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English Magic Tarot - tarot decks

Playing Cards
Playing Cards -> Tarot decks

Price: US $14.45

ProductID: alt930

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About this item
  • The English Magic Tarot is a 78 card deck set in the 16th century period of English history, known as a golden age for
  • magic and mysticism. The cards feature deceptively simple, non-traditional Tarot scenes with hidden occult-related
  • riddles, illustrated in a comic-book style.

Name English Magic Tarot
Creators Rex Van Ryn, Steve Dooley, Andy Letcher
Publisher Weiser Books 2016
Deck Type Tarot Deck
Cards 78
Suits Cup, Swords, Wands, Coins
Court Cards Page, Knight, Queen, King
Card Size 3.00 x 4.75 in. = 7.62cm x 12.07cm
Card Language English
Card Back Non-reversible
Back Design Mirrored image of two hands, one covering a red bordered card and the other a blue bordered card.
Companion Material 149-page guidebook is included with the deck, with information on English magic, the period of English history the deck is set in, card descriptions and meanings, and how to use the cards.

The English Magic Tarot is an unusual and engaging deck full of deceptively simple images that challenge the Seeker to look closer and think more deeply about what they are seeing, learning, and divining.

The card’s illustrations are set in the period of time starting with the reign of King Henry VIII and finishing at the end of the Elizabethan era, approximately 1509 - 1603. Under the reign of Elizabeth I in particular the study and practice of magic thrived. The creators of the English Magic Tarot (EMT) specify that English magic is a branch of natural magic that focuses on local lore and phenomena. Natural magic seeks to identify and utilise disparate elements of nature and unify it with 'academic’ occult knowledge, in order to bring about a desired result. Particular attention is paid to this unification of High (academic) Magic and Low (folk) Magic and how it has taken effect on the development of tarot. Keeping this in mind the creators of the EMT have shorn a lot of esoterica from their tarot images – complex imagery being less of a gateway to in understanding, and more of a barrier.

The card images have been created with the idea that as they tell stories, then the same characters may appear in different images/situations, or that several cards may depict the same as scene from differing points of view. Influenced by English artist Kit Williams and his famous puzzle/cipher books Masquerade, and The Bee on the Comb – the cards are far from the simple images they initially appear to be.

Hidden in the illustrations are various riddles for the Seeker to uncover, along with appropriate phrases and keywords in several alphabets including mirror script, Ogham, Futhark Runes, and the Enochian Alphabet of Dr John Dee.

This is a 78 card fully illustrated tarot deck. It has a 22 card Major Arcana with no changes to titles, and adhering to the order established by AE Waite. The Minor Arcana consists of 56 cards divided into four suits – Cups, Swords, Wands, and Coins. Each suit has 10 number cards and 4 Court cards – Page, Knight, Queen, and King.

The cards measure 75 x 120 mm which makes them fairly average in size for a tarot deck. The card stock is excellent, being light and flexible, yet sturdy. The face of the card has a smooth finish, however the back has the faintest of toothy texture. The finish in general is low sheen. The cards have a nice weight to them, they sit well in one's hands, and they are easy to shuffle.

The print quality is excellent. The dynamic comic-book art style of illustration is well reproduced with clean crisp lines. While the artist’s palette is quite limited, presumably in homage to the comic-book art from which this style is drawn, the colours are nonetheless rich and strong. The suits of the Minor Arcana are denoted by their colour-coded borders – rust brown for Wands, tobacco brown for Swords, ‘grise’ for Cups, and olive green for Coins. Other colours which predominate in this deck include cream, ruby red, mustard yellow, grey, moss green, pumpkin orange.

Rex Van Ryn is a comic book artist who has bought his skills to these dynamic images, while the bold palette is supplied by Steve Dooley. The Arcus Arcanum Tarot was drawn in a similar style – recollecting the heyday of serial comics such as Prince Valiant and Flash Gordon. While some illustrations pay homage to Pamela Coleman Smith’s tarot artwork, there is no rigid adherence to her imagery, indeed there are many charmingly original interpretations given in the English Magic Tarot.

While the Minor Arcana have colour-coded borders, the Major Arcana are borderless images, with numbers and titles contained in a narrow box at the bottom of the image. The picture on the back of the cards shows two hands atop 2 different coloured cards. This is not strictly a reversible image, however there is enough symmetry in it to avoid being a distraction.

The cards come packaged in a solid cardboard box with liftoff lid. The box is narrow enough to fit into a large shoulder bag or backpack, and made to withstand the rigours of travel. The cards, divided into two piles sit in a well inside the box, with the guidebook on top of them.

The 149 page guidebook is written by the English Magic Tarot deck’s creators Rex Van Ryn, Steve Dooley, and Andy Letcher. The Introduction aims to acquaint the Seeker with the period of English history in which the deck is set. It contains a sizeable explanation of what English magic actually is. There is a discussion, albeit brief, about Alan Moore and his influence on storytelling, art, magic; as well as a broader discussion of stories as personal histories.

This is followed by a (for once) interesting description of the genesis of the English Magic Tarot deck. Signposts on the Way introduces the Seeker to the cards. Each Major Arcana card has 2 pages of information – a black-and-white reproduction of the card, a brief phrase that summarises the essence of the card, a Description, Interpretation, and divinatory meaning.

The Description is simply a few lines describing the image in the card. The Interpretation describes the less tangible qualities depicted in the cards – the emotions, the thoughts, the possible identity of the character in the cards, what the card represents, and an analysis of any significant symbols. Reading – this is the divinatory meaning, and they are given for both upright and reversed cards. These interpretations are an interesting melding of both traditional meanings and modern applications of the traditional meaning, as well as sage advice. Minor Arcana cards have the key phrase, Description, Interpretation, and Reading – however these are all considerably briefer than those of the Major Arcana.

Part Three – Using the Cards offers some advice about practices and rituals for reading the cards. Included here are 4 layouts including the Two Ravens Spread, Three Sisters Spread, The Prism Spread, and The Broadside Spread.

In the final section of the book the authors share a technique for building The Memory Theatre, which is a version of Sherlock Holmes’ Memory Palace, only for magic and tarot cards. This is quite a detailed practice, and one that, to my knowledge, has not been proposed for tarot card practitioners before.

This is an energetic and potent deck full of uncommon wisdom and guidance. Part of its power lies in the sleight-of-hand imagery, and part lies in its ability to identify and articulate issues and ideas. A great deal of thought and knowledge has gone into creating this fascinating and highly original tarot.

If you love classic comic book illustrations or are drawn to puzzles and ciphers then this deck will prove to be almost irresistible. If you are interested in English Magic then this deck is something that you may wish to look into.

While the English Magic Tarot would not be the easiest deck for a novice to use, due to its lack of traditional imagery, anyone who has got the fundamentals of tarot reading down will find this deck intriguing and easy to master. There is a lot to discover in this original and interesting tarot deck.

Combine shipping is possible.

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