Tarot of the Crone by Ellen Lorenzi-Prince
Review by Diane Wilkes

I remember when this deck was just a soul in limbo, awaiting creation. Tarot-l was its birthplace. Ellen Lorenzi-Prince wrote something to the effect that she could create an entire crone tarot deck and, when dared to do so, met the challenge.

The Tarot of the Crone is different from any other Tarot deck I've known, yet is still Tarot. How can that be? 

Part of it is the sturdy construction of the deck, which is truly Tarot, though not the Golden Dawn's Tarot. It is as if the Crone, through Ellen, consumed the Golden Dawn structure, spit out what She didn't like, and digested and synthesized the rest, with the brutal effectiveness of nature.

The deck follows the traditional, 78 card tarot structure. The four suits are Wands, Cups, Swords, and Disks (Thoth is Lorenzi-Prince's mental deck, not Rider-Waite-Smith). Only four of the Majors have been renamed: The Hierophant becomes "Tradition," the Lovers is "Crossroads," The Hanged Man is transformed into "Sacrifice" and Judgment becomes "Calling." None of these new titles hint at the revolutionary nature of the deck. The Court Cards, do, however--Prince, Princess, Queen, and Knight (remember: this deck follows the Thoth model) become Beast, Witch, Grandmother, and Shadow. Ellen refers to these as "Face Cards," different "Faces of the Crone." In this deck, the Knight/King has been toppled from his throne of ultimate authority--the Shadow is the "element's overdone, destructive and transformative powers."

In the suit of Wands, the fire colors of red and bright yellow predominate. Cups tend to combine red and purple, Swords, yellow and blue, and Disks, green and brown. Learning these combinations helps a lot in determining what, exactly, these cards are, because the titles aren't provided on the card and the images are not just different from a more traditional deck, their meanings often contain Ellen's slant, which isn't often the obvious one. In addition, the colors are very meaningful, and understanding the cards through them (as well as the images themselves) is a method that helps you tap into the Crone's ways.

For example, the predominant colors in the Disks are Brown and Green. Brown is "The life of the body. Life in the flesh. Earth. Animals. Home." Green is "The life force as Growth. Life path. Connection between living beings." Put these two together and the suit of Disks becomes more palpable, more vital, more real. For those, like me, who are used to seeing Cups in terms of blue, you understand why it isn't used in the Crone's Cups--blue is "The life force as Thought. Spirit. Wisdom. Peace."

Each card individually is riveting and powerful, a sharp right jab that can bring you to your knees or lift you to the stars. The Majors in the Tarot of the Crone are truly major, big, sweeping themes that soar and/or shatter, sometimes simultaneously. The Fool is majestic as void made tangible. The Magician is a fanged trickster, a shapeshifter with bite. Even though I am not fond of chartreuse and it didn't originally resonate for me in the High Priestess, because I have integrated Ellen's color system, I know it's right for her as seen through the eyes of the Crone. 

I could go through each card, as each is a portal to a world we've not seen in the Tarot up until now, but time constraints demand I focus on just a few. Justice (numbered VIII, as in Thoth and Marseilles) is a web spun by a lunar spider. The message of this card is about creating your own system of justice, intricate and formed within all four elements. The Hermit is a bag lady or just an ignored, elderly woman, whose wisdom is disguised but very present. Death came to me at a time in my life when I needed it most--I was in a mordant purgatory and this card gave me the push to move beyond its slow, torturous limbo. I didn't want to stay with this grinning card a minute longer--and it knew that. The Star (at top) is the Queen of Heaven, promising hope and magic within the folds of her twinkling embrace. The Star card I found easy to love from the get-go--I should have recognized the deck from her promise alone. But I didn't really "get" the artwork until I saw it in person.

The Minors are not the ones I knew, but each has been a profound gift to me, not only in understanding this deck but in being able to bring this facet to each card in my mental deck. I now have a Crone's eye view, in addition to my own, when I look at the attention-seeking Five of Wands or the hard-won but impermeable emotional victories of the Nine of Cups. 

The book contains charts on the Crone meanings for Numbers, Colors, and Elements, as well as a stunning poem for each card. The words were my guide into the cards, because I first found many of the images impenetrable. Now that I have colors, too, I feel I am finally grasping this deck. But it took me a few months to get here.

This deck makes me ask the questions behind the questions..."What can I do to maximize my career today" became "What can I do to maximize the person I want to become?" when I pulled the Eight of Swords (Teaching) reversed. This included my career issues, but enlarged them, making them more part of my soul and not my external side. A traditional version of this card would have told me I was trapped, but wouldn't have given me the deeper messages I received from the Crone.

The thought behind everything in this deck makes it cohesive and potent. Lorenzi-Prince has packaged the set beautifully, with a spiral-bound black booklet, a black bag lined in muted purple, and a magic crone wand made by Arnell Ando. It comes wrapped in ribbon the color of wine and blood, elegance and pain fused to make even decoration a work of art. Unlike many self-published decks, this one isn't laminated--this sealant would have been antithetical to the feel of this deck. Unfortunately, this also makes the cards more vulnerable, though they're made of sturdy cardstock. I am very careful with this deck--I don't really shuffle it and I wash my hands before I use it.

The backs are plain black; again, how else would the Crone dress? The cards are the size of index cards (three by five inches) and are hand-cut. You can not truly appreciate this deck until you see it in person, really see it, as we must see the disguised Hermit.

The cost of the deck ($130, including shipping)* makes it an investment, and it's not an appropriate one for everyone. It demands time and study and a willingness to see with new eyes and think in a new way. There will only be 100 decks made in this format (let's hope a publisher recognizes its worth and makes it available to the general public). Many of them are pre-ordered (there is a waiting list for this deck), so if you are thinking of ordering, I suggest you decide quickly. I write this only because I was going to write a review for the smaller version of the Rock and Roll Tarot and it sold out before I could publish it! I don't want any Tarot Passages' readers shut out this time.

NOTE: The deck described here is out of print, but you can purchase a mass-produced version, along with a companion book (sold separately) here.

You can see every card from this deck on the artist/author's website.

You can peruse a sample reading with this deck here.

* The cost of the deck may seem high, but is actually quite reasonable when time, effort, and the costs of packaging are taken into account.

Excerpt:

The Star

I am the Queen of Heaven

Look up
To the night sky
I am all that you see

I am the vastness of your spirit
I am She who holds worlds in her hands
I am She who hears your prayers

Look up
Open your heart
Wide as the night sky


Images and text cited © 2002-2003 Ellen Lorenzi-Prince
Review and page © 2003 Diane Wilkes