Garden Path Tarot - An Antipodean Tarot by Melanie J. Cook
Review by Diane Wilkes

There is something unarguably special and unique about hand-crafted decks, and the Garden Path Tarot - An Antipodean Tarot is no exception. Melanie Cook has crafted a highly personal Majors-Only deck based on nature, specifically nature as it looks from the artist's garden, which is located in Australia. While there aren't many cards containing images of people, those that are in the deck are family members.

The deck comes with two extra cards, a title card and one that contains a poem by the author against a serene backdrop. Lines from the poem are included on each of the cards, often to great effect ("I am sight and I am seeing" for the High Priestess), though sometimes they are difficult to read because of the coloring of the photograph.

The images are very artistic and occasionally quite abstract, despite their literalness. My favorite card is the aforementioned High Priestess, with its shimmering magpie lit by the crescent moon. The feeling of stillness and wonder are palpable. The pregnant Empress is, like Molly Bloom, ripe with seed. The Lovers (at top), though, may be the most brilliant card in the Garden Path Tarot: the trees intertwined exudes a supple sensuality that allows even a city girl like me to feel the powerful magic of nature.

Some of the other cards are less enthralling. The big beetle on the Emperor card may make perfect tarot sense, but it's a little too earthy for moi. While the Hanged One's spider is quite fitting, imagistically-speaking, a tarot novice would find it inscrutable.

Everything about this deck evinces the thought and care of its artist, Melanie Cook. The deck is numbered (it's a limited 78 deck edition). The cards, however, are not numbered and are printed on cardstock and thinly laminated, which adds a gentle gloss. The cards are not particularly sturdy and will not survive sustained shuffling. They weren't made to--this is not going to be anyone's daily working deck, with the exception of the artist. The deck comes in a lovely and garden-appropriate bag and with an initialed and dated 24 page booklet that is very poetically composed. Even the white paper band that holds the cards lists the deck number, and is initialed (as is the title card). The card backs are adorned with a beautiful green spiral.

While I find many of the images in the Garden Path Tarot stirring, there's no getting around the fact that this is one off-the-beaten-path deck. This is definitely not a deck for everybody.  I pulled a card from this deck to explain its elusive charms more clearly and received the Strength card. It depicts a young woman standing next to a stick or tree of some kind (supposedly she holds a staff but it's not clear from the image). It is dusk, and a stealthy cat appears through a mist, but you could miss him if you don't observe the card carefully. I think that defines this deck--it possesses hidden strength and mystery if you take the time to look, but a cursory glance will yield much less. The price and distinct uniqueness of this special edition deck will inevitably limit its buyership, but Cook is working on a 78 card version of this deck.

You can see all of the images and order the deck from the artist's website here.

  Yes No
78 cards   X
Reversible Backs   X
Strength VIII, Justice XI                       N/A    
Color Images X  
Standard (RWS) Titles of the Major Arcana X  
Traditional (RWS) Suits (Rods/Wands, Cups/Chalices, Swords, Pentacles/Discs) N/A  
Traditional (RWS) Golden Dawn Suit-Element N/A  
Standard dimensions (approx. 4 3/4" X 2 3/4")                     X
Smaller than standard
4 1/2" X 2 1/2"                                  
Larger than standard                                  

Review and page 2005 Diane Wilkes