Jolanda den Tredjes Tarot by
Rosie Bjoerkman and Hans Arnold (Artist)
Review by Morwenna Morasch
Rosie Bjoerkman is said to be Sweden's best known witch and possesses her own witch school in Stockholm. Jolanda den Tredje (Jolanda the Third) is her magickal name. She has incorporated many of her own teachings into the deck, but unfortunately, there is no little white book (LWB) with the cards, just one card explaining what the Tarot in general is. Rosie has published a full volume on her deck, but unfortunately, it’s only available in Swedish.
The cards are normally sized and divided in 22 Major and 56 Minor Arcana. Suits are Mynt (Coins), Bägare (Cups), Svärds (Swords) and Stavar (Staves). Justice is 8 and Strength is 11. Court cards are King, Queen, Prince and Princess. The Minor Arcana have Swedish keywords on the bottoms.
The artwork by Hans Arnold was published as a Majors-only deck in black and white first under the name of Haxens Tarot (Witches Tarot). This is the full 78 card version illuminated with coloured pencils. The artist stated in an interview he wanted to incorporate the old symbols Rosie Bjoerkman had researched with a modern appeal. His style definitely shows the Fantasy/Sci-Fi specialization, especially where it comes to bizarre and unexplainable little pebble-creatures or comic-like characters. Some of the pictures remind me faintly of the Sternenmadchen deck. Artists and writers that are quoted to have lended inspiration to Bjoerkman are Vicki Nobel (Motherpeace Tarot), Aleister Crowley, Gerd Ziegler and Jamie Sams (Medicine Cards, Sacred Path cards). The backs show a fairylike libella holding up a full yellow moon and are not reversible. The whole feeling of the cards is that of an artistic children's book, maybe one of the kind which is actually directed at adults. Some cards are outright hilarious, like the Ten of Coins, which shows a kangaroo in a tuxedo on a winner’s podium, with a gold medal around its neck, surrounded by balloons and flying hats. On the Two of Staves, two jesters are stick-fighting over a hedgehog.
Without the LWB, I tried to find my way through the cards just based on observation. It was a fun task, because the images resonate with me in a very uplifting way, and the meaning is usually quite explicit and lucid. However, I miss being able to look up some of the more obscure symbols, because the images are really rich and done with a lot of loving detail.
The Major Arcana seem to have conventional meanings, but many of them are shown with a special twist. The Lovers are a younger Emperor and Empress, easily recognizable by his coat of arms and the pattern of bees (symbols of protection of family and home) on her dress. A trickster Moon is surrounded by faeries, looks at a unicorn by his side and watches over a labyrinth containing fish, thus maintaining the proximity to water.
I especially like the three-headed hellhound Cerberus the Hermit is leading and its reference to Hecate, the goddess of wisdom. The notion that the lantern of the rather emotional, spiritual and empiric wisdom of the Hermit -versus the more formal knowledge of the Hierophant- reaches to the underworld is a good addition to the card. The Hermit has often before reminded me of Hecate and her torch. Spider (traditionally linked with fate), snake and owl (also sacred to Hecate) are more wisdom symbols incorporated into the card. The Hermit wears a hood and his face lies in the shadow – we can only guess whether he’s male or female, or whether it matters at all.
Other cards are less self-explanatory. The High Priestess completely baffles me – the only symbol I can recognize and connect with my understanding of the card is the Egyptian headdress adorned with a crescent and full moon. She uses a lyra as a bow, which I’ve never seen anywhere before, a camel rests in front of her large skirt patterned with oak leaves, and in the front row we find giggling peas in a shell and an egg-like structure...
Many of the meanings of the fully illustrated Minor Arcana stray from the RWS standard, both in depiction and interpretation. For example, the Four of Cups shows a pregnant woman, lost in a reverie, sitting beneath a blossoming tree with singing birds. The baby inside the womb is visible, sleeping contently. The keyword to go with the card is Patience. In RWS, we also find a youth sitting beneath a tree, but it’s a male and while both figures seem self-absorbed, in the Jolanda deck there is change and growth as opposed to stasis. It is just not time for the change yet to manifest itself, but it is there already. No action is necessary to bring it on. So, the Jolanda deck already determines the time of tranquillity and introspection as good – RWS leaves this more open.
Or let's go back to the aforementioned kangaroo in the Ten of Cups. The keyword here is mastership. While RWS shows material security or solid financial grounds, Jolanda, accomplishment and triumph – something probably well earned, but definitely not permanent.
Reading with the deck actually went better than expected, probably because I like the artwork and find it quite suggestive. The deck is enchanting in character, though probably some of the individual symbols are difficult to decipher without knowledge of Bjoerkman’s teachings. Everyone with a storytelling style in their readings should be able to handle it well, though I’d still like to have a LWB. For collectors, this will make a fine addition to their collections.
I got my copy from a colleague in Sweden, but you could try to contact the publisher for purchasing information:
Fischer & Co.
111 43 Stockholm
Fischer & Co., Stockholm, Sweden
See all Major Arcana on Hans Arnold’s website
Morwenna Nadja Morasch's first encounter with the tarot took place 20 years ago, when she bought Ferguson's Tarot of the Witches in a novelty store out of curiosity. She was immediately hooked and presently owns a collection of about 60 decks. Morwenna has taken classes with two excellent German teachers, Pekny and Banzhaf, and also studies astrology. Spiritually, she follow a Witch's path with a close relationship to the Faerie folk, and has written a book linking faerie magic with the Tarot, Begegne Deiner Fee. View Morwenna's private homepage here.