MerryDay Tarot Set by Louisa Poole Review by Diane Wilkes
The MerryDay Tarot Deck has been available since 1997, but it is only in recent months that a companion book, written by the deck's creator, Louisa Poole, has become obtainable. The deck had always intrigued me, but it seemed like such a system unto itself that I found it more trouble than it was worth. It was frustrating that there was so little accompanying text for the deck, and I didn't understand the numerology or unique twists.
One hundred and fifty-four pages later, and I'm still a bit frustrated that there is so little accompanying text for the deck itself. You see, the first 67 pages of the book are devoted to Poole's take on the Dusty Bunker/Faith Javane's Numerology and the Divine Triangle, filled with formulae for finding your own personal numerology. Next we travel into the "Invisible Kingdom"--a description of the land of the little people that includes narrative, poetry (mostly by Poole), charts, breathing lessons, and guided meditations. It is only when we come to page 90 (!) that Poole addresses the actual cards.
The card descriptions may be pithy, but they're truly wonderful--her words are logical and lucid and her symbolism is truly well integrated. It all seems so beautifully right that reading this section made me want to weep a little. Each description shows the positive and negative poles of the card. While Poole states in her introduction to the book that "professional readers probably don't need the book and novices should trust their instincts," this book is essential for anyone who uses this deck, level of experience and Poole's claim notwithstanding.
The book provides proof that Poole had a definite, cohesive vision for her cards, which rarely becomes insular or personal. One exception is the Mentor (traditionally, the Hierophant) card, which is clearly an illustration of little Louisa's learning about the wee folk from her dad, a story she describes in detail earlier in the book.
The author's philosophy is based on the precept, "We're not humans reaching toward spiritual enlightenment, but spiritual beings learning the human experience." The deck has been stripped of all religious references and symbolism. Poole's approach is clearly quite pagan, despite this credo indicating spirit is preferable to the mundane.
Poole encourages others to trust their intuition in the introduction (and throughout the book). That is all well and good, but then she goes on to say that when the tarot first came into being, blinds were placed to mislead people--blinds that Ms. Poole removes as she "rightly reorders" the deck in line with old-earth magic. She claims that the Hanged Man was originally known as "The Journeyman," but doesn't cite her source. I would be interested in knowing it, since I have never read that before. Additionally, I am a bit concerned that Poole seems rather blithe about citing source material throughout the book (she doesn't even mention Dusty Bunker, one of the co-authors of a book she cites that heavily influences her numerology). While she claims to return tarot to the "true" origins, I believe she is, instead, re-visioning its origins. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, so long as it's not disguised as historical fact.
There are a few differences in the MerryDay Tarot from traditional tarot. Courts are King, Queen, Warrior (Knight in traditional tarot), and an Elemental in place of the traditional Page. Each suit's "Elemental" is different; Swords is Pegasus, Wands is the Unicorn, Cups is the Mermaid, and Pentacles is a Centaur/Satyr. Each Ace is a kind of Dragon. Poole also sees the numbers as progression, and, because tens are the last card in a suit, she has given each one a positive connotation, as opposed to the traditionally less optimistic take on the tens of wands and swords.
Poole breaks down the Minor Arcana to fit with her wheel of the year: Swords/Air are associated with Spring, Wands, Summer, Cups, Fall, and Pentacles, Winter. Many of the cards have animal symbolism, such as the Nine of Pentacles (Earth Mother).
Many of the Major Arcana have been renamed:
Fool/Wizard (numbered 0 and 22)
Apprentice (traditionally The Magician)
Oracle (traditionally The High Priestess)
Mentor (traditionally The Hierophant)
Student (traditionally The Chariot)
Teacher (traditionally The Hermit)
Lady Destiny (traditionally The Wheel of Fortune)
Journeyman (traditionally The Hanged Man)
Metamorphosis (traditionally Death)
Time Lord (traditionally Temperance)
Tempter (traditionally The Devil)
Several of the cards have been re-visioned as well. The Fool/Wizard offers images of both the fool and the wizard. The Mentor (Hierophant) card shows a child being taught earth magic lore. The Student (Chariot) displays a guy dressed like someone's hipster dream, posed a la Rodin's Thinker in a dorm room setting. One of the most unique cards is Metamorphosis (Death), which shows the three animal aspects of Scorpio--the scorpion, the eagle, and the phoenix.
The Star is particularly interesting, because Poole has added the dimension of the shadow aspect to the card. Most ascribe shadow issues to The Devil and/or Strength. You might have noticed that underneath The Star card title and keyword is the number 17/8 (and the King of Fire is numbered 37/1). These numbers are based on the Javane/Bunker numerological assignments to the tarot, and Poole assimilates this numerology into her card interpretations.
Also interesting is the fact that there are only 27 pages devoted to the card interpretations. Immediately following the card descriptions are two sample spreads (including a variation of the Celtic Cross), two pages on "Chart interpretation," and then a lengthy section on symbolism. Actually, this section does directly apply to the cards, because each symbol definition includes the card or cards on which it appears. There is a wonderfully delineated section on color symbolism, which not only covers a specific color, but the variations in meaning when the color is pale, dark, and/or murky. There is also a large section on alchemical symbols which I found quite valuable.
The cards are brightly colored and arrestingly drawn. Many are quite beautiful. While Poole isn't always in complete command of fine drawing skills, she more than makes up for it in spirit and style. Card backs are intricately drawn in black and white and are not reversible. While the art is striking, the name of the deck on a card back always annoys me; if I don't know the deck's name, perhaps I shouldn't be using it. Strength is VIII and Justice XI. Cards measure 4 1/2" x 2 3/4". Cards have unique astrological assignments which are not based on the Golden Dawn attributions.
I have issues with Poole's take on history and lack of bibliography, but reading the book was enormously valuable in helping me to understand and appreciate the MerryDay Deck. In fact, it is now a deck that is on my "frequent rotation" list--a high compliment to the deck and its creator when you consider the breadth of its "competition." The deck and book are published by friends of the author. The quality of the deck is excellent, but the book could have used a proofreader. This does not diminish the value of the text, but should be addressed in later editions. My copy of the MerryDay companion book is hand-bound, but I understand that it is now published as a spiral, which I think is ideal for the material, since you'll probably need to write in the book--always nice if it lays flat when you do that.
I recommend this deck/book set to those who are looking for something different, but not too different. Poole has acknowledged that she has been greatly influenced by the Rider-Waite-Smith imagery. Anyone trained on R-W-S or a clone will not have too many problems reading with this deck, especially if they purchase the book. The deck itself doesn't have a LWB, though it does contain a four page cardboard "cheat sheet" limited to keywords and the numerology that is on the cards. I recommend that anyone who buys (or already owns) the MerryDay deck purchase the companion book, because it's extremely helpful in understanding the deck and also offers unique, fascinating information. The artist's website offers the book and deck for sale individually and as a set.
MerryDay Tarot would also be of interest to those looking for a pagan deck.
XIII Metamorphosis Scorpio
As the Fool follows the ribbon of mist, it ends with the scorpion. Scorpio is the only astrological sign to house three symbols: the scorpion, who for lack of anything else to do, will sting himself to death; the eagle, who flies closest to the sun; and the mystical phoenix, who from the ashes of his burning will rise anew. The first experience then, is to experience the death of old ideas and habit patterns; the second is attempting to soar freely toward new and innovative experiences; and the third is complete rebirth and metamorphosis. Most decks of cards consider number thirteen to be the death card, and we have placed a tiny skull in the desert. We prefer to emphasize and concentrate on rebirth and regeneration, though the symbolic representation of colorless to colorful butterflies. The desert and the cactus are the platform of Key Thirteen, suggesting that even in arid, dry, and unlivable environments, there are hidden sources of water and life from which the seeker can gain strength and transformation. The Fool now finds "power through experience." He must become non-judgmental and welcome situations that introduce anything concerning "on death and dying." Near death experiences, hospice work, and any form of healing are natural extensions of this card. They must cultivate protection to insure against becoming power-hungry, revolutionary, temper tantrums, and spiritual amnesia. Also fear of death, fear of losing, grasping at life instead of "living" life, are all associated with negative Key Number Thirteen. This card should exemplify hope rather than instill the fears usually associated with the Death card. It rarely, if ever, means death. It is called metamorphosis. This card is meant to inspire people to let go and dare risk a tour into the vast region of the unexplored, with courage, not fear!
You can see a sample reading with the MerryDay Tarot Deck here:
You can read another review of the MerryDay Tarot Deck here.
The MerryDay Tarot Deck and MerryDay Tarot, Numerology,
and the Invisible Kingdom by Louisa Poole
Publisher: Jackie & Rick McCabe
Images and text © 1997, 2000 Louisa Poole
Review and page © 2001 Diane Wilkes