Tarot and Oracle Decks have exploded into the common experience since the 1990s. Today there are literally thousands of decks to choose from, including out-of-print decks and published ones. Reviewing anything involves subjective judgment based on various criteria.
I will be looking at the quality and size of the cards, visual accessibility of the art, quality of the companion text of the deck, and potential usefulness in professional practice. This month I have chosen to review the Crow’s Magick Tarot by Londa Marks (this deck is currently out-of-print).
The Crow’s Magick Tarot
The Crow’s Magick Tarot was published in 1998 by US Games. This deck is out-of-print, but when it was sold it could be purchased with a companion book or just the cards alone. eBay has listings starting at $50 and going to $1000 (for just the book!).
From the Google books page:
The Crow’s Magick deck and book work in tandem to merge the cyber world with new perspective and freedom of mind for a more fulfilling reality. Travel to strange worlds with a host of cosmic creatures and find your true self along the way.
The deck is certainly a deviation from traditional art styles and the very common fantasy art styles of many of the modern decks.
The card stock is medium quality, so the cards will begin to show wear after regular or heavy use. Since they are not much larger than playing cards, they are fairly easy to shuffle and handle. I have rather average to small hands (I cannot palm a basketball), so the size of a deck of cards matters when it comes to shuffling them, especially in front of clients.
This deck is more rectangular than square, with rounded edges, and has beautifully rendered images of highly stylized art that clearly has a photoshop, computer-generated feel to them. The visual accessibility of the deck is somewhat limited due to the use of animal images out of context from an environment, floating in quite a lot of black space.
One very interesting feature is the use of astrology symbols in the lower-left corner of the cards. Some cards have a single symbol while others have three symbols from the same suit. If you look closely at the Knight of Swords above, you will see Libra, Gemini, and Aquarius stacked on top of each other. The order of the three changes with each court card.
Visual Accessibility of the Deck
This deck is visually interesting, if not as accessible as other decks that have been reviewed. To help the reader and querent, keywords appear at the bottom of the cards. Below the 5 of Coins text in the card above are the keywords: Concern and Complexity. How the mountain lion and the 5 coins represent these keywords is not visually apparent.
The Magician shows a bird of prey, presumably, an eagle flying through the air with claw extended and the two of cups has images that present symmetry, but why the card means: Partner, Nexus, is based on the historical and given meaning by the creator, not the visual representation.
Readers and clients just have to “go with it” regarding the meanings of the cards. Even the 10 of wands is, more or less, 10 spears lined up in 2 rows of 5 with a spider moving between the rows. Why this image was chosen to represent Misery and Torment is not very clear. Perhaps if the spider had a spear piercing it, while upside down, it would make more visual sense.
Explanation of the Cards
This deck could be bought with a companion guide, which provides detailed and comprehensive explanations of each card. It is not easy to find the original packaging that put the two together, so you would likely have to purchase them separately. Two pages are devoted to the Major Arcana and all the remaining cards get a full page.
Since the deck uses modern graphic design, you cannot see how it connects with the Rider-Waite art at all.
As a professional reader who started reading cards for pay in 1992, I can say that this deck is an acquired taste, and not a deck for common use in public or for clients trying out tarot for the first time. The lack of visual accessibility hinders the immediate enjoyment and impact of seeing a card that visually delivers a message with satisfaction.
For a more seasoned reader, client, or collector, then this deck does have some interesting attributes. Without a doubt, the visuals do pop! The keywords are helpful and some of the selected words are unique, which makes interpretation fun. If you are an astrologer or astrology buff, then the addition of the astrology symbols adds an interesting layer to the interpretation process.
I will give this deck a moderate or mixed rating. It does not crack my top 25 group of decks that I use for public readings, but it is available for selection when clients come to my home office, in a wood box with a wolf and crow on the top of the box. As a professional, I do enjoy reading with the deck, but it is also a deck that I would not recommend for a beginner.
If you are a tarot and oracle card collector, then this is certainly a deck you need to have in your collection.