel clouds.
Lisa writes on her blog: "Even though he is back lit by a glowing full moon he is travelling deep into space to a distant star which ignites his heart. At his third eye is a new moon, a symbol of potential".
This card speaks about getting new perspective and suggests travel to the unconscious and shamanic realms. For those who are interested in exploring the shamanic journey, Lisa's Hanged Man is a perfect meditative companion.
Eight of Wands: This card buzzes and hums with life, but at the same time calls us to action. In my own backyard as well as in the theme of this card, hummingbirds and bees perform their joyful dancing flights seeking nectar and pollen. Lisa captures the vibrant iridescence of the hummingbird and many busy bees amidst penstemon stalks. She calls us to action however, as the bees are dying worldwide now due to our negative impact on the planet with pesticide use. I so appreciate this card and the opportunity to shed more light on this issue.
Eight of Swords: The raven stands "trapped" in a circle of eight swords in a vast desert. The mind can be an effective jailer. That prison cell is one we walk into ourselves, but it is truly an illusion. As Lisa writes that "Raven is a highly intelligent bird" and "if we change our mindset, we can step out of the cage and fly free".
There is that seed of positivity, a reminder, in this card. In it we can almost see raven going through that thought process as she/he peaks through the swords at the yellow desert sands, far hills and endless clear blue skies.
Lisa de St. Croix's Tarot de St. Croix with its vibrant and soul stirring imagery, would make a beautiful and empowering gift, and an important addition to your Tarot Library.
The Tarot de St. Croix is a handsomely produced deck published through Devera Publishing by artist and tarot reader Lisa St. Croix. It is a full 78 card deck that follows Rider-Waite numeration (Strength is 8, Justice 11.) Its impact is achieved through the artist’s decidedly warm color palette, multi-cultural and personal iconography, visual nods to Rider-Waite and use of sacred geometry. Overall it is well thought out and decidedly reflects St. Croix’s original point of view.
The first thing that jumps out at you is her vibrant use of oranges, golds and yellows in many of her compositions. This serves to invite the viewer into the visual worlds depicted. At times I found that the use of these hues in the border design took focus from the actual images (perhaps a neutral colored border would have helped them pop more.) Overall this color scheme makes the cards inviting.
St. Croix uses that to draw the reader into her personal universe, in no small part shaped by her extensive travels and meditations on diverse cultures. This does not confuse the overall philosophical narrative of her exploration, and it is nicely balanced with frequent nods to her biography and family. She explains her journey in the accompanying booklet. For instance, in the Fool, she incorporates the trickster figure of Koshara. She had spent years living on Zuni reservation where she encountered him in traditional dances. “One evening,” she writes, “ as I stood on the rooftop watching the dances below, a Koshara, the sacred clown, climbed up on the ladder and tricked me into buying a plastic turquoise necklace for twenty dollars, the crowd roared with laughter. I felt embarrassed but also delighted to play the fool in their ceremony. I treasure that necklace because it reminds me to laugh at myself.” Her personal intimacy with the figures from other cultures here doesn’t make their incorporation come across as a gimmick or non-sequitur as they do in some other contemporary tarot.
She balances the global display by including family members and nods to the Rider-Waite Tarot in the tarots. Significantly she uses the later references to clarify her own personal vision rather than simply recast a deck with which most readers are well acquainted. In the Suit of Swords there are many takes suggested by Pamela Colman Smith’s art. Among the more obvious of these are the blindfolded female figure in the Two and the thrice-impaled heart in the Three. Yet she doesn’t adhere to Waite’s interpretation of the cards and provides visual clues in the artwork itself. For instance in the Three, she crowns the heart with flames. The fire is not destructive, but warming, and contrasts the raining clouds depicted in the earlier rendition. St. Croix stresses: “The flaming heart represents passion. Three needles pierce the heart but one is mending a broken heart. Meaning: Forgiveness heals betrayal and heartbreak.” Most decks, including Rider-Waite, offer much more dire interpretations. St. Croix further develops her own take on life through the later numbers in the Suit of Swords that play off and contrast Rider-Waite and move inextricably in an original direction. In 10, we are familiar with the image of an impaled figure and the desolation and pain it indicates. Instead, St. Croix depicts a female figure both face up and down, balanced by the swords like an exquisitely balanced shaman walking uninjured upon nails against a night sky. She writes: “This is the end of worn out ways of thinking. We can rise above the old, unhealthy victim mentality, supported by the lessons learned.” She works from pre-established iconography and pushes forward from it.
St. Croix does not include reversed definitions like Waite or elemental dignities in her definitions or take on reading. Even when the cards themselves indicate challenges, they also indicate solutions. The innovation here is that typically as readers we look to other cards in a spread to indicate how to resolve “problem” cards. St. Croix indicates solutions in the context of the cards themselves. It makes her deck useful for one-card readings. Also in her nine-card spread, Nine Temples of the Soul, the placement of the elements is predetermined by the spread itself with positions for majors, each suit and court figures. Hence the meanings of the individual cards are not subject to the permutations of their sequence so much as they relate to the specific areas of unique life endeavor.
Another noteworthy feature of the deck is the artistic use of sacred geometry, most significantly St. Croix reliance on Golden Mean ratios in composition. In short, a golden ratio is achieved by two spaces when their ration to one another is the same the larger body is to the sum. It is felt that this type of proportion creates a golden mean of visual harmony. Numerically it is it roughly 1.62, phi. Artists create both pleasing visual compositions and indicate idealized states through its spatial geometry. Since many of us have developed subconscious familiarity with it through frequent exposure, an artist can use it to help a viewer interpret her work. St. Croix makes direct reference to this in the Page her Swords by depicting her son Simon as a blackboard hero rendering a golden mean ratio.
Not only is this an affection nod to both her family and technique, it provides us with a map for how we may wish to examine her imagery. I found her use of golden mean proportion most pleasing when she uses it to create dynamic compositions such as in the family drama of the Five of Swords or exuberant Nine of cups. Our gaze moves through them in a kinetic way making the situations come alive. One of the pratfalls of using sacred geometry consistently in compositions is that they can become too static looking. Very often tarot decks that rely on sacred geometry become a series of strategically placed glyphs that one may need a guide to decipher. St. Croix’s images tend toward emotional immediacy.
Overall, St. Croix has done a fine job of producing a deck that is at the same time personal and integrated with the world as a whole, acknowledging also the artistic and divinatory traditions in which she works. Tarot de St. Croix can also work well as someone’s first reading deck, given its visual clarity and warmth. It succeeds on many levels and offers and optimistic and inspiring philosophy toward life.
“Tarot de St. Croix” is a 78 card deck that comes with an accompanying 96 page booklet, both enclosed in a sturdy box with a lift-off top. The box is in the same lovely orange that dominates the deck, with a scan of the Sun on the cover, and smaller card images running along three sides. It is structured along traditional lines, using traditional titles for the Major Arcana, with Strength as VIII and Justice as XI. The suits are Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles, with the Court Cards as Page, Knight, Queen and King.
Note: I am proud to say that this deck was published through Devera Publishing, an independent publishing house in Portland, Oregon.
In her introduction, Lisa talks about this deck as being both contemporary and multi-cultural. Inspiration came from current events, personal experiences, mythology, and synchronicity. Lisa describes the Tarot as a visual encyclopedia to the soul.
Lisa’s introduction to the Tarot came from accompanying her mother to a Tarot reading in Johannesburg, South Africa. Some time after her mother’s death the Marseille deck that her mother had purchased at that reading came into her hands, and she began her study of the Tarot. At this time, Lisa was living near a Zuni Indian reservation. At the winter solstice Lisa took a shamanic journey, where Isis instructed her to paint a Tarot deck. She painted this deck as if it were a Tarot reading, and she were receiving wisdom. The introduction also includes thoughts on reading the cards, drawing a daily card, Tarot journaling, a three card spread, a five card spread, and a nine card spread. While the commentary in the booklet is minimal, Lisa does have a blog where she expands on the card meanings, sharing what they are to her, and her experiences as she was painting each card. It is well worth checking out her blog. The companion booklet shares Lisa’s life experiences, and her philosophy.
The Major Arcana are presented as a two page spread, with commentary on the left hand page, and the card meaning, along with a ¾ page color image on the right hand page. In the commentary Lisa talks about what inspired her for the card, and bits of her own life experience.
The Fool is both the beginning and the end of the Major Arcana in the archetypal journey of the soul.
The Fool is inspired by the Pueblo Indian sacred clown Koshare. He wears the mask of Coyote, the trickster. He represents a playful way to look at a situation. The Fool makes a shadow puppet scene of danger. The message is to look beyond our fears to see what really lies behind it. The path leads towards the full moon which symbolizes the cyclical nature of life. The boat represents a journey into the mystery. The Fool’s knapsack lays open in front of him, what will he take with him? The aspen stick with eyes symbolizes the witness and the wisdom gained on his journey.
I lived for a number of years on the Zuni Indian Reservation, where I was fortunate to see their ceremonial dances. One evening as I stood on the rooftop watching the dances below, a Koshare, the sacred clown climbed up the ladder and tricked me into buying a plastic turquoise necklace for twenty dollars, the crowd roared with laughter. I felt embarrassed but also delighted to play the fool n their ceremony. I treasure that necklace, it reminds me to laugh at myself.
The Minor Arcana pips (numbered cards) are presented as groups – i.e. Ace’s together, two’s together et cetera. There is short commentary on what each number means, followed by the number in each suit, a short commentary, and its meaning. Small color scans for each of the four cards appear at the bottom of the page.
Aces offer the potential of something new that will succeed. Aces are linked to the Magician, the great manifester.
Ace of Pentacles
The full blooming sunflower against the brilliant sky is an expression of abundance.
Meaning – Begin a new project with confidence knowing that it will grow to its fullest potential and flourish.
The Court Cards are presented as groups – Pages, Knights, Queens, and Kings. A full page is given to each card, with commentary about the card at the top, a full color scan in the middle, and the meaning at the bottom.
Page of Cups
This young Page dreamily looks at the water cupped in her hands, imagining romance. She is sensitive and vulnerable as she sits on the lotus, nestled between the stamens.
Meaning: In order to blossom in love and relationships it is necessary to expose tenderness and vulnerability.
The backs show a ¼” orange border, surrounding a mirror image of clouds, the moon, and a figure. The card backs are reversible – and they really draw one in! The cards are 3” by 4.5”, sturdy and semi-gloss. The card faces show a ¼” orange border surrounding a central image. For the Major Arcana, the card number (in Roman numerals) and title run across the bottom of the card. For the Court Cards, the title and suit run across the bottom of the card. For the Minor Arcana Pips (numbered cards), the number and suit, all in text, run across the bottom of the card.
The colors in this deck – predominately orange, yellow, and gold – are intense, vibrant, and absolutely command your attention! This is a very personal deck for Lisa, not only that she was instructed to paint it while on a shamanic journey, but that it reflects her thoughts, her travels, her early years spent in South Africa, and her meditative practices. I purchased this deck while I was at NWTS (Northwest Tarot Symposium). At this time, Lisa was in India meditating and painting … very reflective of the life of this deck.
Queen of Pentacles: Queen Sheba is carried on a gold palanquin, surrounded by the riches of the earth (ripe fruit, fragrant flowers, and abundant herbs). She embodies the qualities of abundance, nurturing, and generosity. “Meaning – Enjoy the senses, and share with others.”
Knight of Cups: This Knight welcomes the flow of feelings. Lisa notes that her son has always followed his heart, and as a result he has been able to make his dreams come true. “Meaning – A person who acts from the heart.”
The Empress: As the great mother, the Empress nurtures and provides. Her rule is through love. This painting was begun on the spring equinox. As she painted this card, Lisa watched the blossoms on the tree across from her studio open, and the bulbs flower. “Meaning – If we open ourselves to what we need and give and receive love, abundance will flow.”
Ace of Swords: “The wisp of smoke at the end of the sword suggests that something is smoldering, ready to ignite. The new moon suggests the beginning of a new phase that will develop.” “Meaning – Innovative ideas will expand bringing clarity and wisdom.”
The World: “The World is the culmination of the Tarot archetypal journey, it speaks of wholeness and numinous revelation.” “Meaning – The World shows you that you are connected to all that is.”
The Hermit: “The Hermit spends time alone in contemplation. The Hermit is an ally when it comes to dealing with shadow. Look within, and let it be illuminated. Questions will be resolved.” “Meaning – The Hermit invites you to spend time alone to allow your inner wisdom to reveal itself.”
Three of Wands: “The Mother watches her progeny’s boat come in. Three wands blossom with the promise of success. The figurehead leads the boat towards the spirit world. “Meaning – Visionary leadership will see a project flourish.”
The Magician: “The Magician uses will, the elements and Spirit to manifest that which is desired.” “Meaning – The message of the Magician is that through focused energy we are able to harness the means to create our destiny.”
Seven of Pentacles: “The girl in the leopard skin reaches eagerly towards many projects.” “Meaning – Pause and evaluate your goals, before unleashing energy to achieve them.”
I am impressed with this deck to the point that I am in awe! The vibrant colors draw the reader in and make them feel at home – warm and protected. There is a very sacred feel to these cards, partially because of the archetype that the Tarot is, and partially because Lisa has shared so much of herself and her sacred life journey with the reader. I highly recommend that the reader make best use of Lisa’s blog, where she goes in-depth into what the cards mean to her, and where she was in her journey when she painted them.
Lisa has placed herself in some of the cards along the way, and has included other individuals from her life. Quite an interesting card is the Page of Swords, which integrates her son drawing the golden mean on a blackboard with a sword. A subtle way if showing that the golden mean is at work in this deck. This is a comfortable deck for all levels of Tarot student, and certainly what one could term a “teaching deck”.