Made from a collage of Victorian era steel engravings of late nineteenth century figures and settings, these black and white cards in the Victoria Regina Tarot are complicated and fascinating.
Tarot Deck - 78 Cards - Llewellyn 2002
First impression - book and deck - outstanding! Good thing, too, as the box they came in literally fell apart (as if it weren't glued together at all) and had to be stapled back together!
At 3 1/4" by 5 1/2", this deck is a little larger than some. It is done on good quality stock glossy stock with a slick finish, so it will be a little difficult for those with small hands to work with. However - they will find a way, as this is really a "one of a kind" deck ... a genuine "find". It is done with the use of collage, in black and white, based around a Victorian theme and using Victorian engravings.
The backs of the cards are white, with a black edging 1/4" in from the edge, followed by a smaller black edging 1/8" from that. In the center is the profile of Queen Victoria, surrounded by a lotus like circular edge. A white edge surrounds this, with three cornered leaves coming out from the circle at the four corners.
The face of the cards has a 1/4 " white edging, with the central picture outlined in black and the graphics done in black and white. At the bottom of the card is the card number and name. The symbols for the suits are unique to this deck, and to the Victorian era. Wands are represented by steel writing pens; Cups are represented by mason jars; Swords are represented by guns and Coins are represented by pocket watches.
The introduction contains some background on the Victorian era, but not enough to become overwhelming. It serves its purpose well - as a backdrop for the cards in this deck.
The pictures in the book, as in the deck, are black and white. For each card there is a scan of the card, a description of the energy of the card, an interpretation and a short section on what that card could be in the Seeker's life. There is also a wonderful note at the end of each card on the sources for the graphics for that card. An added comment here - although this is a Victorian deck, there is cultural diversity - i.e. the Four of Coins references Asian culture, while the Star references a seeming Gypsy culture and the Nine of Wands references African culture.
I loved all of the cards, especially the Aces (all of them), the High Priestess, Strength, the Two of Coins and the Hermit. The example below shows the write-up for the Two of Coins.
A man stands holding two clocks, one in each hand. He is dressed for the outdoors and stepping forward. He may have lost his grip on one of the clocks, or he may be about to regain it. Behind him is an inverted stonework arch.
The Victorian era was a time of great invention, yet it held on fiercely to the traditions of the past. People traveled by railroad and steamship. The cities were lit up by gas, and then electric light. But even without considering questions of poverty, of those left behind by progress, there were always old things existing with the new. Candles did not cease to exist when gas lights became available in the house. While some wanted the newest mass-produced fashions, others sought out designers like William Morris. The nineteenth-century Arts and Crafts Movement in England and the US explicitly equated the new and modern with the shoddy and ugly and strove to return to the grace and style of earlier times. At the same time, Morris was influenced by Karl Marx and the socialists and understood the extent to which many were not able (and had been historically unable) to acquire beautiful things.
The clocks we see in the Two of Coins may show the same time, or t hey may be twelve hours apart. Are we attempting to balance opposites, or are we failing to see connections? Just as the Victorians attempted to resolve their fascination with the new with a respect for tradition, we often find ourselves faced with forces that seem to be pulling us in opposite directions. It is a delicate balance that we must maintain. One of the lessons that we can learn from this card is that we must take an active role in life. We cannot stand passively by and expect everything to work out. The goal is to understand our options and act. If there are conflicts, we must attempt to understand them and resolve them. If we forget the lessons we learned in the past, we may not be able to understand what happens in the future. If we cling too tightly to what is safe and secure, we will stagnate and not make any progress in our work.
The Two Of Coins In Your Life:
The Two Of Coins, with its focus on balance, can refer to problems of financial juggling or trying to make ends meet. Or it may be other resources that you are trying to balance. If you're overextended at work or at home or both, it may be time to make some decisions. Unless you want to keep juggling forever, you have to decide which things are most important and which you might be able to drop, even if only for the moment.
Notes on Sources:
The figure on this card was originally shown "Slipping the Greyhounds", that is, releasing his dogs at a sporting event."
I always go to the back of the book first (after playing with the cards) - looking for new spreads. I was not disappointed. Sarah gives some very nice tips on setting up a reading, forming the question and interpreting the cards. She presents a Five Card Spread for use as a general spread; the Victoria's Sceptre spread as a spread for use in dealing with creative endeavours; and the Victoria's Chalice spread for dealing with emotional questions (this spread has a sample reading along with it).
The Victoria Regina Tarot Deck and companion book are very well done - in fact, a true joy to work with! I recommend this deck (and book) highly to all Tarot aficionado's - at all levels.
PS - It came with
its own very lovely Tarot bag!
The new Victoria Regina Tarot is a clever, "chimerical" sort of a deck. Yes, I said chimerical. Not the sort of word used in everyday language, but very suitable in describing this unusually enchanting deck. A chimera, in case you are wondering is a figure of Greek mythology: A creature having the body of a goat, the head of a lion, and the tail of a serpent... a creature with perhaps an acute identity crisis! This deck too is made up of various, sometimes unlikely components. Nevertheless, it manages to maintain a very solid identity, won with its strong Victorian theme. My old Webster's dictionary by-the-by, defines the word "chimerical" as: 1: existing only as the product of unchecked imagination : fantastically visionary and improbable and 2: given to fantastic schemes. A rather befitting description of this mesmerizing deck.
That I should even give a deck such as this a second glance is more than a little odd. I would certainly have astonished and more than a bit skeptical had someone only a few short weeks ago told me that the darling of my tarot collection would be a black-and-white collage deck. I have always run the other direction when confronted with a dreaded collage deck. I have in the past found them apprehensively tacky. And black-and-white decks have before elicited nothing more from me than a yawn.
But alas, there is no denying it. I adore this deck. Here's why: Firstly, the art is utterly beautiful. Compiled from various pieces of clip-art, the cards have an almost 3 dimensional quality about them. A feeling of depth is very evident throughout the deck. The creatrix has so seamlessly mingled the images on these cards, that it is really hard to tell this is a collage deck at all. Secondly, this deck has so much visual interest. Compositionally, it is full of whimsy and quaint detail. A good example of this is the seven of cups card. A prim Victorian woman posed under a full moon, surrounded by a "flock" of winged-monkeys. A strange and intriguing card among many in this deck. The suits are very untraditional, wands are depicted as fountain pens, cups as Mason jars, coins as pocket watches, and swords as guns. Sounds strange, I know, but it really works for this deck. While the author has taken great liberties with the cards, the Rider-Waite influence is evident: So much so, that anyone familiar with the Waite tradition will be able to read with this deck right out of the box. Lastly but not least importantly, I am pleased to say that this deck and book set is of an amazingly good quality. The relatively large cards are of good stock. Sturdy, pliant and well coated. The card edges are smoothly polished. The accompanying book is paperback, but well constructed. I would comment on its content, but I have as of yet read very little of it. This deck also comes with a little black, satin-lined, velveteen pouch which is perfectly sized for the cards. It is of surprisingly good quality too. The set is priced at about $34.00, which is terribly reasonable considering the excellent quality.
This deck is
really the nicest thing to burst on the tarot scene in a
long, long time. Even if it doesn't sound like your cup of
tea, check it out. You may be surprised. I certainly
am. Surprised and delighted.
I am not a professional reader as much as I am a collector of card decks, and I am not normally a huge fan of Llewellyn's decks either. Though I did thoroughly enjoy this one, not just from an artistic point of view, but from a historical one as well.
From my studies in folklore and history, I found that this deck included plenty of both. Not only do you get the cards, but the included book detailed the symbolism embedded within them, the source of the original picture (often from old Victorian post cards or greeting cards, occasionally from newspaper illustrations of the day), and historical references. The historical information provided as well as the symbolism in the cards made for a great read, and anyone interested in the Victorian age will also find a thorough and useful bibliography at the end for suggestions.
The translations of the suits were wonderful: fountain pens for wands, watches for pentacles, mason jars for cups, and rifles for swords - all in their height during the Victorian Age. I also got a kick out of seeing Oscar Wilde as King of Fountain Pens (Wands).
The major arcana features characters from the day and scenery transformed to be appropriate for the age. The court cards were very reflective of the important figures in Victoria's life or that of her immediate descendants. All the Queens in the Minor Arcana are Victoria herself, in different stages of her life.
The only real flaw that I could give to this deck is that card images occasionally appeared a little too cut and paste. On other cards this system worked well, but here and there the overall effect of some of the cards looked too out of place. Buyers should be aware that in keeping with the theme, all of the images are in black and white. There is no color whatsoever on any of the card images.
All things considered,
this is not only a fun deck, but the book is a fun read
and a neat source for Victorian (and Edwardian in some
Much of what I might say about these cards has already been stated by others reviewing them, so I will try not to repeat too much needlessly. I did, however, wish to discuss these cards from my own particular point of view, in case others might be in the same position as me.
I wasn't really looking for cards the day I bought this deck. I was in a nearby college bookstore, browsing rather idly, just sort of letting time go where it wished. I did have a small amount of free money with me, and had thought that perhaps I might pick up a nice copy of Leaves of Grass, or the new Lillian Gish biography if they had it. I'd always been interested in tarot cards, but never really thought I would ever find a deck I could justify buying.
The store only had a few decks to choose from, and at first I was only glancing with the most casual of interests at them. I don't remember what the other two decks were -- I believe one was a fairly straightforward Rider-Waite type deck, and another I remember as being based on an Egyptian theme. And there was also one set of Victoria Regina cards. These I picked up, and looked over for quite some time before returning them to the shelf.
And as may be expected, by the end of the afternoon, after repeatedly returning to the shelf, re-reading the description of the deck, re-inspecting the artwork on the cards, and so forth, I found myself carrying them home. Something about the images spoke to me - I felt I understood them even without really knowing much at all about tarot cards or their meanings. I just felt connected to them somehow.
The first thing I did was red the companion book nearly from cover to cover. I skipped a little of the preamble, and for the time being, instructions for various card spreads and so forth. I simply read the description and interpretation of each card in order, knowing that I would never remember everything, but that at least it would all be more familiar to me in the future.
Each card's entry features a depiction of the card itself, followed by a description of the scene, a historical interpretation, and a paragraph explaining the meaning of the card in a reading. These two paragraphs, perhaps predictably, tend to overlap each other somewhat. Finally, there is a short paragraph explaining where Ms. Ovenall obtained her source images for the card, which is perhaps not crucial information, but is interesting nonetheless.
One thing that has always held me back from immersing myself in readings is the fact that I have not memorized/internalized the meanings and interpretations of the cards, and the thought to endlessly flipping through the book to find them seemed to me as though it would ruin any sort of meditative understanding of the spread. And of course, without trying, I would never learn, and without knowing, I would be relucant to try, and so forth.
I think this is where the Victoria Regina tarot really shines. The images are so complex and rich in symbolism that it is a simple thing to formulate one's own interpretation based on the image alone. One can do a complete reading with only the most basic understanding of cards' meanings, and then check back later for confirmation or clarification, and not interrupt the feel of the reading. And at least in my own case, the interpretations offered by the text are very much in line with those I've come up with myself.
I've only done a couple of readings for others with this deck, and we used the same method, letting the images on the cards speak to us and talking through what we saw and felt, and then checking back against the more formal meanings of the cards. I found that there was a little more deviation here, but not much.
This is a wonderful learning deck, in my experience. The images are complex enough to encourage repeated viewing, clear enough to provide a firm sense of their meaning, and open enough to allow varied interpretation within the framework of each reading. I almost feel as though I'm picking up the basics after the fact, that the readings I do now are meaningful and valid even as I learn, and I find this very encouraging.
My only fear is that somehow this understanding of the cards will not translate itself well to other decks I may use in the future (I would very much like to own a few other decks in addition to this one), that I may grow dependent on the Victoria Regina's iconography, and be left somewhat adrift without it. Having looked over many of the decks listed here, I have noticed that many of them leave me feeling rather lost. Would I be able to grow as comfortable with another deck as I am with this one? On the other hand, it does seem that this is a good arena in which to be choosy and fussy.
My only other concern would be with reversals. The imagery being as complex as it is, it's hard to interpret them in a reversed position, and turning cards this way and that mid-reading can be distracting. This may settle itself in time, however.
highly recommend this deck to someone just starting out,
much more so, I think, that some of the decks I have
seen listed as good for beginners. Rather than being
taught how to read, you can teach yourself, and to me,
that's a much more meaningful thing.
I liked the Victoria Regina Tarot because it fills a gap - a purely modern interpretation of the tarot dates quickly but this version, inspired by the Victorian era, speaks to us across one and a half centuries and, like Dickens, is curiously apt.
However, the ink isn't black enough. Online the images look terrific with magnificent, Dore-like effects as though they were etchings, but the cards themselves are a lot paler.
Each card is a collage. The manual gives the sources; mostly they're drawings from news magazines of the period. Temperance, for example, seamlessly conflates an elegant mother (in backless gown with bustle) putting on a magic show for her children, a starry night sky snipped from an advertisement for paint, Niagara Falls, a salamander and - providing the pyrotechnics - mortar blasts from the battle of Tel-El-Kebir. Most court cards are represented by Queen Victoria and her immediate family. Pentacles are represented by watches. The industrial era launched the concept "Time is money" (also the study of railway timetables became an obsession for young and old). Wands become pens, signifying an era when writers could communicate to tens of thousands thanks to faster printing and increasing literacy. In place of cups there's the Maldon jar, a breakthrough invention which enabled the homemaker to preserve good things and serve them out of season. Swords are guns. The aggressive aspect of this suit is emphasised at the expense of truth-seeking, insight and rationality which the tarot reader will need to tease out from other details.
The deck works best for well-educated males or females with questions about generational conflict and moral ambiguities in a rapidly changing world. Ovenall's newly-devised chalice spread generates interplay with client because it shows consequences of alternative routes. The deck throws responsibility back on the querent and emphasises influences, seen and unseen, which come down through family the form of clannish behaviour and also echoes from ancestors, not far-off ones but those no longer living who nevertheless have had an impact on those alive today. My advice would be to read the manual from cover to cover and ingest the big picture before trying the deck out on a client. Although the images are compelling, they're complex and unfamiliar. Also, take the time to 'talk' to each figure depicted in each card before you use the deck professionally.