Legend: The Arthurian Tarot        Review by Michele Jackson

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

This deck/book set is based on the Arthurian Legend. Like all "theme" decks, some knowledge of the underlying theme (in this case the Arthurian Legend) is useful in getting the most out of the deck. The Major Arcana maintain their traditional names with the exception of Card XV: The Horned One. Strength is VIII, Justice is XI. The suits are Spears (Wands), Swords, Cups and Shields (Discs/Pentacles). The court consists of King, Queen, Knight and Page. All of the Pages in this deck are animals. The cards measure 2 3/4" X 4 5/8". The art is good. Each card has a central scene with a gold and jewel toned border on a gray background. The colors are soft and muted. The card name is in the top border while the associated "theme" name is in the bottom border. Some examples are:

  • 0 The Fool - Percival
  • 1 The Magician - Merlin
  • 2 The Priestess - Nimue
  • Ace of Spears - The Grail Lance
  • Five of Spears - The Pursuit of Igraine
  • Page of Swords - The Adder
  • Knight of Swords - Gawain

As you can see from the examples, the associated theme for each card can be a person, a place, an animal or a specific tale from the Arthurian Legend, such as the pursuit of Igraine. The scenes on the Minors do not usually incorporate the number of suit items - you don't see five spears worked into the scene depicting the pursuit of Igraine, but each Minor Arcana card does include a small box placed unobtrusively into the scene which does show the the number of suit items (in this case five spears), or in the case of the court cards, a small box with a crown or other indication of rank and a suit symbol.

The book that comes with this set, A Keeper of Worlds, consists of five chapters, though the first four chapters which provide background information encompass only 25 pages. The bulk of the book (250 pages) is devoted to the cards themselves. Every card description shows a full size black and white illustration of the card. For the Major Arcana a section on Meaning provides a one or two paragraph upright interpretation. The interpretations are fairly traditional and knowledge of the Waite-Smith (Rider Waite) deck or other Golden Dawn based deck should transfer over fairly well, though the illustrations are totally different. A Reversed interpretation follows. Description and Symbolism describes the scene in the card. Next is a rather robust discussion of the associated theme for that card. This is one of the best features of this book. There are many variations of the Arthurian Legend and aficionados may wonder about why a certain theme was associated with a certain card. These background stories help one understand why a particular theme was chosen. The book states that it "unites mythic elements from all four branches of the Arthurian legend: the Celtic Legends, the early chronicles, the medieval romances and the Quest for the Holy Grail." My entire knowledge of the Arthurian Legends comes from the "Mists of Avalon" series, so I can not comment on how well the book accomplishes this unification. At the end of the section on the Major Arcana is Artorios Arcana, which provides poems for each of the Majors. The Minor Arcana also have a Meaning and Reversed section, but the description of the scene is usually just one sentence and the theme descriptions are much shorter. Three spreads are provided: The Celtic Cross, The Astrological and the Horseshoe. The set comes in a large box with a cardboard well for the deck. If you plan to use the deck with any regularity, you will probably need a cloth, bag or box for storage. A large fold out sheet for laying out the Celtic Cross Spread is also included.

I recommend this deck for those who are interested in the Arthurian Legend. Like all theme decks, some knowledge of the associated theme would be helpful, though the theme descriptions for each card could be used to gain knowledge of the theme for those who had none.

Legend: The Arthurian Tarot
ISBN: 1-56718-267-4
Available from Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN 55164-0383
(800)350-5637

See more cards from Legend: The Arthurian Tarot

Excerpt

Two of Spears

Meaning

Executive responsibilities. Proving one's self capable of managing a large project. Exerting authority. Brainstorming, contemplating, and putting forth ideas for consideration. Planning for the future. Courage and maturity. Using all of one's talents to achieve a communal vision. Employing intuitive insights to assist with decision making. A capable leader, and one who is governed by honourable motives.

Reversed

Dreading the challenges and obstacles of the future. being unprepared for the task ahead. Finding one's self devoid of ideas. Encountering obstacles and delays. Pessimism.

Bediver & Kay

Two of Arthur's oldest and trusted friends devise plans for progress. Bediver (or Bedwyr) was one of the king's earliest companions, who remained a loyal and close confidant to Arthur throughout his reign (see Knight of Spears).

Kay (or Cei) is generally thought of as Arthur's irritable foster brother and seneschal. In early versions he had quite a different reputation, and was known as a courageous, handsome and courteous warrior.

Arthur gave the two men the heavy responsibility of administering his provinces in Gaul. Bediver was posted to Normandy, and Kay in Anjou.

Keeper of Words pg. 152-153

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



This page is Copyright 1998 by Michele Jackson