Legend Arthurian Tarot by Anna Marie Ferguson

Review by Kim Huggens

 

If you would like to purchase Legend: The Arthurian Tarot Book/Deck set, click here.
 

 

I had been lusting after this deck for about a year when my boyfriend found it and bought it for me on a recent trip to Glastonbury.  I don't think I'll ever forget the moment when I sat down on top of Glastonbury Tor, ripped open the packaging, and immersed myself in the cards of Anna Marie Ferguson's Legend: Arthurian Tarot!  Maybe it was the good day I was having, maybe it was the fact that I was sitting on Glastonbury Tor with the sun shining down on me, but one thing's for sure: my first impression of this frankly brilliant deck was...Wow.  And two years later, that still is my reaction to the cards each time I look through them.  Ferguson's watercolor artwork is strikingly beautiful and detailed, really bringing each scene to life.  It is unusual to find a deck done in watercolor, and I was a little uneasy about the idea at first, as I was concerned the images on the cards would not be bold or bright enough to speak to me in a reading.  My fear was unfounded, however, and I soon discovered that the watercolor images actually enhance the readability of the cards by almost drawing you into the scene.

 

As the title suggests, this deck is based on the Arthurian legends, or at least the most commonly accepted version of them!  Each Court card shows a character from the legends, and each Minor and Major either an event which is usually very well-known, or a character.  This makes the Court cards extremely easy to interpret, as most people already know details about the personality of the characters from the legends which are used in the Courts, which helps when trying to read these cards, especially for beginners who have never used a Tarot deck before.  Because of the ease of use of the Court cards, memorizing meanings for these cards from a book is virtually unnecessary. 

 

The King of Swords, for instance, is Mordred, and anybody who knows Mordred's part in the Arthurian legends can easily apply this to the card and interpret it accordingly.  The only confusing thing about the Courts is that each Page is not a character from the legends, nor is it illustrated with a person, but instead is represented by an animal.  The Page of Swords is the Adder, the Shields (Discs/Pentacles) is the Badger, Cups is the Salmon, and Spears (Wands) is the Hare.  These animals are rather like totems, and represent key concepts associated with each of the Pages.  This is a very easy to grasp method, and, like the other Court cards, is useful for beginners, however, the Pages do look slightly out of place when compared to the other cards.  This is just an aesthetic concern though, and does not affect the readability of this deck.

 

The Major Arcana are, quite frankly, stunning.  The characters and events chosen to correspond to them are brilliant and fit perfectly, except for the Empress. She is represented by Guinevere, which in my opinion is a contradiction, since in nearly all the accounts of the Arthurian legends, Guinevere was barren, whilst the Empress represents fertility and fecundity.  However, there is a line of thought that says Guinevere represents the Goddess of Sovereignty, the Goddess of the land, who confers upon men the right to rule the kingdom.  In this way, the Empress could be linked with Guinevere, although there is still a danger of the link looking a little shallow at first glance. Indeed, in this deck it seems initially that the only reason for placing Guinevere in the Empress card is because King Arthur is the Emperor.
 

The artwork in the Major Arcana is beautiful, engaging, and thought-provoking.  All of the Majors are full of symbolism which helps get meanings across, and I found it easy to pick up on these symbols in a reading.  This is a fairly traditional deck, in that it keeps the images of the Majors recognizable, even though they are in an Arthurian context.  The order of the Majors is also left unchanged, as are the meanings most of the time.  There are a couple of cards, such as the Horned One (traditionally the Devil) which are given a more Pagan meaning, but this is not without good reason.  Whilst the deck does incorporates both the Christian side of the Grail legend, and the later medieval romances, some cards like the Horned One are very Pagan. 
 

The Minor Arcana are one of this deck’s many strong points. Fully illustrated with scenes from the legends, these are exceptionally easy to read, even for the beginner, for the same reason as the Court cards.  After all, who couldn’t understand the link between the 10 of Swords and the Last Battle?  The Minors, just like the Majors, are evocative, meaningful, and, of course, beautiful.  Together with the familiarity and depth of the Arthurian legends, these Minors are brilliant.  Unlike most Tarot decks, they do not actually depict the number of Swords, Cups, Coins, or Wands in the cards themselves. Instead, the suits appear in an unobtrusive box somewhere on the card.  This sounds unusual, but I found it much better than having loads of swords or cups floating around in the cards, because the scenes themselves are given ‘free rein’ and are more open and uncluttered. 
 

The backs of the cards are a little disappointing, as they are not as aesthetically pleasing as I expected, but they are certainly symbolic; they show a labyrinth on a deep blue background, representing. to me, the nature of myths and legends, and their purpose in our modern world. 

 

This deck can be purchased as either a deck and book set, or as the individual deck.  I strongly suggest purchasing the set, since the accompanying book is just as wonderful as the deck, and can easily be read independently of using the deck.  This book is entitled Keeper of Words, and is a masterpiece in itself, and far exceeded my expectations.  It not only goes through a thorough explanation of each card and the background behind the legend represented, but it also talks about Tarot in general: its use, history, the symbolism, etc., as well as retelling and exploring the Arthurian legends quite deeply .  For each card, Ferguson gives an upright and reversed meaning, a description of the picture and symbolism within it, a retelling of the part of legend the card features, and an explanation as to why that legend was chosen for that card.  The book is an absolute pleasure to read, and those who are a little rusty with Arthurian legends will know all the ins and outs of it by the time they have finished the book!  It is also an excellent and in-depth introduction to the Tarot, so would be perfect for a beginner. 

 

In general, what I have said about the book can be applied to the whole deck set: I have not yet come across anyone who has disliked this deck in any way, and many a beginner has found it easy to use and begin their Tarot studies with.  This really is a universal deck, suitable for anybody whether they be eight years old or eighty, male or female, Pagan or Christian, beginner or advanced reader.  Absolutely marvellous.

 

You can read another review of this deck here and a comparison review of the Arthurian and Legend Tarots here.

 

If you would like to purchase Legend: The Arthurian Tarot Book/Deck set, click here.
 

Legend: The Arthurian Tarot by Anna Marie Ferguson
Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide
ISBN#: 1-56718-267-4
 

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 © Llewellyn Worldwide
Review © 2003 Kim Huggens
Page © 2003 Diane Wilkes