Newly published tarot and oracle decks arrive on Amazon, Etsy, crowd-funding platforms, and in bookstores every month. Today there are literally thousands of decks to choose from, including out-of-print decks as well as published ones. Reviewing a deck is a subjective judgement intended to help readers determine if they want to own the deck.
The critical review of a deck for AskAstrology involves looking at the quality and size of the cards, visual accessibility of the art, quality of the companion book or booklet, and potential usefulness in professional practice. This month I have chosen to review the The African Tarot Deck by Victoria Iva from Dabrigh Publishing.
From the publisher:
This deck represents an homage to cubism, which has many expressions throughout the world and art history. The artist worked diligently to capture the vibrant colors and tribal roots of the indigenous societies of the African continent. Artist Victoria Iva expresses her appreciation and love of these artistic and cultural themes in this re-interpretation of the Rider-Waite Tarot, a celebration of interconnecting artistic concepts which honor contributions from the rich history and complex cultures of Africa.
About Victoria Iva:
Victoria is a graphic illustrator who collaborates with many different publishers. She loves art that is sincere and moves the viewer. “I consider the Northern Revival style to be the highest art form; I can even cry in front of the pieces.” She believes art should impact the person intensely and possess a hidden magic that unfolds while being viewed.
Her main criteria for any work is that there is something in the art that resonates with the individual on a deep level. She calls this “Magical Realism,” which she describes as an artist’s strength and “glow” coming out in their artwork.
Card Stock and Shuffling
Printed on study card stock, these cards have a linen finish with curved edges. They are easy to shuffle, and a little slick when you first get them out of the box. They may slip out of your hands until the cards get some wear from handling and repeated use.
Artwork and the Visual Accessibility of the Deck
The artwork is done in a cubist style, and Victoria Iva is a talented and creative artist. The deck mostly follows the Rider Waite Tarot, keeping most of the layouts and compositions, but using rich colors common in African garments, landscapes common to the continent, and animals from the many African nations.
From the booklet:
Meaning: The Star represents hope, and a positive vision for the future. What do we see as our life purpose and how do we get to it? The Star, as an archetype, is the seventeenth encounter for the Fool, indicating that we all need hope and optimism about the future. We need to have dreams to enjoy this life.
Symbolism: A nude woman collects water from a pool. There are eight stars are above her head. Seven represent the chakras of the body, and the eighth is her guiding star. By collecting the water, she gathers the nourishment and hope that water brings to an arid land.
Upright: hope, inspiration, promise, purpose, and faith
Reversed: doubts, confusion, delusion, and despair
5 of Cups
From the booklet:
Meaning: You have a disappointment you must accept; hidden possibilities have not revealed themselves yet.
Symbolism: A man stands outside the city. The three fallen cups indicate disappointment. The two cups that are upright remind him that all is not lost.
Upright: disappointment, regret, and sadness from loss
Reversed: resignation, letting go, and acceptance
Queen of Pentacles
From the booklet:
Meaning: Get your life in order; assess your material life and fix anything that needs attention.
Symbolism: The queen sits back and assesses the coin in her hand; she manages the practical affairs of her kingdom.
Upright: stability, management, and providing
Reversed: instability, and desires leading to debt
Explanation of the Cards
This deck does have a companion booklet that is very good; and the explanations include the meaning of the card, the symbolism, upright keywords, and reversed keywords. The Introduction states, “Reading Tarot cards can reveal insights into your past, present, or future. The premise is simple: the Querent asks a question, and then the Reader draws the cards and interprets the results.”
In the Tips section, “Pay attention to the symbolism in the artwork; the symbolism enhances and provides details to the meanings of the cards. Tarot cards are not deterministic and life is not fated. The future is never set. Querents can always alter their future by changing their course of action, changing their thoughts, or adjusting their feelings.”
As a professional reader, I can say that this deck is good for both personal and professional use; it certainly works for reading in public spaces. The artwork is eye-catching and interesting, making it a visually appealing deck to own and use. If you are familiar with the Rider Waite deck, then this will be an easy deck to buy and start using.
I would recommend the deck for personal use, collecting, and general professional use. This deck is beautifully drawn; people will likely consider getting a reading from the deck if they can see the cards. The choice of African imagery makes the deck stand apart from most of the current decks, which also enhances its appeal.
The deck is quite good, visually-speaking. The art conveys the meanings in a consistent way; even so, you will need to learn what the creator intended them to be by reading the booklet explanations. The companion booklet that comes with the cards fits with the artwork, so they are nicely paired. The stiff card stock makes shuffling a bit challenging when the deck is brand new, but it will get easier once some of the initial slick sheen wears off with frequent repeated use over a long time. I give this deck four out of five stars.