Let me begin by saying that this deck is not quite a deck yet. Julie Cuccia-Watts, the artist who painted the Ancestral Path Tarot Deck has completed 22 Major Arcana images. She has made copies of these paintings available as notecards. The full set of 22 cards is available for sale. The cards measure 4 3/8" X 5 1/2". The inside of the cards are blank and the back of each card lists the moon or astrological body associated with the card, the card name, and when the moon occurs, the name and date of the cross quarter or in the case of the World card - the planet.
This deck asks one to make a number of radical departures from traditional Tarot and Astrology. It begins with the theory that Tarot predates the Renaissance and may have been associated with the Lunar calendar. The idea is based on the premise that " the Star card is associated with Sirius the Dog Star, which shares similarities with Aquarius. While Sirius is beneath the horizon the Nile floods. Legends say the Stars of the south brought the rain (Tear of Isis). Full Moon in Aquarius occurs during the Dog days (after Sirius rises)." The deck creator used this premise to look for other similarities between Tarot and the full moon. She found several that she thought significant. For example, the Full Moon in Virgo occurs between "February [and the] Vernal Equinox - The Virgin land; barren landscape," and the "Full Moon in Libra [occurs] after the Vernal Equinox - Winter struggles with summer; The balance of the seasons." She was able to place all 13 of the full moons with a Major Arcana card. This left nine Major Arcana cards. She assigned eight of the remaining cards to the Wheel of the Year (Cross Quarter Days), and the last card was assigned to the Earth. The entire sequence is:
|Lunar Cycle||Solar Cycle||Cycles of Earth|
|Full Moon in Aries - Emperor||Samhain - Judgment||Day/Night - The World|
|Full Moon in Taurus - Death||Yule - Temperance||Blue Moon - Moon|
|Full Moon in Gemini - Strength||Candlemas - Wheel of Fortune|
|Full Moon in Cancer - Magician||Eostar - Fool|
|Full Moon in Leo - Chariot||Beltane - Lovers|
|Full Moon in Virgo - High Priestess||Summer Solstice - Sun|
|Full Moon in Libra - Justice||Lammas - Hanged One|
|Full Moon in Scorpio - Empress||Mabon - Tower|
|Full Moon in Sagittarius - Hierophant|
|Full Moon in Capricorn - Hermit|
|Full Moon in Aquarius - Star|
|Full Moon in Pisces - Devil|
The art is excellent. The colors are mostly muted and overall this deck has a somewhat darker feel than the Ancestral Path. In this format, there are no names or numbers on the front of the cards - just the images from the paintings. I dont know whether this will be the case when and if the deck is published. The images are Pagan-oriented with lots of animals, nature scenes, Gods and Goddesses. Some of my favorite cards are the Empress, which shows a woman bathing under a waterfall; Strength, which reminds me Crowleys Lust card; Justice, which shows a laughing Maat with her scales; and Temperance, which shows an old Shaman. Some of the imagery is surprising. For example, the Magician is depicted as a mother with her newborn baby still attached by the umbilical cord. This is an image that I would be more likely to associate with the Empress. Cuccia-Watts says of this card: " This card emphasizes the importance of Renewal/Rejuvenation Powers of Woman. These powers are seen as the Mother/magician bringing forth life from a dark womb." The Devil was another surprise. It shows a very pregnant woman in a seated position surrounded by a bounty of fruits and vegetables. This brings me to the fact that there is not much balance between the sexes. Per my count there are nine cards that feature women, three cards that feature men, four cards that have both sexes and six cards that have neither. I will admit that some cards, like Temperance, could be either sex. I counted those as "neither."
There is no little booklet as this isnt a published deck. There is a 22-page handout. My impression is that Ms. Cuccia-Watts was forced to go to print before she was quite ready. The handout seems to consist of a lot of brief notes such as those that one would write in order not to forget an idea, with a plan of coming back to them and fleshing them out. Some cards have descriptions that are in excess of a page in length. The descriptions include The Moon of Cross Quarter day, Card name, some background information which sometimes includes a description of the card, other names associated with the God/Goddess associated with the card, astrological symbol, or Cross Quarter day, Symbols and Attributes. Other cards have only a few words with several of the sections mentioned above left blank. I am sure that should the deck be published, Ms. Cuccia-Watts will collaborate with a writer or re-write the handout out herself. The handout also includes a poem written by Nancy Shea.
This deck will appeal to Pagans and to those who are looking for a completely different approach to Tarot. The lunar, vice solar, astrological focus and the non-traditional imagery make this deck unique. I hope she gets it published, and I would like even more to see a 78 card version.
See more cards from TARO Ancient Wheel of Wisdom