The Star That Never Walks Around Set by Stella Bennett
Review by Diane Wilkes

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

While I am delighted to see Weiser publishing tarot deck sets, The Star That Never Walks Around seems an odd choice for their primary launch. It's untraditional, the artwork is extremely primitive, and the deck creator, while well-known and well-respected in the Internet tarot community, is not an established author. On the other hand, the Native American theme of the deck is one of the hotter subjects in the metaphysical world.

My first impression of this deck was that it was completely devoid of esoteric attributes, but a closer perusal showed that the Major Arcana (with the exception of The World card) included astrological glyphs. While many of Bennett's attributions are the same as the traditional Golden Dawn assignments, Bennett uses only the zodiacal signs, not the planets. When planetary assignments are replaced with astrological signs, they are often (but not always) the sign ruled by the traditional planet. The Major Arcana assignments are as follows:

Card Bennett's Astrological Assignment Traditional Golden Dawn Assignment
     
The Fool Aquarius Uranus
The Magician Scorpio Mercury
The High Priestess Cancer Moon
The Empress Libra Venus
The Emperor Aries Aries
The Hierophant Taurus Taurus
The Lovers Gemini Gemini
The Chariot Cancer Cancer
Strength Leo Leo
The Hermit Virgo Virgo
The Wheel of Fortune Sagittarius Jupiter
Justice Libra Libra
The Hanged Man Pisces Neptune
Death Scorpio Scorpio
Temperance Sagittarius Sagittarius
The Devil Capricorn Capricorn
The Tower Aries Mars
The Star Aquarius Aquarius
The Moon Pisces Pisces
The Sun Leo Sun
Judgment Sagittarius Pluto
The World None Given Saturn

Some signs are assigned to three cards (Sagittarius); others to only one. This uneven approach seems inconsistent with the emphasis Bennett places on balance. The Court Card attributions are even more untraditional. While Bennett attributes two traditional elements to each, one for rank and one for suit, the signs have nothing to do with these elements--for example, the Queen of Turtles is assigned the sign Aquarius, even though the elements are water/earth. There is no zodiac sign assigned to the Pages.

The astrology of the Minor Arcana adheres more to Golden Dawn tradition. Thunderbolts, which are this deck's Wands, are assigned to the three fire signs, Frogs, the Cups, to the three water signs, Butterflies (Swords) are connected to the three air signs, and Turtles, the earth signs. The four animal assignments are named for the four clans, and Bennett shares one version of a Native American story of a great flood, showing how each clan animal relates to the traditional suit. The story adds a lovely layer to our understanding of the suits.

Sometimes the card meanings, which one must pay special attention to since the imagery and interpretations so often diverge from traditional ones, are incongruent. The Four of Butterflies (Swords) reversed meaning is as follows: "Steer clear of other people's problems at this time. Not a good time for making commitments. Opportunities. Be careful not to make waves or upset the applecart." When I received this card reversed on a day when I was about to make a personal commitment, these words were frustrating and confusing. The image of two mated wolves about to enter the water wasn't much more help, especially as I completely missed the other two wolves who were baying in the background. They are so indistinct as to have appeared to me to be rocks.

While the deck is somewhat untraditional, the author has held on to conventional (some would say anachronistic) physical descriptions for the court cards ("The Page of Turtles is a young person of either sex with white hair, fair skin, and any color eyes."). To me, one of the strengths of this deck is its original approach, and I wish that spirit of innovation had remained consistent throughout the deck.

Throughout the book, Bennett's instructions include constant and gentle reminders that the reader's intuition and instinct should be the ultimate arbiter. The author offers what has worked for her through many years of experience, but consistently urges the reader to find his or her own path. The book includes Bennett's code of ethics, which is beautifully conceived and written; each of her principles is linked to a suit or court card rank.

The book also covers many tarot basics, including the author's take on numerical and elemental associations, reversals, timing, clarifying cards, and karma. There is also a section on how to read round cards in general and for issues of timing. The section on spreads includes several original layouts, including a karmic spread that utilizes only the court cards. There is no bibliography, but the author does include a suggested reading list. Some of her selections seem odd, considering the target audience for this deck consists of beginners; the out-of-print Tarot Constellations is listed, but not Mary Greer's classic, Tarot for Your Self.

What can I say about the art? It is extremely primitive. Sometimes I can't decipher the images on the cards--and because the art is so spare and there are so few symbols to work with, this makes for a frustrating reading experience. When I pulled the Five of Frogs (Cups), I thought the man was leaning against a cushion, and only after looking more closely did I realize that it was the sun at his back. The lines forming the rays were so lightly scratched into the card that they were easy to miss, especially with such a muted sun. The art looks as if it were done with colored pencils, which, had the drawing been better, would have been an ideal medium for this gentle deck. I realize that art is subjective, but I think it would have been better for all concerned if a more gifted artist had been found to illustrate this deck.

The card backs are reversible and are really lovely--they are in a quilt pattern of navy and soft grey. Very apropos. The cards measure 4" around and are round, as you can see from the images displayed. The card design is clean and attractive--the image on one side, the card title on the other, with a slim tree separating the two.

While this deck isn't to my taste, some will find the deck's homespun simplicity attractive. Bennett repeatedly avers that the deck is created with beginners in mind, and with the book, it is a self-contained set that tarot novices can absorb with a minimum of difficulty. However, the deck's untraditional imagery will make learning a more traditional deck a challenge to the novice who begins with The Star That Never Walks Around Tarot.

It could be that I am adversely influenced by the deck's price. The Star That Never Walks Around is quite expensive for a deck/book set, and the book (208 pages) is short by most standards. The level of artistry of the deck does not, to me, warrant a price tag of $35.

You can read another review of this deck here.

Excerpt:

Page of Thunderbirds

Elements:        Earth/Fire
Zodiac sign:    none

The Page of Thunderbirds, a child of either sex with fair hair, blue eyes, and fair skin, is represented by the Kachina-like figure of the Thunderbird.  This is representative of the childlike ways of the pages.  This Page brings courage and beauty into your life.  Messages are usually delivered through a close friend or relative. His actions are sudden in love and also in anger.  Reversed, he can be cruel and may break your heart.

Message:                    Your destiny is to continue to grow and learn.

Upright Meaning:      Message of happy news from relative or loved one.  Resourceful.  Ambitious.

Reversed Meaning:    Disappointing news.  Domineering relationship.  Upsets.

  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 (4 3/4" X 2 3/4")                   N/A    
Smaller than standard                                             N/A
Larger than standard                                              N/A    
     
     

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

The Star That Never Walks Around: A Native American Tarot Package by Stella Bennett
Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
ISBN#: 1578632420


Text cited and images 2003 Red Wheel/Weiser
Review and page 2003 Diane Wilkes