Gill Tarot by Elizabeth Josephine Gill
Review by Kim Huggens
If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.
This is one of those decks that you swear you will never like the first time you see it, but after the second or third look you are utterly enthralled by it, without knowing why! At first glance, I didn't expect to find myself six months later, nearly hugging a frightened shop-owner to death after finally finding a copy of the Gill Tarot, mainly because the Minor Arcana didn't seem imaginative or readable at all.
I am not a big fan of partially illustrated or un-illustrated Minors, and the Gill Tarot falls into the 'partially illustrated Minors' category, but with a subtle difference: Like the Thoth deck, a Minor Arcana card has the number of objects on it, eg - the Two of Cups has two cups on it. However, very much unlike the Thoth and indeed any other deck I have come across, the actual Arabic numeral, eg- 2, 3, 4, or 5, etc., is in the picture as well, very large. This does not sound very nice at all, and indeed one cannot fully understand the impact of the numerals on the readability of the deck until it has been seen, but having the numerals in the picture serves a dual purpose: To tell the reader which card it is, and to give extra meaning. Each numeral you see is portrayed in a way which makes it very much part of the picture and very readable.
For instance, the numeral '2' in the Two of Discs (one of my favorite cards from this deck) is formed into a beautiful willowy rose branch, with two fully opened roses, one red and one white, budding off it. Another of my favorite cards from this deck is the Two of Cups, which turns the two into a very graceful, watery, swan-like image floating on the water. Another favorite is the 10 of Discs with its numeral '10' cut into the leaves of a glowing, fruitful tree.
Another very beautiful feature of these Minors are the 'keywords' which are very artfully, like the numerals, fitted into the picture itself. Luckily these words do not dominate the pictures, and they also do not limit the interpretations you can give to these cards either. Because they are not very obtrusive and the rest of the image is full of meaning, one is free to use another part of the card to gain meaning. Unfortunately, for the beginner, these wonderful Minors do not have their suit written on them anywhere, so at first it is a little difficult finding your way round the cards. They do have the suit objects themselves in the cards, which makes it a little easier to tell them all apart though.
The Court Cards are, just like the Minors, wonderful. They do not have their suit written on them, but they do have a keyword and their title, eg. - Prince, Princess, Queen, King - as well as extremely easy-to-read images, something most decks fail to have when it comes to the Courts. These Court cards have people whose actions speak louder than words, and whose expressions speak just as loudly, with things such as clothing and surrounding scenery also adding to the symbolic meaning of these cards. For the beginner, this would be an excellent deck when one wants to get more acquainted with the Courts, as I would go so far as to say that this deck is in my top five list for easy to read Court cards! Just looking at the Princess balancing a sword masterfully, the Prince dashing forward with his sword raised, gives me more insight into these cards then reading their description in the book will ever give.
The Major Arcana are just as brilliant as the other cards, but stray less from the traditionally accepted images. The only things that are changed here are the artwork, which is absolutely brilliant, and occasionally the representation of these archetypical images. For instance, the Empress is still very obviously the motherly aspect of the Tarot, but instead of having her seated on a chair or stone bench, Elizabeth Gill has given her a grassy hill to sit on and embody, whilst she merges with the landscape. She still has her crown of twelve stars, she still has her white dove of universal love, and she still has her sceptre, but she is embodied slightly differently. The Majors, unlike the rest of the cards, do not have any words on them except for their titles, which are traditional, and the only numbers are their accepted numbers, eg- III for the Empress, and these are very small at the top of each card.
The backs of the cards are colorful, bright, and beautiful, depicting the Tree of Life surrounded by a golden border upon which is 'engraved' the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the four suits of the Tarot, and the words, 'and I see men as trees, walking.' It is certainly a very interesting version of the Tree of Life, and one which I wouldn't mind owning in full-scale size, but unfortunately for those who prefer their decks to have reversible backs, these are not reversible, beautiful though they are. The card size is perfect though: a bit wider than most decks, but a bit smaller in length as well, making this deck perfect for those who find it difficult to shuffle and handle most decks due to small hands.
This deck has been designed with the Kabbalah in mind, and the Majors especially have been designed to incorporate the Tree of Life. Here I can see beginners who are reading this review crying out, 'Oh no, not Kabbalah!' and, indeed, I myself was crying out just the same thing when I bought this deck, myself not being a student of the system. However, the images can be read very easily without using any system other than one's intuition, and I found that any Kabbalistic symbols or references in the cards are incorporated so well into the pictures that they are virtually un-noticeable unless one is searching for them. My very first reading with this deck spoke to me in a way I hadn't expected. I was concerned I wouldn't be able to read the Minors, and that the keywords would get in the way, or that my lack of knowledge about the Kabbalah would hinder my interpretation. What I got in reality was a very clear reading which told me the answers plainly and simply, with no 'mucking about', nor any need for delving into dictionaries of symbols. Another beauty of this deck, you see, is that even though the artwork is gorgeous and very detailed, as well as full of symbolism and very colorful, the cards are still very open and simple. They are uncluttered and the symbols are easy to pick out from the pictures.
The side of the box this deck comes in says: "Gill's Tarot pack is based on the structure of the Tree of Life. Much imagery in the Gill Tarot deck draws from passages in classical religious literature," which is certainly very interesting: I would love to know more about this wonderful deck, and which stories have inspired which cards, and I believe there is a book which can be bought to accompany this deck. I would recommend that those who buy this deck (and I personally think they should!) also buy the book as there is not much information in the little white booklet that comes with the deck.
Overall, a beautiful, easy to read, and, well, let's stop hanging around here... stunning deck, which I would recommend to beginners and advanced readers alike, especially those who fancy a more attractive interpretation of the traditional Tarot deck.
If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.
Kim Huggens is an 18 year old Pagan, studying for a Philosophy degree at Cardiff University. She has been studying Tarot heavily since the age of 9, and currently lives with her wonderful boyfriend, Simon, in Cardiff. She also enjoys writing and collecting Tarot decks, and currently has around 110 in her collection.
Images © US Games
Review © 2003 Kim Huggens
Page © 2003 Diane Wilkes