Tarot 2000-The Pagan Tarot by Robin Payne, illustrated by Rosemarie Lewsey
Review by Sally Anne Stephen
This tarot set caught my attention for several reasons, primarily because of its title, but also because of the colorful images that I had been offered brief glimpses of various places online. The availability of this set has been somewhat limited in the US market, as the deck is published in the United Kingdom. Occasionally found up for bid on eBay and also sold through other independent sources, it is most generally listed as “rare” and “hard to find”. I often wonder if people who use these terms so liberally (and those who believe the annotation with no further investigation) know what a good search engine is capable of finding. A link to the publisher is provided at the end of this review to save exhaustive effort on anyone’s part.
The deck contains 78 cards, Major and Minor Arcana, with the Minors presented as pips. The
Major Arcana titles carry the names of the usual suspects with which we are all pretty much familiar, save for the
The Juggler (Magician)
Juno (The High Priestess)
Jupiter (The Hierophant)
The Angel (Judgement)
The Minor Arcana is comprised of the suits of Cups, Swords, Coins and Batons. The court cards are ranked Page, Knight, Queen and King. The colors associated with each suit are not taken from the most commonly used elemental perspective. Cups are green, Swords are red, Coins are yellow and Batons are blue. Although Swords are forged from Fire and Batons wave through the Air, Cups still are vessels for Water and Coins still rule the Earth.
There are keywords indicated on all cards of the Minor Arcana. I usually find keywords offered in such a
permanent connection to a card’s image somewhat of an annoyance. In the case of this deck, there are many
keywords which force me to think of the card’s designation as a complete departure to other associations I have previously come to know. An example of this is the "Three of Cups - Rejection" and "Four of Cups - Happiness". At first I mused that perhaps these two cards had crossed wires at the printer and nobody caught the typo...but there are other cards which take similar creative license, so I will leave it at that and just try my best to be flexible with my own preconceptions when using this deck.
The images on the cards of the Major Arcana are colorful and pleasant to the eye, with a mystical illustrative quality. They are bordered with a Celtic knot and the background color of the main image carries over into this framed border, giving each card a seemingly random association of color.
We start our journey with The Fool, but it is The Juggler who presents the tools of the tarot in such a fashion that we know we’re on board for quite the “magickal” mystery tour! The Goddess Diana then debuts in her appearance as Juno, or the High Priestess. Diana is but one of the cast of players who gives repeat performances on other cards, having either lead or supporting roles in The Lovers, The Chariot, Justice and Fortitude, the latter two cards using the Marseilles order of eight and 11 respectively. For a Goddess of such action and vitality, Diana often seems to have a vacant gaze and forced pose. For example, stepping into the image depicted for Fortitude is like channeling old reruns of “Let’s Make a Deal,” with our lovely Goddess as Carol Merrill offering us the choice of what’s behind the curtain, under the box OR that once in a lifetime chance to leap beyond the mouth of the beast, through the inferno to the idyllic paradise awaiting you.
The Empress shows us a beautiful Demeter who, although not giving any outward appearance of a motherly condition, is dutifully planting her seeds of a harvest yet to come. And in one of my favorite representations of Death, thirteen flickering candles surround a stone pillar carved with the suit symbols of the tarot. Stone spectres of the cloak and scythe kind rise up along the shores of a blood red river which flows toward the horizon of a setting sun.
In the deck’s accompanying softcover book, each card of the Major Arcana is gifted with a sonnet. The
sonnets help tell the story of the journey we take along with the cards. My strongest complaint here is
the awkward inclusion of reversed meanings, which read “when badly aspected...” or other such variations.
Thankfully, this ominous warning does not pop up in every sonnet, but when it does I find it distracting,
as I personally do not find reversals to take on such a literal interpretation.
As one of the loveliest examples of both artistic design and prose, The Star is pictured here, along with its accompanying sonnet from the text:
“Oh Beautiful Goddess, now you are truly risen!
A bright jewel in the velvet of the morning sky.
Mistress of the Dawn, amorous Queen of Heaven,
With your intercession all night’s phantoms must fly.
By the lake your priestess weaves her sweet alchemy,
The Serpent withdraws, his dark powers recede;
A blackbird sings once more in the great apple tree,
The lily blossoms, corn burst from the ripened seed.
The sleeper is awake, the forsaken need weep no more,
Gone the pale mask of death from that fair countenance.
Brimus-Iacchus, the Bringer of Light, comes as before,
A child forged in the furnace of spring’s green innocence.
Bright hopes and good prospects now become the theme,
And the star following seekers come to their dream.”
The first half of the book’s 127 pages deal primarily with the deck’s cards. Each sonnet of the
Major Arcana is illustrated on the facing page with the card’s image in black and white. This section is
followed by a listing by suit of the Minor Arcana positions and keywords. The rest of the book presents
several theories and systems of tarot and their various sequences of order which have served as
inspiration for the Tarot 2000 deck. Most of this information is a fairly brief and general treatise,
although interesting in presentation and enjoyable to
fit together into the total overview of this deck.
The cards are 3 x 4 inches in size and quite easy to shuffle. The finish has a smooth medium gloss; however, the edges have a few bumps and ridges that are somewhat distracting to the tactile sense when handling the cards. Deck backs are nearly reversible. They are illustrated with an eye within a rainbow-colored mandala with a spiderweb background; if you look at the corner of the eye as well as the little "glint"' therein, there are very subtle but still identifiable differences between the upright and reversed viewpoint. Overall, this is a good value for the price of the set as obtained directly from the publisher, even including shipping charges from the United Kingdom to the United States. I would recommend this deck for those interested in a tarot created in a Pagan tradition and for those who are flexible in their ability to adapt to alternative interpretations from more traditional associations.
Tarot 2000 - The Pagan Tarot by Robin Payne; illustrated by Rosemarie Lewsey
Publisher: Alexander Associates, 1999
Sally Anne Stephen has been captivated by the tarot throughout the past decade, although a serious student and novice collector for only the past few years. She has participated in three collaborative decks and someday hopes to create a deck of her own. Sally Anne helps moderate the Comparative Tarot e-list and in her spare time gathers up favorite links to post on her website, MoonArcana.
Images © 1999 Alexander Associates
Review © 2001 Sally Anne
Page © 2001 Diane Wilkes