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 Madame Endora’s Fortune Cards by Christine Filipak (Author, Illustrator) and Joseph Vargo (Author, Illustrator).
Madame Endora’s Fortune Cards
Madame Endora’s Fortune Cards were published in 2003 by Monolith Graphics and it came with a 32-page booklet. The deck is available on Amazon for $17.99 at the time this article was written. In 2019 Monolith Graphics published a 312-page book, also available for $17.99.
From the back cover of the book:
This guidebook to Madame Endora’s Fortune Cards offers insightful advice concerning matters of love, money, health and general prosperity with detailed definitions of the cards and their meanings as well as various divinatory spreads. This book also contains Madame Endora’s Wisdom of the Ages, offering illustrated chapters on various means of divination, such as astrology, palmistry, phrenology, dreams, and pendulums, in addition to mystical alphabets, rune magic, love spells and charms, candle magic, alchemy, gemstones, I Ching, the Kabbalah, labyrinths and sacred Yantras. The symbolic artwork is based on Old World myth and lore and blends Egyptian, Celtic and Fantasy themes in an elegant Art Nouveau style. * Cards are sold separately. 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. They are somewhat larger than a regular deck of playing cards, but not so long that a person will small hands will struggle to shuffle them. They bend easily and do not stick together, which makes the shuffling performance enjoyable for clients if you read professionally. This deck is more rectangular than square, with rounded edges, and has beautifully rendered images of highly stylized art in the Art Nouveau style.
Visual Accessibility of the Deck
The visual accessibility of the deck is somewhat limited due to the use of archetypical symbols (like the gryphon, chimera, and wolf) and stylized images of men and women in fantasy garb.
The creators do provide keywords and phrases for each card. In the examples above:
- Fire – Reckless Actions Lead to Conflict
- Seduction – Passion and Romance Await
- Serendipity – Bright New Prospects are on the Horizon
- The Dragon – Strength and Wisdom
- The Hourglass – Time is of the Essence
In many ways, the deck has much more of fortune-telling feel to it because of the phrases, which are suggestive of future predictions rather than informative concepts expressed by the keywords. In tarot, the Knight of Cups can represent the pursuit of passion and romance, but the Seduction card rather emphatically states, “passion and romance await”. Both are coming your way if you go out and pursue them.
Explanation of the Cards
This deck can be bought with the companion guide, which provides detailed and comprehensive explanations of each card. Prior to 2019, you would just be able to get the small booklet that came with the cards themselves. The companion book provides much more rich detail about all the cards and is well worth having if you decide to own the deck.
As a professional reader who started reading cards for pay in 1992, I can say that this deck is a fun deck to work within the public. I generally dial down the “fatefulness” of the phrases in favor of more free will options when interpreting for clients, but it is certainly a deck that people enjoy experiencing. They get a nice primer right out of the gate when I tell them, “you have chosen Madame Endora’s Fortune Cards”.
It is one of my top 25 “go-to” decks for public readings. I rotate two decks at a time in my public practice, while I have the other 23 on display in my office for clients to pick when they come to me for an in-person reading. The deck has a nice mix of mysterious, dangerous, positive, and hopeful cards. You can select The Maiden or Medusa, the Serpent or the Unicorn, as well as objects like The Hourglass and The Gate.
This deck works well with novice readers and first-time clients, even though there are some challenging cards in the deck. Without a doubt, the visuals do pop! The keywords are helpful and some of the phrases really prompt the imagination, which makes interpretation fun. If you are a fan of the style of art and the history of fortune-telling, then you will definitely enjoy this deck.
I will give this deck a high rating. It does crack my top 25 group of decks that I use for public readings, so I take it with me to read. I keep the cards in an ornate box befitting the card artwork and the feeling I think the client would like to experience when choosing the box and hearing the name of the deck before we begin the reading.
As a professional, I do enjoy reading with the deck and can recommend it as a solid starter deck for someone who wants to learn to read oracle cards. If you are a tarot and oracle card collector, then this is certainly a deck you need to have in your collection.