alchem1.jpg (18285 bytes)The Alchemical Tarot                Review by Michele Jackson

If you are interested in purchasing this deck, click here.

This is a deck/book set by Rosemary Ellen Guiley ("The Mystical Tarot") and Robert Place. The drawing style reminds me of engraved plates used to illustrate old books, only they are in color. Many of the pictures were in fact inspired from illustrations from old esoteric texts which the artist credits in the explanations for each card. The colors are of medium to deep intensity and each scene is framed with a border consisting of columns and pediments. There are a lot of animals in this deck. For instance, The Fool shows a rabbit, The Emperor carries a bird of prey and The Hermit has a Raven on his shoulder. Other examples abound.

The court cards are Lady, Knight, Queen and King. The symbolism in the Minors is quite different from the traditional. Each Minor has the number and elemental glyph written in small print somewhere on the card. It makes them unobtrusive to the art, but you have to look a bit sometimes to see what card you are dealing with as the scenes do not always make it obvious. Overall the art is excellent, though I am unfamiliar with much of the symbolism.

The book is good. Getting ready to write this review I glanced through it and actually found it quite interesting. The first 70 pages discuss Alchemy and seems to be a good ground level introduction. The card descriptions have a section describing the symbolism of the card followed by an interpretation. There is a small section at the end with "Alchemical Spreads" which are actually variations of common spreads such as the three card and an "Alchemical Celtic Cross" which uses three extra cards at the end because the number 13 is a "power number" alchemically speaking. The spread descriptions are rather skimpy IMO. There is also a short section on meditation consisting of four pages which rather skimpy as well and doesn't offer anything new. The book is 175 pages and is in paperback.

alchem2.jpg (16715 bytes)The box is a slip sleeve affair with a well for the cards, though the cards will flop around in the box if you take the book out. One thing I liked about the box is that there are pictures of 5 cards on the back allowing you to see the deck before you buy it. This is a practice I wish more publishers would adapt. The art, as I said previously is quite good, so they could afford to show it off on the box I guess.

I will probably not read with this deck as my knowledge of Alchemy is scant, but if one had some previous knowledge in the area, they might find this deck interesting. As I said previously, there is a lengthy introduction to Alchemy in the book, but I don't think it is full enough to give one the background needed to use the deck comfortably. There is a Bibliography in the book with other recommended titles on Alchemy and Jungian psychology, which also plays a part in the interpretation of this deck.

If you are interested in purchasing this deck, click here.

Images Copyright (c) 1995 Robert Place
Review Copyright 1996 Michele Jackson
Page Copyright 2000 Diane Wilkes