wheel5.jpg (23398 bytes)The Wheel of Change Tarot - Review by  Lee A. Bursten

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

This deck by Alexandra Genetti has had many favorable reviews. There are many things I like about it, but there are things I don’t like, so I thought I would add my two cents.

To cover the positives first, I like colorful decks, and this deck is certainly colorful. Done in watercolor, many of the pictures are very skillfully painted. I usually prefer Waite-type Fools, but I could certainly live with this Fool, who seems more Crowley-ish. I love the way a river of stars rushes up from the bottom of the card, winds around the Fool, and flows off the card at the top. The Magician, the High Priestess, the Devil, the Tower, and the Sun are all extremely attractive cards. Justice is absolutely wonderful, with all manner of animals flowing around the central figure. This card shows Genetti at her very best. I’m also very fond of the Hermit. He is shown wearing glasses but with his eyes closed and his hand against the trunk of a pine tree. There are a microscope and a telescope in the foreground and planets hovering in the background. I don’t quite know why, but this strikes me as a perfect Hermit.

The World card is just about the best and most imaginative World card I’ve seen in any deck. The planet Earth in the shape of a woman steps out of a blue egg, holding the moon in one hand and a comet in the other.

I also like the multiculturalism of the deck. Many different races and cultures are portrayed in the Major and Court cards (the pip cards contain no people), but this is not done self-consciously as in many decks.

Unfortunately, I find that the artistic execution is not consistent throughout the deck.

There are some cards like the Hanged Man and the Star which seem amateurishly painted, which is very surprising considering the high quality of many of the other cards.

I also have some problems with the Minor cards. The Court cards are commendable for their multi-ethnicity, and they show some interesting scenes, but I find them difficult to read with because the scenes aren’t particularly evocative of specific meanings (at least not to me). For example, the Queen of Wands shows a woman playing a flute while musical notes float around her, some of them catching fire. But what does it mean? The book packaged with the deck, written by the artist, while impressively hefty, doesn’t give much help. "The Queen of Wands is a symbol of passionate participation in a complex creative enterprise. This creative endeavor may involve coordination of a vast number of people...who are all working for a common pattern or goal." This doesn’t suggest much to me, and it seems a rather limiting definition for the Queen of Wands.

In fact, I find this to be true with many of the Minor cards. Some scenes are quite evocative, such as the 8 of Swords, showing a baseball crashing through a glass window. But others just sit there on the cardboard and don’t seem to suggest much. For example, the 4 of Wands shows an Egyptian bird flying over four Washington Monument-shaped obelisks. The meaning given is "a creative completion and ending that can give you a new perspective." This simply doesn’t give me a sense of immediacy and emotional impact as Minor scenes on other decks, particularly the simpler ones of the Waite/Smith.

My favorite Minor card is the 10 of Swords, which shows the inside of a garden shed, while through the open door we see stars and planets. Again, I’m not sure what it means, but it’s certainly nice to look at!

Although the book is long and detailed, the card descriptions seem to follow a trend in some Tarot books lately of issuing preemptory New-Agey instructions (like "Allow your creativity to carry you into the future with a sense of continuity") which, however much I may agree with them, don’t really describe the cards in terms of psychological states and conditions, which (to me anyway) is what the Tarot is all about.

Finally, I am quite uncomfortable with what I see as a preoccupation with women’s breasts, women’s private parts, and bodily fluids. For example, it’s not enough that the Empress is bare-breasted and pregnant, but she must sit on a vulva-shaped hill, while behind her is a hill identified in the text as representing a pregnant abdomen, and beyond that, two hills representing breasts. Likewise, Judgment shows a young boy emerging from a vulva-shaped hole in the ground, with the same three hills behind him. In this case the symbolism becomes humorously overdone when you notice that the two hills representing breasts are each topped with small nipple-shaped towers.

I also find quite disturbing the image of Temperance, from whose breasts flow blood and milk which mix together in a cauldron at her feet. This is similar to the Star card of a different deck, the Alchemical Tarot, in which a mermaid’s breasts leak blood and milk into the water around her. These images are probably derived from old alchemical illustrations and do, I suppose, have occult and psychological significance, but am I the only one who would rather not see these images on Tarot cards? Finally, the Moon shows a river of what is identified in the text as menstrual blood.

The book and deck are obviously a result of a great deal of thought and effort on the author’s part, and in many respects it has paid off. However, I don’t feel it is for everyone. Like the Cosmic Tribe Tarot, by the same publisher, it’s very attractively packaged with some of the best (and most innocuous) cards shown on the box. I would suggest trying to view some of the other cards before buying it. (One way NOT to do this is to open the deck in the store and then put it back, which just ruins it for someone else and deprives the artist and publisher their rightful compensation for their efforts.)

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

Copyright 1998  Lee A. Bursten

Images Copyright 1997 Alexandra Genetti

Page Copyright 2000 Diane Wilkes