The Mary-el Tarot by Marie White
Review by Diane Wilkes

I have been salivating over the images of this deck for a very long time (and drool is so unattractive on a computer screen). Now, I have my very own laminated copy to have and to hold and gaze upon, so my computer screen is safe.

I could continue traversing this verbal path, but you get the picture. Speaking of pictures, the Mary-el Tarot cards are so beautiful that I am neither alone in my admiration for this deck or the long wait for it to become a tangible, usable deck. And now it's available through the artist as a Majors-only deck with the four aces. While I suspect that the inclusion of the four aces is due to Marie's pleasure in the way they look together, this makes it possible for a reader to incorporate the elements and their meanings into a reading. This is a not inconsiderable bonus.

But let me begin at the beginning. White started creating these cards in 1999 and, because she notified various tarot e-lists of this, a group of fans (of which I was a member) began awaiting the emergence of each new card.  While there are many new and interesting decks being created on a regular basis, White's stands out because of her artistic ability and her ability to knowledgably synthesize traditional tarot and kabbalistic elements into her work.

Take the Justice card (numbered VIII). Marie is hardly the first to use the Egyptian myth of Maat to give form to the Justice archetype, but I defy you to find another version as clearly and powerfully delineated. The angularity and precision of the artwork, blended with royal and harmonious jewel tones, creates an image that inspires the appropriate awe and majesty this card demands. And while Maat is the center of this card, the booklet reminds us of Her counterpart, Isfet, who represents "imbalance, injustice, and everything bad or chaotic." The blue serpent that bedecks Maat's arm symbolizes Isfet, a constant and tangible reminder of potential chaos.

The World card is another breathtakingly beautiful card.  The dancing woman at the center of this card literally embodies the universe. As she swirls, so goes the world on its axis, engaged in circular motion that is both primal and mysterious. As you look at this card, you can't help but feel awe from this depiction of nature at Her most beautiful and powerful.

Some of the cards are less conventional depictions. The Emperor is a kindly man of wisdom who could play Albus Dumbledore in the next Harry Potter movie. His sword is engraved with fish, a traditional symbol of peace. The Chariot is no man-made vehicle, but depicts a wise woman with her wolves, balancing heaven and earth as she travels on her vision quest. Temperance shows a tiger threading through roiling waters, a far growl from the traditional winged angel of all things harmonious. Still, both are transmuting liquids in their own way. 

I could go on and on about each individual card, and how certain cards mesh, like the Moon and Sun cards, when put together, create an orb of dark and light, or the way the Star puts the destroyed Tower back together again, whole and with a promising new foundation. But wouldn't you prefer seeing all of these cards for yourself at Marie White's site? The choice is akin to the option of reading about sex versus actually having sex.  

The Aces are "the united embodiment of each of the four elements," depicting "pure creatures" of Fire, Water, Air, and Earth. Each one is winged and androgynous, if one could call having breasts and a penis androgynous. The Ace of Wands is a whirl of orange fur and pulsing orange fluid, radiating heat and light, whereas the Ace of Cups angel (left) emanates cooling blue serenity. The Ace of Swords figure has the plumy white head of an eagle, but he contains the Sun in his belly. The most unique card might be the Ace of Pentacles. The central figure has the head of a white bull, giving off this almost Unicorn-like air of gentle magic. Yet the card still retains an awesome sense of power.

The deck comes wrapped in a hand-colored scarf tied in ribbon. It is packaged with a 19 page booklet, which is almost completely devoted to the 26 card descriptions, none of which is even a page long. I found White's style personal, and even endearing, but there were many questions left unanswered by the text. The cards are laminated and have non-reversible brick and white backs in a unique tree of life design. The set is self-published, limited to 250 copies. One hopes that a publisher will soon be found for the complete 78 card deck, but until then, you need this version.

At $65, this set is not inexpensive, but taking into consideration both the hard work demanded of hand-made decks and the quality of the artwork, I recommend it highly to anyone looking for a truly special and beautiful deck.

  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 N/A  
Standard dimensions (4 3/4" X 2 3/4") X  

You can see the complete deck and order from the artist here.

You can see a reading with this deck here.

Images 1999-2003 Marie White
Review and page 2003 Diane Wilkes