Hello, soul friends!
I wanted to start off a section on my website where I review card decks that I have used over the years. I have owned over 80 various decks (currently own about 65), and thought I would write some of my notes, experiences, personal opinions, and information on the decks for anyone out there looking for suggestions. Diving into the world of decks can be a bit scary, fun, and also at times overwhelming with the sheer amount of choices.
There are various differences to the types of card decks people use, but the most common ones are Tarot, Oracle, and Lenormand. Over the years, I have come to collect various and eclectic decks ranging in artistic style and type. I always purchase what grabs my attention, and have learned that my aesthetic is not for everyone. So, as always, purchase what you feel guided to use for yourself.
I am just expressing my opinions and my own personal experiences with these decks and I hope that you can appreciate the candor. As always, use your own intuition and find tools that suit your tastes.
The Mary-El tarot Cards
This is one of my newer additions to my deck collection, but it was on my list of decks I wanted to get since the artwork is phenomenal! I was quite surprised at how detailed and intricate the artwork was in each of the cards.
The Mary-El Tarot is a beautiful deck by Marie White. The guidebook is a unique one filled with beautiful perspectives on the Tarot interpretations. I have found it to be a lovely addition to anyone who enjoys strong artwork and also non-traditional Tarot styles. Each card is intricately detailed and executed amazingly.
The Mary-El Tarot is published by Schiffer. I purchased my deck from Amazon, as they had a better deal than purchasing directly from Schiffer's website. You can purchase it from Amazon, Schiffer, Book Depository and other online shops that carry the deck in stock.
From Amazon's Product Description:
Exquisite and powerful, if there is a theme in The Mary-el Tarot, it is one of the alchemy of the soul; of finding balance, symmetry, mastery of the self, and becoming your own genius. This long-awaited 78-card deck is stunningly illustrated with traditional oil paints and a depth of symbolism found in the old classics.
The accompanying guide, Landscapes of the Abyss, takes the reader through the meanings of each card via the landscape of the Moon and the High Priestess, through the geometry of the temple and the Tree of Life, the Merkabah, and the caduceus! Enter a doorway between heaven and earth, between microcosm and macrocosm, between the world of eternity and infinity. A rare gem suitable for all levels of tarot experience.
About Marie white, the Author
Marie White was compelled to create art from a very early age and thought of it as something akin to breathing or water. She grew up with a pencil in hand recording the substance of dreams, visions, nature, and the human form. In 1997 her love of mysticism, symbolism, words, and art collided naturally and she began the Mary-el Tarot which ended up taking over a decade to complete. Her favorite medium is oil paint used in a method called grisaille, a technique also favored by the old masters where thin layers of color are slowly built up bringing out the natural depth and luminosity of the paint. Born and raised in Southern California, she presently lives with her three children in the sultry piedmont forest of North Carolina where she can paint under the rolling thunder and the moving shadows of trees.
My Personal Review
This is a 78 card deck includes a lot of various elements from different well-known tarot systems. The box describes the Mary-El Tarot as inspired by the three main Tarot traditions: Rider-Waite, Marseille and Thoth. The colors are extremely rich and dense: you'll find no airy-fairy pastels here. This is the earthiest Tarot I've ever seen. It possesses the most superior artwork and intricate symbolism that I have seen in just one deck.
Product dimensions are 2 x 6 x 12 inches. The cards are much larger than a traditional Tarot deck.
The presentation is excellent: the sturdy box has a hinged top that stays closed with a hidden magnet. The compartment for the cards is much better quality than many similar boxes. But it's necessary to tip the whole box over to get all the cards out; the thumb hole doesn't go all the way to the bottom of the box. A ribbon attached to the bottom of the compartment should fix that.
Due to the complexity of this deck's images, I find that this isn't the easiest deck to just pick up and use. It is not a deck I would recommend to a beginner, and I do not recommend this deck as anyone's first deck. These cards are complicated and will require some attention in order to use them well, but I believe that they may eventually be a deck one could use with confidence. As an aside, the cards are also wonderfully large and may require some practice shuffling.
The card stock is thick, has a shinier finish than some of my preferred decks (which is annoying when trying to get a nice picture of the cards), and also allows you get a nice bend without cracking the card stock. This quality of card stock seems to be what most publishers are using for mass produced cards. They are almost to the point of being sticky. It isn't my favorite card stock, but the artwork is breathtaking and almost makes up for the unpleasant quality of the cards.
The cards are a lot bigger than a deck of standard playing/tarot cards and the card stock itself is not my favorite. I recommend anyone with a new deck spend some time shuffling it and getting to know its feel, in addition to just "getting to know" any new deck. I had to make piles and shuffle that way. I have small hands and have found that the very large size of these cards has been difficult for me. Also, adding in the sticky quality of the card stock made it a bit of a pain and much more annoying task.
The borders are a distraction from the beautiful artwork and I have noticed in the blogosphere that the cards are much more beautiful when trimmed of the excess dark black borders. I am sure this would help with size of the cards and the shuffling issues, but I am not experienced in trimming a deck of cards, so I was not comfortable trying it with this deck.
I feel her pictures speak a thousand words. I am glad she did not go too deeply into describing them in the book because I think this would have hindered their effectiveness. These are very evocative images. And once an artist describes too much of their vision or interpretation of what they should mean, I feel that it would remove that initial punch you get from the viscerally moving images. I "see" something different in them each time that I use them. They communicate to the part of me that sees in images, not words. Some of the images evoke almost a guttural reaction, having you dive deep within and ask you to really pay attention to all of the beautiful details.
This is not a deck that speaks to the frontal thinking lobe. It goes deeper beyond intellect; to the realm of archetypal imagery where it takes on life of it's own. This is wonderfully executed Tarot deck. For folks who come from the Tarot community, where traditional meanings and imagery are handed down from generation to generation, this deck is not those things at all. It is not a traditional deck in the least bit and really drifts away from those images that some may find comfort in. There is also some nudity, so I found it difficult to use this with most of my clients, as you never know what someone's level of comfort is with artistic nudity.
The Guidebook is just a little over 190 pages. It includes a picture of the cards with a slightly more traditional interpretation of both upright and reversed meanings. Given that the images are so deep, I was a bit disappointed at some of the meanings in the guidebook. Some of the meanings were a bit more esoteric and touched on different Tarot interpretations from various well-known and used systems. Although, I personally didn't feel that the card meanings from the books reflected the depth and beauty from the images, it is helpful to have the book for those who can't recall all of the specific card interpretations and may need a few points to keep in mind. In my opinion, it just felt a bit rushed or done as an afterthought, and I typically chose to not use the guidebook in interpretation of the cards.
Overall, this is a fascinating deck to add to a collection if you are looking for one that marries in the most popular and well-known Tarot systems/imagery. Plus, each card is a beautiful piece of art. If you prefer traditional decks and going by traditional meanings, then this deck is possibly not good fit.
But if you use Tarot intuitively and primarily as window into the inner world, this is a wonderful deck. It is one of the most powerful decks I have owned. I did not use it daily but find it invaluable when I did pull it out. It added depth to my tarot use. Over time, I felt that I needed to find a deck that I connected with more, so I ended up selling my copy of the deck.
My overall opinion is that this deck is a 3.5 star choice.
Artwork - 5 stars
Card stock - 3 stars (not a fan of shiny decks or this extremely large size)
Ease - 2 stars
Guidebook - 3 stars
I hope that you enjoyed my deck review, and also enjoy other deck reviews that I add to this site. I have a passion for exploring new decks and also finding various ways of connecting to my intuition. I appreciate you checking out my site and taking the time to read my review.