New Worlds Spring/Summer 2013 Issue
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Review of the Harmonious Tarot
This article was written by Barbara Moore on October 17, 2008
Summary: The Harmonious Tarot is a beautiful homage to the artwork of Walter Crane and an interesting exploration of an era. The serene, gentle (at first glance!) images calm you, invite you in to explore the intricate details, and then, just when you are in an almost hypnotic, liminal state—they reveal their secrets, and yours. While this deck is built on a Rider Waite Smith foundation, there are departures. For the reader well acquainted with the RWS, this deck presents clever and fascinating facets. For the new reader, this deck is a lovely introduction to Tarot reading.
Name of deck: Harmonious Tarot
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
Artists’ names: Walter Crane, Ernest Fitzpatrick
Brief biography of artist: Ernest Fitzpatrick also illustrated the Lenormand Tarot.
Name of accompanying booklet: Harmonious Tarot
Number of pages of booklet: 63, 14 in English
Author of booklet: Maria Caratti
Brief biography of author: Maria has collaborated on the Universal Goddess Tarot and the Secret Forest Tarot.
Available in a boxed kit?: (Yes/no button or drop down menu)
Reading Uses: Romance, general, meditation, spiritual.
Artistic Style: Kind of Art Nouveau/Arts & Crafts
Original Medium: I think its watercolor.
Theme: A Victorian afternoon visiting a cartomancer.
Does it follow Rider-Waite-Smith Standard?: Yes.
Does it have extra cards?: No
Does it have alternate names for Major Arcana cards?: ) No, although Justice is VIII and Strength is XI
Does it have alternate names for Minor Arcana suits?: No
Let’s start with the worst thing I’m going to say about this deck. The images are rather small and have lots of tiny details. Is that a bad thing? It can be. However, in this case, I think that it works well and adds to the experience of reading with this deck. And let’s be clear from the start. Reading with this deck is meant to be an experience. The LWB [Little White Booklet] starts off right away introducing a fictional character, Lady Victoria Westwood, who is our guide through the journey of the Harmonious Tarot. Give yourself over to the whimsy and fantasy of this deck. Put on a pair of lace gloves, have tea in a delicate, hand-painted cup, and lay out your best white linen. Create an external experience as you prepare for an internal experience. If you are one of those matter-of-fact people who feel silly doing such things, I am sure there is a better deck for you out there. For this deck is full of whimsy. But beware! The lovely flowers do have thorns. It’s not all cookies and sherbet.
By now you get that the cards are charming and are wondering "are they something more?" Let’s look at a few. The High Priestess and The Empress, for example. The High Priestess looks familiar: a woman standing between a black and a white pillar, a crescent moon at her feet, a scroll. The difference? She is a flower. Well, she has the head and arms of a woman and you can sense her figure under the greenery, but petals grow from her head and she’s holding buds in each hand. It definitely looks like she IS the flower. The Empress is very recognizable as well: a voluptuous goddess figure in a chair in a lush garden. An addition to the composition: two maidens are fanning her. So, we generally take the High Priestess and the Empress as representing feminine wisdom. But I’ve never seen the difference between the two expressed like this: one is the flower and the other reigns over the flowers. Hmmmm. What do you make of that?
Death shows an old man with a black mask, white beard, and a clown costume. He is dancing and prancing as he holds his scythe and hourglass. A treasure chest and crown are before him but no evidence of the dearly departed. Behind him is a shadowy, cloaked figure (and although I cannot see, I just know it’s a woman), her arms outstretched as if to embrace Death in a misty embrace. But perhaps the dancing man is not Death even if he holds the symbols of Death. He is the nearly departed and is he in for a surprise. Clearly, he thinks he’s okay, that he needn’t worry about Death. Unfortunately for him, there is no escaping Death.
The 7 of Cups has the usual seven cups filled with dreams and fantasies. There is also a woman, but instead of looking at the cups, she is looking at something in the hands of the man sitting next to her. He is holding a mirror up for her to gaze in. What does she see? Reflected back is her own image but as an old woman. Imagine how that plays with the idea of daydreams, fantasies, and imagination.
These cards were designed to evoke feelings and then lead you further and deeper into the meanings. The Tower card does this every single time I look at it. My breath catches in my throat and I feel as if I am falling. The image is so very vivid. Even now, I cannot really make it straight visually. We often hear that The Tower represents sudden changes, changes that shake our world to its very foundation. More than any other Tower card, this one evokes that feeling. How ironic, isn’t it, that the most powerful card for me is this one, in a deck called Harmonious?
Enough about the cards—they are better experienced in person than described. The booklet that comes with the cards is very short, as is usual. But it is a lovely little treat nonetheless. The opening story, taking you into Lady Westwood’s home, helps create the mood for meeting these cards. This is followed by a short introduction and the usual short interpretations for each card. After that, we get a "lesson" in reading the cards from Lady W herself. This will be useful for those who have never read before. It gives enough direction so that the new reader doesn’t feel completely lost, yet isn’t didactic and encourages the new reader to find her/his own way and style.
The booklet also includes a Magic Triangle spread…simple yet easily used for almost any type of question. I think it is a great beginner’s spread. With six cards it is not overwhelming and yet there is enough to interpret. And, as I said, it works well for a great variety of questions.
As I always say, the true test is in the reading. For me, these cards read beautifully. It was a different experience, though. Usually you can tell the different suits in a deck pretty easily, so when you lay out a spread, you get an idea right away if there are a lot of Wands or Majors, or whatever. The Harmonious Tarot is subtler; the color palettes are similar. The readings, therefore, feel quieter, slower, more genteel, if you will. But no less powerful. It isn’t one I’d use everyday, but it will certainly fall into the "used quite a bit" pile.
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