The Mountain Dream Tarot by Bea Nettles   
Review by Diane Wilkes

The Mountain Dream Tarot was originally published in 1975 (you can read a review of the original deck by Michele Jackson here).  Long out-of-print, it went for fabulous sums on EBay and was the object of many tarot enthusiasts' lust, including mine (like Jimmy Carter, I'm not afraid to admit I sometimes entertain lust in my heart--for tarot decks only, of course).

I felt like I scooped the tarot world when I announced on the front page of this site that the Mountain Dream Tarot was available in a new edition from the photographer/artist, Bea Nettles.  To me, this seemed like a proclamation of major proportions. 

Paula Gibby has contributed a side-by-side comparison with the original.  But unless you already possess the original deck or have megabucks available to you, it seems that focusing on the earlier edition is counterproductive to your satisfaction in this extremely (I'm tempted to say ridiculously) reasonably-priced deck.

Like the more recent Healing Tarot, the Mountain Dream Tarot is a photographic deck unapologetically influenced by the Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) deck.  Some might even call it a clone, and I wouldn't disagree with that assessment.  Certainly, the images are posed to duplicate the physical symbology of the RWS, but the cards assume the energy and spirit of the models chosen to step in to Pixie Smith's structure.  

The majority of the cards are utterly similar to the RWS in terms of image construction.  Examples of this are the Two of Wands and Seven of Cups.  Occasionally, the photographer offers a different twist, such as in the Three of Pentacles, where individuals are counting or stacking boxes, not discussing architectural changes.  The Six of Cups shows two angelic-looking children playing with large copper chalices, with nary a palace or palace guard in the background.

The people in the cards really hearken back to the sixties and seventies, bringing a pleasant wave of nostalgia to an old lady like me.  You see this especially in the court cards; the Queen of Pentacles is the quintessential earth mama, with her granny dress and--I love this!--a Venus glyph in the center of her headband.  I am disappointed in the Queen of Wands--where is her cat?  I can understand the logistical need to eliminate a castle, but cats are much easier to find--and essential for every Queen of Wands!

The cards are tinted with different colors, adding to the hippie feel of this deck.  The Major Arcana are a blackish-purple, Wands are green, Cups are mauve, Swords are dark grey, and Pentacles are light brown. 

The cards come in an elegant, black pin-striped box that doesn't hold them snugly, hence a piece of cotton comes nestled with the deck.  It made me think of Tylenol™, which isn't normally something I associate (or want to associate) with the Tarot.  Personally,  I don't see the necessity for including the cotton--the box isn't so large that the cards will scatter to the four winds.  The cards themselves are the size of index cards, 3 1/2" x 5" and are of matte card stock that is neither slippery nor particularly sturdy.  There is a title card and another card that quotes briefly from the original text that accompanied the deck in 1975, and a paragraph regarding the newest update.  In it, we learn that the reversible card backs are a new design by Gavin Suntop, and the deck creator has new versions of the Pages of Swords and Cups--her son and daughter now grace those cards.

This is as much a period piece as any deck that invokes the Renaissance or the legend of Avalon.  It's totally sixties, man.  You can practically smell the patchouli incense.  Yet Bea Nettles portrays the tarot images so effectively and is such a fine photographer and artist that the time period just adds another dimension to the oh-so-familiar imagery.

You can purchase this deck from the artist's website for just $17.00--and that includes shipping in the United States!  Considering that this is a limited edition, self-published, high-quality 78 card deck by a celebrated photographer, this is an absolute steal!  I plan to buy several copies as gifts before August 31st, as the price will then go up to $22 (still a steal). 

I  recommend this deck to just about anyone who comes to this page on a regular or semi-regular basis. Anyone who can read with RWS has virtually no learning curve to worry about with the Mountain Dream Tarot, it's interesting as art, and it's an inexpensive collector's deck.  This is a win-win-win.

Now you understand why I heralded the publication of this deck so enthusiastically.  Paula Gibby agreed to write a comparison review of the original and new version of the deck, which you can read here.

You can see a sample reading with the Mountain Dream Tarot here

Images © 2001 Bea Nettles
Review and page © 2001 Diane Wilkes










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