You really don’t need to know shit about astrology to use this deck, trust me. I don’t even know the dates for the zodiac signs and I glean clear, consice information from it.
I almost don’t even know where to start when trying to convey my love for this deck. This is the Thneed of decks. It’s genuinely a “fine-thing-that-all-people need.”
First off, it’s an oracle deck with 42 amazingly illustrated cards in a gorgeous box. Don’t know what the fuck Hygeia means when you draw it in a reading? Never fear, there are three additional keyword cards.
For anyone interested in learning astrology, these cards are a great jumping off point.
(This, by the way, is the second, expanded edition of the deck. If you have the original first edition, your deck will not have all the cards seen here.)
This deck is made up of different groups of cards. Firstly: Zodiac signs and their constellations.
Isn’t that shit just to die for? I wish I could decorate my walls with it. Oh wait, you can.
Next up: planet cards.
If you know your Roman mythology, you probably already have a pretty good grasp on these cards’ meanings, but again, if not: keyword cards.
There are the nine planets of the Solar System (yes, Pluto is a goddamn planet), the Sun, and the Moon. And speaking of the Moon…
There are eight different moon phase cards. I nearly always have at least one of the moon phase cards sitting on my altar (which is a fantastic use for any of the cards in this deck). It could be the current moon phase, a moon phase’s energy I’m trying to harness, or a reminder that I have some shit planned for a specific moon phase coming up.
As I mentioned earlier, the second edition of the Arcana of Astrology has more cards than the first (as well as many of them reimagined), and these are the “new” cards: the asteroids and eclipses.
Also, have I mentioned that these cards are the exact same size as BlackandtheMoon’s other decks? Yep, these are perfect to shuffle into your Antique Anatomy Tarot or Oracle of Oddities for a little extra oomph in a reading.
If you give a fuck, these cards also photograph beautifully.
In conclusion, do you need this deck? Yes. Get it here.
This deck feels like a breezy, blue-skied day with freezing temperatures. It’s cold in that pure, clean way. Do you know what I mean?
I’ve been working with this deck for a while and the best word I have for its energy is “spacious.” Not like big echoing hallways, but like light years between planets. Fucking expansive.
I love this deck.
The first thing I’d like to talk about is this deck’s extra card: The Fountain.
Unnumbered but for an infinity symbol, it’s the 22nd card in its Major Arcana.
I’ll admit I was offended at first. I mean, who the fuck just adds a major? Who do these people think they are?
But then I read its description in the guidebook. It’s under and behind everything, that breath between The World and The Fool, the escape from the cycle, and now I wish all decks had it.
The artwork has a great style, combining organic human forms with hard geometrical shapes. It has a nice balance between light colored and dark colored cards.
There are too many decks out there populated by skinny blonde hipster humans, and thankfully, this is not one of them.
Here are some of my favorite majors:
While the images on the cards are very emotive, I would never use this deck for a relationship or “love” reading. Why? It doesn’t really give a fuck. It’s just so big and ancient that it’s not even that it doesn’t have time for your little bullshit, it’s that it doesn’t even notice it. This shit is a direct line to the Source, and you had better have one hell of an important question of you’re going to interrupt its work. It’s not pompous, it’s just busy.
Here are some of my favorite minors:
The cardstock is good. Not too flimsy, not too hard, and the size is…normal. I don’t really know what to say about cardstock unless I have something to bitch about. The silver edges on the deck are a great touch.
I fucking love the Labyrinth Tarot by Luis Royo. Although there are strange and jarring aspects to it (which is normally a good thing, but not necessarily with this one) I have a very strong bond with it.
That’s right. I have a strong bond with a deck of cards.
Okay, so pips aren’t that bad, right?
So wands are medeval club-things, and they’re green.
Pentacles are gold.
Swords are blue.
Which I kind of thought was strange because I might have made Cups blue…
Wait a minute. What the hell am I looking at right now? Why are the cups cards red and have fire in them?
I don’t fucking know. This shit is a mystery.
But sometimes, mysteries are good. Look at these mysterious ass knights. This deck has some of my very favorite knights.
The major arcana are sepia-toned and just amazing. They’re kind of scary, which I like.
I really like this representation of The Fool. The Fool is usually depicted as a young kid happily skipping off on a new adventure, but this Fool is an older man with facial hair. He thinks he’s ready. He’s researched. He’s studied. He thinks he’s badass so he’s wearing some horns. Little does he know…he’s about to learn some shit.
The court cards are fully and richly illustrated. And if you like titties in your tarot cards, you’ve come to the right place.
In fact, the Jack of Cups pictured there is the ONLY female in the deck with her breasts covered. Meanwhile, the King of Wands up there is only one of two men who are bare-chested. Do I have an issue with boobs? Nope. But it gives me pause because it just seems a little bit…
Anyway, the card stock is pretty standard. No complaints there.
They’re actually pretty small cards, which fit perfectly in my small hands. No complaints there.
COMPLAINT: the borders. I am not a person who freaks out over borders. But with amazingly detailed artwork on already small cards, why the fuck is an inch of the card taken up by a damn border?
There you have my only two complaints about this deck: the color of the Cups cards and the size of the pictures vs the cards.
I think my very favorite thing about this deck is the people’s expressions. (When you can see them.)
The Empress might be your mama, but she’s not in the mood for your bullshit today.
If this deck were a person, it would be a quiet man who, when he does speak, likes to say shocking and disturbing things just to see how you’ll react. But regardless of how you respond to him, you’ll think about what he said later.
A NOTE ABOUT PIPS
Don’t be afraid of pips.
Unless you’re a novice tarot reader, try this shit. It won’t kill you to look one up if you have to.
Ethel Jean is my Antique Anatomy Tarot deck, by Claire Goodchilde of Black and the Moon.
To make a long story short, this is my second review of this deck. The first one only covered the Major Arcana (which was released separately first) and you can read it here. It contains Ethel’s origin story. Then, once the deck expanded into a full 78 card deck, her name expanded too, so now she’s Ethel Jean and she needs another review.
I’m just going to dive right in without repeating myself, so if you haven’t read my first review of majors only, go read that shit.
NOW THE MINORS.
The suits are Water, Air, Earth, and Fire. Here are the Aces for your viewing pleasure:
I love these Aces. A single, skeletal arm reaching up, ready to pluck their respective element symbols right out of the air and start some shit. I like to imagine they’re poking up out of the dirt to grab your ankles.
There’s no shortage of unsettling shit. We’re at Ethel Jean’s house, after all, and one can never tell if she would like you to have a cup of tea or if she’d like to murder you and bury you in the overgrown flower bed.
Just like in the majors, there’s a great use of animal bones as well as human. Ethel Jean doesn’t give a fuck what or who is in her Sunday stew, thanks.
Ethel Jean may listen much more than she speaks, but that’s only because she doesn’t have to fucking talk forever to get her point across. She says what you need to hear and that’s that. Have a stale sandwich cookie from the clear plastic tub and get the hell out of here.
Who would have thought a toothless skeleton could be so goddamn cute?
Here are a few of my personal favorites:
My very, very favorite thing about this deck is the way the pictures are so descriptive without having to be busy.
I use this deck every single day at least twice. Once at the ass crack of dawn when I have to get up to get kids ready for school, and once before bed. It’s always good to check in with Ethel Jean.
WHERE CAN YOU GET THIS DECK?
Get it here. Trust me, you won’t fucking regret it.
Let’s take a moment to talk about the Tarot of Shadows.
This shit is fucking beautiful.
It’s got myths,
Unfortunately for anyone who doesn’t speak Russian, this deck and its little guidebook are…only in Russian.
However, with a handy translating app and a quick switch of your “keyboard” to Russian, it can be translated. Right?
Okay, so here’s the deal: this deck can be used two ways. This is a 78 card deck with the Major Arcana marked with Roman numerals at the top. And then…there are 52 other cards. These other cards aren’t broken down into suits, they are only numbered 23 through 78. In the guidebook, each card’s “classic tarot” counterpart is listed, and so it can be used as a “regular” tarot deck.
The pictures on the cards and the keywords on them have nothing to do with traditional tarot meanings. There is everything from “Necromancy” to “Job” to “Archimedes’ Mirror” to “peonies.” So it can also be used as an oracle deck. But good luck figuring out the meaning of “False Prophets and their Leader Python.”
Also, a warning if you haven’t already noticed: this is not a lightworkers’ deck. The very idea of this deck was to make an entire tarot deck based on The Devil card. It’s brimming with demons, poison, deadly sins, and just overall discomfort. I fucking love it.
If you want gentle reassurance, this is not the deck to consult. But if you want answers, sit your ass down, because you’re going to learn something today.
Introducing: this deck’s Sun card.
The card backs feature a goat’s head and a pentagram.
If this deck were a person, it would be a quiet young man with dark shaggy hair. He shrugs noncommittally in response to your questions, but if you can get him to look at you when you speak, the truth is easily read on his face.
Do I recommend this deck? YES. If you have patience and a bit of tarot experience under your belt.
Don’t even act like you didn’t just come here for the pictures.
Now, THIS REVIEW WILL BE SPOILERY. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
This deck has literally leapt from the pages of Maggie Stiefvater’s book series: The Raven Cycle. If that turned you off of this deck, from the very bottom of my heart, fuck you. This deck is absolutely full little pieces of the books, placed neatly into the cards’ meanings. Can you use it without reading the books? Sure. But why the fuck would you?
It comes with a guidebook, BUT THERE ARE STILL FOUR OTHERS OUT THERE TOO.
Okay, so, I’m about to say some weird shit: this guidebook is absolutely perfect for the beginning tarot reader. It’s clear, it’s witty, and it’s memorable.
That being said, I would not recommend the actual deck itself to a complete beginner. Especially a beginner who has never read The Raven Cycle books. The only reason being that the artwork on the cards is…sparse.
There just isn’t too much to remind a novice reader (or any reader for that matter) of the card’s meaning.
There’s an easy fix for this, though. READ THE FUCKING BOOKS.
Arguably, most striking thing about the deck is Maggie’s use of hands throughout it. These hands, marked with the suits of the tarot, belong to a young man who has sacrificed his freedom to become the eyes, ears, and hands of a rather fussy ley line in order to save his friends.
His hand first appears as The Magician, clenches with Strength, and protectively cups the little glow of The Sun. His hands dominate the Swords suit and grace several of the Wands cards. The power comes from the simplicity of these cards.
The energy I get from this deck is decidedly masculine while simultaneously feeling very inward-focused. A perfect example of this is The Sun card. Rather than a big beaming Sun brightening an entire city, this is a private little light, cradled in the hands.
Also, there is no shortage of Ravens, flames, and other strange, quiet things. I, personally, find this deck great for shadow work.
There are some cards that are very pointedly referring to a certain character from the books. Here are a couple of Richard Gansey III.
There are also some fascinating cards whose artwork kind of goes together. Check out the Four and Five of Wands.
And look at this bullshit progression.
Additionally, I normally fucking hate court cards, but these are beautiful.
This deck is gorgeous, insightful, and has one hell of a guide with it.
Today, let’s talk about The Shaman’s Oracle deck. Just so that you’re aware, I have an issue with this one.
Let’s get the boring shit out of the way first. The card stock is glossy but somewhat sticky. They almost create a vacuum between one another, and that makes them a bitch the shuffle. They’re not super big cards, but they are larger than “normal” sized tarot cards. The box is sturdy, but much larger than necessary.
The bottom half of this box is completely empty. There are little shelves inside the box that hold the deck and the book firmly in place halfway up the thing, and half of the book and deck are actually enclosed in the lid.
Alright, now for the interesting shit. I love the theme of this deck: every card is an exact replica of cave paintings from all over the world. They were redrawn (I would assume for clarity), cast in special lighting, and have become the cards you see here.
Are those not beautiful as fuck? Their meanings are pretty straightforward too, like Foresight, Birth, Tradition, Joy, and Loss. Now, if this was as far as the deck went, if the book was only full of card descriptions and background on the art, I would be perfectly fine.
However, it’s not. All of a sudden, shit starts to get sketchy. The deck is broken into five sections of ten cards each (plus two additional bullshit cards): Ancestors, Hunters, Dancers, Shamans, and Spirits. My issue with this is that there’s really no reason for the sections. I would get it if, say, all of the Hunter cards had to do with conflict, but all of the cards seem to be randomly flung into sections just for the hell of it.
These sections are additionally given elements and “caves,” which we’ll talk about in a minute. Ancestors are Earth element and Earth Cave. Hunters are Water element and River Cave. Dancers are Fire element and Hearthfire Cave. Shamans are Air element and Winds Cave. Spirits are Aether element and Ice Cave. Again, however, all Dancer cards do not have anything in common, all Shaman cards do not have similarities to one another, etc.
It’s almost as if the makers of this deck feared simplicity. “Is anyone going to take this shit seriously if it’s so simple? Nah, let’s spice it up a little. Let’s just barf words into the guidebook, making sections and separations and turn it all into a big tangle of horseshit and potential.”
The most offensive part of this Oracle, to me, is this:
I don’t have a problem with new spreads. I love new spreads. Please, show me a spread that works well with your oracle deck. But not fucking this. There are five “Cave” spaces, see them? Each is a cave that a section of the cards belongs to. The instructions in the book say to shuffle the deck well and place a card in each cave. Well, okay, but…can any card go in any cave? Nothing tells me to divide the deck into sections. So can a Hunter card, which is associated with the Cave of Rivers, go in the Cave of Ice if I draw it first? What if I don’t draw a single Shaman card in my five cards? What goes in the Cave of Winds?
Oh, look. They’ve included a little spread map for this bullshit spread.
Potentially the weirdest part of this deck are the Journeyer and Companion cards.
These two little bastards are to be pulled from the deck before using it and placed in the “palm” area of the “hand-shaped” Bullshit Spread. (Because apparently it’s still too simple.) The Journeyer represents the seeker and The Companion is your “spiritual guide.” Is this not turning into a game of fucking telephone? I ask a question of the Journeyer, who asks the Companion who apparently runs around to each cave to ask for opinions, then reports back to the Journeyer, who in turn tells me what the Companion said the other cards said. Um…I AM the journeyer and the cards are my goddamn “companion.” I don’t need these cards. They probably fuck up the messages anyway.
In conclusion: these cards are awesome, but fuck the spread. And the Journeyer. And the Companion. And the Caves.
When I, personally, bust out an oracle deck, it’s to make my life easier. If I don’t want to have to sift through the layers of the Tarot, I grab an oracle deck and I expect a quick, clean answer. Ignoring the haphazard classifications and the Bullshit Spread, I just use these as a simple, straightforward deck.
Using them like I want to use them, they’re fucking brilliant. “Sorrows, bitch. Loss. Frustration. Lies. Have a nice day. Oh wait, and Conflict.”
The artwork, though, almost has the ability to alter your state of consciousness. Staring hard, not “at” but “into,” the cards causes some weird-ass hallucinations. You get a faint waft of damp fur and wood smoke, and the firelight starts to flicker on the cave walls. Something whispers for you to come home, but you’re already sitting at your kitchen table, and it makes your heart sad. It’s some powerful shit.
Also, some of the cards crack me up. I’m probably looking at them wrong.
Here I see a silly looking rabbit with its eyebrows on fleek, an ancient badminton game, and a cartoon witch sharing a broom with a kid wearing a brontosaurus hat.