Tarot Arc-en-Ciel

Helene Delvaux

Let me begin by saying that I may not be the best person in the world to write this review. There is a cd and book (both in French) available for use with this deck that I chose not to purchase. Partially, this is because I donít parle Francais fluently. The main reason, however, is that this Majors-Only deck sans book/cd costs a whopping $42.00 (plus shipping). I decided to be thrifty and not go for the package deal (which costs $95.00--plus shipping). But that does leave me ill-equipped to discuss the deck in comparison to someone who has all the accoutrements.

My deck does include a card that speaks briefly about the deck and artist. With the help of a French-English dictionary, I translated it to the best of my ability. In summary, this deck is unlike ones you buy in chain storesóthe aims of this deckís creator come from her soul, as opposed to all those tarot deck creators who are callow capitalists motivated by greed, no doubt. Helene Delvaux approaches Tarot as a religion; she wants to know all. She approaches tarot with deference, but not servility; she respects the traditions, yet is also open to innovation. Tarot is a spiritual journey, and if you want to explore it to find out about life, or use it as a passage of initiation, Helene is the tour leader for youóand these cards are your Tarot Mecca.

Yes, Iím paraphrasing a bitóand adding a soupcon of sarcasm for flavor. But Iím not really taking all that many liberties. If Helene is travelling a spiritual journey, she ainít going as a humble submissive.

Arc-en-ciel means "rainbow," and these oversized cards have borders that echo that theme; they are concentric lines of color beginning with red-orange and emanating outward into yellow, green, blue, and purple. Brownish black is the final rim. The Bateleur (Magician) wears a sweeping multi-colored scarf, and the rainbow colors float in the breeze in an arc. The World card androgyne has a longer version of the neckpiece, possibly connoting a greater command of magic. The flames in the Maison Dieu (Tower) card are more variegated than youíd expectóthe obigatory reds, oranges and yellows are outlined in white and whitish-blueóa primary colored-rainbow.

Other cards that could have included rainbows are The Lovers, The Hermit, Temperance, The Star, and especially The Fool. Artistically and symbolically, these cards seem to cry out for rainbows. Alas, they cry in vain.

The deck itself is done in mostly pastel and primary colors. The art is somewhat primitive in style, and doesnít really "speak" to me, though I really like The Moon and Justice. Strength appeals to me because I like the use of the Unicorn as the gentling creature and the red-caped woman as the tamer and the tamed. I recently read a fascinating novel, The Pact by Jody Picoult. It is the story of an intense love between two childhood friends who were raised together and the sticky issues of emotional incest. The Sun card provides an unintentional but interesting elucidation of that book.

I find that the men donít look very manly. I donít mean that as a slur upon feminine-looking men, but on the artistís lack of skill. I, too, draw the female form more realistically than I do the maleóthatís why I express myself using collage.

The backs of this deck are reversible, and I find them starkly striking in their two-color simplicity.

Like most European decks, the packaging is elegant. The deck comes in a slipsleeve that is the same shade of maroon that backs the cards, with two black and white fragments of The Magician and Temperance. It opens like a book, and the cards are nestled in something that resembles an envelope on the right hand side. Besides the 22 cards, there is the introductory card I described above, and a deck title card. Also enclosed is a slightly larger card that is the most refined order-form Iíve ever seen. Perhaps itís the French language that gives it that je ne sais quoi, that certain something.

Iím a Francophile, what can I say?

I donít think of myself as cheapóI paid more money for the Majors-Only Tarot de Saint Jacques and was glad to do so. Another Majors-Only deck Iíd love to pay lots of money for is the Fine Art Tarot. But I donít find this deck appealing enough to justify the price to myself, though if it were a 78 card deck, I could defend my acquisition better.

I recommend this deck to anyone who finds the art compelling or is a tarot collector. It may well be that the book and cd are enlightening, but Iíd only recommend buying it to those whose wallets are less "enlightened" than mine.

Tarot Arc-en-Ciel
Available through Yves Daniel (Ydaniel.Atol@wanadoo.fr)

Diane Wilkes

Review and Page Copyright 2000 Diane Wilkes