gl6.jpg (13558 bytes)The Glastonbury Tarot            Review by Michele Jackson

If you are interested in purchasing this book/deck set, click here.

This new deck/book set is set in the town of Glastonbury in Somerset, England. Glastonbury is rich with myths and legends. It is alleged to be the Isle of Avalon and the burial place of King Arthur. Many of the cards are based on sites in the town. The cards are larger than average at 3 1/" X 4 3/4". The scenes are painted in bright, intense colors which stand out nicely against the thin white inner border and black outer border. The images tend to be simple, with a prominent main character, set against a local background scene. At first glance, I found the art to be a bit simple for my tastes, but upon further inspection, the beautiful colors and simple, uncluttered scenes grew on me. I think the images might have been designed to be viewed in a much larger format. If so, some of the impact was lost in this smaller medium. The card name is in the bottom border. The Major Arcana have traditional names. Justice is eight and Strength is 11. Each card is associated with a legendary or historical person or place. For example, The Emperor and Empress are Arthur and Guinevere. The High Priestess is Morgana. Death is Gwyn Ap Nudd - King of the faeries. Temperance is Brigid and the Devil is  St. Dunstan. The associated myth, place or person is in the border with the card name.The suits are Swords, Chalices (Cups), Staffs (Wands) and Vesicas (pentacles). The court consists of King, Queen, Knight and Maid. The backs are not reversible. The cards are very glossy and the card stock feels thinner than most. The glossy coating also makes them somewhat sticky, but this should diminish over time. Those with small hands may find this deck difficult to shuffle.

The Minor Arcana have the card name and a one word meaning in the bottom border. The meanings are fairly similar to those in the Waite deck, though there is a slight tendency to focus on the more positive aspects of some cards. For example, the Ten of Swords is called "Rebirth," and the Five of Staffs is called "Empowerment." The majority of the images are original, though some cards, like the Five of Chalices and Eight of Vesicas, the Nine of Staffs, and the two of Swords, do resemble the work of Pamela Colman-Smith. Those familiar with the Waite deck should have little trouble making the transition.

The book written for this deck is one of the better books I have seen for a theme deck. It is well researched, and provides information about the legends, people and places that people this deck. Paganism, Christianity and the Arthurian legend all play a major role in the history of this area and each is represented in this deck. The foreword was written by John and Caitlin Matthews. It is a wonderful short piece that describes the deck as a walk through Glastonbury, and illustrates this point by means of one of the spreads provided in the book. The Introduction provides some background information on Glastonbury and the cards themselves. Chapter One - Meeting the Tarot, is a brief overview of the structure of the Tarot deck and the four suits and their elements. Chapter Two - How to Use Your Tarot Cards provides information on reading the cards. Seven spreads are described, including the three card Past, Present and Future Spread and the Celtic Cross. There are two relationship spreads, including one for couples. The Major Arcana is the next section of the book. Each card description begins by telling the story of the legend associated with the card. A section describing the image is next, followed by the section that gives the divinatory meaning. The section on the Minor Arcana provides a description of the image and the divinatory meaning. Many of the background scenes depict sites of historic interest. The divinatory meanings are based on Waite, even though the images often differ. As previously pointed out, there is a slight emphasis on the positive.  However, the meanings are not "fluffy" or overly positive. The author's personal viewpoint is evident but not overbearing. The meanings usually explain how the card relates to the previous card in the suit. There are no reversed meanings given. The artist used color and other symbols and she explains how she used them them when applicable.  Her writing is clear and easy to follow. The Bibliography lists a wide variety of books, mostly about Glastonbury and the Arthurian/Grail Legends, so if you wanted to do further research, you could.

I recommend this deck for those interested in the Arthurian or Grail Legends. This deck does an excellent job of combining its theme with Tarot. The book is very readable, and provides a wealth of information on the many Celtic myths and legends associated with the Glastonbury area. Most importantly, it doesn't insult the reader's intelligence by talking down, nor does it try to impress with psychobabble. Those familiar with the Waite deck or other Golden Dawn based decks will find the learning curve to be minimal and will find the stories associated with the cards were well-chosen. While those well versed in Celtic myth and legend may not agree with every choice, I found the associations plausible and enlightening, for the most part. The deck comes in a slip-sleeve case that slides from the side, vice the bottom. The deck sits in a well, covered by the book. A separate bag will prove useful for storage if you plan to use this deck with any regularity.

You can see more cards from the Glastonbury Tarot Deck here and here.

If you are interested in purchasing this book/deck set, click here.

The Glastonbury Tarot
Publisher: Samuel Weiser

Excerpt

XIII DEATH GWYN AP NUDD

The Faery-folk encompassed a wide variety o beings of all shapes and sizes, from the small elves and gnomes, to the tall, dark beings that were associated with Gwyn Ap Nudd - King of the Faeries and Lord of the Underworld. The could be kind and benevolent, mischievous, and some were downright malevolent. Certainly they were untrustworthy and were viewed by the populace with a degree of fear and suspicion, though mortals went to great lengths to propitiate them.

The faeries made their homes in hollow hills, and lived outside of mortal time. Mortals straying to, or invited into their domain could remain there for years, thinking only days had passed. It was unwise to partake of the food or drink of the Faeries, as this could make you their prisoner - a fact St, Collen was well aware of when Gwyn Ap Nudd invited him to a feast. (See card IX, the Hermit).

Gwyn Ap Nudd lived with his subjects in the hollow hill of Glastonbury Tor. He was considered to be diabolic by the early Christians, who viewed the Pagan and faery ways as demonic. One legend says that the maze or labyrinth on Glastonbury Tor was a faery path. The first Christian church built on top of the Tor, dedicated to St. Michael, collapsed in 1275 - apparently due to an earthquake, but more widely believed to have been caused by the influence of Gwyn and his subjects.

Card VI, the Lovers, relates to the tale of Gwyn Ap Nudd's abduction of Creiddylad; and card IX, the Hermit, describes how St,. Collen banished Gwyn from the top of the Tor. The influence of the King of the Faeries is still felt in Glastonbury, but Gwyn Ap Nudd also had another title - Lord of the Underworld. In this guise he rode on his pale horse through the skies at Winter Solstice to gather in the souls of the dead, accompanied by the hounds of Anwyn, white dogs with red ears. He then took the souls back to the Underworld to prepare them for the next stage of their journey.

THE IMAGE

Gwyn Ap Nudd rides across the sky to gather in the souls of the dead. Under the light of the moon and stars, his skin and black hair have a blue sheen. The sky below him swirls with energy, in shades of blue and purple. Far below is Glastonbury Tor, distinguishable by its labyrinth, which glows white in the light of the moon and the starts. His horse looks fierce. Its eyes glow red, its teeth are bared, as it propels itself through the sky. Gwyn uses no reins or saddle - he clings to the horse's neck, reveling in the chase. Purple is sometimes associated with death, as it represents a change to a new, and higher state of consciousness.

Gwyn Ap Nudd's black cloak flies behind him, as if it would spread out to darken the entire sky. Black is the symbol of the void, the state of emptiness wherein lies the seeds of potential waiting to take form.

DIVINATORY MEANING

The Death card signifies an ending that leads to a new beginning. It indicates a time to let go of the past. It can denote the ending of a phase of life, a job or a relationship because the situation has run its course; all that can be learned from it has been integrated, and it is time to move on, to seek new areas of experience in the arena of life.This card does not indicate physical death; its influence paves the way for a fresh beginning in your life, and shows that letting go of attachments can be painful,but ultimately rewarding.

The lesson the the Hanged Man card is surrender, of undergoing a transition period when there is a need to wait for events to run their course.The Death card moves us on into action; it encourages us to push for change, to put behind us all of the factors that held us back, to sever connections that are no longer helpful to us and do not support us. In order to do this, we need to recognize any fears of change that can hinder us from moving into a new beginning.

The Death card is the card of cleansing, allowing us to experience the transformation of our circumstances just as the caterpillar that willingly, even joyfully, becomes a butterfly.

pg. 75 - 77

Images and text Copyright 1999 Lisa Tenzin-Dolma



This page is Copyright 1999 by Michele Jackson