This is a 78 card deck that is difficult to categorize. It is definitely not Tarot. It is also not a divination system. Perhaps the designer's explanation describes it best:
"Symbolon is a game of remembrance. It allows us to remember things hidden deep inside which have been prevented from surfacing over years and decades.
For those who prefer a psychological approach, you might say the power inherent in the images helps raise the unconscious into the higher levels of consciousness."
The deck is based heavily on Astrology, but you can use this deck with or without the Astrological information. In my opinion, an understanding of astrology will make this deck much more enjoyable to use. Each card has either two or four astrological symbols. Those with two have a planet and a zodiac sign, those with four have two of each and are used as combinations. For example, someone with Moon in Capricorn would indicate this combination with the card that shows a combination of Moon (Cancer) and Capricorn (Saturn), which equates to "The Ice Queen." Other aspects from the horoscope are represented in the same manner. Obviously some familiarity with your chart will allow you to lay out cards to represent each aspect, giving you a symbolic representation of the chart.
The art in this deck is excellent. The scenes are detailed and the colors are gorgeous. The astrological glyphs are in metallic gold ink as is the border on each card. I can only hope that the artists will one day decide to do a traditional Tarot deck. There is a card for each sign of the zodiac which shows the sign and the planet. Two cards are given for the planets which do double duty: Venus (Taurus and Libra), and Mercury (Gemini and Virgo). The authors give an explanation for this departure from the norm which they know will upset many astrologers. Although astrology plays a large role in this deck, the authors emphasize that the cards represent "inner personae", not just astrological aspects. To quote again: "Each of us has a 'MEDIATOR' - a Gemini-Mercury - responsible for communication and contact (and for acting out roles)." This allows for using cards that are not indicated on your chart and makes allowances for those who do not have any previous knowledge of astrology. The cards which represent the twelve signs of the zodiac loosely correspond to the Major Arcana in a Tarot deck in that they "..describe the individual personae as a pure archetype." The remaining combination cards represent "..the great realms of human existence which may combine at any time to form inner personae..." The scenes on the cards are quite evocative and cover a gamut from vampires to religious imagery. Some of the scenes are very similar to cards from the Tarot.
The little booklet that comes with the deck describes two methods for use, one for those who know astrology and one for those who do not. A list of planet/sign correspondences is given for those who need it. The booklet states that there are three ways of interpreting a card - as "the problem," as "the way through the problem" or as "the outcome." The interpretations for each card are divided into these three categories. A "Theme Summary," which is basically a short list of key words, is also given for each card. Finally, black and white photos of each card are shown with the corresponding page for their interpretation. This is useful for those who are unfamiliar with the astrological glyphs, as it allows them a means to determine which card is which. Numbering the cards would have been simpler in my opinion and, in fact I recommend that those not familiar with astrology number the cards and the interpretations in the book anyway. It will save a lot of time in the long run. Those familiar with astrology will find that the interpretations are laid out in a logical sequence starting with the twelve zodiac cards, followed by the Moon and Sun cards, followed by the cards for the signs in order. The ways described for using the deck are rather limited, and, in one case, quite complicated. The booklet also warns that Symbolon can not be used to answer yes/no questions. Frankly, I think various methods of using these cards can be devised beyond those provided by the authors. My first exposure to this deck was through Mary Greer, who suggested that one lay the cards out in a natal chart. I don't doubt that other means of use could be improvised, perhaps even in conjunction with a Tarot deck.
I recommend this deck for anyone familiar with astrology who likes working with cards. The art is stunning and makes this deck a pleasure to work with. Astrologers tend to have their own interpretations for aspects and the scenes on these cards will not be in agreement with everyone's interpretations, but I think the scenes that one doesn't agree with may give food for thought, or shed new light on an aspect or sign.
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Available from US Games Systems, 179 Ludlow St., Stamford CT, 06902, (800) 544-2637, Fax: (203) 353- 8431