Hanson-Roberts Tarot by Mary Hanson-Roberts; Instructions by Stuart R. Kaplan
Review by Maighread

I originally bought the Hanson-Roberts (HR) deck because I recognized it as the deck a reader used at the first tarot reading I had ever received. I had been quite nervous at the time, my brain full of stereotypes and Hollywood movie images of tarot cards, and I remember feeling calmed by the gentle colored-pencil artwork of the cards, which were not at all what I had expected.

The deck itself is published by US Games Systems, Inc., and has the standard 78 cards: 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana. The Minor Arcana is divided into the four suits of Swords, Rods, Cups, and Pentacles. The Court Cards are ranked Page, Knight, Queen and King. Hanson-Roberts designates Strength as VIII and Justice as XI, stating her choice to follow Waite. The titles for each card are listed in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish, and there is a blank card that the reader can choose to use for the Unknown. The deck size is small - 2 3/8" X 4" - and easy to handle.

As a performing artist, I can't help but speak of the HR deck in filmic terms. The images simply strike me as close-ups shots of the Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) deck. This different style of editing, if you will, offers a more intimate feeling than the 'wide shots' of the RWS, bringing the reader into the story on a more personal level, making you feel like you're right there.

This deck is an easy adaptation if one already knows the RWS deck, as that's what it's admittedly based on. I do miss some of the symbology and movement of the RWS that gets lost in the close-ups, as I often take an esoteric approach to my readings. For example, there is no small dog at the heels of The Fool in this deck. Also, the Knights of Swords and Pentacles in RWS are facing to the right of the reader, with the Knight of Pentacles standing still and the Knight of Swords charging; in HR, they're both 'spiking the lens', or facing the reader.

The publisher includes the standard small booklet (LWB) which gives a brief history of tarot, biographical information on the artist, upright and reversed meanings for each card, and a quick example of a ten card variation of the Celtic Cross. For a beginner, the small book alone isn't enough to go beyond meditation purposes, but at the present, there is no larger accompanying book.* However, the beginning student will easily find books based on the RWS deck that will also apply to the HR.

Overall, I do enjoy the familiar and friendly feeling of the deck, and find that I use it for readings of a more personal nature than my RWS. There's a depth and intimacy I receive from the closeness of the images that makes it seem like an old friend.

Hanson-Roberts Tarot by Mary Hanson-Roberts
Publisher: US Games Systems, Inc., 1985
ISBN#: 0880790792


* Laura Clarson's Tarot Unveiled is illustrated with the Hanson-Roberts deck.