Merryday Tarot Review by Lee A. Bursten
This is a new deck which is very unusual. When I first looked through it, I disliked it and thought I would put it away and never take it out again, but after a second look its starting to grow on me.
Its published by what I assume is a small publisher in Salem, Massachusetts. The cards have black borders with white labels bearing the card titles, keywords, Roman numerals, and a numerological combination number (i.e. 46/1, 46 meaning the 46th card of 78, and the 1 being what 46 reduces down to, I assume). The card stock is a little thin and there are small imperfections on the top and bottom edges, as if the cards had not been cut very well.
Several of the Majors have been renamed, and there is a completely new Court system. The pictures are very elaborate, very colorful watercolors. The Majors are fantasy-themed, with some being whimsical while others are more serious in tone. The Minors are more down-to-earth but still somewhat whimsical. For example, the figures on all the cards bear pointed ears, where the ears are visible.
The Majors that have been renamed are:
Fool = Fool, Wizard Hanged Man = Journeyman
Magician = Apprentice Death = Metamorphosis
High Priestess = Oracle Temperance = Time Lord
Hierophant = Mentor Devil = Tempter
Chariot = Student
Hermit = Teacher
Wheel of Fortune = Lady Destiny
The artist, Louisa Poole, obviously had very specific things in mind when she designed this deck, but whatever her ideas are must remain a mystery, as the publishers have not bothered to provide us with either a book or even a little white booklet to help us understand her symbolism. This is especially surprising given the decks retail price of $24.95 (although I got it for 30% discount at amazon.com; with shipping it came to $21.42--Editor's note: it's no longer available through amazon.com).
All that is provided with the deck is a white card which opens up. The first section of this card is entitled "The Four Seasons and You," and is simply a listing of the four seasons with various correspondences such as compass point, element, archangel, elemental, etc. The rest of the card merely lists the cards and their keywords, which is not at all helpful, especially as the keywords are already listed on the cards. The publishers could have used the same space to provide a short statement from the artist as to the general themes she wove into her deck. I usually dislike keywords printed on cards, but in this case Im grateful to have at least this clue to the artists intentions.
The deck seems to be informed by fantasy literature such as the Lord of the Rings, although some of the whimsical cards call to mind more lighthearted sources, such as fairy tales. The pictures are quite detailed with an excellent use of color, and are set in a fantasy land replete with dragons, flying horses, fairies, leprechauns, unicorns, mermaids, etc. Oddly, although the landscapes and animals are drawn and painted with a careful realism, the human faces are quite unrealistic, sometimes bordering on caricature.
Much of the traditional Major symbolism is gone, but Poole has some interesting takes on the cards. For example, the Fool, here renamed "Fool, Wizard" (and numbered "0, XXII"), shows the traditional fool striding off a cliff, but at his back and striding in the opposite direction is a wizard, presumably symbolizing the beginning and end of the Fools evolution. In fact, many of the Majors seem to be steps along the way as the Fool completes his education; we have the Student (Chariot), the Apprentice (Magician), the Journeyman (Hanged Man), the Mentor (Hierophant), and the Teacher (Hermit). There seems to be a definite storyline in place here, which we are left to piece together.
The Apprentice and the Student seem to be the same young man. In the Apprentice he is emerging from a cave with the four suit symbols, and in the Student he stands in a room with one foot on a stool and chin in hand. The room contains his objects of study; a world map, an astrological chart, a diagram of the human body with chakras, symbols of the worlds major religions, a caduceus and a Tree of Life. Those looking for traditional symbology will miss the Charioteer, but it is an interesting card.
The Mentor (Hierophant) shows an elderly leprechaun seated on a mushroom in front of a tree which is obviously his home, as it bears a doorway and window. He holds forth for an audience which includes a little boy and girl, a tiny unicorn, and a small blue dragon hovering in the air.
The Journeyman (Hanged Man) shows a bald, winged man, somewhat reminiscent of Rodins Thinker, kneeling on one knee and examining what appears to be a soap bubble. Behind him is a twelve-spoked color wheel. The keywords on the card are "Change, Movement." Its not so obvious to me what the imagery has to do with the keywords or what any of it has to do with the Hanged Man, but again, its a nice card to look at.
Metamorphosis (Death) is also a nice card, a desert landscape with many butterflies, an eagle, and a Phoenix. The keyword is "Regeneration." This would make a great Death card for any deck.
The Time Lord (Temperance) is really strange. A semi-abstract picture, it shows an underwater scene. Two hands hold silver and gold cups, between which flow two blue lightning bolts. The various elements in the card make up a giant face. The keyword is "Emergence." This ones a mystery to me.
The Star is the card which most suggests a specific storyline which is impossible to glean from the card. A young woman and a falcon stare at their mirror image in a moonlit landscape. Tree branches entwine the arms and legs of both the woman and her mirror image. Perhaps the key to the picture lies in the fact that the woman is brightly lit and her mirror image is dark, yet her falcon is dark while the mirrors falcon is light, making the whole thing sort of an extended yin-yang symbol.
Finally, Judgment, in another underwater scene, shows a merman and mermaid swimming upward, while fishy hands reach up towards them from the depths below. The keyword is "Liberation." Perhaps the couple have escaped the clutches of some goblin-like predator.
The Minor cards use the traditional suit signs of Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles. The Aces, however, are dragons and are titled according to the associated element, for example Fire Dragon, Water Dragon, etc. And the Court cards go really wild with the titles. Swords and Wands follow a similar pattern, i.e. King of Air, Queen of Swords, Spring Warrior, and Elemental - Pegasus (the Pages in this deck are Elementals representing the associated elements). The pattern changes slightly for Cups and Pentacles, i.e. King of Autumn, Queen of Cups, Water Warrior, and Elemental - Mermaid.
The numbered cards are multi-cultural, following a pattern similar to the Ancestral Path Tarot. In this deck the Wands are African/Egyptian, the Swords are Asian, Cups are Native American and Pentacles are Celtic. Although the pictures follow Waite-Smith for the most part, the keywords for the Swords cards point to intellect-mental meanings rather then strife-conflict. The Swords keywords are:
Air Dragon (Ace) = Truth 6 = Motivation
2 = Inner Tranquillity 7 = Scholar, Historian
3 = Introspection 8 = Sense Awareness
4 = Meditation 9 = Clairvoyance
5 = Win, Lose, Draw 10 = Realization
The only pictures which differ dramatically from Waite-Smith are 7, which shows a scholar rather than a thief, and 10, which shows a positive picture of an elderly woman with birds and a crystal ball.
The 6 of Wands is an interesting card. A woman holding aloft a spear rides atop an elephant, which holds in its trunk six wands. At the side of the road people cheer her on, but the people are faceless, just smears of color.
The Earth Dragon (Ace of Pentacles) is a pleasant card. The keywords are "Social, Friendly, Earthy." A very earthy-looking dragon squats in a cave with a vat full of treasure. Between its legs is a dragon egg with a crack, presumably hatching. Tiny fairies or leprechauns make themselves at home on the treasure and on the dragons paws and shoulders.
Overall, I like this deck, although the art style didnt appeal to me at first. It sometimes approaches the precious, although it is not cutesy or Disney-ish as the Hanson-Roberts can sometimes be. I like it that the deck, like good fantasy stories, envelops you with its own world. The colors are bright and the images dramatic. I would never recommend it for a beginner, especially since there is no guidance at all accompanying the deck except for the keywords on the cards. Also, when laying out the cards, one has to be up on ones elemental and seasonal correspondences enough to know that the King of Autumn, for example, belongs to the suit of Cups.
I also wouldnt recommend this as someones only deck, as many of the Majors stray too far from the traditional symbolism. But it would make a nice secondary deck or a deck to use for creative storytelling, especially for those (like myself) who enjoy fantastic literature.
After writing this review I sent the artist, Louisa Poole, a message asking for any comments she might have about the symbolism. Here is her response:
"I am in the process of writing a book now, but it won't tell the individual how to read the cards, but will have accompanying information such as symbolism and the why's and wherefores. To be perfectly simple, I took out the olde secrets that have been with the tarot since the beginning to fool the unsuspecting..Also took out the religion, as I feel the tarot has "nothing" to do with secrets or religion!!!!! So! I worked very hard on investigating the truths associated with some of the cards, such as the 7, the 5, the 18 etc. I'll go into more detail if you're interested..Oh, also the 14! This is the most blatant of all of them as it was originally the "Time Lord", not an angel! And the 7 was never intended to be a chariot..it was and is the student... Guess you'd call me a bit of a rebel..as I think every human who is interested, has a right to view and act on truth..Hope you agree! No more secrets..right?"
Review Copyight (c) 1998 Lee A. Bursten
Images Copyright (c) 1997 Louisa Poole