The Tarot of Oz by David Sexton
Review by Morwenna Morasch  

If you would like to purchase this book/deck set, click here.

My first thought when I saw a preview for the Tarot of Oz was "Oh! Why wasn't this done sooner?" For Dorothy's journey along the yellow brick road, along with all the characters she meets on this journey, is just calling to be molded into Major Arcana. Many authors have already analyzed the archetypes used in L. Frank Baum's book series and the well-known movie from 1939 (the book series actually started in 1900 and was concluded in 1920, when Baum passed away). Also, the theosophical ideas Baum harbored (especially about reincarnation, the immortal soul passing through many states of consciousness to a final state of Enlightenment (which may lie at the end of the Yellow Brick Road), and Karma) makes the Oz novels an ideal Tarot project.

So, I preordered the deck immediately and eagerly awaited its arrival. 

The packaging is very attractive the deck comes in a sturdy slipcase which holds both the deck and the booklet, a paperback of 180 pages. The box in which the cards rest opens like a chest, which finally solves my pet hate the crumbling of booklet and/or cards when you try to close the lid on the small side of the normal boxes.

The art had a surprising effect on me at first, as I hadn't expected the rather garish colors. Once I got used to them, I found the straightforward composition of the images with one main character (or sometimes group) in the middle and a big Oz logo (the Z nestled within the O) as the background,  is quite appealing and prevents the deck from becoming whimsical; certainly a danger with that subject! The same Oz logo surrounded by the 4 suit symbols also adorns the backs, which are subsequently not reversible. One thing I was wondering about but couldn't find an answer to is the color scheme of the logo in the Major Arcana. While it stays identical, if disturbingly inappropriate, in every suit of the Minor Arcana (grey/red for Swords, soft pink/lavender for Wands, turquoise/yellow for Cups and green/blue for Stones), all the Majors have differently colored backgrounds in a yellow Oz logo on them, without any explanation.

If I had to compare the artwork to that featured in the books, the strongest resemblance is to the illustrations of W.W. Denslow, who illustrated the first volume in the series, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. 

The deck itself is structured like a classic tarot, 78 cards divided in 22 major and 56 minor arcana consisting of the four suits: Swords, Wands, Cups and Stones (Coins/Pentacles). The characters are based on the book series, so everyone who is only familiar with the MGM movie musical will discover new characters. Though the booklet gives a short summary for all featured characters, you might find the characters' A-Z from Piglet Press a helpful link.

I think Sexton did an extremely good job in assigning the Major Arcana. Even though some of the choices didn't seem really obvious to me, like General Jinjur as The Chariot, the book always offers the author's thoughts and reasons for his choice:

"Before Ozma returned to the throne, the Scarecrow was the ruler of the Emerald City and Oz. He was overthrown by a rebellion. The vivacious girl Jinjur raised an army of women...Though her actions were perhaps misguided, Jinjur was able to shake up the status quo in Oz. As the Chariot, she represents our ability to marshal seemingly opposing forces and direct them as we see fit. Conflict and competition can sometimes be a source of immense energy, but we must be willing to use them like rider uses a steed to control the direction of that energy." 

The 22 Major Arcana are:

0 The Fool - Dorothy
1 The Magician The Wizard of Oz
2 The High Priestess Glinda the Good
3 The Empress Ozma of Oz
4 The Emperor The Tin Woodman
5 The Hierophant Professor H.M. Wogglebug, T.E.
6 The Lovers Nimmee Amee & Chopfyt
7 The Chariot General Jinjur
8 The Force The Cowardly Lion
9 The Hermit The Shaggy Man
10 Wheel of Fortune The Cyclone
11 Justice Tik-Tok
12 The Hanged Man Jack Pumpkinhead
13 Death Dr. Pipt
14 Temperance Polychrome the Rainbow's Daughter
15 The Devil The Nome King
16 The Tower The Deadly Desert
17 The Star Scraps the Patchwork girl
18 The Moon The Wicked Witch of the West
19 The Sun The Scarecrow
20 Judgement The Great Jinjin
21 The World The Fairy Queen Lurline

One of my favourites is Fairy Queen Lurline as The World. Lurline has turned the original Land of Oz, which was cut off from the rest of the world, into an enchanted realm where no one gets older or dies. There is no better character to pick to represent creation and accomplishment.

Naming my least favorite Major is also easy: Jack Pumpkinhead, who is cast as the Hanged Man. I have often found that this is a problem card in themed decks, for often a card is chosen because of its "upside down" nature, regardless of the real meaning. Here, the focus is on sacrifice, especially sacrificing oneself for the sake of others. As we don't have an endless supply of new heads like Jack has, the card warns us to give our resources away carefully. While this statement has certainly truth to it, I feel that some of the deeper meanings of this card of self-development and enlightenment are lost.

The Minor Arcana are set up as quests onto which the central characters embark. Therefor, Swords representing Air and Intellect, stand for the Scarecrow's quest of saving Jinxland from dark magic in order to achieve this, he must use his intellectual powers and ability to handle conflict.

The suit of Wands representing Fire and Creativity/Willpower depicts the Cowardly Lion's quest for courage when he searches for an enchanted flower to give to Ozma and is threatened by the dangerous Nome King.

The suit of Cups (Water/emotions) tells us about how the Tin Woodman tries to reconcile with his lost love, Nimmie Amee, since he now has a heart again.

The suit of Stones (Coins/Earth, monetary and materialistic aspects) is about Dorothy having once again to find her way back to Kansas after being cast into an underworld kingdom.

The court cards are characters from the vast royalty inhabiting the Oz stories, for there is not only Oz in that magical world, but other realms as well. Sexton has tried to find characters who are actually bearing the titles of princess, prince, queen, and king in the novels and connect them with a story adequate of the card's meaning. While this is done satisfyingly well, it puts the court cards quite far away from the rest of their suit most of the time, they are not part of the particular quest the suit deals with. I think this is the part of the deck which is the least fitting one.  

The booklet gives two spreads, one is the traditional Celtic Cross, the other the so-called Yellow Brick Road Spread designed especially for the deck. It is also printed on two additional cards, so you can carry it along with the rest of the deck. 

Like it is said for all theme decks, the more you know about the deck's background, the more you will be able to get out of it. Those who only know the movie will have to do some reading up in order to see the meaning of the cards, especially considering the only real weakness of an otherwise enchanting deck: The images are often not very evocative if you are ignorant of the story behind. On the other hand, if this decks can get you to read L. Frank Baum's novels, you will not regret it!

 "Dorothy asks Glinda, the Good Witch, "Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?",
"You don't need to be helped any longer," a smiling Glinda answers.
"You've always had the power to go back to Kansas."
"I have?"
"Then why didn't you tell her before?" Scarecrow demands.
"Because she wouldn't have believed me. She had to learn it for herself."
The Tin Man leans forward and asks, "What have you learned, Dorothy?"
"Well, I . . . I think that is . . . that it wasn't enough just to want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em . . . and that if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard; because if it isn't here, I never really lost it to begin with."  

If you would like to purchase this book/deck set, click here.

Tarot of Oz by David Sexton
Publisher:  Llewellyn Worldwide
ISBN#: 0-7387-0089-4

Morwenna Nadja Morasch's first encounter with the tarot took place 20 years ago, when she bought Ferguson's Tarot of the Witches in a novelty store out of curiosity. She was immediately hooked and presently owns a collection of about 80 decks. Morwenna has taken classes with two excellent German teachers, Pekny and Banzhaf, and also studies astrology. Spiritually, she follow a Witch's path with a close relationship to the Faerie folk, and is presently contracted to write a book linking faerie magic with the Tarot, to be published in Spring, 2003. View Morwenna's private homepage here.

Images 2002 Llewellyn Worldwide
Review 2002 Morwenna Morasch
Page 2002 Diane Wilkes