If you'd like to purchase this deck/book set, click here.
The Tarot of Transformation by Willow Arlenea (artist) and Jasmin Lee Cori (author) is a deck aimed at spiritual transformation through the cards. It is made clear very early on in the accompanying book that this deck is really only suited to spiritual readings, and after looking at the deck itself, I can see that this is just as well: The deck would be useless in any mundane readings!
Initially, I fell in love with this deck. The artwork of Arlenea is, quite frankly, stunning, and fits this deck’s ‘spiritual transformation’ theme beautifully. The artwork is quite abstract, in that there aren’t any clear features on any of the figure’s faces in the cards, and whilst the images are complex, they do not have the detail that watercolor or fine art does. This certainly doesn’t detract from the images, since there are still plenty of symbols in the cards, and you can see what is happening in the card very easily. The artwork itself seems very flowing and easy on the eye, which fits in with the deck’s theme.
The deck does make quite a few changes to tradition, the most noticeable being the Major Arcana title changes which are:
Empress: Earth Mother
Emperor: Green Man
Hierophant: Spiritual Leaders
Hermit: The Crone
World: The Kosmos
I think all of these title changes work quite well, except for the change to Judgement. I have never seen the Judgement card as ‘compassion’, and have always thought it to be quite uncompassionate, in fact. I was very surprised to see that this card hadn’t been changed to ‘Rebirth’ instead, as is so common with deck who wish to get away from the Christian Judgement Day idea.
Each Major Arcana card has a purple border, its title at the bottom, and a keyword/phrase at the top, which relate to the card’s meaning. The strange thing here is that some of the phrases don’t relate so much to the card’s meaning, but to the change that has been made compared to the traditional card. For instance, the Spiritual Leaders card, once the Hierophant, has the phrase ‘Taking the Hierophant off the Pedestal’, and Compassion, once Judgement, has the phrase ‘Transcending Judgement’ on it. These key phrases are handy, and certainly get across the meaning of the cards. However, a lot of the time, one has to rely on these phrases to interpret the card, instead of just being able to look at the image and see the meaning. The images, whilst being beautiful, don’t convey the meanings of the cards well enough on their own.
The images of the Majors are totally non-traditional, and many of them are quite unrecognizable as the cards they are supposed to be. Strength is one example, where we see an Egyptian woman with wings outstretched, a pyramid in the background, and a couple of snakes. I see nothing in this card which looks remotely like a traditional Strength card. I wouldn’t mind so much if this new image actually conveyed the meaning of the card (Moving from the Core), but it doesn’t. The key phrase is beautiful, and I can see where it fits into a traditional Strength-card interpretation, but the image just doesn’t fit.
The Minor Arcana are a bit more disappointing. They, like the Majors, have the original title (tradition has been kept to here, so titles involve a certain number of Swords, Wands, Cups, or Disks), as well as a keyword/phrase at the top of the card. The images in the Minors are better at fitting the key phrases than the Majors are, but again, I find that the only way I can interpret the Minors is to rely very heavily on the phrases to give me a clue as to the meaning of the card. Another big problem I have with the Minor Arcana in this deck is that most of the card meanings have been changed in some way, and every single negative card has been changed to something very positive. For instance, the Three of Swords, usually heartache and jealousy, is ‘Moving Toward Freedom’. Instead of the meaning of ruin and despair for the 10 of Swords, this deck has ‘Leaving the Story’, and the Nine of Swords (usually cruelty and mental anguish) becomes ‘Trust Walk.’ These are only a few of many examples of where the negative cards have been changed to positive ones. In my opinion, this is a disservice to this deck, as life is not all positive. There will always be a dark to balance the light and a negative to balance the positive, and as a mirror of life, the tarot should reflect this balance. By taking all the negative possibilities out of the tarot, the deck creator has removed a huge part of life’s valuable experiences from it. It is as if the creator is saying that we can only transform ourselves spiritually through easy, positive experiences, and this simply isn’t true.
The Minor Arcana each have a colored border depending on their suit: yellow for Swords, green for Disks, blue for Cups and red for Wands. This does help get across some of the elemental aspects of the cards, although these aspects are not touched upon in the images of the cards themselves. There is also not a sword, cup, wand or disk to be found anywhere in the cards, which is probably for the best in this deck, due to the style of artwork and busy-ness of the cards.
The court cards are the most untraditional cards in the whole deck, with both the titles and the meanings being changed in most of them. Instead of King, Queen, Knight and Page, we are given Master, Healer, Teacher, Server. And again, whilst the images in the cards work quite well with the key phrases, they do not stand up well when looked at alone.
The deck as a whole could foreseeably come under fire, since its cards show only beautiful, thin women; there are hardly any men to be found in this deck. The card stock is also very thin, possibly the thinnest I’ve yet come across, and when shuffling the deck one can’t help but feel it might fall to pieces any second! The cards are quite large as well, which makes shuffling even more difficult, but the backs are fairly generic and there’s nothing much to say about them other than, ‘they’re very purple’, which pretty much sums up this whole deck! For some reason, purple seems to be the dominant color in the cards, and as such, the deck has taken on a very ‘girlie’ feel to it.
The book is fairly standard, with a brief introduction to the deck and why it was created, some words about tarot spreads, and the descriptions of the cards themselves, which don’t really explain the image in the card, more the concept the card represents.
Overall, I find this deck somewhat lacking. The idea is nice, and it’s good to see decks on the market which are specifically for spiritual readings, but this deck is far too ‘fluffy-bunny’ for my liking, and departs too much from the traditional tarot deck for me to find it effective. The images on their own are too abstract and obscure to be readable, and, whilst this deck is nice to have in a collection, I wouldn’t recommend it to beginners, tarot traditionalists, people who are looking for a mundane reading deck, or men.
If you'd like to purchase this deck/book set, click here.
The Tarot of Transformation by Willow Arlenea (artist) and Jasmin Lee Cori
Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
You can read other reviews of this deck/book set here and here.
Images © 2003 Red Wheel/Weiser Books
Review © 2003 Kim Huggens
Page © 2003 Diane Wilkes