The Shining Tribe Tarot Review by Lee Bursten
(I refer readers to Diane Wilkesís review of this deck and my review of the earlier Shining Woman Tarot for a more complete description of this deck.)
If you would like to purchase this book/deck set, click here.
This is a "Renewed and Expanded" version of Rachel Pollackís Shining Woman Tarot, which was originally published in 1992 by Thorsonís and has been out of print for several years. Thankfully, Llewellyn has brought it back, with larger, more colorful cards, several cards redrawn, a revised book, and much more attractive packaging. Pollack and Llewellyn are to be congratulated for the care and attention they have given to revitalizing and making available this wonderful deck.
Iím in a somewhat unusual position for a reviewer because in my review of Shining Woman, although I liked the deck as a whole, I had problems with several specific aspects of it, and now almost all of them have been addressed and resolved, leaving me with precious few criticisms to make! I donít mean to imply that the author was responding to my comments specifically, which of course isnít the case, but I flatter myself to think that some of my comments may have been along the same lines as the authorís own evolving feelings about her deck, as well as with the comments of others that may have come to her attention.
Specifically, I had perceived an anti-male bias in the original deck. This was not because of the name "Shining Woman," but rather because of the Emperor card, both the frightening image and the accompanying text, which seemed to imply that maleness is inherently bad and needs to be rechannelled, as well as several cards and card descriptions which I felt celebrated women to the exclusion of men, such as the Three of Rivers, referring to friendship "especially" among women, with no corresponding card referring to friendship especially among men.
I am delighted to report that the author has made a strong effort to be more inclusive of men, from changing the title of the deck to the gender-neutral "Shining Tribe" to completely rewriting card descriptions that before seemed biased, like the aforementioned Emperor and Three of Rivers. I no longer feel that the deck leans towards women, although I must point out that there are still occasions where Pollack will place a feminine symbol on an otherwise masculine card, whereas she feels no corresponding impulse to mitigate the effects of a feminine card by including masculine symbols. But on the whole I think that men should not feel in any way left out by this deck.
For those who are interested in the differences between this deck and the earlier, the new cards are of course bigger, about the size of the Waite-Smith. The borders are a warm tan color, growing darker towards the tops of the cards, with a soft gradation between the border and the picture, which makes the whole deck warmer and more approachable.
The colors are brighter, and on the whole I always feel, the brighter the better. However, those who are regular users of Shining Woman may be a little alarmed at some of the new colors, which are not only brighter but have sometimes changed dramatically. I sat down and examined each card and compared the new and old decks (yes, this is obsession). In general, brown has become red, dark blue has become light blue, and tan has become yellow. In Tradition (Hierophant) the effect is almost garish; the tan central circle has become bright yellow, and the five standing stones are now bright red. Many of the human figures who before had brown skin now have bright red skin with yellow hair.
In several of the pictures, where the background used to have a mottled, watercolor appearance, the background is now a uniform color. In a few cases the colors have apparently been deliberately changed. For example, in the High Priestess, the snake now has a yellow glow around it which wasnít there before. Despite all this, I do think the brighter colors are an improvement. In the Spiral of Fortune, for example, the red spiral on the blue background makes for a satisfying day-glo effect which was missing in the original. And in the Five of Trees, the sky is darker, creating a nice cityscape effect with the yellow windows.
There is one change which Iím not happy about. In the Shining Woman, the titles were large and upper case. Whatever one may think of the art, and I happen to like it very much, these cards donít look much like what most people associate with Tarot, and the large upper case titles helped to establish the Tarot-ness of them. Now the titles are much smaller and in mixed upper and lower case, and donít have the same impact.
There are five totally new cards, and mostly I prefer the new ones, which make more of an effort to conform with standard ideas about the meanings of the numbers, for example fours meaning structure and stability. Interestingly, the author gives a different, more standard listing of the meanings of the numbers 1-10 than was given in the original Shining Woman book. The new cards, especially the Four of Trees and Four of Stones, are also very attractive esthetically. The only one Iím not wild about is the Gift of Trees, which doesnít seem to live up to the standards of the rest of the deck.
A few of the original cards have had small alterations. In the original Lovers, for example, there was an ugly blotch of ink obscuring the mouths of the figures, which I took great exception to in my review. The blotch has thankfully been removed. The Nine of Stones has been redrawn, making the figure softer and gentler. And a broken chain has been added to the Eight of Stones, encircling the sun.
The accompanying book, while larger and containing more pages than the original, isnít really a much larger, wholly new book, which some reviewers have seemed to suggest. There are some new chapters, a new introduction, and some of the card descriptions, like the aforementioned Emperor, are completely rewritten, and most of the descriptions have an added paragraph or two and some added divinatory meanings, but overall itís the same book, although certainly an excellent one.
My only real remaining complaint is the fact that with many of the minor arcana cards it would be impossible for someone who hadnít read the book to come up with any meaning at all for the picture. Although interesting and imaginative, I feel that the more obscure pictures in this deck donít have the same immediate, visceral impact that a simple picture like the Waite-Smith Seven of Swords does. Ironically, my appreciation for these qualities of the Waite-Smith minors comes from Pollack herself, in her 78 Degrees of Wisdom.
But overall, if youíre looking for a deck with weight and depth, which uses symbols and pictures that are nature-based and more personally meaningful than swords and pentacles, with bright, cheerful pictures, then this is definitely the one for you. I wholeheartedly recommend it.
If you would like to purchase this book/deck set, click here.
The Shining Tribe Tarot by Rachel Pollack
ISBN #: 1-56718-532-0
Lee A. Bursten is a stenocaptioner in real life, using a stenotype machine to provide closed captioning of live television broadcasts for the hearing-impaired. He much prefers his unreal life, where he reads about Tarot and switches favorite decks at an alarming rate, although he has recently developed a fondness for the Waite-Smith. He is very grateful to Michele and Diane for posting his reviews, and especially to his significant other, Larry Katz, for his superhuman patience.
Art © 2001 Llewellyn Publications
Review © 2001 Lee Bursten
Page © 2001 Diane Wilkes