The Love Tarot by Sarah Bartlett; Illustrations by Nancy Tolford
Review by Diane Wilkes

If you would like to purchase this deck from Amazon.com, click here.

When this deck was initially released, I deemed it unworthy of purchase.  While I was taken with two cards in particular (the High Priestess and the Moon), the concept of a Majors-only deck devoted to "love" seemed gimmicky to me.  Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I felt it cheapened the tarot to turn it into a Magic-8 Ball in card form, something a teenage girl could (and would) consult about her future with her favorite Backstreet Boy.

Seeing an opened copy did nothing to spur me into buying the set; for a Majors-only deck and 95 page-book it seemed overpriced at $17.95.  However, when I saw it a few months ago at a considerably reduced price, tarot collector disease took hold, and I purchased several copies at my local Atlantic Bookstore.

Upon closer scrutiny, my preliminary findings were, more or less, confirmed.  The deck is a collage deck, which is, for me, a plus--since I found my baby (Transformational Tarot), I have developed a penchant for collage decks.  I still really liked the High Priestess and Moon cards.  But Arnell Ando's collages have set a standard for me--I expect to find more and more each time I look at the cards, but The Love Tarot has none of those hidden symbolic mysteries to uncover.  While the collages are attractive, they lack the depth I have grown accustomed to; I suspect the artist had little knowledge of the tarot, and Ms. Bartlett, not much more.

I base this assumption not only on the art, but the book.  The attempt to weave a love message into each card has resulted in material that is stretched ridiculously out of shape.   Looks like Orlon™ to me!  If you ignore the book when you read with the cards (and you have a mental library based on working with other tarot decks and books), you can do an adequate reading with the Love Tarot, but with so many evocative decks out there, why would you choose this one?

Still, this deck is not without its charms.  Check out Temperance as a celestial barmaid.  She's got some serious upper body strength to create those magical brews.   And the lemniscate bow on the Strength image is fetching.  Not deep, mind you, but fetching.

On the upside: the price is right (when you buy them from Atlantic Books, anyway) and the backs are very beautiful.  The stars against the deep blue background remind me of the Universal Rider-Waite backs, which is a compliment.  The deck and book are small (ergo, portable) and come in a nice, solid box that is wider than the standard box, but not oversized. 

The little book includes an introduction and tips on how to use the cards (ie., "It is the questioner's aura and their choice of cards that establish a rapport with you, the diviner (the person reading the cards).  The cards are a medium, a catalyst, and it's your intuition and interpretation that count.").  The bulk of the book offers a two-page set of meanings for each of the Majors, which includes the "Love Oracle" message, along with a "symbolic and traditional" meaning, an upright and reversed meaning, and a "blockage," which refers to a particular spread designation.   Following the meanings is a short list of card combinations, six spreads, and sample readings, along with a list of sun signs and their planets.

The most offensive interpretations have to do with the "Love Oracle" section for me.  The Sun: "The mystery of love is unsolvable; a crossword puzzle with no clues, no answers.  Make the words your own."  Besides having nothing to do with the Sun card, the grammar is screwy.  Or for the Lovers: "Love is like driving into a blizzard.  You are snow-blind, there is silence, yet you still move on.  Listen to your intuition to show you the way."  I've gotten better messages from fortune cookies.  If you peruse the excerpt below, you should find a few lines that  annoy you as much as they have annoyed me.

While the book is puerile, the art on these cards is quite evocative.  One person for whom I read with this deck found the cards beautiful and powerful, and found the reading extremely accurate.  Then again, I didn't use the deck's book.  I suspect a reading using the book would have been significantly less accurate and profound.

I recommend this deck for collectors, especially collage tarot enthusiasts.  I would not recommend purchasing this deck at full price.  And ditch the book!

You can see a sample reading with this deck here.

If you would like to purchase this deck from Amazon.com, click here.

The Love Tarot
Sarah Bartlett; Illustrations: Nancy Tolford
Random House
ISBN: 07126-7472-1

Excerpt:

Justice

Keywords:  Fairness, harmony, equality

Love Oracle:  Love curves its way through life; not angular, not straight arrows to the heart, but on a wind of chance.

Symbolic and Traditional:  Justice represents harmony and truth, and the integrity of the mind and soul.  Justice is impartial and she will let neither temptation nor her own emotions lead her from the heart of the matter.  She is as fair with her love as she is with her reason.  To be a balanced human being requires not only to live by universal law, but to integrate with the universe, too.

Upright:  You may find this card turning up when there is a decision to be made, and you'll be able to do so with a balanced and objective mind.  As a past card it may imply you've got what you deserve, but now things look set to improve.  You could find that whatever the results of a series of events, things will work out fairly for the person involved, especially in the final outcome position.  Another interpretation of this card involves legalities.  If you're involved in marriage or divorce then it may mean that any legal settlement should have a successful outcome.

Blockage:  Justice often means that being impartial is preventing important decisions being made.  It might also imply that you are too neutral in the face of others' problems.  The questioner may be going through a phase when they think all's fair in love and war, or could be in love with love.  Alternatively their "everyone's equal" attitude means they find it hard to make a choice for fear of rejecting the alternative.

Reversed:  This is all about unfairness in love and war.  It may be verbal abuse from others or it might arise within yourself.  Don't trust your closest friend or lover if this card occurs in the final outcome position.  Someone may be about to take advantage of your good nature.  You may even have to stand a round of drinks just to get a romance under way!

Images © 1988 Nancy Tolford
Text © 1988 Sarah Bartlett
Review and page © 2001 Diane Wilkes








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