The Sacred Circle Tarot by Anna Franklin, illustrated by Paul Mason
Review by Errol McLendon

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

My motherís first attempt at buying a Tarot deck for me was a very successful accident. Considering my mother lives in Mississippi, I know the choices were somewhat limited. As I opened the box last Christmas, I never expected a Tarot deck (my mother is still somewhat uncertain about all this stuff), let alone a very beautiful and functional deck. I have waited this long to write a review of the deck in order to really have time to get to know it.  Well, now I know it and love it.

The deck is Pagan in design and photographic in nature. In the past, I have had an aversion to most photographic decks mainly because I am a photo purist. Having done 35MM black and white photography in the past, I have a deep seated resentment toward computer manipulation programs which I feel take the art away from the moment the picture is taken. Most photo decks I have seen in the past are so manipulated, the original image is unrecognizable. In the Sacred Circle deck, Mr. Mason has done an exceptional job of using the tools available to enhance his original images without losing the integrity of his artistry behind the camera. Each image is emotionally charged, inviting and loaded with sensual connections.

For readers who utilize the elemental dignifiers, this deck is ideal. The Minor Arcana cards are created with a border symbolizing the four elements-water for cups, fire for wands, clouds for swords and mottled greenery for discs (represented by silver shields). The basic border on the Major cards is a stone texture, with each card's border being decorated with various plant and creatures applicable to the card meaning.

This deck does have one word meaning printed on the cards, of which I am not a big fan; however, I find the meanings well chosen to convey a fairly generally accepted definition of each card. In the case of the Court cards and the Aces, the key words follow a specific pattern. The word on the Aces convey the basic impulse of the suit (Creativity, Intellect, Spirituality and Abundance).  All the Kings carry the word associated with their element (Fire, Air, Water, and Earth). According to the author, the Queens represent the mutable qualities of the element; the Knights, its fixed qualities; and the Pages, its cardinal qualities.

When starting to read with this deck, I definitely had to go through a bit of a learning curve. The Fool is depicted as the Green Man, a much more sensual energy than is normally associated with the standard Fool. I personally like the energetic primal force the Green Man brings to a reading - a bit more driven than simply stepping off a cliff. The Hierophant appears as The Druid, representing a balance between the spiritual and the human aspects of life. We find Strength in the form of The Warrior; the Hermit become the Shaman; the Web takes the place of Justice (shake the web in one place and repercussions are felt everywhere) and the Hanged Man becomes Sacrifice. Then it really gets fun. The Major card order is listed below:

0 The Fool - The Green Man
1 The Magician - The High Priest
2 The High Priestess - The High Priestess
3 The Empress - The Lady
4 The Emperor - The Lord
5 The Heirophant - The Druid
6 The Lovers - The Lovers
7 The Chariot - The Chariot
8 Strength - The Warrior
9 The Hermit - The Shaman
10 Wheel of Fortune - The Wheel
11 Justice - The Web
12 The Hanged Man - Sacrifice
13 Death - Death
14 Temperance - The Underworld
15 The Devil - The Tower
16 The Tower - Initiation
17 The Star - The Star
18 The Moon - The Moon
19 The Sun - The Sun
20 Judgement - Rebirth
21 The World - The World Tree

The accompanying book takes the reader through the Foolís journey in very easy-to-understand terms. I found that the minute I quit trying to equate the cards of the Sacred Circle to the standard Rider-Waite order, the order made perfect sense. My suggestion would be to learn the deck as a new deck, not as a Rider-Waite clone.

Last, but definitely not least, is the intriguing use of actual sacred sites as backgrounds of many of the cards. The authorís research on the various sites is like a mini-travelogue of the sacred sites throughout the British Isles. Once you learn the details of the sites on each card, your understanding of the card grows substantially. These cards encouraged me to do further reading on the sacred circles, burial mounds and chalk figures throughout England, Scotland and Ireland. In fact, my 50th birthday trip (in 2004) to myself will be a motorcycle trip to many of these sites. This would have never come about if my mother had not happened across this deck somewhere in Mississippi. Thanks, Mom.

The Sacred Circle deck is a beautiful and challenging addition to any collection. Allow time to absorb the symbolism and inner messages of the cards and you will be rewarded with a deck that is a wonderful open passageway for readings, personal meditation or spell work. May  the Circle be unbroken.

The Sacred Circle Tarot by Anna Franklin, Illustrated by Paul Mason
Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide
ISBN#:  1-56718-4570-X

You can read other reviews of this deck here and here.

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

Errol McLendon is a Certified Tarot Master reading, teaching and living Tarot. Seven years ago, Errol bought his first deck of cards after receiving what he considered to be a very inaccurate reading in New Orleans. The rest is history. Errol is also an actor and director around the Chicago area, as well as a guest artist throughout Texas, Oklahoma and upstate New York. Visit Errol at his website.

Images © 1998 Llewellyn Worldwide
Review © 2001-2003 Errol McLendon
Page © 2002 Diane Wilkes