Sunday, March 4, 2012
Deck reviews: Mary-el Tarot, Simply Deep Tarot
The Mary-el Tarot (deck-and-book boxed set)
by Marie White
Schiffer Publishing, Ltd
Deck: 78 cards(11-3/4 x 6 x 1-7/8)
Book: 192 pp.
Simply Deep Tarot (deck-and-book boxed set)
by Chanel Bayless (art by James Battersby)
Schiffer Publishing, Ltd
Deck: 78 cards (3-1/4 x 5-1/4)
Book: 96 pp.
reviewed by Eva Yaa Asantewaa, hummingwitch
As I make my way through Marie White's stunning Mary-el Tarot, I feel as if I am in foreign terrain without benefit of language skills. My head spins. My belly feels queasy. The ground seems to slip beneath my less-than-nimble feet. Where am I?
But that's only today.
When I first laid eyes on Mary-el, a few weeks ago, I fell forward with a sense of relief. Oh, my goodness, I'm home! Here was everything I cared about, a language I remembered. Home, home, home!
I believe that both reactions to this unusual Tarot deck are correct and, for all I know, will continue to alternate as I go down the years with Mary-el--for I am sure this deck will stay close at hand for the rest of my days.
White has given us an oracle to shake us to the core but also move us closer to who we are. If there is little that is comfortably familiar here--at least, in terms of conventional Tarot imagery, if not the Arcana's basic archetypal, numerical and elemental breakdown--there is much that the soul will immediately understand. My instinctual and emotional attraction to Mary-el derives from this soul place. My intellectual attraction derives from my past exposure to shamanism, Kabbalah, Jungian psychology (and Carl Jung's Red Book) and similar systems of transformation.
If Rider Waite and its many kin have become too tame in your hands, if airy-fairy imagery looks lovely enough but doesn't quite do it for you, consider the formidable Mary-el. White gave her valuable guidebook, part of this set, the subtitle, "Landscapes of the Abyss," and she reminds us that Nietzsche warned that as you gaze into the abyss, "the abyss gazes also into you." Denizens of these landscapes, rendered in White's compelling art, stand ready to challenge and activate you.
Do you think you know The Fool? How foolish! White's unexpected gambit brings us face to face with a masked, nude man, attended by a swirl of dragons, butterflies and energy, whose risky stumble could be the first step in a long process of liberation and fulfillment. I guarantee you that, if you let this Fool fall into you, things will not get any more soothing.
But fall he must, for this is a Tarot of initiation, best withheld from querents likely to be offended by frontal nudity or those who prefer to stay on the surface of mundane questions. If you're lucky to be reading for anyone who's more game, you could introduce Mary-el a bit at a time. I could see drawing one card from this deck for a powerful overview of a reading based in a more conventional deck. Then again, you could just go for it. Why not?
White concludes her book with a series of suggested layouts: a three-card Daily Reading spread ("Within," "Without" and "Advice"), a Relationship spread, a Yes/No spread, a Past-Life spread and the Tetractys Spread, a ten-card pattern with positions such as "What the Reality is," "Advice from your devil" and "Advice from your angel."
In her guidebook, White deals with heavy and complex material but in the most straightforward way possible. This is an intelligent manual that could stand on its own but, happily, this excellent deck and book stand together.
Wisewoman and provocateur, Marie White is, herself, a chalice holding passion for Tarot, and it has made her a passionate Tarot artist and writer. Add this deck and its guidebook to your list of class acts in Tarot. It is well worth its price--and then some.
If Tarot decks have feelings--and, in all seriousness, some of us veteran readers might have come to wonder this--Chanel Bayless' Simply Deep Tarot might have felt left out as I poured over and ooo-ed and ahh-ed over the more wildly dramatic Mary-el, which had arrived at my door at the same time. If I were a Tarot deck in this situation, I would have worked myself into a huff, repacked myself in my package and shipped myself home to Mother...I mean, home to my publisher! So unfair!
I have to admit that the intense experience of White's art might have spoiled me, at least at first, for James Battersby's sly cartoons. But, really, why shouldn't these more casual images not also speak to something within myself? And it turns out that they do.
Some make me giggle. Some make me sigh. And some also beckon on a journey of wonder. They are for my Inner Kid who does not deserve to be left out of anything.
Today, I will let her swing on the big Star that Battersby has suspended over a pool of water. Tomorrow, she might sit to lunch with the Queen of Coins who has a basket of bread and fruit and the Queen of Cups who will bring a pot of tea. And when the mysterious boatman in the Six of Swords rows her "out to sea"--hah! where did that flowing bathtub faucet come from, James?--I will await the stories of her rich imagination. She's a good sailor and an even better tall-tale teller.
Simply Deep Tarot deck adheres to conventional Tarot structure and Rider Waite nomenclature. Bayless' guidebook--bound like the Mary-el book but in miniature like the much-loathed Little White Books that come with many Tarot decks--starts off by instructing Tarot readers to venture deep into the cards. Bayless says that she sought to offer images that would be simplistic--her word, not mine. She is suspicious of the interference of subconscious emotionalism in readings and advises a familiar chakra-based method of grounding and elevating one's consciousness. She writes that this will help the Tarotist to read with more emotional detachment and clarity.
Personally, I have never found the lower chakras and their filtering of information to be a hindrance or distraction and have never seen the need to circumvent emotional intelligence/information during readings for myself or others. The solar plexus is the seat of clairsentience and can be safely mined for information and understanding as long as one is the master of one's psychic/intuitive abilities, not suffering at the mercy of them. Moreover, I question how a deck with such charming, animation-like images that could appeal to children could be effective in steering us clear of the realm of human feelings or that Battersby's illustrations line up with the concept of something deep, "simply" or not.
None of these quibbles would prevent me from just--yes, simply--enjoying this deck, looking at a card and, as Bayless suggests, seeing what grabs my attention and what that detail or details might tell me about my question, and allowing a stream of interconnected associations to spill out. For goodness sake, that's how I do Tarot! I do that with all kinds of decks, and I think it will be fun to do that here with Bayless' and Battersby's creation.
Marie White's Mary-el Web site
Chanel Bayless Web site
(c)2012, Eva Yaa Asantewaa, hummingwitch