September/October 2015 Issue
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The Sacred Circle Tarot
This article was written by Donald Michael Kraig, Certified Tarot Grandmaster on June 27, 2008
Summary: The Sacred Circle Tarot features brilliant, realistic art and a totally Celtic Pagan orientation. Perfect for art collectors, Pagans, and people who already have experience with Tarot, its uniqueness is its high point and its challenge, as the Minor Arcana is non-pictorial and the Major Arcana has numerous renamings and even renumbering. Great for meditation and personal development.
Name of deck: The Sacred Circle Tarot
Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide
Creator: Anna Franklin
Artist: Paul Mason
Brief biography of artist: Paul Mason was born in Leicester, England, in 1951. He studied fine art in college and, since graduating, has worked as a graphic designer, photographer, and illustrator in both paper-based and electronic interactive media. He has had several exhibitions of landscape photography and his photographs have appeared on postcards and greeting cards, as well as in the photographic press. Paul has illustrated two books, Herb Craft and Familiars: The Animal Powers of Britain, as well as designing and illustrating book covers. In the past, he has taught photography and communication skills and was employed as a designer and illustrator by zoos and conservation organizations. At present, he designs interactive multimedia for De Montfort University, U.K.
Name of accompanying book: The Sacred Circle Tarot
Number of pages of book: 336
Author of book: Anna Franklin
Brief biography of author: Anna Franklin was born in the English Midlands. After gaining an honors degree in fin art photography, she worked for some years as a lecturer in fine art and media studies, and as a photographer and illustrator. Increasingly, she found that her work as a Priestess of the native British Pagan Tradition took more and more of her time, and decided to retrain as a therapist in reflexology, massage, and aromatherapy to augment the traditional craft skills of herbalism and counseling. She has run a number of courses in personal and spiritual development, healing, and magic, and has written several books on Pagan subjects including Herb Craft with Sue Lavender); Familiars: The Animal Powers of Britain; Pagan Feasts (with Sue Phillips); and Personal Power. She is the editor of the longstanding British Pagan magazine Silver Wheel and co-editor of the fantasy magazine Strix.
Magical Uses: Meditation, personal spiritual development
Divination Uses: General readings, past life readings, romance and love
Ethnic Focus: Celtic
Artistic Style: Realism
Original Media: Photographs, pencil sketches, computer colorization and enhancement
Theme: Celtic, Pagan, British and Irish.
This is a Tarot deck with the standard number of cards, however it does not have elaborate illustrations for the Minor Arcana and renames many of the Major Arcana cards and reorders some of them. It also has two extra cards, one illustrating "The Planetary Spread" using seven cards and another showing "The Circle Spread" that uses nine cards.
Here are the different names of the Major Arcana Cards:
1 The Magician
2 The High Priestess
3 The Empress
4 The Emperor
5 The Hierophant
6 The Lovers
7 The Chariot
9 The Hermit
10 Wheel of Fortune
12 The Hanged Man
15 The Devil
16 The Tower
17 The Star
18 The Moon
18 The Sun
21 The World
The Sacred Circle Tarot
0 The Green Man
1 The High Priest
2 The High Priestess
3 The Lady
4 The Lord
5 The Druid
6 The Lovers
7 The Chariot
8 The Warrior
9 The Shaman
10 The Wheel
11 The Web
14 The Underworld
15 The Tower
17 The Star
18 The Moon
19 The Sun
21The World Tree
The names of the suits of the Minor Arcana cards only changes the suit of Pentacles to Disks. Swords, Wands, and Cups remain the same.
The Sacred Circle Tarot is specifically designed to be completely based on Franklin’s knowledge of the British Pagan Tradition of Witchcraft. Central to this tradition is the relationship of the practitioners to the land in a real, not symbolic manner. This is exemplified by the art, where the people, plants, and images are extremely realistic, often photorealistic, rather than the somewhat dreamy, symbolic, or impressionistic style found in so many decks. In keeping with the purpose of the deck, Franklin and Mason have worked to remove Christian and Kabalistic imagery and replace it with Celtic Pagan imagery in a way that speaks to modern Pagans. The "circle" of the title relates to the Wheel of the Year as well as the sacred circles of the landscapes and the cycles of life. The cards show landscapes and sacred sites in Britain and Ireland.
It seems like most Tarot decks and their advertising like to shout, "This is a deck for everyone!" perhaps for the purpose of increasing sales. In fact, most Tarot decks can be used by anyone. The Sacred Circle Tarot, however is different. It is an elegant and erudite deck for people who are willing to go the extra mile and challenge themselves with new ways of approaching the Tarot and Pagan practices. Put simply, the more you know about these two subjects, the more this deck comes to life and achieves greater precision, personal direction and power. Therefore, this deck is ideal for people with some previous knowledge of the Tarot or who want to start with something that is absolutely unique. If you just want to learn the basics of "standard" Tarot, you might be better advised to begin with another deck.
The kit includes the deck and a full-sized book. Because of the uniqueness of the deck, the book is absolutely filled with information about the symbolism and meanings of these cards, making it a veritable training manual in Celtic Pagan occultism and symbolism. It has guidance on how to use the deck for meditation and personal development, including the way The Fool (or in this case, The Green Man) can be seen to travel through the Major Arcana cards, mirroring personal spiritual development. Six spreads are included, ranging from the popular Celtic Cross Spread to the unusual Web Spread, a layout that uses seventeen cards in a design of a spider’s web to examine past, present, and future trends, as well as their interrelationships. As the book doesn’t give examples of how cards are interpreted based on their position in the spreads, having previous knowledge and experience with the Tarot is beneficial.
The earliest Tarot cards do not have pictures on the Minor Arcana cards. One of the reasons the Rider-Waite-Smith deck became so popular over the past 100 years is because pictorial images were added to the Minor Arcana. The Sacred Circle Tarot returns to the original. The Nine of Wands shows a net of nine wands against a verdant landscape. The Nine of Cup shows nine cups filled with flowers in front of a sacred mound. The Minors do have names on them—the Nine of Cups, for example, is named "Stability"— which makes interpretation easier, but not as easy as with a set of pictorial Minor Arcana.
When I originally trained in Tarot reading with The Associated Readers Of Tarot, I was taught using a similar, non-pictorial Minor Arcana. This is also the method that is used on decks such as Crowley’s Thoth Tarot and the Tarot used by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Although this is not a widely popular approach, it can be very powerful as you need to memorize meanings and concepts for the cards and are not limited to the symbolism. I was able to immediately use these cards and added their definitions to my repertoire of meanings. Thus, this deck actually added depth to some readings I gave using these cards.
Further, the images are all of important sites. The "sacred mound" of the Nine of Cups is actually the summit of Glastonbury Tor. All of the plants in all of the cards are fully described, as is their symbolism.
I love the Thoth Tarot, however I use it primarily for meditation, not for divinations. Likewise, although this deck is great for general readings, readings for romance, and past lives, I think I’m primarily going to be using this deck for meditation and personal spiritual development. What I do is select a card at random and look up the meaning and symbolism in the book. I read that a few times, then I put the book down and simply focus on the card. Every time my mind wanders from the meaning and symbolism, I gently bring it back to the focus. Eventually, my vision "softens" and turns inward. I stay in that meditative state until I start to focus on the physical world.
The realism of this deck is breathtaking. The information about the meanings of the Celtic sacred places, all in one source is fascinating and leads to further study. It’s great for divinations, but in my opinion, even better for personal spiritual development. Perfect for people who have some experience with the Tarot.
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