Blog, Decks, Reviews

Deck Review: Sharman-Caselli Tarot

Sharman-Caselli Tarot Deck
Connections Book Publishing, 2005
Rating: 2 Decks

The first thing I noticed about this deck was how pink it is. Yes, you heard me… pink. The backs are a bright, solid pink with a single silver rectangle printed near the edges. This brightness comes wrapped in a really nice box that includes a companion booklet. This tarot deck tries so hard to prove that it is THE beginner’s tarot deck that pink seems to be the only thing it accomplishes.

The Sharman-Caselli Tarot follows the Rider-Waite formula but it also borrows “some of its imagery from the earliest decks, such as the Visconti-Sfzora.” The cards are printed on a thick card-stock with no protective finish. Shuffling was difficult, as the cards are stiff, but time and use will loosen them up. The Sharman-Caselli uses a thematic approach with color and symbols tied throughout each suite that help “beginners identify which suit a particular card belongs to and [how] to connect each suit to its element.” The artwork is rich in detail, and features a “line and wash” style. Sadly, the artwork does not evoke much passion from me. If I set this deck down next to one of my other decks, the vibrancy of the other cards just make the art in The Sharman-Caselli deck look flat.

The companion booklet (aka LWB, or “little white book”) gives a short and informative introduction to tarot before going into the meanings of the major and minor arcana. Each card has a half-page dedicated to it. This includes a thumbnail image of the card, a bulleted list of symbols and what they represent, and ends with a one or two word thematic summary for each card (such as “generosity and strength” for the Queen of Wands). A sample reading done with the 5-card “Horseshoe Spread” closes out the booklet.

When I opened the box for the first time things got a bit wonky. The deck was out of order when I received it, so I wanted to put it back into suit order. None of the major arcana have numbers on them, so I wasn’t sure where to place “Justice” and “Strength.” When I referenced the LWB it told me that “Justice” came first. Okay, so it seems that this deck follows Crowley more in with its order and meaning. No worries there. But, after Justice comes Temperance, then Strength, then The Hermit, and then the Wheel of Fortune, followed by Hanged Man and Death. Wait, what?! These cards, number 8-14, appear in an order that I have never seen before. It’s like they completely revised the Fool’s Story for this deck. I know that many decks like to revise the major arcana card orders to suggest how we can interpret the stages of life, but this deck radically changes the order without spending time on the why. Even the LWB doesn’t clue me into why this order came to be. Was it a mistake or intentional? I guess the world will never know.

I typically review decks using three questions:

1.What can I learn from you?
The Four of Cups practically leapt from the deck for this question. It tells me that I cannot learn anything from it because my dislike for this deck obscures whatever insight the cards could offer.

2. What is your speciality?
I then drew the Five of Swords. To which the cards say that their specialty is showing people their limits and victories.

3. How does your personality differ from other decks?
Finally, I drew the Six of Pentacles, and the deck said that what sets it apart is a balanced and generous approach to symbolism. A fairly accurate reading, definitely spot on with the answer to my first question.

Bottom Line
Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend this deck to anyone. (Although I may use this deck in an altered art collaboration project.) The box’s backside claims that “this deck has been specifically created for the first-time tarot user.” I disagree. I do prefer the Rider Waite meanings over Crowley’s but to have so many of the bigger secret cards out of order just seems like it would confuse any new-to-tarot student. The images, while nicely drawn, fall flat and fail to keep my attention drawn into the symbolism. And the LWB, while being focused more on the symbolism meanings, doesn’t give enough of a range of interpretation for each card. I’m still left wanting to recommend beginners look at the Universal Waite or Robin Wood decks first.

Postnote: I did check other online reviews to see others said about The Sharman-Caselli Tarot. What I found surprised me. This deck was once offered in a 192-page book and deck set and had been consistently given high review marks. However, not many reviewers mention the backs or the strange ordering of the 7 cards noted in this review. Reading what others said makes me wonder if my low rating and review is a result of this printing and edition only.

Blog, Decks, Reviews

Review: Konxari Cards

Konxari Cards
IRM Foundation, 2009
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Konxari (pronounced kon-zar-ee) Cards is a new spirit-focused divination deck, created by the IRM Foundation and featuring the photography of Paul Michael Kane. The idea is that you take the deck with you to a spooky location, shuffle and let the spirits relay messages to you through the cards. An updated version of the ouija board, the cards use photographs, words, and symbols to give you many ways to connect with spirits. The publishers of the deck claim that Konxari has roots in ancient Egypt and that it, along with tarot cards, have come from this era. Erroneous information aside (as far as the tarot goes), my curiosity got the best of me and I had to check this deck out.

The deck of 88 cards comes in a long rectangular box. The whole package of box, book and 44-cards sitting next to one another, gives the impression that this deck is more entertainment designed than to be used as a true spiritual tool. The cards themselves measure two by three inches and are printed on a light-weight card-stock with a semi-glossy coating. Their size, along with the glossy coating, makes the cards hard to shuffle when stacked together. Each card features a image, a title, a symbol (or color spot), and a letter (or number). Some cars are printed in a landscape rotation. The instruction booklet has 32 pages and contains “Quick” and “Expanded” rules for using the cards. It also provides meanings to some of the cards; symbol definitions; and includes two alternative spreads to use with the cards when you are not out searching for ghosts.

My partner and I put the Konxari Cards to the test at Samhain. We followed the rules of the booklet (“never play Konxari cards alone”) and we sat in a darkened room of our home. We hoped that the cards would connect with something and relay a message that we’d understand. We shuffled the cards and laid them out according to the main layout found inside the booklet. We removed four cards and were left with eight remaining cards: hiding, attic, door, prophesy, thermal, suffering, aura and shadow. The images and words caught our eyes and from this we figured that the impressions came from something we call “the house fae”. There is a closet on our first floor that tends to be popular with our cats. They’re always running in and out, as if they’re chasing something into that space. We also tend to use the space as our “attic” in that we store boxes, and decorations in it. Therefore the first few cards seemed to align with our experiences. Since the booklet also recommends playing with the cards and rearranging them to spell out words (remember, each card has letters on it) we shifted the cards around so they spelled words or phrases. We came up with Requim B6 (or 6B), and Be Quirm 6. Neither seemed important or seemed meaningful.

As I do with my tarot decks, I asked the Konxari Cards if they had anything to share about themselves. I drew the moon card for my first question, “What can I learn from you?” This card suggests using Konxari Cards could help expose or draw us closer to the mysteries we commonly associate with the moon: magick, death, and nature itself. I drew the Mirror card for my second question, “What is your speciality?” Here, the card represents the deck’s desire to show us reflections of the spirit world as they mirror or our lives and pasts. It is also said that mirrors are a portal to other realms and that this deck could be seen as a portal for contacting those realms. Finally, I drew the Hallway card for my final question of, “How does your personality differ from other decks?” The Eye of Horus drawn on this card suggests that the deck give “the dead the ability to see again”— a trait that other decks do not address.

Konxari Cards offer a new and portable tool to reach out and connect with the dead. If you’re a ghost hunter looking for a compact spirit communication tool to add to your arsenal then give these cards a shot. I also recommend Konxari Cards to the divination curious and would like to uncover a new type of cartomancy. To learn more about Konxari cards, visit The site contains the deck’s history, descriptions of the cards, and some videos of the cards in use and creative direction.

Blog, Decks, Reviews

Review: Archeon Tarot

Sample Images of the Archeon Tarot.

Deck by Timothy Lanz
Published by US Games Systems
ISBN 0 978-1-57281-488-2

The Archeon Tarot is a very personal deck. It contains the personal mythology and beliefs of visionary artist Timothy Lantz. The Archeon Tarot defines and explores Lantz’s symbolism and mythology in a very contemporary and graphic fashion. The card’s imagery is absolutely stunning. Lantz uses a digital canvas to create the cards and explore the very depths of his soul. Long before this tarot deck was even published, I had seen images of the cards on his website. And I was impressed with what I saw. The cards are a wonderful blend of dark, gothic, carnivale mixed with elements of the mystical and fantastic. But don’t let the darkness of the deck’s imagery fool you because within each card there is a strong sense of light and beauty. Each card’s image contains dazzling backgrounds and characters expressing realistic emotions; each layer thick with symbolism. Even the cards’ back include snippets of Lantz’s personal mythology and symbolism.

The little white book (LWB) that accompanies the deck helps guide the reader through Lantz’s world. It begins with a personal definition on his art. He defines the title of the deck, Archeon, as having a relationship with archeology, where “those who consult the Archeon Tarot sift through the layers of the cards, thus finding a way to harvest order and meaning from chaotic or seemingly unrelated events of life.” Which is a perfect description of what a tarot reader these days seeks to do. The LWB continues on to describe the cards, helping the reader peel away the mystery of these gorgeous cards. Lantz describes the Major arcana in detail beginning with quote that best fits the card’s mood. He goes on to describe the card’s imagery and offers suggestions for both upright and inverted meanings. All of which help to add and elaborate on the personal mythology and symbolism contained in the deck.

It’s hard to find any faults in this deck. I would have liked to see the minor arcana and court cards covered in detail just as much as the major arcana but this only begs for an expanded book to be written about this unique and creative deck. I strongly recommend this tarot deck for enthusiasts who admire the beauty of decks like the Vertigo Tarot or readers looking for a very modern interpretation of tarot. I know I am very much looking forward to working with The Archeon Tarot and exploring the personal mythology of Timothy Lantz and how it relates to my own life.

Blog, Decks, Reviews

Review: Dante Tarot

Images from the Dante Tarot

Artwork by Andrea Serio
Written by Giordano Berti
Published by Lo Scarabeo, distributed by Llewellyn Worldwide
ISBN 0-73870177-7

I love The Dante Tarot for its bright vivid colors and how they contrast to the dark symbolism many of the cards represent. I have always been a fan of Dante’s Inferno and when this deck got published, I immediately ordered a copy. The imagery does not disappoint me at all. This deck offers a rather interesting and unique perspective into tarot and its meanings. However, the design of the deck being radically nontraditional in suite and meanings, does tend to make me think that this tarot deck is better for collectors than for doing readings. It’s certainly not for the faint at heart.

The Dante Tarot is a non-traditional 78 card deck. Black backgrounds with the title (and/or number) of the card appear on top of every card. In typical Lo Scarabeo style, the names of the cards are printed in 4 other languages below the central artwork. The design of the card’s backing appears like a chess board, with a castle one one side with a person writing and a landscape with a knight riding a dark horse on the other.

Andrea Serio painted the artwork and it’s her unique style that makes this deck noteworthy. Done in watercolor and pencil, Serio’s images are rather dreamy and does a good job of representing Dante’s ideals. Even the box the cards are kept in contains original artwork. However, I found it hard to associate many of the images on the cards to their meanings (traditional or otherwise) as the arcana switch between ideas and people throughout the entire deck. The Dante Tarot also comes with 2 variations of the King of Fire (Swords). One depicting an beast-like character while the other is more scenic in nature. The pamphlet that comes with the deck does not give any explanations as to why they did this.

The deck deviates from a standard deck with its minor arcana names. It replaces Swords with Fire, Coins (pentacles) with Clouds, Wands with Bricks and the Cups with Lights. The deck comes with a LWB; according to it, the symbolism was changed to conform more to the standards Dante wrote about in his works, mainly The Divine Comedy. The second way the Dante Tarot deviates from standard decks is in it’s interpretations. It does not follow the Rider-Waite and Crowley interpretations of the cards. For example, the Fool, normally represented by most decks as new beginnings and adventures now becomes “Need. Eccentric behavior, recklessness, and material or psychological problems”.

The card stock used to print the cards on is thicker and glossier than other decks. At first I thought this was a good thing making the deck appear as if it would last longer. However, this made shuffling the cards harder to do without damaging the darker edges of the cards. The LWB seems to be designed as a reference guide only and it does not go into great depth on each card’s imagery and meaning. This was a bit disappointing since The Dante Tarot seems different from other decks. However, there are two different layouts inside the booklet.

Because of the dramatic changes in the meanings and the inability to quickly “connect” with the cards, they make the deck almost unapproachable for me as a reader to utilize quickly as a divination deck. It would take a great deal of studying this deck and practicing readings using the methods the LWB describes for one to adequately use the Dante Tarot for divination. I do, however, love the imagery and believe that it would make a great companion to those studying Dante and his Divine Comedy.

Blog, Decks, Reviews

Review: The Fey Tarot

The Fey Tarot box and sample cards from Llewellyn

Artwork by Mara Aghem
Written by Riccardo Minetti
Published by Lo Scarabeo, distributed by Llewellyn Worldwide
ISBN 0-7387-0280-3

The Fey Tarot distills the best of both worlds in tarot and the art of Japanese anime and recombines them into something new and exciting. Written by Riccardo Minetti, featuring the artwork of Mara Aghem, this deck is wonderful for both the young at heart and in age. The tarot presented here is lighthearted and kind, “bringing no shadows.” However, this lightness does not eliminate the darkness of traditional tarot decks; instead, The Fey Tarot subdues and twists the negative card meanings inwards. In doing so, this set becomes easily accessible and understood by children.

“The Fey Tarot is a deck full of life,” writes Riccardo Minetti, the author of the enclosed book. There cannot be anything closer to the truth. The bold colors of the cards contrast with the simplicity of the design, creating a uniquely magical and deftly detailed series of story-cards. Each whole card is alive; from the attention paid to the expression in each creature’s eyes to the way the fey’s world blends into the card. Using a combination of unique and bold color palettes, Mara Aghem brings the center focus of each card straight into the emotions the images evoke. Every creature’s face, every part of their actions, contains realistic emotions. Each card becomes a theater for the mind?s eye; where the fey perform on center stage teaching their lessons and showing their perspectives and views of the world and the meaning of life. The cards beg to be played with and explored.

The book is also a masterpiece. At 156 pages long, it delves deeper into the concepts and ideas that made this deck possible. It begins with the core foundations and beliefs of the artwork, going straight into designer Aghem’s mind showing how she developed the cards’ sketches and emotions. Then it introduces the mysterious history of the tarot, and how the fey are a perfect match for this divination tool. Lastly, the cards themselves are described in detail, Minetti adding layer upon layer of insight and meaning into the simple but intricate artwork. The book ends by showing 4 unique spreads to use the cards with, from simple 3 cards on up to complex 8 card designs.

The Fey Tarot is a great addition to tarot enthusiasts’ collections. This is the product of the first collaboration between Minetti and Aghem (hopefully not the last). This deck marks a new perspective on deck design for the new millennium. It also moves away from traditional meanings of the cards giving them a fresh and playful twist. I would also recommend this deck as a great way to introduce young children to the modern world of the tarot, as it presents a very accessible and non-threatening view of the tarot and its concepts.