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 Tarot de Paris by J. Philip Thomas.
The Tarot de Paris
The Tarot de Paris was published in 2002 by St. Martin’s Press. This deck comes with an excellent hardcover companion book and can be purchased on Amazon for $23.96 USD at the time this article was written.
From the companion book:
The Tarot de Paris began rather unexpectedly on a windy March in 1981, while I was walking on the Champs-Elysees on my first ever trip to France. I flew into Paris from Asia, where I had been living for the previous seven years. I had intended to stay in France for just a few weeks – time enough for me to contact a few new galleries and look up some people I’d met in other parts of the world – and then I would leave. Or so I thought … (6)
The creator goes on to share a mystical moment, which he says, “in hindsight, this may sound rather cliched, but the effect felt supernatural. In that flashing moment, I had a vision of all the Major Arcana cards as a sequence of statues, located somewhere in Paris” (6).
The card stock is medium quality, so the cards will begin to show wear after regular or heavy use. The cards are much larger than playing cards, but quite flexible because of the card stock. Unfortunately, they are very difficult to shuffle unless you have large hands, which I do not.
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. The deck does not fit inside my grip, so I have to shuffle it by holding the cards width-wise and mixing them up on top of each other over and over again.
This deck is more rectangular than square, with rounded edges, and has beautifully rendered images of the statues and the artwork used to complete the card designs. While the deck is limiting for my reading performance in public due to the size of the cards, it is fantastic for personal and professional readings in private because the art and concepts work so well for a tarot reading.
The imagery honors some of the first, older, and classic decks while incorporating the timeless creativity of world-class art and sculpture. The art and design make it perfect for the Taroscope for Ask Astrology.
In fact, this deck is the deck that has been chosen for the free Taroscope reading for January 2020. This deck is a wonderful blend of classical and modern art, as well as traditional and new-age interpretations of the cards.
Visual Accessibility of the Deck
This deck is visually accessible, which makes it easier for the reader and client to get the message quickly and accurately. In the cards above, Presence shows us the feeling and impact of seeing the lion and the child together. Innocence and Strength combine to create Presence.
The 6 of Air shows a figure being pulled in a small boat towards a new goal while reflecting on the shore that has been left behind. And the 3 of Fire shows the relationship of mortal and immortal, which is meant to raise aspirations and push men and women to heightened levels of creativity.
Finally, the King of Matter, depicted as Henri IV, the good King “puts forward a picture of a natural ruler who does not separate himself from the welfare of his kingdom” (140). He knows how to build his rulership so that all benefit and what he creates will last beyond his lifetime.
Explanation of the Cards
This deck comes with a hardcover companion guide, which provides detailed and comprehensive explanations of each card. Two pages are devoted to the Major Arcana and all the remaining cards get a full page.
Since the deck uses classical art and modern graphic design, you can see how it connects with the Rider-Waite art and deviates from it:
As a professional reader who started reading cards for pay in 1992, I can say that this deck is among the best for personal readings and professional work in one-on-one private settings or for online work. It does have difficult cards, like Death (renamed The Crossing) and the Tower, but the imagery is so stunning that there is an elegant beauty to even the most difficult of the cards.
This deck also would make an excellent gift, both for someone who loves tarot and someone not familiar with the tarot, but who would certainly love the deck for its art.
I will give this deck a high rating and easily put it among the top twenty decks I own (out of 100 or so). Clients who have worked with this deck have found it immensely powerful, especially if they have a love of classical artwork. The deck has a superior artistic design; J Philip Thomas realized an important vision and delivered it expertly in the form of the Tarot de Paris.
If you are a tarot and oracle card collector, then this is certainly a deck you need to have in your collection.