The Gill Tarot Deck - Review by Lee A. Bursteng5.jpg (16248 bytes)

If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.

If you would like to purchase this book/deck set, click here.

This deck by Elizabeth Josephine Gill was published by U.S. Games Systems in 1990. It’s a colorful and appealing deck which takes as its theme the kabbalistic Tree of Life. The meanings of the cards are derived from the Tree of Life and numerology; the backs of the cards portray the Tree of Life; and included in the deck is a card diagramming a Tree of Life spread. However, the author also encourages using intuition to interpret the cards, which means one does not have to engage in a study of kabbala to use this deck.

The suits are Swords, Wands, Cups and Disks, although they are nowhere named on the cards. The Court cards are King, Queen, Prince and Princess.

Actually, the most unusual things about this deck are the Minor numbered cards, which use a device which as far as I know is unique among Tarot decks. For the most part they do not contain people; instead, each image is designed around a large Arabic number corresponding to the number of the card. The designs are highly evocative of the cards’ meanings, and there are also large keywords on the cards. Many of the Minors use keywords and meanings derived from Crowley’s Thoth deck, but many are original to this deck, making it a difficult prospect for someone who is used to either the Waite-Smith or Thoth meanings.

The 8 of Wands, whose keyword is "speed" (all the keywords are in lower case letters) shows a large figure 8 set against spinning fields of energy, while eight wands zip around along the numeral. The 7 of Cups, "imagination," shows a dragon entwined around the numeral. The 10 of Disks, "prosperity," shows a beautiful apple tree. Some of the cards are a little more obscure in their design, such as the 5 of Disks, "adaptation," or the 7 of Disks, "delay," both of which rely on abstract design elements to convey meanings which are certainly not terribly clear.

The Court cards also contain keywords, which may or may not appeal to you depending on, one, whether you already have your own ideas about their meanings, or two, whether you want to have the meanings narrowed to the concept of that particular keyword. The Courts are extremely attractive, with specific personalities. For example, the Prince of Disks, "construction," displays for us a wheel he has just built, while the road he is standing on leads toward and winds around a mountain.

The Majors are colorful, skillfully designed, and often striking and original. I found myself a little put off by the author’s zeal in attempting to communicate occult significance, but that may be my own bias. I was also distracted by her tendency to give each character large, staring eyes, which tends to give them a somewhat precious look.

In each card Gill takes full advantage of background scenery to help convey the mood of the card. For example, the Priestess is seen sitting at night in the entrance to a cave or tunnel, but we are inside the tunnel looking out, so that she is surrounded by stars. The dress of the Waite-Smith High Priestess is supposed to become water at the bottom of the card, but in this card the dress really does metamorphose into water. Water or fabric also drips from her veil, for a wonderfully moist effect.

The Empress and Emperor achieve their moods through sheer size. They tower over the landscape. The Empress seems to be formed from the top of a mountain, and the Emperor stands with one foot atop a stone block and the other atop a mountain. These are admirably original and creative designs for these trumps.

The Priest is a similar picture to the Priestess, but his doorway is, appropriately, carefully built with straight lines, compared to her prehistoric-looking opening.

The Hermit and Death are both striking images, the former looking out over the vast reaches of space, and the latter with a skull pictured on its shroud, although the shroud opens where the face should be, revealing blackness.

One card I didn’t like was Temperance, here renamed "Temperare," which shows an angel standing on flaming water, apparently spinning like a top. Gone are the two vessels pouring water between them, and nothing particularly interesting has taken their place.

I would recommend this deck to anyone simply for the beauty and originality of the artwork. I suspect most people will probably not be moved to work with this deck due to the uniqueness of its Minor and Court keywords, but anyone who experiments with it will probably find it a valid system.

If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.

If you would like to purchase this book/deck set, click here.

Review Copyright 1999 Lee A. Bursten

The Gill Tarot Deck by Elizabeth Josephine Gill
US Games Systems, 179 Ludlow St., Stamford, CT 06902, (800)544-2637, Fax (203)353-8431
Stamford, CT 06902
ISBN 0-88079-449-6

Images Copyright 1990 US Games Systems Inc.

Page Copyright 2000 Diane Wilkes