Blog, Decks, Reviews

Deck Review: The Incidental Tarot by Holly DeFount

Self published and available through
ISBN 978-0-615-56475-3
Rating: 4 Decks
The Cards and Artwork

9-The Blue Buddha (DeFount's version of The Hermit). Photo copyright Holly DeFount, used with permission.
9-The Blue Buddha (DeFount’s version of The Hermit). Taken from her website.

The Incidental Tarot took me by surprise. I’m not big of “marseilles style” tarots (decks where the images on the minor numbered cards depict little more than just the suit’s symbol and number and no reference picture) and my first thought was to pass picking this deck up. But as I sat there leafing through a friend’s copy, the images called out to me and I knew that I had to invest in this personal and unique deck. The deck itself is not 100% Rider Waite, but it’s also not quite marseilles either. Its voice is as vibrant and unique as the creatrix who designed it.

Holly DeFount says regarding the deck’s style, “My style is heavily influenced by Medieval and Renaissance art, as well as the late Victorian painters, the Pre- Raphaelites. The simple yet rich symbolism of these styles has always resonated with me, and I find it translates beautifully to the intrinsically esoteric art of the Tarot. … My philosophy was primarily one of “less is more,” and I think this makes the deck resonate with a pure, archetypal impact.” The cards are printed on a good, strong card stock that lends itself well for shuffling. Unlike many decks that choose to include two “throwaway” cards, The Incidental Tarot includes two additional cards (deck talismans) that represent the journey into and out of this deck.

18-La Lune (DeFount's version of The Moon). Photo copyright Holly DeFount, used with permission.
18-La Lune (DeFount’s version of The Moon). Photo copyright Holly DeFount, used with permission.

The Incidental Tarot has taken the regular tarot structure and radically personalized it. Many of the Majors have new and updated names. For example, Strength is called Gryphon and the Magician is called the Red King. DeFount also renamed the court names to suit her own style as well. Each suit’s page and knight have a unique designation to the deck, and a Queen and a King. Even the suits wear different names as well. DeFount says, “With the Minor Arcana, I chose to use elemental symbols that have always spoken to me. Golden Arrows in place of wands for fire, symbolizing raw energy, activity and movement. Roses in place of cups for water, illustrating emotion, intuition, creativity and relationships. Quills became the suit of swords representing both air and the workings of the mind: thought, learning, communication. And in lieu of pentacles, the mighty oak came to represent the earth element: the body, home and hearth, and material abundance.”

The cards themselves are wider than the standard Llewellyn and US Games decks. However, they still shuffle well and have a good solidity to them despite having to shuffle them at the width. I’m not sure who printed the cards but they look well designed, carry a bit of a gloss on them, and have a perfectly sized tuckbox that will keep the cards safe for years. The backs are reversible and were inspired by a Rumi poem.

Eager to use the deck, I went ahead and asked it the following questions:

3 of Roses. Photo copyright Holly DeFount, used with permission
3 of Roses. Photo copyright by Holly DeFount.

1. What can you teach users? I drew the 3 of Roses. Of the Rose suit, DeFount says that it represents “emotions, creativity, adaptability, compassion, expression.” The keyword for this card is Fertility and I think it’s a poignant single word answer to this question. This deck desires to create new and personalized connections between what we think the tarot is and what this deck contains.

4 of Quills. Photo copyright Holly DeFount, used with permission.
4 of Quills. Photo copyright by Holly DeFount.

2. What are your strengths? I drew the 4 of Quills for this question’s answer. Of this suit, DeFount says it represents “communication, investigation, learning, technology, commerce.” This card’s keyword is Articulation which I interpret to mean that this deck, once you tap into it’s meanings and resources, has the ability to open doors, uncover new meanings and harness new potentials. Much like how DeFount did when she went about creating The Incidental Tarot itself.

The Bard (Knight of Roses). Photo copyright Holly DeFount, used with permission.
The Bard (knight of roses). Photo copyright by Holly DeFount.

3. What are your weaknesses? I drew The Bard (or the Knight of Roses) to answer this question. Before I consulted the companion book to read the keyword, the concept of bardic song and poetry popped into my mind. I think that this deck has the potential to overwhelm and wow users over, so much that they shy away from wanting to use this deck. Believe me, it does want to be used. The keyword for this card is Creativity and I think that it sums up the idea of how creativity and passion can be perceived as a emotional investment that can sometimes be a deterrent.

The Companion Book
The deck itself does not come with a book (you can download a sheet of meanings from her website). However, DeFount has published a companion book, The INCIDENTAL TAROT, A Spiritual and Creative Journey The Companion to the Cards, over at amazon for those who want to know more about how this deck was put together. It’s filled with her philosophy on spirituality, art, and a keen understanding of tarot meanings. Her personality shines throughout the book. The book begins with personal details on the deck’s unique name and format, how the deck came to be, and her artistic vision (all the quotes in this review were taken from the PDF eBook version.) The rest of the book contains three sections: Major, Minor, and How to Read the Cards.

The Bard (Knight of Roses). Photo copyright Holly DeFount, used with permission.
The Bard (knight of roses). Photo copyright by Holly DeFount.

The Major Arcana section is by far the beefiest. In this section, each card is shown in full color with a date on when the card was birthed. DeFount also tells us a story about how they relate back to her life, in addition to discussing the card’s primary meaning. We’re also given a short keyword summary of each card’s energy, and what that card means when read reversed.

The section on the Minor Arcana doesn’t get the personal treatment like the Majors. However, DeFount does let us know what their upright and reversed meanings are; along with the meanings for some of the symbolisms that do appear in the images. At the end of both Major and Minor sections, DeFount includes a table filled with single keywords for each major and minors. At the end of the book there is a short essay on how to read with the cards. It also includes a unique spread inspired by her friends.

However, this book is a great way to really understand the unique and personal vision of the deck, in which DeFount says, “In my estimation, the Tarot is never a rigid system of divining the future, but rather a fluid, symbiotic oracle that is entirely defined by the personal relationship of the cards and the reader. If the Incidental Tarot is a language of divination; then each new oracle (cards and reader) will speak a slightly different dialect.”

Bottom Line
Deck collectors will love The Incidental Tarot. The art is unique and blends a bit of the old with modern day techniques. Outside of doing a few daily draws with this deck, I have not really read with it much. I connect far more to the images than I do to it as a Tarot deck. However, I love the way DeFount re-imagined tarot to fit her personal spiritual world. I highly recommend that you buy a copy (electronic or paper) of the companion guide for it will both expand your appreciation for the artistry in this deck as well as properly guide you into reading the deck as an oracle.