Transformational Tarot by Arnell Ando

Review by Diane Wilkes

I first got to see the complete deck at a workshop and I was so enchanted by the beauty of some of the cards that I ordered it immediately. This is significant only in that I am a major procrastinator who likes to go to as little effort as possible in procuring a deck, and ordering one through an individual seemed arduous to a slug like myself.

Transformational Tarot is worth even more of an effort than I expended, and exceeds my initial expectations by a long shot. The pictures are done in a collage form. Most of the cards have one main image, with additional images added to form a creative dissonance. Many of the cards are based on beautiful and romantic old paintings that evoke a feeling of sensuous appreciation in addition to the mental stimulation that the combination of images provide. Imagine my delight when I perused the deck to discover a copy of a print I have hanging in my room - with appurtenances my print doesn't share, of course. Some of the cards have more than one primary image, however.

The cards are approximately the size of playing cards, and have purple backs. Some of the cards are quite similar in image to the Rider-Waite-Smith, but just as many are not. A loving couple appears on the Three of Cups (Hearts in this deck - the deck uses the traditional suits in a playing card deck, with Hearts equaling Cups, Clubs instead of Wands, Spades instead of Swords and Diamonds for Pentacles), as opposed to the traditional three woman celebrating in a circle. The Seven of Cups is a many armed Goddess, symbolizing an overwhelming amount of choices. the 10 of Wands has a woman carrying an enormous pot on her head - a vivid and resonant image that seems more personally relevant to me than the Rider-Waite man overburdened with sticks.

I should mention my caveats - I do have some, despite my enthusiastic burbling. There are numerous typos and spelling mistakes in the accompanying book, and the interpretations are skimpy and very predictive in nature. This surprises me, because the deck is so rich in terms of psychological and symbolic content. Ironically, even this is not much of a concern for me, because the artist thoughtfully provides ample space for individual interpretation. I prefer the opportunity to create my own personal relationship with each card to utilizing anyone else's, so even my criticism is more for someone who would benefit from more text.

The great thing about this deck is that it gives a totally different perspective on some of the cards without seeming contrived or ignorant of past traditions and traditional meanings. With this issue of Tarot News being dedicated to the Death card in the Major Arcana, I think this deck is a most appropriate deck to review. Death is frequently seen by tarot readers as being indicative of transformation, and I think the artist's intent is to allow individuals the opportunity to re-figure and re-vision their initial understanding of a card while remaining true to the idea of tarot as a deck containing all of life within its span. The deck HAS transformed me, as far as giving me new excitement about tarot in general, and using this deck in particular. It has expanded my tarot worldview, and I am grateful for the renewal. I look at each card with fresh wonder, seeing new things and gleaning new insights.

Please be aware that there is another deck called the Transformational Tarot. This (review) is the one by Arnell Ando, and is no longer in print.

Copyright 1996, Diane Wilkes. Originally published in Vol. IV, No. 6, Issue 22, of Tarot News: Death and Transformation

This page is Copyright 1996/97 Michele Jackson