The Lovers' Tarot (10th Anniversary Edition) by Jane Lyle
Review by Diane Wilkes

If you would like to purchase the 10th Anniversary Edition of the Lovers' Tarot from the American Amazon, click here.

If you would like to purchase the original, Majors-Only edition of the Lovers' Tarot from the American Amazon, click here.

If you would like to purchase the 10th Anniversary Edition of the Lovers' Tarot from the British Amazon, click here.

The original publication of the Lovers' Tarot is fancifully designed-- the packaging is unusual and the deck itself is an oversized Majors-only Tarot set, complete with book interpretations that focus solely on romantic interactions.  The art medium is collage, with the central images heavily borrowed from classical works of art. I didn't buy it when it first came out because it seemed like a very attractive novelty deck--and I'll admit to a certain snobbism when it comes to novelty decks. A friend of mine bought it for me as a gift, and while I expressed gratitude at the time, it nestled in my credenza until another friend drew my attention to it as a wonderful teaching tool, because of its size and beauty. While the title (the complete name of the deck is The Lovers' Tarot: For Affairs of the Heart) and the author attempted to place it into a ghetto of Love Only (no other meanings need apply), the cards themselves transcend that kind of segregation. Once I realized the deck's worth in presentations, I became more devoted to it and simply ignored its one-dimensional companion book. In fact, I came to think of the deck as the poor man's version of the large-sized Fine Art Tarot.

Cut to 2003.  A new version of the Lovers' Tarot--the 10th Anniversary Edition--has been released, in a new and different form.  Gone are the wonderfully oversized cards and unique packaging.  Instead, the deck has been expanded from 22 to 78 cards, and the book has been enlarged to reflect and offer interpretations for the additional cards. One thing that remains the same is the single-minded approach of the author, who continues to distill all of the possible meanings of the cards into the single beaker of love and romance.

The Majors are still lovely. It's hard to mess up classical art and Oliver Burston has created fluid and dramatic collages that maintain the universal majesty of the archetypes. While I prefer the power of the large-sized versions, the images translate well to the smaller scrim.

The addition of the Minor Arcana is a mixed blessing.  While I generally prefer 78 card decks to Majors-only ones, I also prefer storytelling pictorials to pips-- and the new deck contains rather simple pip cards. In addition, the author imposes traditional Rider-Waite-Smith meanings onto these pips. While this makes it relatively easy for someone familiar with that deck to plug in those interpretations, a novice will have difficulty memorizing meanings, especially as those meanings will seem arbitrary, based on the Minor Arcana images of the Lovers' Tarot alone. Had Lyle given the reader a numerical structure or some kind of unifying organization, the novice would have an easier time of it.

Let me give you an example. The Three of Cups depicts three brass chalices placed rather prosaically against a blue background. There is no circularity or rhythm to the image. Yet the keyword for this card is "Celebration" and the first sentence of the description is as follows: "Joy and laughter accompany this lovely card." You can't prove it by the image--though, of course, the description fits the Rider-Waite-Smith Three of Cups perfectly. While I know different people find different things amusing, I defy you to find someone who begins to chuckle when they see this image (without another tarot frame of reference, that is).

Oddly enough, the background for the fiery suit of Wands is a grey-blue. In fact, three of the four suits share a blue background, though each is a slightly different shade; the Pentacles are the exception--they resemble starred and burnished brass buttons against a orange-yellow marbleized background. While I am dissatisfied on a number of levels with the Minors as a rule, the Ace of Swords is rather lovely--the bucolic English landscape combined with the crown circling the upraised sword evokes thoughts of Excalibur and the Arthurian legend.

The Court Cards are stylistically akin to the Major Arcana and are often quite lovely. However, I occasionally wonder if the artist was given a great deal of guidance in terms of rank and qualities of each of the cards. The Knight of Cups, traditionally seen as the Grail Knight, is, by attire and ramrod stance, rather stylized and unemotional in his silver suit of armor. The normally unmoving Knight of Pentacles sits astride a bucking horse, looking as if he is holding on for dear life.

More disturbing than the occasionally disconnected imagery is Lyle's commentary. Throughout the book, she refers to the upright card as the Gift and the reversal as the Challenge. Lyle's method of dealing with reversals is simply to create an oppositional meaning (hence, the Gift of the Nine of Swords is Oppression and its Challenge is Hope). I find this particular method limited, limiting, and insidious, and nowhere is this as obvious as in the description of the Courts. The Knight of Pentacles, for example, when reversed, has bigger problems than taming his recalcitrant steed--"sexual dysfunction" may be indicated. Perhaps he is pursuing Viagra? If the Reversed King of Wands shows up, jilt that man now--"He does not want a serious, long-term involvement at this time--if you are hoping for true love and devotion, you must look elsewhere." I sure hope you aren't married to this Lothario if this card comes up in a reading!

Women fare no better in Lyle's reversed Courts. The reversed Queen of Swords is "a clever, manipulative woman who is spreading idle gossip or malicious rumours." Why? "She may be motivated by spite or jealousy." Still, I'd prefer that to the reversed Queen of Cups, who "symbolizes an emotionally disturbed woman." Even upright, she "isn't always able to distinguish between being used and truly being needed by someone." These snapshots of Psychos You Have Known as Court Cards are not the healthiest or most accurate way to view them. At least, not in my world. Your mileage may, as they say, vary.

The deck itself is well-made; the card stock is a bit more flimsy than a US Games or Llewellyn deck. The card backs are reversible and elegant--a midnight blue with a simple gold border and design. The Lovers' Tarot comes in a long rectangular box that holds the 208-page paperback book and the cards, which are divided into three piles. The book itself is identical in content to the original edition, with the exception of the addition of the Minor Arcana card descriptions (and they are short--two to a page, as opposed to the multi-page, multi-position attention given to the Majors) and some new sample readings that use the whole (78 card) deck. Some of the sample readings are holdovers from the original book--you can tell by the fact that no Minor Arcana cards show their faces.

If you are drawn to the Lovers' Tarot art, you might do better to purchase the original version of this deck, because the larger-sized cards are spectacular--far more so than the smaller version. If, however, you would rather have a 78 card deck (despite the uninteresting pips), this is the edition for you. In both cases, of course, I suggest you might want to leave the book alone--even if your reading concerns a romantic relationship. Do you really want to think of yourself as "an emotionally disturbed woman"?

  Yes No
78 cards X  
Reversible Backs X  
Strength VIII, Justice XI X  
Color Images X  
Standard (RWS) Titles of the Major Arcana X  
Traditional (RWS) Suits (Rods/Wands, Cups/Chalices, Swords, Pentacles/Disks) X  
Traditional (RWS) Golden Dawn Suit-Element Attributions X  
Standard dimensions (approx. 4 3/4" X 2 3/4")                   X  
Smaller than standard                                    X
Larger than standard                                                X

If you would like to purchase the 10th Anniversary Edition of the Lovers' Tarot, click here.

If you would like to purchase the original, Majors-Only edition of the Lovers' Tarot, click here.

Images 2003 Connections Book Publishing
Review and page 2004 Diane Wilkes