Comfort Decks by Elizabeth Hazel
I adore my comfort decks. They're always around, like little cardboard friends you have over to tea several times a week. You know where you stand
with them, you know what to expect.
Then there's my magical mood decks. These are favorite visitors, for ceremonial divinations and meditations. These decks get conjured along with sabbat spirits, on the nights when you pull out that bottle of mead, or wine laced with sweet woodruff. They hold the scent of past smudgings, lingering essences of myrrh, sage, or rose petal smoke. The candles are already lit as they are pulled from their cloth sacks. They are decks for the sacred night, never seen in the light of day. Some day one of these decks may tell me the meaning of life.
Then there's the stranger decks that only come out for an unusual client to whom the artwork appeals. Maybe it doesn't speak to me, but it speaks to them.
Last of all, there are collectors decks that only get looked at, never for reading. Mostly these are foreign, or limited editions. Not easily replaced, these can provoke bouts of tarot avarice for more decks like a match on dry tinder. Sometimes I can pretend that these are my Michelangelo sketches hidden in the vault. I bet Stuart Kaplan feels this way a lot; needless to say, I try to avoid indulging in images of tarot grandeur more than a few times a year.
There are a few decks that I like very much that have never "worked" for me. The Sacred Rose is great, but doesn't click. Also, like the Haindl - but rarely clicks, and some of those monster mugshots are off-putting.
Have always cherished the art on the Zigeuner Tarot - looks like a cross between a quilt and an attack of killer amoebas, sometimes gives good reading but have to deal with that German syntax thing (the verbs are at the
I like "Le Mani Divinatore" (aka, the Tarocchi il Mano, because it has hands, a majors-only deck from Menegazzi, and I reviewed for Tarot Passages). The artwork is deceptively serene because its in shades of aqua and blue. But don't let that fool you. This is not a "comfortable" deck. Every time I read with it I get blasted off into psychic la-la land and visionaryville. It just sucks me into the vortex, which qualifies for peak experiences, and disqualifies the deck for the comfortable category. Great for scaring the pants off of insolent clients, though.
The Visconti-Sforza and the Scapini have antique, peculiar art. They feel very foreign. I enjoy looking at the cards, but for reading they are kinda spooky. I'd put the Tarot of the Cat People into this category - too spooky to use. Even two of my cats agree with me on this; the third is abstaining, probably because he is in contact with aliens who really like the deck.
The Connolly puts me to sleep (but clients like it). This deck is like the sofa at my grama's house - so soft it swallows you, but the fabric features carnivorous cabbage roses that you ultimately suspect are fuzzy portraits of Audrey Two. "Beware the frumious bandersnatch........"
The Madonni deck is tres French. It is not easy to read, and the art is on the vastly strange side, but readings with it are usually excellent. It is singularly slick for inventing new spreads. The pips are unillustrated as seems to be the case with a lot of Euro decks. The highly stylized courts and Trumps more than make up for the lack. Tres chic, tres bonne, tres cool.
Navigators of the Mystic Sea is a favorite deck. But not for the faint of heart - it really cuts to the chase in a reading, so is not the one to pull out of the drawer during a pity party. The artwork is totally deep, so readings take a while with this one. Have to sit and think about the imagery - there's always more there than you think. Reminds me of Alice's Cheshire Cat, with all that appearing and disappearing. A bit unnerving, never boring.
Perhaps my most beloved and least comfortable deck is the Vala Tarot. I spent several years delving into deep parts of myself to provide the
original imagery. Now the Vala Tarot is looking for a publisher, and the process of submitting the deck is another long, hard road along the Labor of
Love Highway. Much like highways after a long winter, there are big potholes and endless orange barrel delays.
It requires lion-hearted courage to offer an intimate piece of your hidden soul to the world, which moves this deck from the carnivorous sofa to a bed of nails. As any mother can attest, the birthing labor is the easy part
when compared to the lengthy parenting process. Giving a child like this to the world is the crucible of a lifetime. Still, when the deck finds a publisher, it will be at the top of my list for comfort decks as the images give sweet whispers, faerie giggles and dragon growls.
The tarot chest is packed full with way more than I've listed. Tarot piglets get in the back of the line - the devoted tarot sow is oinkin' now!!!
Om hare Shiva, om hare Rama.
Elizabeth Hazel is a professional astrologer, tarotist, and rune-reader. She has been studying the tarot since the early 70's, and has an unusual collection of decks acquired through her travels in Europe. Her other interests include alchemy, history, and multi-cultural mythologies. She has been published in a variety of magazines and web-sites, and regularly attends tarot conferences. Her specialty is blending tarot and astrology. She has worked as a professional musician, performing in a variety of bands, theatrical productions, and as soloist and conductor. Her original rock opera, produced in 1990, received the "Community Impact Award" from the Arts Council of Greater Toledo. She has received awards for her original compositions and for art work. In 1995, Elizabeth began work on "The Vala Tarot". It is now complete, and she is currently seeking a publisher for the deck. The card illustrating this article is from the Vala Tarot.
She has also agreed to contribute a monthly column to Tarot Passages, "Portraits of Pips." Look for it in coming updates of Tarot Passages.
Article and image © 2001 Elizabeth Hazel
Page © 2001 Diane Wilkes